Go Behind the Scenes of a Private Castle During Floralia Brussels

If you’re planning a trip to Belgium sometime this year and can’t decide when to go, consider booking your trip in April so you can attend the amazing Floralia Brussels. This spring flower exhibition takes place at the gorgeous Groot-Bijgaarden Castle and Gardens, which is normally closed to the public.

The 14-hectare park boasts almost 500 varieties of spring flowers, more than 400 of which are varieties of tulips. In order to make the experience unforgettable, the team of gardeners at the castle hand-planted more than 1 million bulbs.

Groot-Bijgaarden Castle and Gardens History
Go Behind the Scenes of a Private Castle

Originally constructed in 1110, the castle has a typical design found in Belgium, with deep protective moats and a single arched bridge that connects the castle to the outside world. It was first owned by Almaric of Bigard, though successive owners added their own touch, including the four-story dungeon tower built in 1347 and the central part of the gatehouse that dates to the 14th century.

The owner who made the biggest mark was Count Ferdinand de Boisschot. He enlarged existing buildings and added a chapel in 1640. After the count’s death, the property was split up and sadly became dilapidated. By 1902, the entrances were blocked by various farmsteads, and the moat filled with earth. Luckily, Raymond Pelgrims de Bigard decided to restore the castle to its former glory and spent 30 years renovating the castle.

Go Behind the Scenes of a Private Castle

In 2004, Bigard’s family decided to reopen the park to the public in April. They did so by organizing the largest flower show in Belgium: Floralia Brussels. Since 2004, attendance has grown, and it is now an annual tradition that attracts locals and tourists alike. More importantly, the yearly event helps maintain this important part of Belgium’s heritage.

Today, the castle itself is only accessible if you host or attend an event there. However, there is a small flower exhibit during Floralia Brussels in the castle’s chapel. You can also climb to the rooftop terrace of the dungeon tower and enjoy the view over Brussels and the countryside. The dungeon tower’s four floors also have themed rooms you can explore on your way to or from the rooftop.

Floralia Brussels 2022
Go Behind the Scenes of a Private Castle

The spring flower exhibition is one of the most highly anticipated events in Belgium — and for good reason. Every year, the head designer, Maarten Bakker, works closely with major Dutch bulb producers and exporters in order to find the most beautiful species and producers. Once he has found the perfect flowers, he then designs the different gardens, taking into account the various colors and blooming times for each flower. Many of the flowerbeds have unique arrangements, such as the 3-meter-high peacock! All of the flowerbeds are original designs of Bakker’s except for the labyrinth, which was originally designed for a countess in 1748.

In addition to the 1 million flowers in the garden, there’s also a greenhouse that displays new flower arrangements every week in Floralia Brussels. While it’s certainly not the largest greenhouse at 1000 m2, it features different flowers from the gardens, and you can watch master flower artist Hans Danko create flower arrangements with no less than 10,000 flowers. If it starts raining, you can also wait in the greenhouse for the rain to pass.

The Venetian Parade

Every year, Floralia Brussels hosts the Venetian Parade that takes place on a specific weekend. Despite being called a parade, there isn’t a formal procession or route. It’s more a group of people dressed up in Venetian costumes who wander the gardens separately or in duos to make the exhibit look more colorful and impressive.

Go Behind the Scenes of a Private Castle

As you would expect, the weekend of the Venetian Parade gets very crowded, but it’s worth it to visit during this event as it definitely adds to the ambiance. Plus, the people in costume are always more than happy to pose for pictures, so you can get some great shots, especially when you incorporate the castle and gardens in the backdrop. Be forewarned that there will be many people who want to take pictures of the parade, so you’ll need to be patient!

Visiting Floralia Brussels

As noted, Floralia Brussels is only open to the public for a single month between April and May. The hours of operation are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the ticket desk closing at 5:30 p.m. Due to COVID restrictions measures, there is a visitor limit per day, so it is highly suggested that you purchase your tickets online in advance if you plan on buying a day ticket. You can also purchase season tickets.

Go Behind the Scenes of a Private Castle

Tickets vary in price: seniors and children ages 6-14 receive discounts, groups of 20 or more receive a discount, and children younger than 6 get in for free. You can check the prices directly on the Castle Groot Bijgaarden site. If you plan on visiting the park multiple times to view the different flower stages, it makes sense to purchase the season pass as you’ll recoup your costs by your second visit.

What Else to Do

Groot-Bijgaarden Castle is around 15-20 minutes away from Brussels, the capital of Belgium. As you would imagine, there’s plenty to explore and do in Brussels, including:

Go Behind the Scenes of a Private Castle

And don’t forget to enjoy the amazing food! The unofficial national dish of Belgium is mussels and cooked in classic vegetable broth or Belgian beer. They’re generally served with a side of fries. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, you should try the waffles. There are two types: the Brussels waffles that are flaky and often topped with whipped cream, and the Liege waffles that are rounder and sweeter with no toppings necessary.

Enjoy the Beauty of Floralia Brussels

Sure, there might be larger flower shows in Europe, but Floralia Brussels offers a unique experience as you get to enjoy the flowers against the backdrop of a cultural heritage site. Plus, the fact that you can only access these gardens once a year makes this event even more special. So if you’re planning a vacation to Belgium between April 2 to May 3, 2022, make sure to add Floralia Brussels to your itinerary.