The National Botanic Garden (Nationale Plantentuin van BelgiŰ in Dutch, Jardin Botanique National de Belgique in French) is the biggest botanic garden in Belgium and one of the richest in Europe, with over 18,000 species of plants laid on 92 ha (227 acres). It is located just outside the region of Brussels, in the small town of Meise, Flemish Brabant. The castle of Bouchout is within the garden's boundaries.
Belgium's first botanic garden was the one of the university of Leuven, which moved to Brussels in 1788. In 1829, under the short Dutch rule, the Royal Botanic Society of the Netherlands lays down a new botanic garden north of Brussels' historic centre (between today's Rue Royale and Rogier Square) with a magnificent neoclassical building.
In 1870, the Belgian state takes over the garden after financial problems. Plants from central Africa were added in large number in the later 19th century, as King Leopold II started colonising Congo.
In the 1930's, the construction of railway lines linking Brussels North and South stations forced the reduction of the Botanic Garden, which eventually moved out to its present location in 1939. Its new 92 ha homeland correspond with the old feudal domains of Meise and Bouchout, originally purchased by Leopold II for his sister Charlotte.
The Balat Greenhouse was intended for the Zoo of Brussels, but ended up in Meise for the culture of giant water lilies. The enormous Palais des plantes (main greenhouse) was constructed between 1947 and 1958, and inaugurated in 1965. New wings were added in 1985 and 1987.
Originally erected by the Duke of Lotharingia in 1130, the medieval fortress subsequently became part of the Duchy of Brabant. It lost its military role in the 15th century and was transformed into a residential castle in the 17th century, then again in 1840, when the Count of Beauffort gave it its present look.
In 1879, the Beauffort family sold the castle to King Leopold II. Leopold's sister, Charlotte of Belgium (1840-1927), Empress of Mexico, spent the rest of her life in the castle after her husband, Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, was executed.
The Belgian state purchased the domain in 1938 to establish the National Botanic Garden. The castle was entirely renovated between 1985 and 1988. It now houses temporary exhibitions, and is closed to the public the rest of the time.
Opening Hours & Admission
The gardens are open all year round from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm (4:30 pm in February and October, and 6:00 pm from March to September). Gates close 30 min after that. Admission is 4 € for adults, 3 € for senior (over 60), disabled people, students or individuals in group of min 15 people, and free for children under 7.
How to get there
The Botanic Garden is 12 km from the centre of Brussels. There are no train going there, however De Lijn has buses (No 250 and 251) from Brussels North Station will bring you there. Alight at "Meise: Bouchout Kasteel".
By car, take the A12 highway between Brussels and Antwerp (the one that starts just north of the Park of Laeken, near the Heysel Stadium and the Atomium). Meise is 1 km outside the Ring of Brussels (R0) or 6 km north of the Atomium.
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