Impressive visit to the Cinquantenaire in Brussels

Brussels is undeniably a green city. In fact, the Belgian capital is one of the greenest in the world and the greenest in Europe! Take a stroll around and you'll discover that over 50% of the city is classified as green space. Dozens of parks dot the urban landscape. The people of Brussels love to spend an afternoon in one of the many parks, including the Bois de la Cambre, the Parc Royal, the Parc Josaphat and the Parc Léopold. But one of them is a direct witness to the history of Belgium: the Parc du Cinquantenaire! Built in 1880 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the country's independence, it is both a formal garden and a colossal historical monument housing several museums. A must-see in the city to combine relaxation and sightseeing!

Brussels, Belgium. Parc du Cinquantenaire with the Arch built for the independence of Brussels.

- © ecstk22 / Shutterstock
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One of Belgium's most impressive and imposing monuments, this Belgian triumphal arch is reminiscent of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Steeped in history, its imposing structure is sure to impress. But it is also a unique cultural meeting place in the heart of the European capital. A park that welcomes sports enthusiasts, artists, families and groups of friends for a sunny afternoon, as well as curious tourists and museum-goers, it's a visit to include on your list of must-sees during your stay in Brussels!

Fiftieth Anniversary Brussels

- © olrat / Shutterstock

The history of the site

On 4 October 1830, a new nation was born: Belgium became independent. At the end of the 19th century, the idea of a park to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Belgian independence was first proposed in 1876 by King Leopold II. He decided to build a monumental park to showcase Belgium's power and wealth, and to demonstrate Belgium's ability to organise international events. The king was joined by the ruling bourgeoisie in offering the capital prestigious monuments worthy of a capital city.

Where to stay near the fiftieth anniversary

⭐ Holiday Inn Brussels Schuman, an IHG Hotel

Holiday Inn Brussels Schuman, an IHG Hotel Brussels
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Holiday Inn Brussels Schuman, an IHG Hotel

The Holiday Inn Hotel Brussels-Schuman's restaurant, which overlooks the garden, serves a selection of beers, cocktails and wines. In summer you can enjoy a terrace with an outdoor dining area.
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So, as the fiftieth anniversary of the Belgian revolution that led to its independence approaches, the authorities are thinking about where to locate such a project. The fiftieth anniversary park will be located at the end of the very long Rue de la Loi, which runs from the town's historic centre. What was once a field used for military manoeuvres is now the city's magnificent green lung, adorned with a majestic triumphal arch. The municipality of Etterbeek, where the building is located, was annexed to Brussels for the occasion.

Aerial view of the fiftieth anniversary

- © Maykova Galina / Shutterstock

Naturally, the King chose the site for the jubilee celebrations marking 50 years of Belgian independence. The event that took place there was an international showcase for the products of art and industry made in Belgium. A second exhibition was held in 1888, featuring a major international science and industry competition. The famous architect Gédéon Bordiau came up with the idea of centralising all the nation's knowledge in one place: the Palais du Cinquantenaire. He constructed two buildings linked by semi-circular colonnades, with an arcade in the centre. The king imposed on the architect that the whole complex should be oriented on an axis facing the city skyline and being in line with the Palais Royale on one side and the Domaine Royal de Tervuren on the other.

Brussels, Belgium. Parc du Cinquantenaire with the Arch built for the independence of Brussels.

- © ecstk22 / Shutterstock

In preparation for the Universal Exhibition of 1897, the palace was once again extended at the king's request. He had two large glass halls built on either side of the esplanade. These halls were originally designed to house the collections of the Independent State of Congo, which were on show at the exhibition. However, due to lack of space, they were transferred to the Palais des Colonies in Tervuren, which was built for the occasion. This is now the home of the Royal Museum for Central Africa.

Parc du Cinquantenaire or Jubelpark on a cloudy day. Famous triumphal arch. Brussels, Belgium

- © FrimuFilms / Shutterstock

On the occasion of Belgium's 75th anniversary, a new architect took on the project. Charles Girault transformed the porte arcade into a triple arcade, and it was the King himself, with the help of a number of patrons, who financed the project. Overlooking the arch, you can admire a bronze chariot drawn by 4 horses, representing Brabant, as well as statues symbolising the 8 other provinces of Belgium.

Brussels, Belgium - June 29, 2022, Le Cinquantenaire Arcade in the center of the Parc du Cinquantenaire, Jubelpark in Brussels, Belgium.

- © Christophe Licoppe / Shutterstock

You may be surprised at the lack of symmetry throughout the building, but the fiftieth anniversary monument was damaged by a major fire in 1946. The whole complex was rebuilt, but in a more modern style. Today, the Palais du Cinquantenaire is home to no fewer than 3 museums: the Army and Aviation Museum, which traces the history of the Belgian army; Autoworld, the world's largest collection of cars; and the Art and History Museum, which focuses on antiquity and archaeology.

Cinquantenaire event

- © Joel Rodrigues Vitoria / Shutterstock

Meeting place

But the Parc du Cinquantenaire is also, and above all, a place where the people of Brussels love to get together. On sunny weekends, the park is packed with families celebrating birthdays, friends having a picnic over a beer or playing all sorts of outdoor games. It's a great opportunity to immerse yourself in Brussels life after visiting the palace's various museums. It's also the venue for many events, including the Fête de la Musique (music festival), the 20 kilometres of Brussels, the Fête de l'Environnement (environment festival) and the famous medieval market in early June.

Practical information

Book your tickets directly online for the various museums housed in the Palais du Cinquantenaire:

👉 Army Museum

👉 Autoworld

👉 Art and History Museum

by Val HANCOCK
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