A weekend in…
Five stunning Art Nouveau destinations
If you haven’t heard about Art Nouveau, you might have heard instead about Jugendstil, Stile Liberty or Modernismo Catalán. All these names refer to the same art movement, which took the world by surprise during the so-called ‘fin de siècle’. The seeds fo
It’s hard to miss the Old England building when reaching the top of Mont des Arts. This extravagant concoction of glass and steel has its name written on it in gigantic letters. Today, the building houses the Musical Instruments Museum (MIM) and a restaurant on top offering panoramic views. In its early days, it was the Belgian flagship store for the British department store Old England, which was located here from 1899 until 1972. If you just want to grab a bite without visiting the museum, you can get a free ticket straight to the top at the entrance.
Musical Instruments Museum, Montagne de la Cour 2 (Parc, metro 1 and 5). €10 (discounts available). Open Tuesday to Friday from 9.30am to 5pm, and on weekends from 10am to 5pm.
THE MASTER’S WORKSHOP
No man mastered the Art Nouveau techniques like its founding father, Victor Horta. His most famous piece of work is his private residence and the adjoining workshop, which have now been transformed into the Horta Museum. The permanent exhibition inside is fascinating, but it is mainly the building itself that will leave you breathless. The UNESCO-listed house stands out with its stunning staircase, abundance of natural light and intriguing interior.
Horta Museum, Rue Américaine 25 (Saint-Gilles) (Place Janson, tram 81, 92 and 97). €10 (discounts available). Open Tuesday to Friday from 2pm to 5.30pm, and on weekends from 11am to 5.30pm.
In the city centre, in the shadow of the Bourse (see page 33), you can enjoy a beer or a meal in a regal finde-siècle setting. Mirrors, stained-glass windows and chandeliers turn this tavern into an Art Nouveau Walhalla, and the beer menu will entertain even the greatest architecture laymen. The restaurant was recently restored but thankfully lost none of its authentic charm.
Le Falstaff, Rue Henri Maus 19 (Bourse, tram 3 and 4). Free entrance for café guests. Open daily from 10am to midnight.
NARROW, NARROWER, NARROWEST
For proof that Art Nouveau wasn’t just a movement for the happy few and their gigantic mansions, look to Maison Saint-Cyr, a four-metre-wide house with a dazzling façade. Most impressive is the round balcony on the third floor, which fits the estate like a crown. It will hardly come as a surprise that the architect of this building, Gustave Strauven, was one of Horta’s apprentices. Today, the house is private property and can therefore not be visited. Yet, if you put yourself on a bench at the green Square Ambiorix, you can gaze away while enjoying the quiet park.
Maison Saint-Cyr, Square Ambiorix 11 (Schuman, metro 1 and 5). Not open to the public.
THE VERY FIRST ONE
Art historians agree: Hôtel Tassel was the very first Art Nouveau building. This townhouse in the charming Ixelles neighbourhood was designed by Victor Horta for Emile Tassel, a rich scientist. The design stood out because of its ground-breaking floor plan, its interesting mix of materials and its revolutionary views on decorating. Looking at the façade today, it might not look like textbook Art Nouveau, as the glasswork and whiplash lines are scarcer than on later designs. Nevertheless, this is a must-see for architecture aficionados as it is a UNESCO-classified building that changed history forever.
Hôtel Tassel, Rue Paul-Emile Janson 6 (Ixelles) (Defacqz, tram 8 and 93). Not open to the public.