We arrived in Brussels by train from Bruges in the afternoon. I had deliberately booked us into the White Hotel, an incredibly design conscious hotel in the upscale neighborhood of Ixelles. The hotel is on Avenue Louise, the Rodeo Drive of Brussels.
I wanted to stay in this neighborhood because I had never visited this part of Brussels before and because the neighborhood is loaded with great examples of Art Nouveau architecture, including the home of Belgium’s greatest Art Nouveau architect, Victor Horta.
Horta’s house is now a museum devoted to his works. Horta went all out in designing his own home as well as much of the furniture it contained. It’s an Art Nouveau masterpiece.
There were loads of gorgeous books on Art Nouveau for sale in the Horta House shop but the thought of lugging these heavy tomes all over the rest of our European trip was daunting, so I restrained myself (believe me, such restraint is not typically a part of my nature). My wife and I did our own Art Nouveau neighborhood walking tour. We admired this building (“The Owls”) as well as the Art Nouveau structure next to it.
I was standing on the opposite corner so that I could get some decent shots of the two structures when we were approached by an enthusiastic Belgian. I was apprehensive at first, as he jabbered on about the buildings I was shooting. Some guy trying to be our tour guide? No; he just wanted to share. He explained that the building we were looking at was his favorite building in the world.
“Did you know you can go inside?” he asked. “It’s a photography institute now. They have regular exhibitions. For a small fee, though, you can see the current exhibition and explore the interior of this magnificent building as well.”
I thanked him; he smiled and then disappeared into the pedestrian crowd.
We did indeed enter the building. We saw an interesting photography show and I shot pictures of the building’s interior. There were peeling period frescoes on the walls winding up the spiral staircase:
From the top of the staircase I got this shot of the incredible mozaic floor below:
Besides the grandeur of the Art Nouveau buildings I love the architectural details with which so many of these structures are adorned. Look at these marvelous door handles:
There happened to be an incredible open air market up the street from our hotel. After exploring the market we had (some powerful) drinks at a sidewalk cafe near the center of the market (the beer in Belgium is justly renowned the world over). All was well with the world as we contemplated our trip the following day to Venice, Italy.