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Visiting the Royal St. Hubert Galleries, Brussels, Belgium: a quality shopping arcade dating from 1847

Updated on October 17, 2015
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
The entrance to the Royal St Hubert Galleries, Brussels, Belgium
The entrance to the Royal St Hubert Galleries, Brussels, Belgium | Source
Royal St Hubert Galleries, Brussels
Royal St Hubert Galleries, Brussels | Source
Map location of Brussels, Belgium
Map location of Brussels, Belgium | Source

Showcase of the Belgian capital

This high quality complex of boutiques in Brussels (French: Bruxelles ; Dutch: Brussel ) was opened in 1847 by King Leopold I. Largely the brainchild of its architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer (1811-1880), who was also to some extent their business promoter, roles which in the 19th century were not always quite as distinct as they would be in the 21st century.

In some ways, the Royal St Hubert Galleries (French: Galeries Royales St.-Hubert ; Dutch: Koninklijke Sint-Hubertusgalerijen ) resemble the Burlington Arcade, London, England, which dates from 1819.

In order to construct the Galleries, a process of clearance, backed by the appropriate legal processes, needed to take place, and this lasted several years in the 1830s and 1840s. It was not without controversy: some local property and business owners took a dim view of being evicted, with one elderly resident, striken with worry, taking a fatal stoke at the final approach of Cluysenaer's bailiff. A local businessman dramatically committed suicide while a demolition team worked on a property next-door to his store.

But after 1847, with its royal patronage and a clientele interested in the high quality boutiques for which the Gallery became a prime commercial location, the Gallery gradually became an integral part of the urban landscape in central Brussels. Being hardly a stone's throw from the Grand' Place architectual gem, it has for many years attracted very large numbers of visitors, some armed with money to spend, others simply desiring an indoor stroll during inclement weather. Stores with well appointed displays include those selling lace and chocolates, both of which are products of local industries.

Features of the Gallery include a 200 metre glass roof — in its day, said to be the longest in the world —, Italianate arches and entrance colonades.

Prominent writers including Dumas, Hugo and Apollinaire would regularly meet at the former Café de la Renaissance , in the Gallery.

A particularly poignant memory of the Galleries which I have is derived from a day in August 1993, a few days after the sudden passing of King Baudouin, when a store-front here displayed a dignified and benevolent-looking portrait of the new Belgian King Albert II.

Also worth seeing

In Brussels , there are so many visitor attractions that these are difficult to summerize. But the breathtakingly fine Grand' Place is situated a very short distance from the Royal St. Hubert Galleries. Other sights include the Royal Palace and the BELvue museum; and the Palace of Justice.

...

How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. However, the Metro is a very convenient way of getting around Brussels. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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