Exploring an Underground Palace in Brussels

I am not sure if you are aware of this, but there is more than one royal palace in the region of Brussels. The one in Brussels itself is the main residence. Let’s call this the office of the king. It is also the place where he receives other royalties and heads of states. And… once a year, you can visit it, when the royal family is on holiday.

The royal family itself lives in the palace of Laeken. By the way, this is the municipality where the Belgian royals have always lived. Since this is a private residence, it’s never open for visits. But every spring, you can pay a visit to the Royal Greenhouses on the same domain. And that’s something I highly recommend. But more about that in another post.

But… did you know that you can actually explore an underground palace in Brussels?

Welcome to the Palace of Coudenberg, which got its name from the small hill in the Belgian capital, where it was built. Let’s start with a bit of history!

Once upon a time, the Coudenberg Palace towered over the city of Brussels. Charles V and many other of the most powerful rulers ever to reign in Europe made this princely residence their home between the 12th and 18th centuries, until it was consumed by a terrible fire.  Every trace of this prestigious palace simply disappeared underground for many years. (official website of the Palace of Coudenberg).

The Palace of Coudenberg is also known as the Palace of Charles V. Other notable figures who have lived here, are Philip the Good, and the Archdukes Albert and Isabella.

I can already hear you ask: if the Palace of Coudenberg was built on a hill, how come that it is now underground? The website of the Palace has the answer:

The former Palace of Brussels was built on a hill, taking up both the east side of the valley of the River Senne and the south side of the Coperbeek Valley.  To make up for topographical variation and also to fix the building firmly into the hill, the buildings that housed the chapel and the great ceremonial hall were given cellars with one or two levels. At the end of the 18th century, the entire district was levelled so that place Royale and the buildings surrounding it could be laid out. The cellars located on the slopes of the hill were preserved, primarily to be used as foundations for the new buildings. It is these cellars that now form the Coudenberg archaeological site.

Apart from these cellars, you can also see the rooms under the main banqueting hall and the warehouse under the chapel.

The educational trail ends in the Coudenberg Museum (Hoogstraeten House), where you can admire some of the archeological finds, discovered during the excavations.

This is the address:

Place des Palais, 7 in 1000 Brussels. The nearest metro station is Park. The entrance itself is via the BELvue Museum. More practical information such as the admission charges and opening hours is here.

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