History of the museum and the building
Leopold II’s dream
Throughout his reign, Leopold II was very involved in urban design and planning in Belgium. His progressive vision helped shape the appearance of the relatively recently formed Kingdom of Belgium. The sovereign’s view of urban planning can be summarised as a preference for broad boulevards and beautiful parks. There was also the pursuit of ‘royal’ grandeur, expressed in public buildings. A young country that wants to keep pace with the economic and industrial progress of the times must adopt a modern infrastructure with buildings and parks that adorn the city. Particularly in the last ten years of Leopold II’s reign, the capital was characterised by the completion of various projects, such as the construction of the Museum in Tervuren, the enlargement of the royal residences in Brussels and Laken, the Chinese Pavilion, the JapaneseTower and the triumphal arch in the CinquantenairePark. All these buildings were financed from the income of the ‘Crown Foundation’, which managed the fortune that Leopold II had made in Congo.
The building of the Cinquantenaire Park complex, which occurred in the second half of Leopold II’s reign, took a total of fifty years (1880-1905).
Nowadays, the site of the CinquantenairePark is not only a favourite spot for art lovers and a popular destination for school trips, but also a must for any visitor to Brussels.
The CinquantenaireParkPalace exhibition centre
The 1,800,000 Belgian franc budget which was allocated by the Royal Decree of 30 May 1879 was nowhere near enough to carry out all the building works planned by the architect Bordiau for the exhibition of products of Belgian art and industry which opened to the public on 30 June 1880. Only the two wings, the substructure of the colonnade and the triumphal arch were ready. The missing sections were built of wooden panels. Although the architect had planned from the outset that the construction would be carried out in phases, the buildings being built gradually as the funds became available, he could never have suspected that it would take thirty years until they were completed, and he would no longer be there to see it. In any case, the public were delighted and people came in droves to the exhibition in its brand-new setting. This is without doubt the culmination of all the celebrations held to mark the fiftieth jubilee of the foundation of Belgium.
The vehicle fleet of sovereigns and heads of state usually contains some fine and rare specimens. Even popemobiles come into this category. Although nowadays they only ride around in armour-plated and secure cars, it was not always that way. A few fine examples of cars that once belonged to the Belgian Royal Family.
Our monarchs took more than a healthy interest in two and four-wheeled vehicles. Minervas from the reign of Albert I, the Lincoln Continental of Baudouin I. US President
John F. Kennedy was murdered in a vehicle of the same kind.
The imposing Cadillac Fleetwood Sedan was one of the cars of the Belgian Court during the 1950s and ‘60s.
Parc du Cinquantenaire 11
Tel. : +32 2 736.41.65
Fax : +32 2 736.51.36
Opening hours :
From 01.04 to 30.09: 10:00 > 18:00
From 01.10 to 31.03: 10:00 > 17:00