The Meise Botanic Garden in Brussels, Belgium, is a significant botanical institution housing over 18,000 plant species. It was founded in 1870 by Ghent's Royal Society of Horticulture and Botany and was initially located in Ghent's Citadelpark, later, moved to Meise (near Brussels) in the 1960s due to spatial needs. The garden showcases global plant diversity, with sections for plants from various continents and an animal enclosure. An eco-museum and temporary exhibitions further enhance its offerings. Its origins trace back to Brussels' first botanical garden in the late 18th century. Post-Belgian Revolution, it faced financial struggles, requiring commercial activities for survival. In 1870, the Belgian government took over, beginning a new era in Belgian botany. The Bouchout Domain in Meise became its new location in 1939, featuring greenhouses and historical buildings, despite World War II damages.
- What do we think about the Meise Botanic Garden?
- What is the Meise Botanic Garden?
- What is the history of Meise Botanic Garden?
- What are the attractions in Meise Botanic Garden?
Currently, the garden spans 92 hectares, emphasizing research on Belgian and African plants. Its herbarium has nearly 4 million specimens, with a significant digital presence. Management shifted to the Flemish government in 2014, though the federal government retains some involvement. The Meise Botanic Garden, near Brussels, it's accessible by car, public transport, or bike. The garden offers a range of attractions, including the Plant Palace, Bouchout Castle, and thematic gardens. It operates daily, excluding public holidays, with variable entrance fees.
What do we think about the Meise Botanic Garden?
I visited the Botanical Garden in Meise in April 2023, and granted, it was a bit too early in the season. The Belgian winter was long that year, and when entering the botanic gardens, the bright yellow daffodils contrasted heavily with the still leafless trees. The botanic gardens don’t close during winter, though. It's open all year round, and while there may not be any flowers to spot outside in winter, visitors can find all kinds of plant species in the greenhouse complex, also known as the “Plant Palace.” It consists of different smaller greenhouses that all simulate other climates and hold vegetation from those climates.
Tip: Be sure to take off your jacket before you enter the greenhouse complex because most of the rooms there are tropically hot!
I didn't visit the greenhouse complex until I'd seen the rest of the garden, as it was a lovely day, and I was in the mood for a stroll. The National Botanic Garden of Belgium is 92 hectares, making it the world’s largest botanical gardens. So there's a lot of strolling (yes, that's a word) to be done. I saw most of the garden in over two hours, but I have to say I think it would have taken me much longer if the flowers had been out already and if I hadn't been just by myself. There were a lot of families there as well, and I think it's a great place to let your kids play on the grass while watching them from a bench in the sun. There's also a lovely terrace where you can have a drink and a snack, plus you can find themed walks at the ticket counter that act like a guided tour. It takes you through the different plant species according to the season. There is even a GPS hunt activity, which involves searching for some of the park’s hidden treasures. When I was there, the Garden had a “Magnolia Walk”.
Of course, I took some photos during my visit, which you can find below. At the bottom of the post, I've also gathered some practical information in case you want to visit the Meise Botanic Garden yourself (you should!).
What is the Meise Botanic Garden?
The Meise Botanic Garden, located in the municipality of Meise, Belgium, is one of the world's largest and most diverse botanical gardens and contains more than 18,000 different plant species from around the globe. The botanic garden was originally founded in 1870 by the Royal Society of Horticulture and Botany of Ghent. It was initially located in the Citadelpark area of central Ghent but was later moved to Meise in the 1960s as more space was needed for its expanding collections. The National Plantentuin van België is the largest section, containing a systematic display of global plant diversity across multiple greenhouses and outdoor gardens. There are geographically divided sections showcasing plants from Europe, Asia, North America, and other regions. For entertainment, Meise Botanic Garden has animal enclosures housing dwarf goats, reeve's muntjacs, and red pandas, with an eco-museum providing interactive exhibits exploring topics like plant evolution and ecology. The garden also hosts rotating temporary exhibitions on botany-related subjects and functions as an institute conducting scientific studies into Belgian's indigenous flora and globally significant plants.
What is the history of Meise Botanic Garden?
The first botanical garden in Brussels was created during the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century. After the French schools were dropped, the City of Brussels took over the garden that was about to be abandoned. In 1826, a group of prominent locals decided to create a new kind of botanical garden in Brussels. At the time the bourgeoisie was the new leading-class, and since companies were a popular financing method, the garden was created as a company. Although rooted on a private enterprise, it was also intended to be a national institution dedicated to science and botanical studies. The City of Brussels and the Home Office supported the Botanical Garden financially. However, the Belgian Revolution of 1830–31 was detrimental to the Dutch-born institution. It was regarded as aristocratic, as a mere playground for the local elites, and not useful for the country's agriculture. From then on, the garden had to battle to survive. The State and the City did not want to support it anymore unless it proved useful to the whole country, so the Botanical Garden was obliged to develop its commercial activities. It sold plants by the thousands, and created several money-consuming attractions and events for the local elite. In the 1860s, the aging buildings required renovation but the costs were too high for the company. In 1870, the Belgian Government took over the company and the National Botanical Garden was created. Jean Jules Linden, a Belgian politician and botanist, played a major role in this process. He wanted a “Belgian Kew” to be created in the capital, that is to say a botanical garden dedicated to taxonomy. That is why, some months before the garden was bought by the State, the Government had purchased the famous Martius Herbarium that was held in Munich. So, in 1870, Belgium had a great herbarium and an appropriate building. This marked the dawn of a new era for Belgian botany.
In 1927, just after the death of Charlotte, Duchess of Meise, it was proposed to set up the National Botanical Garden at the Bouchout Domain. It took until 1937 before the final decision was made and major constructions were started. To the south-east of Bouchout Castle, the “Palace of Plants” was built, which consists of a number of greenhouses. Further to the south-west of the castle, the Balat Greenhouse was placed. This greenhouse was designed in 1853 by the architect Alphonse Balat and transported from its original location at the Botanical Garden of Brussels. During World War II, Bouchout Castle was damaged by bombs and the domain was altered into a fortress. Next to the Palace of Plants, six barracks were placed and concrete defenses were erected. On 29 November 1944, a bomb exploded at the western part of the park, destroying the windows of Bouchout Castle. A second bomb exploded on 2 December at the nearby village of Meise, causing its complete destruction.
The last German soldiers left the Bouchout Domain on 3 September 1944. Just a few days later, the British troops arrived; they used it as a training location, while stationing about 200 vehicles at the domain. The last person to have lived on the domain was the painter Erwin Ganz, a friend of the royal family who was granted permission to continue living on the premises until he died in 1948. In 1939, the National Botanical Garden was relocated from its original location in central Brussels to the Domain of Bouchout in Meise. Today Botanique is an open-air venue for various cultural events.
Meise Botanic Garden currently covers 92 hectares and contains about 18,000 different species of plants. Its herbarium houses nearly 4 million preserved specimens. The garden focuses its research on Belgian and African plants. In recent years, over 1.2 million objects have been digitized, allowing online access to a large part of the collection. The botanic garden aims to increase and disseminate knowledge about plants, as well as contribute to plant conservation. It collaborates with networks of botanic gardens and conservation organizations worldwide. After several years of negotiations, the federal government transferred the management of Meise Botanic Garden to the Flemish government on January 1, 2014. The federal government still maintains employees and representation on the board of directors, but the plants, library, etc. are now property of the Flemish Community.
Where is Meise Botanic Garden located?
Meise Botanic Garden is located in Nieuwelaan 38, 1860 Meise, Belgium, on the grounds of Bouchout Castle in Meise, Flemish Brabant, just north of Brussels. It is one of the world's largest botanical gardens, with an extensive collection of living plants and a herbarium of 4 million specimens.
Visitors can reach the Meise Botanic Garden by car, public transport, or bike. The garden is open every day, except on public holidays, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. The entrance fee is 12€ ($13, £1-) for adults, 11 € ($7, £5) for seniors, 6 € ($7, £5) for students, 5 € ($6, £4) for children between 6-17 years old and free for children under 6 years old. Visitors can take advantage of the 1 € discount when they book the tickets online.
The Meise Botanic Garden offers a variety of attractions and activities for visitors of all ages and interests. Visitors can explore the Plant Palace, where they can immerse themselves in the tropics and see plants from different regions of the world, or the Bouchout Castle, where they can learn about the history of the garden and the castle. Visitors can also enjoy the WOODlab, where they can discover the secrets of wood and its uses, or take a walk in the beautiful landscape and see the different gardens and collections, such as the Flower Theatre, the Cronquist Garden, the Rose Garden, the Medieval Garden, and the Heritage Trees.
How to get to Meise Botanic Garden?
Visitors can get to the Meise Botanic Garden by car, public transport, or bike. Firstly, visitors who prefer to drive can take the A12 motorway from Brussels to Antwerp and exit at 3 Meise. The journey takes 20 minutes from the center of Brussels. They can follow the signs to the garden, which is 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) from the exit, where there is a free parking lot near the entrance. Secondly, visitors can take the train from Brussels to Meise, which runs every hour on weekdays and every two hours on weekends. They can get off at Meise Station and walk for 15 minutes to the garden or take the bus 821 from Meise Station to the garden, which runs every 30 minutes on weekdays and every hour on weekends. The journey takes 40 minutes from Brussels Central Station, and the bus stop is right in front of the Meise Botanic Garden. Lastly, visitors can bike from Brussels to the Meise Botanic Garden, following the bike paths and the signs on the road. The route is mostly flat and scenic, passing through parks and fields. The distance is 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from the center of Brussels, and visitors can leave their bikes in the bike racks near the entrance.
What are the opening hours in Meise Botanic Garden?
The Meise Botanic Garden is open every day, except on some public holidays, from 10:00 am to 05:00, while the cash desk at the Empress Charlotte Entrance is open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm from November to February and 10:00 am to 5:00 pm during March to October.
The cash desk at the Meise Village Entrance is open from 10:00 am to 06:00 pm from November to February and 10:00 am to 05:00 pm from March to October, while the Plant Palace is open every day from 10:00 am to 05:30 pm from November to February and 10:00 am to 06:00 pm from March to October.
The Bouchout Castle is open daily from 10:00 am to 05:00 pm from November to February and 10:00 am to 06:00 pm from March to October, while the WOODlab is open every day from 10:00 am to 05:00 pm from November to February, and 10:00 am to 06:00 pm in March to October.
What are the ticket prices for Meise Botanic Garden?
Meise Botanic Garden offers a range of ticket options for visitors. The regular admission tickets cost 11 € ($12, £9) for adults, 6 € ($7, £5) for seniors and students, and free for children under 18. Visitors can also buy a combined ticket with the nearby Atomium for 15 € ($17, £12) for adults, 13 € ($15, £11) for seniors and students, and 8 € ($9, £7) for children under 18. There are annual membership passes that provide unlimited entry to Meise Botanic Garden for one year. An annual membership for an individual adult costs 30€ ($32, £26), while family annual memberships for two adults living at the same address and children cost 60€ ($64, £51). There are also special discounted memberships offered to seniors over 65 years and people with disabilities for 24€ ($26, £21). The attractions within Meise Botanic Garden have separate fees. The Tropical Greenhouse costs 3€ ($3, £3) for adults and 1.50€ ($2, £1) for concessions to enter.
The peak visiting months of the Meise Botanic Garden are from June to August. It is recommended to purchase tickets online in advance as the garden can reach full capacity. The tickets can be conveniently booked on the official website and redeemed onsite.
Are there any tours available for Meise Botanic Garden?
Yes, there are tours available for Meise Botanic Garden. Visitors can choose from different types of tours depending on their interests and preferences. Firstly, the seasonal tour will show the best of every season in the Botanic Garden. Visitors will see the plants that are blooming or changing colors at different times of the year and learn about the history and ecology of the garden. The tour lasts for one and a half hours and costs 23 € ($26, £19) per group of 15 to 25 people, and it is ideal as a first introduction to the Botanic Garden. Secondly, the World Garden tour will take visitors on a world tour through the Plant Palace, a greenhouse complex that houses plants from different climates and regions. Visitors will witness how plants are adapted to the most extreme conditions around the world, from deserts to tropical rainforests, and discover the diversity and beauty of plants. The tour is perfect for rainy days, as most of the tour is indoors, and lasts for one and a half hours and costs 23 € ($26, £19) per group of 15 to 25 people.
Thirdly, the people and plants tour shows how people use plants for various purposes, such as food, clothing, medicine, and art. Visitors will visit the Culinary Garden, the Wood Lab, and the Flower Theatre, where they will see, smell, and taste different plants while also learning about the cultural and historical aspects of plants. The tour lasts for one and a half hours and costs 23 € ($26, £19) per group of 15-25 people. Lastly, the historic Gardens tour unravels the rich history of the Botanic Garden, which goes back more than 200 years. Visitors will witness the different styles of European garden art, from medieval to romantic, and learn about the history of the estate, its residents, and its future. Visitors will visit the Bouchout Castle, the Medieval Garden, and the Rose Garden. The tour is suitable for history lovers and anyone who appreciates the beauty of gardens. It lasts for one and a half hours and costs 23 € ($26, £19) per group of 15-25 people.
What are the attractions in Meise Botanic Garden?
Listed below are the attractions in Meise Botanic Garden.
- Plant Palace. The Plant Palace is the crown jewel of Meise Botanic Garden. This enormous greenhouse complex covers nearly 1 hectare and consists of 13 interconnected glasshouses. It contains tropical and subtropical plant collections from around the world. The Palm House near the entrance gives way to diverse climate zones like the Rainforest, Central Africa, Mediterranean, and Desert houses. The Palm House contains a towering Date Palm brought from Egypt in 1826. The hot and humid Tropical Wetlands house features lush vegetation, small waterfalls, and ponds. It contains the giant Victoria waterlilies for which the garden is famous. These enormous lily pads can support over 40 kilograms! The Subtropical Rainforest house has an elevated canopy walkway that provides views of the treetops and glasshouse roof. The Arid house contains an impressive cacti and succulent collection. One can find unusual plants like the Elephant-foot Yam, Welwitschia mirabilis, and the Madagascar Palm. The Plant Palace contains over 10,000 species, many with ornamental, commercial, or conservation value. It allows visitors to experience tropical environments from around the world in a single day. Interpretive signs provide details about unusual plants and ecosystems. The striking glass and metal architecture floods the houses with natural light. It employs innovative passive cooling systems to maintain ideal temperatures. The Plant Palace greenhouses are architectural marvels integrating beauty, technology, and nature.
- Bouchout Castle. Bouchout Castle is a castle located in the heart of Meise Botanic Garden. Bouchout Castle is dating back to the 12th century and it has a long and storied history. The current castle structure belongs to 1832 and was built by Count Amadeus de Beauffort in the neo-gothic style. It is surrounded by a moat and accessed by two stone bridges. Visitors can climb to the top of the castle keep which provides panoramic views over the botanical gardens. The castle interior contains various historical rooms with ornate decor as well as hosting temporary exhibitions about nature, plants and botanical history. One permanent exhibition documents the history of the castle itself. Highlights include the Grand Salon with its marble fireplace, the Dining Room containing the portrait gallery of the Goethals family who owned the castle in the 19th century, and the Hunting Room decorated with taxidermied animals and hunting trophies. During World War II, Bouchout Castle was damaged by bombing raids. It was used as a fortress by German troops who also damaged the surrounding botanical gardens. After the war, the castle underwent restoration. Its last inhabitant was the painter Erwin Ganz who lived on the premises until his death in 1948. Today, Bouchout Castle is one of the top attractions in Meise Botanic Garden. The contrast of the neo-gothic architecture with the verdant greenhouses and gardens makes it very picturesque. It provides a historical counterpoint to appreciate how the botanical collections have evolved over time.
- Woodlab. The Woodlab is an indoor museum located within Meise Botanic Garden that focuses on wood as a sustainable material. It is designed as a circular wooden building and the architecture itself demonstrates innovative uses of timber construction. Interactive exhibits inside teach visitors about wood anatomy, tree growth, and sustainable forestry practices. The heart of the Woodlab is a giant cross-section of a 2000-year old Giant Sequoia tree. This preserved tree slice towers within the building, providing perspective on the immense scale and age forests can reach. Surrounding it are exhibits explaining how trees grow, tree ring analysis, and commercial timber production. One can examine wood samples from different tree species under microscopes. Anatomical models illustrate how water and nutrients flow through xylem and phloem. The Woodlab highlights both historic and contemporary uses of wood. Traditional hand tools and artifacts demonstrate forestry techniques. Modern interactive displays show new bio-composite materials, 3D-printing with wood, and structural engineering applications. The Woodlab emphasizes responsible sourcing of wood products through managed forestry rather than deforestation.
- Flower Theatre: Flower Theatre, located next to the Orangery, contains hundreds of perennials like peonies, roses, and sedums that provide a floral showcase throughout the seasons. Camellias, magnolias, and rhododendrons steal the scene in spring while roses take center stage in summer.
- Cronquist Garden: Cronquist Garden is arranged according to plant families and contains over 1300 herbaceous flowering plants. It provides an overview of the diversity of flowering plants, with most in bloom during spring and summer. The 19th century Balat Greenhouse forms a scenic backdrop.
- Rose Garden: Rose Garden has over 100 wild rose species and arranges roses in two intertwining spirals based on DNA relationships. It spotlights the migration of wild roses from Asia and their domestication. Cultivars represent rose breeding history.
- Medieval Garden: Medieval Garden is evoking monastic and castle gardens. It is a geometrically structured garden and contains edible, medicinal and utility plants from the Middle Ages. It represents the historical origins of botanical gardens.
- Fragrance and Colour Garden: Fragrance and Colour Garden is enclosed and themed around plants used for fragrances and dyes. The garden's flowering trees and shrubs fill the air with scent and color. Unexpected plants like carrots and woad illustrate historic uses.
- Island Garden: Island Garden, opened in 2022, is contemporary garden on the castle pond consists of islands hosting diverse wetland trees like bald cypress. Concrete walkways allow visitors to immerse themselves in different aquatic biotopes.
Thirdly, the Culinary Garden is a place where visitors can learn about the cultural and historical aspects of plants and witness how people use plants for various purposes, such as food, clothing, medicine, and art. Visitors can also smell and taste different plants, from herbs to fruits, while visiting the Wood Lab, where they can see how wood is used for different crafts and techniques. Visitors can also participate in workshops and demonstrations to learn more about the uses of plants. Lastly, the Botanic Garden is a natural place that offers a variety of landscapes and habitats. Visitors can explore the different gardens, such as the Medieval Garden, the Rose Garden, the Rock Garden, and the Arboretum. They can also see the wildlife that lives in the Botanic Garden, such as birds, insects, amphibians, and mammals.
Is Meise Botanic Garden child-friendly?
Yes, Meise Botanic Garden is very child-friendly. It is a place where children can enjoy nature, learn about plants, and have fun. Firstly, the Meise Botanic Garden has a large area where children can run, play, and explore. There are different gardens, such as the Medieval Garden, the Rose Garden, the Rock Garden, and the Arboretum, where children can see different types of plants and flowers. There are also lawns where children can picnic or relax. Secondly, the Meise Botanic Garden has a barefoot path where children can walk barefoot and feel the different textures of the ground. The barefoot path starts next to the Orangery, the café and ends with a place to wash the feet. Children can experience the sensations of mud, sand, gravel, and wood.
Thirdly, the Meise Botanic Garden has a pullable platform on the lake next to the castle, where children can pull themselves across the water using a rope. This is a fun and exciting activity that children love. The platform is also a good spot to enjoy the view of the castle and the garden. Fourthly, the Meise Botanic Garden has a treasure hunt for children, where they can use a GPS device to find clues and solve puzzles. The treasure hunt is a fun and educational way to explore the garden and learn about plants. The treasure hunt is suitable for children aged 6 to 12. Lastly, the Meise Botanic Garden has a Wonderweekend, an annual event for children with tons of fun things organized. Children can stay in the garden for the night in a tent, enjoy a campfire, watch a movie, and more. The Wonderweekend is organized around mid-August every year.
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