After over two years in Belgium, Andrew and I are often surprised at how many of Brussels famous sights we still haven’t visited. My only excuse for thi lapse is that we still have no end date for our Belgian adventure. Without this deadline looming over us, we tend to get caught up in mundane chores on the weekends and don’t take advantage of all that the city has to offer.
Last Saturday, however, we decided it was high time we crossed one of these sights off of our list. We headed into the city and made our way to the St. Gilles neighbourhood to check out the Horta Museum.
Because the museum doesn’t open until two in the afternoon, we had a bit of time to kill first. I’ve always enjoyed the St. Gilles area, with its interesting shops and great restaurants. We took a leisurely stroll through the neighbourhood, peeking in shop windows and making mental notes of restaurants to come back to, something we don’t often take the time to do in Brussels.
By two o’clock, a small crowd had gathered outside the Horta Museum. Some people were taking pictures of the impressive façade, while others, obviously those not used to Belgium’s ‘flexible’ opening hours, looked impatiently at their watches. Shortly after the hour, we all shuffled inside.
The house’s interior is even more stunning than its impressive façade. What particularly struck me was the incredible attention to detail. Everything was designed to Horta’s specifications, right down to the swirling keyholes. The mosaic on dining room floor is so intricate you can almost imagine the craftsmen huddled over it while delicately piecing together this beautiful jigsaw puzzle.
Even though the house sits in the middle of a busy neighbourhood, the garden is a jumbled oasis. From the back balcony, you can hardly see another building. The glassed-in winter garden must have been a beautiful haven from the damp chill of the Belgian winters.
The high ceilings and use of windows, glass and mirrors make the entire house bright and filled with light. Not a small house, by any means, the use of light makes it seem even more open and grand.
I was even more impressed with the building than I had expected. If anything, my only complaint is that it left me wanting to know more about the man himself. Because it is called the Horta Museum, I had expected to find information and artefacts from Horta’s life. I wanted to learn what inspired him and where his vision came from. Unfortunately, besides the tiny pamphlet we were given with our entry fee, there was no information about Horta himself.
If you are planning a visit to the Horta Museum, and I would definitely encourage anyone interested in art or architecture to do so, my recommendation would be to read through the museum website before you go. There, at least, you can read a bit of the history of the building and of the man himself. Also, take some time to wander through the neighbourhood. Enjoy a glass of wine at a café or poke through a used book shop, like we did. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon in Brussels.