Every spring, the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken open their door to the public for 3 short weeks. It’s one of the most awaited spring events in Belgium and rightfully so, I must say! I had been meaning to visit them for years, always postponing it because I didn’t want to go alone. Last year, I decided enough was enough, and I planned out my solo visit.

winter garden in laeken brussels

The first thing you need to know about the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken is that you have to reserve your ticket in advance. It includes a specific timeslot during which you can come and visit the complex. This year, the greenhouses open from April 14th until May 7th. The ticket sales will start at the end of March, specifically on March 21st. And best of all, the ticket price is only €5 which is quite affordable!

archway at the royal greenhouses of laeken

Now, let’s dive into the history of this breathtaking place! The Greenhouses of Laeken are situated inside the park of the Royal Palace, the official residence of the Belgian royal family. Technically private property, this is why everyone rushes to visit it each spring. You’ll find it 5 km away from the center of Brussels, in a residential suburb. Easily accessible with public transport, there are also a lot of parking spots in the vicinity. All in all, the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken are easy to reach.

The greenhouses are the work of Alphonse Balat, the official architect of King Leopold II. After visiting the Crystal Palace in London during the Great Exhibition of 1851, the king wanted to redesign the gardens of his own Royal Palace. The end result was a complex of greenhouses, pavilions, and arcades filled with flowers and plants. In essence, it was a way to demonstrate his wealth and authority. On the whole, he was a controversial figure and the greenhouses were a means of showing his colonial power. That came at the expense of Congo, which Belgium colonized. So like many imposing buildings from that era, these magnificent greenhouses are also bloody monuments.

In general, the Royal Greenhouses are one of the many places where you can marvel at flowers in Belgium. However, they’re the place with the most impressive architecture and rare exotic plants. When buying tickets, you should act fast. Obviously, the weekends sell out first so depending on your schedule, I would recommend purchasing them as soon as possible. What’s more, you can visit the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken at night! The Nocturnes happen every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and it’s a unique way to see the greenhouses.

cherry blossoms and japanese tample at royal greenhouses of laeken

The complex is a pleasant continuation of greenhouses, pavilions, galleries, and piers. One of the most distinct places is the Iron Church, which genuinely looks like a cathedral made of iron and glass. I loved the perspective of the tree with its craggy branches framing it. All it was missing was moody weather conditions

At the very end of your visit, is the most imposing structure of all. The largest of the greenhouses, the Winter Garden is an absolute beauty. It’s 25 meters high and rests on cast iron arches and a circular colonnade. Perfectly framed by palm trees, it makes for one impressive sight. I couldn’t stop looking up, circling around the garden multiple times. Since the visit ended soon after, I spent the most time wandering through the Winter Garden.

winter garden glass iron dome at royal greenhouses of laeken

While walking through the gardens, you’re bound to stumble upon Queen Elisabeth’s Studio. An adorable cottage with a thatched roof, it was the Queen’s Atelier. The wife of Albert I, Elisabeth was a sculptor and her working rooms look frozen in time.

queen elisabeth's atelier royal greenhouses of laeken

The entire complex is an explosion of blossoms, but the Geranium Gallery simply abounds with colors! The fuchsias and geraniums set against the greenery are a delight to see. At any rate, it’s too hard to pick a favorite spot in the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken. There is something mesmerizing about all of it.

Also, you’ll find a beautiful tearoom at the end of your visit, inside the Orangery. It seemed like a lovely place to spend a few more hours in but I had a long day ahead of me. However, I’d love to return in the upcoming years and sit under those tall windows.

tearoom in a greenhouse at the royal greenhouses of laeken

In summary, I spent around two and a half hours on the domain. While at first, you’re almost moving in a line with other people, the crowds quickly dissolve as the stroll moves from the greenhouses into the gardens. I chose to visit on a random Thursday, deliberately avoiding the weekends. The timeslot allows you a choice of a short and long visit, spending either 1,5 or 2,5 hours. Rest assured, you won’t feel rushed in any way while on the grounds.

All things considered, I would wholeheartedly recommend visiting the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken. It’s a unique opportunity to gaze at the Royal gardens, their beautiful flora, and remarkable feats of architecture. I have nothing against admiring such a striking place despite its bloody history. But I find it important to remember how it came into existence, and at whose expense. That being said, I wish you a lovely visit, equally informative and spectacular!

royal greenhouses of laeken flower pavilion
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