Art nouveau tours in Brussels

I will be in Brussels for just one day in late May and would like to spend that day viewing some of the city's examples of Art Nouveau architecture. Does anyone know of a tour that I can take to see these sites? I have been to Brussels before and do not want to go to the Grand Place or the Maniken Pis again. I have also seen the Sablon district and the palace. Any other suggestions on what to see would be appreciated.

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
1970 posts

Thanks to Harold from NY who posts on this site, we took the art nouveau tour with this architectural preservation organization: arau.org

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
673 posts

If you have another trip, Antwerp also has excellent Nouveau and Deco buildings, including a town-house district with about 80 exteriors you can see without a guide and on foot. The (closed) Fine Art Museum is near many of the other buildings. The Cafe Horta is open for dining near the Rubenshuis.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

Bets beat me to it. My ARAU tour was the highlight of my Brussels visit; not only are the Art Nouveau sites scattered, but the tour often gets you into buildings not open to the public. However, the tours are intermittent; I hope your day coincides with one in English. Here's the link, made clickable: http://www.arau.org/en/tours And Tim is also correct that Antwerp has wonderful Art Nouveau. In particular, the street Cogels Osylei (don't ask me to pronounce that) has two blocks of lovely buildings, and it's right near the Antwerp Berchem station.

Posted by Caryn
Boynton Beach, Florida, USA
10 posts

thanks for the feedback. I will try them again.

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
916 posts

Thank you for this excellent advice on a very special topic.

Posted by steven
white plains, ny, usa
650 posts

@ Harold "....but the tour often gets you into buildings not open to the public. ..." Palais Stoclet perhaps ?

Posted by Caryn
Boynton Beach, Florida, USA
10 posts

We were able to book with ARAU. It will be a tour of three of Horta's designs. I don't know if any of them will be visited on the interior. Does anyone know if Bokrijk open air museum is doable in an afternoon from Brussels and how one would get there without a car?

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
673 posts

There is a physically (not culturally or artistically, I mean) associated amusement park, but I assume you are only interested in the buildings. On a warm day, it's a lovely visit, with outdoor restaurant tables, and you could manage all of the buildings in an afternoon. But not if you don't leave from Brussels until 1PM. Check the closing time for your day at Bokrijk. The fact is, we had a car. But I saw that the train station was very walkable. This is a very important civic attraction to Belgians, so it is well-served in general. But I can't help with the specifics. Note that it regional and rural buildings, nothing like you'd see in Brussels or Antwerp. Frankly, after you check the train times (on the SNCB website it's easy to do), I would consider a day in Antwerp instead. (Personal opinion. As noted, if you get off the train at Berchem-Antwerp, you are AT the Cogels-Osy Lei, with two hours on foot, all within four blocks in two directions.) But if you liked Colonial Williamsburg or Sturbridge etc., you will like Bokrijk. There is a certain amount of good architecture in Leuven (have you got a Beguinage on your schedule .... ?), like the spectacular city hall, the cathedral, and the Catholic University Library. I also consider Leuven's beguinage to rival Bruges' - but many would disagree with me.

Posted by Caryn
Boynton Beach, Florida, USA
10 posts

Thanks for the information. I have been to Antwerp and we might do it on Sunday or Monday but I thought that seeing a slice of rural Belgium would be more interesting after seeing Amsterdam. I did love Williamsburg, in fact I have been there 3x. Somewhere someone suggested a town 20 minutes by train from Brusels that looked like a fairy tale village but I can't remember if it was Beersel or Bokrijk. We have to make a train at 6:20 p.m. for Lille that night so I need to get back in time. I want something close by.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
673 posts

There are a lot of fairy tale villages in Belgium. But the majority are accessed from a modern train station and surrounded by reinforced-concrete urban sprawl. I'm sure there are some forgotten pretty villages (Less fairy-like, the Antwerp suburb Lillo abandoned in the new port construction, which I haven't seen-Sundays only), but they won't be within 20 minutes of Brussels. Considering my second sentence, and taking the term "fairy tale" loosely, some places that (in my opinion) could be the subject of your later post are Lier, Leuven, Gent, and Mechelen. Of these Lier fits the term best. Be sure to go into a bakery and ask for Lierse Vlaaikes. I would say that Leuven might have the most Deco/Nouveau material. But there is some of that in all of them. Mechelen was for a time (after the cloth trade in Bruges fell off) the third largest city in Europe. It certainly doesn't look like that now. Personally, I would spend a full day in each of these towns. But if you are in a hurry, perhaps Leuven. I would recommend researching the town you choose in advance, so you don't have to stand in line at the TI, and don't go on a day when the building you want most is closed. For example, the Art Deco town halls of Antwerp and Leuven are closed to tourists, and only have one interior tour a week, on Sunday. Tickets at the TI. The Leuven tour is the better one for architectural interests. I consider the Cogels-Osy lei a sort-of fairyland, one that is often overlooked. Photos at: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g188636-d523330-Reviews-Cogels_Osy_lei-Antwerp_Antwerp_Province.html If you visit Belgium often, I recommend Lonely Planet over Rick's book.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

"I would say that Leuven might have the most Deco/Nouveau material." I would agree, but the examples in Leuven are not quite as...hmm, let me think, what would be the correct word... "Flamboyant", perhaps?... as some of the well-known specimens in Brussels. Mostly rowhomes with round-ish decorative doors and windows. I wasn't following the flow of this thread very closely, but somehow Bokrijk came up, and the possibility of visiting as a daytrip from Brussels... There is a small rail station by the entrance, but you would probably need to transfer at Hasselt. Speaking of which... Hasselt also has quite a bit of Art Nouveau, but like Leuven, it's examples are pretty low-key, and scattered throughout the city. "Somewhere someone suggested a town 20 minutes by train from Brusels that looked like a fairy tale village but I can't remember if it was Beersel or Bokrijk." They probably meant Beersel castle, but the town itself is fairly unremarkable for Belgium. Bojrijk is much further away, and it isn't a town, it's a large park. Part of it contains the folk museum, and it also has a huge playground, a "kasteel" (better described as a "Chateau" than a castle), a botanical garden and a forest.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

PS- OK, looks like you can take the train directly from Brussels to Bokrijk. Take the train headed to Genk (not Gent!).

Posted by Caryn
Boynton Beach, Florida, USA
10 posts

Thanks to all of you who have responded to my questions. I wish I had more time to spend to see everything. When I said fairytale I meant like in the Brothers Grimm stories. I think that after the ARAU tour of the Horta buildings I could move onto some older examples of architectural styles. That is why BBokrijk sounded interesting ( buildings from around Belgium). I will take all of your advice in hand and then decide which is the most feasible for a long afternoon. Again thanks so much. Caryn

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

@Steven: The one I saw on my tour (part of the interior, as well as exterior) was the Hôtel van Eetvelde. I went in 2002, but a friend of mine took this tour last year, and he was also taken there. In both cases, the tourguide mentioned that even ARAU's access is restricted, so not every tour can go in there (they substitute another building in that case).

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

"When I said fairytale I meant like in the Brothers Grimm stories." If you mean Fachwerk, you generally won't find very much of it in Belgium. Most buildings in Belgium are made of brick and stone. If you want that style, look in central Germany and northeastern France. If you're looking for chalet-style houses, go to southern Bavaria, Austria, Switzerland or the Alpine regions of France.

Posted by Chris
Brussels, Belgium
1 posts

@steven I am a guide for ARAU and access to the Palais Stoclet is onr of the most frequently asked questions. In a word the answer is no. I was told that the family opened the house to the public for a day in the 1970s and were so appalled at the amount of stuff stolen by the visitors that they threatened to disinherit any of their children who opened it to the public. In addition, there is a long-running legal battle with the Belgian government following the family's sale of an Old Master painting from the house to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York: the family claim the Belgian listed building and the UNESCO World Heritage Site status do not prevent them from selling the contents while the Belgian government disagrees. The two surviving daughters are now in their 80s but neither they nor their children show any sign of changing their minds. If you want to see the Klimt-decorated interiors of the house, you have to go to Vienna where they have been reconstructed in the Museum of Modern Art (MAK). I would also like to point out that the ARAU Art Nouveau tour mentioned by several posters on this thread is a 3-hour coach tour of the city with stops to visit the interiors of three buildings. We try to show people as many Art Nouveau facades as possible too. The tours take place every Saturday morning from April to December. If you are in Brussels on another day of the week, the City Tourist Office on the Grand'Place sells an illustrated map of 5 DIY Art Nouveau walking tours.

Posted by steven
white plains, ny, usa
650 posts

Chris , Many thanks for your kind response ! This must be a lucky day for me , everything has been going right , Maybe this portends my winning the Lottery !! The information that you have provided is most interesting and the good fortune is the reconstruction at MAK . I had no idea of it and am headed to Vienna for two weeks this fall . This now provides an added impetus to go to MAK . Again , many thanks for your thoughtful post , All my best , Steve