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The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken: A Hidden Gem in Brussels’ Crown

Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

In the late 1800s, King Leopold II of Belgium decided to build a state-of-the-art greenhouse on the grounds of the Royal Palace of Laeken in Brussels. King Leopold II was a brutish man who left a legacy of violence and appalling human rights abuses in his wake. The only hint of softness that King Leopold II ever displayed was his love of Art Nouveau architecture and rare tropical plants.

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King Leopold II enlisted architect Alphonse Balat to build a towering series of interconnected greenhouses known as the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, designed to house tropical and subtropical plants. The greenhouses were made almost entirely out of metal and glass—a rare combination of building materials at the turn of the century. Balat fashioned luminous glass domes to serve as a stunning backdrop for some of the loveliest plants in existence.

Classically styled greenhouses designed by Alphonse Balat in 1873 with pavilions, domes and galleries.

Classically styled greenhouses designed by Alphonse Balat in 1873 with pavilions, domes and galleries.
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Some of the highlights of King Leopold II’s sprawling garden include an explosion of camellias, a grove of orange trees, and a room full of delicate orchids. The greenhouses include several indoor streams and waterfalls. Numerous statues peek out from behind the greenery, including a collection of miniature dinosaurs. Each greenhouse has a distinct name. The Congo Greenhouse, the Winter Garden, and the Diana Greenhouse are some of the most iconic greenhouses.

The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken are open to the public for approximately three weeks every year. From mid-April to early May, visitors can walk among luscious ferns, stately palm trees, and rare tropical plants with vibrant blooms. Prepare to see pink flowers with purple centers, crimson amaryllis blooms, and star-shaped petals that look as though they belong in an enchanted garden. There is even a small cafe where you can enjoy a cup of tea.

One of the grand highlights of Leopold II’s garden is located outside the greenhouses. An ornate Japanese tower surrounded by a placid pond and delicate pink cherry blossoms is a crowd favorite. Visitors can experience the serenity of a Japanese garden a few short miles from the bustling city center of Brussels.

If you’re a plant lover, booking a trip to Brussels just to visit the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken should top your travel list. The Royal…

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