|Gaasbeek Castle Travel Guide||
Kasteel van Gaasbeek.
This Neo-Renaissance fortress is one of the biggest castle open to the public around Brussels.
Originally erected in the 13th century, the castle sits majestically on top of a hill in the midst of a 49 ha domain, at the heart of the Pajottenland, which inspired Bruegel the Elder. The present-day castle was remodelled in the 19th century.
Whereas its external façade reminds of its warlike medieval past, with enormous crenelated towers and moats, its inside façade betrays the refinement of the subsequent centuries.
Apart from a few rooms fitted out by the marquise Visconti in the 19th century (note the marble bathroom), the interior of the castle mostly dates from the 16th century. It is an excellent place to contemplate the fine gobelin tapestries of Flanders, painstakingly carved wooden furniture, or masterly oil paintings. The castle even houses one of Maarten van Valckenborch's famous 'Tower of Babel' (the other "towers" are in museums in Vienna and Rotterdam).
The village of Gaasbeek is also famous for its orchards and its local beers (Kriek, Lambic, and Gueuze).
The first castle of Gaasbeek was built around 1240. Like the nearby castle of Beersel, it served as a military outpost to protect Brussels and the Duchy of Brabant from the counties of Hainaut and Flanders.
Ironically, the medieval castle was destroyed by Everard t'Serclaes, deputy mayor of Brussels, in 1388. The ruins served as foundation to the construction of a new brick castle for the Horne family in the early 16th century.
In 1565, Lamoral, Count of Egmont (1522-1568), descendant from one of the richest and most influential families in the Low Countries, purchased the Land of Gaasbeek with the castle and 17 villages. He and the count of Hoorn were famously decapitated on the Grand-Place in Brussels in 1568 for protesting against king Philip II of Spain's introduction of the inquisition in the Netherlands. Incidentally, Philip II also happened to be Egmont's cousin.
This event marked in important turn in the history of the Low Countries, as it prompted the war of independence of the Northern Netherlands, under the leadership of William of Orange (one of Egmont's friend). This in turn triggered a golden age for the new (Calvinist) United Provinces, and led to the gradual decline of Spain's hegemony.
It is in the honour of the same Count of Egmont that Ludwig van Beethoven (whose family roots go back to the Brabant region as well) wrote his celebrated overture 'Egmont'.
The castle then passed to several families, which modified and enlarged it. The marquise Arconati Visconti added a romantic look to it by transforming it between 1887 and 1898. The castle then served as a cultural venue for intellectuals and artists of the time.
When the marquise died in 1922, the Belgian state acquired the property, which passed to the Flemish Community in 1980.
Opening Hours & Admission
The castle of Gaasbeek is open from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm (last visit starts at 5.00 pm), Tuesday to Sunday, from April to October. Admission is 10 €. Every visitor receives an information leaflet (available in 4 languages).
The big park surrounding the castle is open 8.00 am to 8.00 pm (till 6.00 pm from October to March) and admission is free.
How to get there
The castle is located in the village of Gaasbeek, about 6 km west of the exit 15a of the Ring of Brussels, after the village of Vlezenbeek.
There are no trains to Gaasbeek, but bus 142 (from Brussels South Station or Erasmus Metro Station) bound for Gaasbeek and Leerbeek stops at the castle.
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