First of all, you have to know that there are two royal palaces in the Region of Brussels. The one in the city of Brussels has a ceremonial function; this is where King Philippe receives heads of state for example. You could call this building his office. The Royal Palace in Laeken, on the other hand, is the one where the Royal family resides; this not only includes the current king and his family but also the former King Albert II and his wife Paola. Prince Laurent – brother of Philippe – and his family, however, live in a luxury villa in nearby Tervuren.
It is in the domain of the Royal Palace in Laeken that the Royal Greenhouses are located. In general, they are not open to the public, except for heads of state. And except for three weeks at the end of April and the beginning of May, when the flowers are at their most beautiful; locals and tourists alike come in huge numbers to admire the floral and architectural splendour.
You have to pay a small fee and there are security measures, which have become more strict since the terror attacks of 2016. You will see police everywhere, so coming close to the palace is as good as impossible. And in the Royal Greenhouses, they will make sure that you stick to the trail.
By the way, the exotic tower that you can see in the background is the Japanese Tower, another tourist attraction. Unfortunately, it has been closed for some time now and it still remains when – or if – it will be reopened.
The Royal Greenhouses themselves were erected in the course of the 19th century in a monumental art nouveau style. The greenhouses differ in size and slightly in shape and are interconnected by glass galleries.
Inside, you can look at and photograph, flowers, trees and plants, both local and exotic. Some of the flora includes bamboo, banana. wisteria, azalea, orchids, palm tree, roses, fern, fuchsia, hibiscus and so on. All colours of the rainbow are represented.
Apparently, the Belgian Royal Family has a sense of humour. Do you recognise the small blue men?
One of the most popular greenhouses is the so-called Winter Garden.
It was King Leopold II who started the tradition of opening the Royal Greenhouses to the general public once a year. Every king since then has respected this tradition.
Most people come by car, but there are buses from both De Lijn (Flanders) and MIVB (Brussels) that stop right at the entrance of the Royal Greenhouses. Given the huge number of visitors, it will take about 2-3 hours to complete your visit.
Every year, the opening of the Royal Greenhouses is announced in the Belgian press. You can also find more information on the website of the Belgian Royals and of Visit Brussels. Both websites have an English version and provide a lot of practical information about the greenhouses.