Here’s a little trip down memory lane -literally, as the wide lanes and beautiful greenhouses of the Plantentuin hold a lot of interesting history.
The 12th-century Bouchout castle and its surrounding grounds have known their fair deal of armored fighting, before becoming a magically beautiful botanical garden. In 1879, Belgian King Leopold bought the place for his widowed sister Charlotte, deposed empress of Mexico, who had gone half mad after the gruesome execution of her husband Maximilian of Austria. She lived a solitary life there, but opened up the parc gates to the local population during World War I. Her ties to the Austrian court, allied to the German occupying forces, ensured its sanctuary and no German soldier dared to trespass.
Since 1938, the domain has been acting as botanical garden. A good deal of Brussels’ pretty structures were moved in from other parks to make it look good right from the start. Star attraction was and still is the infamous “Ballatserre”, designed in 1854 by court architect Alphonse Balat in the form of a giant crown, and the precious giant water lilies it contained. To this day, housing over four million specimen and an incredible botanical library, the Plantentuin is considered unique in the world. Although still very active as a research facility, it is open to the public. You are free to wander into the dreamy, vintage greenhouses, walk the endless lanes (there’s over 92 hectares of greenery) and discover the incredible flora of every continent all in one afternoon. Especially nice for botanical lovers, artists and daydreamers.
De Plantentuin for more info.