Gaasbeek Castle is an outstanding place to visit, and holds special art exhibitions through the year
Situated on the eastern outskirts of Brussels, the beautifully furnished Gaasbeek Castle has had a torrid history, but now makes a perfect, peaceful day out.
It’s a gem of a place. Apart from the castle itself, which is interesting enough, it also boasts a park, woods, a lake, and an internationally renowned museum garden. Oh and it holds special events throughout the year; notably exhibitions of art.
13th century origins
The original castle was completed around 1240 by Godfried of Leuven. He probably wondered why he had bothered, considering how frequently it was attacked and damaged. In 1388 it was even destroyed by the people of Brussels.
In the 15th century it was rebuilt, only for the Spanish to wreck it in 1580.
Again it was rebuilt and this time it was the turn of the French to start playing vandals. They almost burnt it to cinders in 1695.
19th century renovations
A hundred years later the Arconati Visconti family inherited the castle – or what was left of it. For over a century it remained dilapidated. Eventually at the end of the 19th century the castle was completely renovated by the Marquise Marie Arconati Visconti and stocked with a vast collection of art and furniture. It’s the Marquise’s work that we are able to enjoy today. It’s an outstanding example of the Romantic view of architecture and interior design.
When the Marquise died in 1923 it was taken over by the Belgian State and was turned into a museum.
A quick tour
If you’re expecting stone walls, high ceilings and draughty corridors, you’re in for a surprise. The castle is intimate and cosy. Its numerous small rooms are warmly furnished. It’s full of paintings and colourful tapestries, some of which are huge and extend from floor to ceiling.
You will find intricately carved wood panels, a white sandstone fireplace, and an ivory Chinese pavilion. Discover the “lit de justice” — an armchair used by the French king — and a Spanish travelling trunk embellished with the scallop motif of Santiago de Compostela. I really liked the tapestries, one of which dates back to 1520. The Doornik tapestries were famous for their rich, bright colours. They’re rather faded now of course, but the details are impressive.
You can visit the Marquise’s apartment, consisting of a bedroom, a bathroom and a guest room. It contains a painting of her husband on a dromedary, and herself dressed as a page. The many mirrors in the bathroom clearly indicate that the Marquise did not have Victorian scruples about seeing the naked body.
Paintings include the Worship of the Kings by Pieter Coecke van Aelst, Bruegel’s teacher and eventual father-in-law. And The Tower of Babel by Maarten van Valckenborgh (1595).
Around the grounds
When you have finished your tour of the interior, the 50 hectare park awaits. It’s full of scenic walks through the woods and alongside the lake. It also contains the tea pavilion, the only building of its kind remaining in the Low Countries.
Garden lovers won’t be able to resist a visit to the castle’s 19th century museum garden (open from 1 May). It recalls the era when Belgium was a European leader at creating new varieties of fruit tree, many of which were exported to the UK and elsewhere. Its vegetable plots and flower gardens are also laid out in authentic 19th century style.
Here’s a review of the Gaasbeek Garden Museum by my blogging friend Stefan.
To renew your energy reserves at the end of your day, three eateries by the car park should meet your needs: Brasserie Graaf van Egmond (pictured), Oud Gaasbeek and [email protected] The latter two have play areas for children, including trampolines and play castles.
Finally, here’s an all-round view. I think Spielberg’s job is safe for now, don’t you?
When I was there, the art exhibition “Vanity Fair” was on display. It features work by two Belgian artists. I’ll be covering that in my next blog post, coming soon.
Been there yesterday. Vanity Fair absolutely worthwile. Park blossoming with bluebells and “daslook”. Lovely castle worth the entrance fee.
Then we just missed each other Guido. I was there Tuesday.
Looks absolutely wonderful Denzil, both inside and out. Thanks for the tour.
I will be interested in your view of the art expo when I post that, Miriam
I love visiting places like this, with so much history and fascinating contents. The gardens look beautiful too. We could easily fill in a day just wandering.
It was so peaceful there too. Hard to imagine Brussels is only 15 minutes away.
Splendid! Thatâ€™s quite a pile, and the gardens are lovely.
It’s your kind of place Anabel
This is gorgeous. Thanks for sharing it’s history in words and beautiful pictures. You are greatly expanding my heretofore limited knowledge of Belgium.
You’ll be an expert by the end of the year Pat.
Only if you keep posting these superior articles and pictures. 🙂
The place has quite the history. Sounds like a wonderful way to spend the day. I love the idea of a tea pavilion.
Unfortunately Carrie tea was off the menu as the pavilion is being restored, after which I am sure it will delightful
This looks like a fantastic day trip, Denzil. I love castles and big, green parks! Do you know whether there is a train station nearby? And, what is the entrance fee? Yeah… I could look that up as well. 🙂 Have a wonderful Sunday!
12 EUR and no train station nearby Liesbet. That part of Flemish Brabant seems to be the Bermuda Triangle when it comes to trains. So only buses.
Thanks, Denzil. You are quicker than my Google skills. 🙂
Google’s my middle name
What a determined history this castle has endured! Maybe now that it’s a museum, everyone will leave it alone. Loved all the photos, would have been happy to see even more. As for Spielberg – he’s wringing his hands with worry.
Yes I think he will be considering retirement now. More photos of the art expo coming very soon! ðŸ–Œï¸ðŸ–ï¸ðŸ–Šï¸ðŸ–‹ï¸
Nice article Denzil! I visited yesterday. I quite liked the Vanity fair exhibition so iâ€™m curious about your next post 🙂
Yes it was interesting. Not to everyone’s taste I’m sure. I too am curious about what I’m going to write about it Kristien!
Always a joy to tour your world, so rich in history.
Thanks again Denzel. for this post about such a magnificent place!
Have visited here once and it is indeed beautiful. I would love to see the vegetable gardens but I understood that they are only opened rarely… do you know if this is still the case?
Open from 1May Marion
Thank you very much Denzil – Iâ€™ll schedule a visit!
Thank you Denzil. I love the interiors and the gardens. It looks like an awesome place to visit.
I wouldn’t be able to resist a visit to that garden – breathtaking. 🙂
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