Belgian Royal Spotting in Brussels

Belgium’s Royal Family may not be well-known outside the country, but over the years they have influenced the look of Brussels. You can drive by the Royal Residence and maybe catch a glimpse of the current King and Queen—or peek inside the Royal Place during the summer months. Here are places around Brussels to see the impact of the Belgian Royals.

Avenue du Parc Royal 61, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
Each spring, the Belgian Royal family opens their private greenhouse complex to the public, for a short two weeks. It is well worth braving the crowds to visit. This incredible 2.5 hectare structure was built in the late 1800s and its architecture is stunning all on its own. Add in the giant palm trees, rare plants and millions of blooms, and you have a magical, colourful space. Visitors also get a rare look at the palace grounds, including views of the Japanese Tower, not normally available to the public.
Avenue Van Praet, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
The Chinese pavilion was built on the edge of the Royal Estate at Laeken on the orders of King Leopold II between 1901 and 1910. The wooden paneling on the outside of the Chinese Pavilion and its entry pavilion were sculpted in Shanghai. We went there when all the rhododendron flowers were in bloom and it was very beautiful. Definitely recommended!
Parvis Notre Dame, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
The recently restored church of Our Lady of Laeken is located near the Royal Residence. This ornate cathedral was built by King Leopold I, in memory of his wife, Queen Louise-Marie to honor her wish to be buried in Laeken. The Church was designed by Joseph Poelaert who was also the architect of the (in)famous Law Courts in Brussels. The church’s crypt is the final resting place of many members of the Belgian Royal family and contains the tombs of all of the country’s former kings.
Rue des Sablons, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
While Brussels Sablon Square is most famous for shopping (especially if you are in the market for Belgian chocolate) it’s well worth visiting the pretty church at the top of the triangle. The Église Notre Dame du Sablon (Church of Our Lady of Sablon) is a late Gothic church with a royal connection. The church is the starting point for the annual Ommegang procession, commemorating the arrival of Charles V in Brussels. Notre Dame de Sablon was built for the Grand Serment Royal et de Saint-Georges des Arbalétriers de Bruxelles, the crossbow guild of Brussels. Inside the church you can see hints of this connection in the stained glass windows, featuring crossbowmen. The crossbow guild’s other connection to Notre Dame de Sablon is seen during their shooting competitions. The most difficult event consists of shooting 36 meters straight up into the air, to hit a tiny metal bird target. The distance is taken from the ground to the top of the steeple of the church, where the target used to be placed.
Rue Brederode 16, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
The Belgian Royal Palace sits proudly in front of Parc Royal in Brussels. You can’t stop by for tea with the royals here unfortunately. They live at the Royal Residence in Laeken. However, you can have a look inside the Royal Palace during the summer months and wander through the rooms where official royal business is conducted. Throughout August, the palace is open to the public and can be visited free of charge. You can see the hall of mirrors (a downscaled version of Versailles) with a very quirky ceiling. The ceiling is actually an artwork, by Jan Fabre, called “Heaven of Delight” and is made up of the shiny wings of 1.4 million Thai jewel beetles and took three months to create.
10 Parc du Cinquantenaire, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
The Art & history Museum (formerly the Cinquantenaire Museum), located right beside Brussels’ iconic triumphal arch, is one of the best hidden-gem museums of the city. This museum of civilizations is part of the Royal Museums of Art and History. Permanent collections include archaeological artefacts and everyday items from Egypt to South-East Asia, and everywhere in between. Highlights include Egyptian sarcophagi, a mosaic floor from Apamea and one of the famous statues from Easter Island. There is also an impressive collection of Art Deco and Art nouveau items from right here in Belgium.
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