Where to even begin exploring all the architectural treasures Brussels holds? As you walk around town, it quickly becomes clear that the capital of Art Nouveau has much more than just Victor Horta mansions to brag about. Here is an introduction to Brussels’ architectural highlights, divided up into five styles.
It was Gustave Strauven – mentored by Horta and assistant to the creation of Hôtel van Eetvelde – who took over the Art Nouveau baton from the Modernist pioneer. His splashy Maison Saint-Cyr on Ambiorix Square reveals an unequalled commitment to wrought iron embellishments and an overall flamboyant aesthetic.
Saved by the grace of two Art Nouveau-loving owners, the former home of artist couple Paul and Caroline Cauchie is now open to the public every first weekend of the month. Most striking, however, is its façade, embellished by Paul Cauchie in the sgraffito wall paintings for which he would become known. One of the golden murals bears the words “Par nous, pour nous”, or “By us, for us”, indicating the duo’s loving decoration of their own living space.
So many Horta gems, so little time. The European capital is dotted with buildings from Belgium’s own architecture revolutionary and Art Nouveau’s leading light, Victor Horta. In case of limited time, the four townhouses selected by UNESCO to be on their World Heritage List are a good place to start. Atelier Horta, Hôtel Tassel, Hôtel Solvay and Hôtel van Eetvelde are all revolutionary in their use of industrial materials like steel and glass, wrought-iron features, meticulous wood panelling, and sunbathed living spaces.
A steamboat-shaped building rising up beside Ixelles’ most famous square and looking out over its pond, the Flagey is a fine example of Art Deco craftsmanship. Besides designing its monumental look, Joseph Diongre created studios with world-class acoustics for the former national radio and television institute.
This huge edifice on the Koekelberg hill is the largest Art Deco building in the world and one of the largest basilicas. For decades, it seemed as if the ambitious masterpiece would never be completed, with construction detained by two World Wars and a persistent lack of funds. Now Albert Van Huffel’s Art Deco place of worship dominates Brussels’ western skyline with its green copper dome.
The L’Archiduc bar has known many lives. From a discreet rendez-vous place for businessmen and their lovers, to jazz temples frequented by the likes of Miles Davis, it’s easy to see why the Art Deco establishment continues to exercise such a gravitational pull. A buzzer and cast-iron door will let you enter an atmospheric setting complete with original wooden benches, rosewood bar and art gallery, all elegantly combined by F Van Ruyskensvelde.
Rebuilt after being gutted by fire, Brussels’ spacious Royal Square exudes Neoclassical grandeur to the fullest. The symmetrical building blocks that surround it and its central Godfrey of Bouillon statue include the Magritte Museum in the splendidly renovated Altenloh Hotel, the Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg Church, and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts.
When it comes to Gothic hallmarks, there’s no beating Brussels’ Town Hall and its façade bedecked by an army of statues. Built in the 15th century, it was restored in neo-Gothic style during the 19th century and features a 96-metre-high (315-foot-high) tower with a sculpture of the archangel Michael. Inside, the surroundings are no less ravishing. There is a mixture of styles from different eras due to the retention of the sumptuous Louis XIV rooms, but the wedding and Gothic rooms are purely neo-Gothic.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.