Travel Stories

BELGIUM: Meise Botanic Gardens, Brussels

An Egyptian goose side-glanced me with her big orange eye as she ushered her goslings away, to the water. Spring is here and the woodland, floor edged with wild garlic, is filled with beautifully coloured rhododendrons and bird song.

Meise Botanic Gardens is a garden for all seasons, no day is the same, the garden is everchanging.

Designed over the grounds of two castles, the 92 hectare site now contain over 20,000 plant species. Although the collection began in 1797 (as Le Jardin Botanique de Bruxelles in Hofberg) it was only in 1939 that it began to be moved to its current location. Unfortunately Meise Castle burnt down during the second world war, but Bouchout Castle is still in use.

Welcome to the Plant Palace. Built in the 1950s this is an incredible one hectare complex with over 11,500 plants. Something for everyone, and lots to learn.

In the Tropical Wetlands Greenhouse you’ll find giant waterlilies from the Amazon, where people place their babies for photos to appease the gods of the Instagram grid. The lily pads can reach diameter of over two metres and hold 40 kilos (that’s one big baby!)

On my kitchen windowsill I have a ‘mother in laws tongue’ plant, Sansevierias. You might have one, and, if it’s got a yellow edge, then know that it is 100% related to mine and we are connected via snake plant. You’re welcome.

Apparently all yellow-edged specimens come from one mother plant which was brought from Congo in around 1900 by Emile Laurent to Meises, and you can meet that mother in the Savannah and Monsoon Forest Greenhouse.

In the Cronquist Garden you’ll find the Balat Greenhouse, designed in 1854 by Alphonse Balat, it originally housed giant water lilies at Brussels Zoo. Now it holds some pretty pelargoniums and other plants, but the focus is mostly on it’s beautiful structure rather than it’s contents.

Meises’ rose garden, planted in the shape of an unfurling rose, has more than 100 different botanical species and is one of the most important rose collections in the world. (It needs to be seen in June for full bloom, but apparently the rose hips are beautiful in the Autumn).

In the castle I ate a decadent lunch of chocolate mousse, before heading off on the Land Train (this is not a train) to explore further, ending up in the Orangery with it’s dark walls and beautiful arched windows.

The gardens are magnificent and vast, you could spend days, even weeks here, learning and exploring, maybe with a picnic (I’ll join you).

There’s a lot more to find out about Meises on and of course, visit for more lovely things to do in the area.

I was a guest of, and travelled with, Visit Flanders. As always, my opinions are my own (and if you’re feeling left out, I have a spare mother-in-laws tongue you can have).