Once a year, for only one month, the domain of the Groot-Bijgaarden castle and gardens in Belgium opens to the public. The occasion? The Floralia Brussels flower show, named as such because Groot-Bijgaarden, or Grand-Bigard in French, is located just a 10-minute drive from the capital Brussels.
During Floralia, visitors can see over 500 varieties of spring flowers, among which more than 400 varieties of tulips. In total, more than 1 million flowers.
All of these bulbs have been planted by hand in the 14 hectares-big castle gardens. Can you imagine how much work that was? Of course, it's not as massive as Keukenhof in the Netherlands, but still.
The flowers are arranged in unique flower beds, sometimes forming figures like a 3-meter high peacock and once even forming a labyrinth. The global design comes from flower bulb expert Maarten Bakker who spends all year looking for the perfect bulbs to then show at Floralia Groot-Bijgaarden. The labyrinth, however, is based on a design dating all the way back to 1748. It was created for a countess, but never executed… until now.
Besides the flowers in the gardens, there's also a 1000 m² greenhouse where you can see new flower arrangements each week. The greenhouse is also a safe spot in case it starts to rain, which occasionally happens here in Belgium. In previous years, visitors could see renowned flower artist Hans Danko create arrangements with no less than 10,000 flowers on Fridays. Keep an eye on the Floralia Brussels website to find out about all the activities for the 2023 season.
The castle itself isn't open to visitors. There's a small flower exhibition in the castle's chapel, but the rest of the 12th-century castle is only accessible if you host or attend an event there. That's a bit of a pity, but it still forms a beautiful backdrop for Floralia and willingly lets itself be photographed.
The dungeon tower does open to the public and the rooms on all four floors are decorated according to different themes. The climb up to the rooftop terrace is worth it for the view over Brussels and the Flemish countryside.
Regardless of the castle not being open to the public, it's one of many castles in Belgium that still looks great.
The Venetian Parade at Floralia Brussels
Every year, there's also a Venetian Parade in Floralia. Taking place on a weekend, the parade is not as much a parade as a group of people dressed up in beautiful Venetian costumes who roam around the gardens, separately or in duos.
The date of the 2023 Venetian Parade at Floralia is yet to be announced, you can also keep an eye on the park’s official website for updates.
They pose willingly and patiently so that visitors can photograph them. I was surprised at how bossy some photographers got in their hunt for the perfect photo!
It goes without saying that it can get pretty crowded during the weekend of the Venetian Parade but I still would recommend going then as it's quite special.
The Groot-Bijgaarden castle and gardens
The original Groot-Bijgaarden castle dates back to the 12th century, but it was changed throughout the centuries. Most of what we see now dates back to the 14th and the 17th century, making the castle a mixture of medieval and renaissance styles. It's located in a natural setting, surrounded by a moat and its beautiful gardens.
The current landscaping of those gardens comes from the architect Louis Fuchs (19th century) who's designed several parks around Belgium, including the Parc du Waux-Hall in Mons.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the Groot-Bijgaarden castle and gardens had suffered severe decay and it was in this terrible condition that the ownership went on to Raymond Pelgrims de Bigard in 1902. He dedicated 30 years to restoring the castle and making it one of the best-maintained castles in the country.
Isidoor van Beverenstraat 51
Floralia Brussels 2023 will take place from April 1 to May 4. The opening hours are from 10 am to 6 pm. While it’s not necessary to make reservations to visit the park, it’s recommended to do so if you’re traveling with a group of over 20 people.
There is a small cafe and a playground for kids inside the castle gardens. Those who want to get active can plan their visit to Floralia on one of the days that there's a special event or a workshop.
You are allowed to bring dogs but they must be on a leash.
How to get Floralia Brussels tickets
You can get your tickets to visit Floralia on the official website. Prices start at €16 for adults. Children under 6 can enter for free, and tickets for children ages 6 to 14 cost €5.
If you plan to visit Floralia Brussels a few times, consider getting a season ticket for €25. It allows you to visit the park as many times as you want to make the most out of the season.
Check the website for more information on prices and available discounts.
Don't forget travel insurance
Plan for the best, prepare for the worst. Travel insurance has you covered in case (part of) your trip gets canceled, you get sick or hurt abroad, and sometimes even when your electronics break or get stolen. I always make sure I'm covered on every trip I go on.
Don't have travel insurance yet? Check out SafetyWing. They offer super flexible plans that you can even sign up for while you're already on your trip. On top of that, they were the first travel insurance to cover COVID, and when I got COVID, they reimbursed all of my expenses without making a fuss. Their customer support team is great and I can personally recommend them.
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