Brussels based travel blogger, Sandy a.k.a S Marks The Spots, takes us on a tour of the city’s amazing Art Nouveau architecture.
Brussels may be known as the best place to enjoy beer, chocolate, waffles and fries but it is also the capital of Art Nouveau. The city is peppered with magnificent buildings by brilliant architects, like Victor Horta and Paul Hankar, reminiscent of the 1900s when the Art Nouveau movement was flourishing, marking the beginning of modern architecture and design.
Nowadays there are over 200 examples of Art Nouveau buildings around the city, so if you are keen on discovering some of the most beautiful ones put on your walking shoes, bring your camera and make sure to follow my suggestions below!
The easiest way to admire Brussels’ Art Nouveau gems is on foot. Pick a neighbourhood and stroll around from one spot to another as the heritage of the city unravels before your eyes.
Start your tour in Saint Gilles by visiting the Maison Horta, the residence and studio of Victor Horta, Belgium’s most well-known Art Nouveau architect. The interior is stunning featuring stained glass, mosaics, wrought iron masterpieces and furniture from various houses he designed. The house of Paul Hankar, the other Belgian master of Art Nouveau, is just a short walk away. Another beautiful Art Nouveau residence in the area is the Hôtel Hannon built by Jules Bunfaut which currently houses the Contretype Photography Museum. My favourite Art Nouveau spot in Saint-Gilles though is Rue Vanderschrick where you can find the so-called “Séquence Blerot”, a harmonious row of Art Nouveau houses built by architect Ernest Blerot.
The area of Ixelles is also dotted with Art Nouveau masterpieces, including the remarkable Hôtel Tassel and Hôtel Solvay, both built by Victor Horta and declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A must-see sight is also Hôtel Ciamberlani, symbolist painter Albert Ciamberlani’s former residence, which boasts one of the most wonderful facades in Brussels thanks to its circular windows and elaborate sgraffito elements.
Last but not least, don’t forget to explore the area of Schaerbeek where Art Nouveau jewels are scattered throughout the area begging to be discovered. The most impressive one by far is Maison Saint-Cyr in Square Ambiorix built by by Horta’s protégé Gustave Strauven. Its ornate iron work circled loggia at the top make it so unique that it is hard not to fall in love with it.
VISIT A MUSEUM
Another great way to see up close Brussels’ Art Nouveau treasures is by visiting a museum. Whether you are on a family trip or a cartoon lover, the Comic Strip Museum is a truly fun option. Located in an Art nouveau masterpiece designed by Victor Horta that served in the past as a textile department store, it celebrates the history of comic strips and especially those created by Belgian cartoonists.
Equally impressive, if not more, is the building housing Brussels’ Musical Instrument Museum which is also worth a visit on its own right. Designed by architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaar, the swirling wrought iron façade of the former Old England department store is strikingly beautiful and so is the interior. Aside from a collection of over 7000 musical instruments from around the world, you can also admire one of the best views in Brussels from the cafe on the top floor. A definite must-see for any music or architecture lover while in Brussels!
HAVE A DRINK IN ART NOUVEAU SURROUNDINGS
The best way to end your journey through Brussels’ architecture is to relax and enjoy a drink or lovely meal at a beautiful Art Nouveau restaurant. Here too, you are spoilt with choice! Depending on the area you are in and your budget, choose between a laid-back café, such as Le Perroquet or the Falstaff to a more sophisticated restaurant, like L’Ancienne Poissonnerie, La Porteuse D’Eau or a Michelin-starred venue like Comme Chez Soi. No matter what you go for, you will not be disappointed!
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