It’s very easy to take a train to the seaside for a weekend if weather permits. However, since you are reading this article, you probably live in Brussels and have already noticed the city does not often get sun-drenched. Let’s get a buzz out of some emblematic places the Belgian capital has to offer during periods of unfavourable weather conditions. You would have probably already walked or cycled past those impressive buildings. Have you ever been inside them though? Let’s take a little tour together. Follow the guide!
Bozar, the Palace of Fine Arts. Personally, visiting this place reminds me of seeing the Palais de Justice of Brussels again, as I saw it for the first time through the window of the train arriving at the Gare du Midi station after a lengthy journey. Visiting Bozar leaves me with a feeling of being at home; a place where I feel comfortable. This unique feeling that flows over me whilst visiting this multi-faceted cultural complex. There are many reasons one can visit Bozar. You may go there to enjoy the temporary exhibitions, the star restaurant, the café, the bookshop, the cinema or the concert hall.
Bozar is a place where different dimensions of arts meet. The building was opened in 1928 in an Art Deco style in an exceptional setting created by Victor Horta and under the impulse of Queen Elisabeth I. Geometry is omnipresent. In recent years, Bozar held exhibitions on David Hockney, Roger Raveel and Keith Haring. The renovation of the building allowed to enlarge the rooms and to give a new meaning to this historical and emblematic building of Brussels. The CINEMATEK allows you to discover old films, classics of the cinema, in their original and non-digital version. The jewel of the Beaux-Arts of Brussels remains the Salle Henry Le Bœuf; named after the patron (banker) of the same name. An exceptional place with pure and balanced lines. A mixture of immaculate white enhanced by gilding. An acoustic of great quality, studied by Horta during his travels, which still attracts artists from all over the world to this day. In the Great Hall you can enjoy listening to opera, jazz, Indian or baroque music. Bozar offers a complete calendar where almost every evening you can enjoy a concert. The centre still hosts the Queen Elisabeth Competition, a world-renowned competition for all music lovers.
Nothing to do on a rainy Sunday? Bozar offers a concert + coffee formula every Sunday morning at 11am. An effective way to start your day with the energy of music and to discover new artists.
Bozar, Rue Ravenstein 23, 1000 Brussels
THEATRE ROYAL DU PARC
The Royal Park Theatre is probably one of the oldest theatres in Brussels. It has known different regimes and has been dedicated to comedy since 1869. Some of the greatest actors have performed there: Offenbach, Sarah Bernard and François Coppée. The Comédie Française also played many shows there. A lively theatre that has not ceased its activities since its opening. In a neo-classical style building all in white, the interior offers an Italian baroque style room mixing the green and yellow of the woodwork with the red velvet curtain and seats. The family theatre that offers each season an update of the most famous plays of all: A Magic Flute, The Knights of the Round Table or A Doll’s House. You will be able to see a troupe of actors performing in this magical settings.
The Park offers performances on Saturday evenings at 8:15 pm and Sundays at 3 pm. The plays are in French.
Royal Park Theatre, Rue de la Loi 3, 1000 Brussels
LA MONNAIE / DU MUNT
Every inhabitant of Brussels, whoever he or she may be, has already stopped at Place de la Monnaie. Located in the centre of Brussels, the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, offers an astonishing variation of programs during its season. You may wonder why La Monnaie, in French or De Munt, in Dutch. At the time, money was minted on this square under the Austrian rule. Following Auber’s La Muette de Portici in 1830, a protest broke out in Belgium against the Dutch occupiers. It started at the Opera de la Monnaie and spread throughout the country in the form of a revolution: Belgium was born! Today, this emblematic place of our history hosts operas, ballets, recitals, and concerts. Well-worked sets, surprising productions and passionate artists make La Monnaie a reference of excellence in the field of opera houses in Europe.
One can enjoy the performances of Mozart, Puccini or Verdi, while soaking up the neo-classical building with its white colonnade contrasts with the red and gold interior of the great hall, which juxtaposes neo-baroque and neo-empire styles. The first architects of the building were the Venetians Paolo and Pietro Bezzi. The theatre was renovated many times over the years following numerous fires. Richard Wagner settled in La Monnaie to write his operas in French and Maurice Béjart set up his dance company. The institution of La Monnaie makes it a point of honour to update and modernise certain works. What is the feeling one gets when entering this building? Personally, it is a feeling of lightness. It feels like being in the right place at the right time, with the assurance of having a good time.
La Monnaie / De Munt offers a reduced rate for under-30s. The performances have French/Dutch subtitles. Arrive 30 minutes before the time of your event, the staff will explain the context of what you are about to see. You can visit the place every first Saturday of the month.
La Monnaie De Munt, Place de la Monnaie, 1000 Brussels
I would find it hard to believe that one has never visited Place Flagey to enjoy the occasional sun, tasty local produce and oysters enjoyed with a glass of white wine. Place Flagey is located near the Étangs d’Ixelles, the Abbaye de la Cambre and the Sainte-Croix church. You will find many cafes, restaurants, and stores in the heart of Ixelles. The biggest building in the square is the “paquebot”. This building housed the Institut National de Radiodiffusion (the Belgian radio) and was designed by the Belgian architect Joseph Diongre in 1930 in a modernist style and inaugurated in 1938. The architect is also behind the Saint-Jean-Baptiste church in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean and the town hall of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert.
This iconic façade of the Brussels landscape is decorated with yellow bricks and blue stones. It rests on 836 concrete piles of 12 meters high. The interior of the former Maison de la Radio has retained its original Art Deco furniture. Its decks and long corridors give the illusion of being on a ship. Today, Flagey is a cultural institution with concert halls and a cinema. The building was renovated to offer 5 rooms with unique acoustics. The Flagey centre offers many events throughout the year: the Flagey Piano Days, the Brussels Jazz Festival and part of the Queen Elisabeth competition. The institution positions itself as a house of culture. One can listen to cello, piano, saxophone but also sopranos and choir members… and many others!
The cinema proposes films of authors from all over the world, yesterday and today.
Flagey, Place Sainte-Croix, 1, 1050 Brussels
THEATRE DES GALERIES
In 1837, a Dutch architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaar created a 200m long covered street that would eventually become our Galeries Saint-Hubert. The inspiration came from the Galerie d’Orléans located at the Palais Royal in Paris. The Galeries Saint-Hubert Theatre opened in 1847 and was designed by the architect of the galleries. I personally adore the softness of the Royal Galleries with its red and grey marble that raises its slightly pink walls. The entrance is under a series of neo-classical arcades. This place of culture was built under a bright blue fresco designed by René Magritte. It contrasts strongly with the deep red of the velvet. Magritte collaborated also on the lightening. You’ll see some erotic lamps and chandelier representing a female breast. As you may know, our Belgian painter was not afraid of painting nude portraits in his own creative way. The style of the plays performed in this theatre is more focused on comedy. People can find classical authors (Molière, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde…) and contemporary ones (Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, David Pharao, Matthieu Delaporte…). This is a refreshing place if you want to keep up with the contemporary Belgian theatre.
I also love the fact that this theatre has a very friendly service. They’ll be there to welcome you, advise you and tell you more about the history of the place. It’s also a good choice to make if you don’t live in the city centre of Brussels, or if you don’t live in Brussels: you can have a dinner around, enjoy the nearby Grand Place, going to the show and then have a last drink under this magnificent glass ceiling that represents the Galeries Royales St Hubert.
The plays are performed in French. The ticket office offers a reduced student rate. They go on tour every summer in Belgium to show outdoor the most iconic plays of the French repertoire. You can find all the performances of the previous season on Auvio (which I think is great!). This can allow you to bring the theatre right into your living room.
Théâtre Des Galeries, Galerie du Roi 32, 1000 Brussels
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