Once a year, when the majority of plants are in blossom, the royal garden and greenhouses open their doors to the public. Anyone can stop by the Castle of Laeken, pay an entry fee of 2.5 €, and spend a day wandering around. The castle is the official residence of the King and the royal family, and the garden is not a tourist attraction. Thus, aside from three weeks in spring, it is closed and only foreign officials and selected guests may visit.
As the Royal Greenhouses are located only 5 km from Brussels, it is easy to get there. Over 2.5 hectares (6.2 acres) of the garden contains a collection of rare flowers and plants. Among the valuable exhibits are plants from Africa, palms, roses, azaleas, geraniums, fuchsias, and the Orange tree collection. The greenhouses also give shelter to the world’s oldest and largest collection of camellias—305 species grow in Laeken.
Some plants grow outdoors in the garden while others require special treatment and are kept in tropical, subtropical and cold greenhouses. But it's not only the plants that are worth attention—the greenhouses themselves are impressive samples of architecture. The Winter Garden, for example, is well worth visiting.
The monumental dome-shaped buildings of iron and glass and the glass galleries date back to the late 19th century. Alphonse Balat, a famous Belgian architect, designed the greenhouses for King Leopold II. Even though over one hundred years have passed, some of the plants still belong to the original collection of Leopold II.