Virtual visits: Brussels’ museums in your living room
These days we're consuming culture online. But we can also get our fix outdoors, in complete safety. You'll find a different atmosphere in each of Brussels' various districts and communes. Be sure to make a note of the best spots for when cultural life resumes!
This time we're heading to Schaerbeek. The commune is teeming with sites with rich histories. You'll discover countless architectural gems, iconic spots, remarkable churches and oases of greenery, along with committed and innovative initiatives!
Josaphat park, a green lung and open-air museum
Put on your headphones and listen to an audio tour that guides you through Schaerbeek. Some of the Beursschouwburg's various 'music walks' will lead you to the romantic Josaphat Park. M I M I and Fatoosan have created an audio track to accompany you on your walks with dreamy, compelling and exhilarating music and soundscapes.
With its 20 hectares of lawns, woods and ponds, Josaphat Park is Schaerbeek's green lung. The historic, southern part was laid out in the English style and makes good use of the difference in height there. Between the lawns you will find no less than three ponds. The park's ornamental trees, flowerbeds, rustic bridge over a romantic waterfall, rocks and sculptures give it the picturesque character of a pre-war park.
If you're not averse to a challenge, look for the various sculptures or busts of writers (Emile Verhaeren, Nestor de Tière, Hubert Krains, Albert Giraud and Georges Eekhoud) and artists (painters Léon Frédéric and Oswald Poreau and composer Henri Weyts). Other striking sculptures are 'L'Élageur' and 'Ève et le serpent' by Albert Desenfans; 'Cendrillon' by Edmond Lefever; 'Tijl Uilenspiegel' and 'Cariatide' by Eugène Canneel; 'La Maternité' by Maurice De Korte; the 'Philippe Baucq monument' by Jacques Nisot; 'Borée' by Joseph Van Hamme and of course the 'Edmond Galoppin monument' by Jean Lecroart, erected for the designer of the park.
Did you know?
The large sandpit and circular canopy in the northern part of the park behind Stade du Crossing is a reference to the 'beach' of Schaerbeek that used to be here, a pond with a sandy beach around it!Itinerary
Art Nouveau: architectural gems
Just a stone's throw from the park is the majestic Avenue Louis Bertrand, one of the most beautiful streets in Brussels, which was designed in 1905. Façade competitions encouraged architects to surpass each other and build the most exceptional homes. Sgraffito, ceramics, turrets, stained glass windows and winding wrought ironwork inspire the streetscape. The buildings of the Schaerbeek architects Gustave Strauven, Frans Hemelsoet and Henri Jacobs reflect their love of Art Nouveau.
Did you know?
The construction of the Avenue Louis Bertrand represented a complete turnaround for Schaerbeek. At the beginning of the 20th century, the commune was still a village. The new, green residential districts attracted wealthy inhabitants who brought in the best architects of the time.Itinerary
Engaging and innovative projects
During your walk, make a stop at 253 rue Josaphat and take in the Maison des Femmes/Huis van de Vrouw, an institution for all women, regardless of their age, profession or culture. In normal times, it's a unique place for encounters and activities, a melting pot of origins, languages and social context. However, during the partial lockdown, you can enjoy their offer online. Check out their Facebook page, it's full of useful information about their online yoga and Pilates classes!
Rue Josaphat 253 Josaphatstraat, 1030 SchaerbeekItinerary
Walk back to Avenue Louis Bertrand and head in the direction of Saint Servatius Church. At number 30 you'll find Grafik, a bookshop specialising in graphic novels and children's books by Belgian and international illustrators. During last spring's lockdown, they made a heart-warming call to communicate your emotions in A5 format. Are you also an 'artivist'? Then your creative entries are certainly welcome!
Avenue Louis Bertrand 30 Louis Bertrandlaan, 1030 SchaerbeekItinerary
Iconic places bursting with history
The renovation of the neo-gothic Saint Servatius was recently completed, and now it gleams in the sunlight. Walk in for a moment, and let yourself be overwhelmed by the silence. Gaze at the numerous paintings of Schaerbeek-based artists like 17th century artists Gaspar De Crayer, Jan Van Boekhorst and Jacques Van Oost, and 19th century artists Léon Fréderic and Eugène Smits. Soak up the magnificent perspective as you leave. In the distance you'll see the green horizon that is Josaphat Park.
Walk along Chaussée de Haecht, until you see Autrique House on your left at number 266.
The house, designed by a young Victor Horta, bears the early hallmarks of Art Nouveau. The facade, with its refined lines and arabesques is a masterpiece of innovation. Horta was the first to use metal structures in a private house. The poetry of this new movement is also recognisable in the grille above the door, and in the shallow loggia decorated with sgraffiti that replace the usual roof windows.
Did you know?
Autrique House was Victor Horta’s first architectural creation.
There were so few original documents available that the team responsible for the renovation (architect Francis Metzger and cartoonists François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters) had to work as archaeologists, guided by the house itself!
Chaussée de Haecht 266 Haachtsesteenweg, 1030 SchaerbeekItinerary
Further along the righthand side of the busy Chaussée de Haecht, just before tram 92 turns into the bend, you'll notice an ostentatious green gate. Number 147 is, otherwise, rather inconspicuous. Have you always wondered what was hiding behind it? Maybe you'll be lucky and the gate will be open. Then you can catch a glimpse of the former Eenens-Terlinden castle, a neoclassical villa with outbuildings dating from 1828 that houses the Maison des Arts/Huis der Kunsten. In normal times this venue offers exhibitions on visual arts, concerts and conferences to make contemporary art accessible to everyone, as well as drawing and painting lessons.
Chaussée de Haecht 147 Haachtsesteenweg, 1030 SchaerbeekItinerary
Turn the corner and on your left you will see the imposing neo-Byzantine style St. Mary's Church. Walk further into the wide, airy rue Royal-Sainte-Marie/Koninklijke Sinte-Mariastraat. You can't miss the Halles de Schaerbeek The former covered market halls made of steel and glass have been a household name in the cultural landscape of Brussels, Belgium and Europe for almost 40 years. The building dates back to 1901 and was saved from destruction thanks to a sustainable long-term renovation plan. Its contemporary and highly varied programming brings together music and the performing arts in a broad sense (dance, theatre, circus) and is open to new art forms and partnerships with artists from all over Europe. Be sure to catch a show there as soon as the doors open again!
Rue Royal-Sainte-Marie 22a Koninklijke Sinte-Mariastraat, 1030 SchaerbeekItinerary