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  BRUSSELS : Buildings and Monuments
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Tourist Attractions



General view of the Cinquantenaire Park.


In 1880 Belgium celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence. Therefore, king Leopold II wanted to have a world exhibition organized in Brussels. For its location a former military exercising ground outside of the center of the city was chosen, the so-called "Linthout" plains. In this exhibition the world would be able to see that the new state of Belgium was prospering and able to take its place between the important nations of Europe. In the second half of the 19th century Leopold II had acquired the Congolese colony in Africa which supplied him with considerable financial possibilities. He decided to use a part of his new fortune to give Brussels the outlook of an important European city. One of his realizations was this Cinquantenaire park with its imposing monuments.


The Triumphal Arch.The most eye-catching monument is, of course, the triumphal arch. This arch was built to serve as a monument to illustrate the glorious past of Brussels. It also was to serve as a new entrance gate to the center for people entering from the eastern side of Brussels, via the newly constructed Tervurenlaan/Avenue de Tervueren.

The arch was planned for the world exhibition of 1880, but would take a long time to be finished. In 1880 only the basis of the colons had been constructed. During the exhibition the rest of the arch was completed with wooden panels. In the following years the construction and completion of the monument was the topic of a continuous battle between the king and the government. The Belgian government actually did not want to spend so much money on an (in their eyes) unnecessary monument. Via private funding (for which the king had provided the money) the arch was finally completed by 1905, just in time for the 75th anniversary of the Belgian independence.
The monument was then also crowned with a quadriga, representing the province of Brabant. The other 8 provinces were symbolized by allegoric statues at the foot of the columns.

On both sides of the arch are 'galleries of the columns' with mosaics representing and glorifying the 'peace-loving nation of Belgium'. These mosaics were made between 1920 and 1932. 


The large halls on both sides of the arch were built as a replacement for the original pavilions and halls of the 1880 exposition.They now house museums, but the constructions themselves are worth a visit. The design is a real glorification of the industrial accomplishments. Iron and glass are the main materials that were used here. The southern hall now houses the beautiful Autoworld museum, with its splendid collection of old-timer cars. In the northern hall airplanes can be seen which belong to the collection of the space and aviation department of the army museum.


Detail of the Bordiau Halls.The beautiful Bordiau halls (named after the architect Jules BORDIAU) were the only buildings that were ready for the 1880 exposition. They are very typical for the glass and iron constructions build in late 19th century Europe as influenced by the Crystal Palace in London. After the exposition, the government decided to use these halls for the museums of Brussels.
The northern Hall now houses the royal Army museum. Unfortunately, the southern hall was destroyed by a fire in 1946. It was rebuilt in the 1950's but not in the original style. This is now the seat of the prestigious Museum of art and history of Brussels.

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he Manta