Floral artworks don’t get much more impressive than the Brussels Flower Carpet. This autumn, the Grand Place's bustling square will be transformed into a bright tapestry of 750,000 begonias of just about every colour under the sun. 2014's carpet will be modelled in the style of traditional Turkish kilim rugs, celebrating 50 years of Turkish immigration to Belgium.
Visiting Brussels' blooms: flowers and fireworks
Twelve months of planning and fine-tuning goes into designing the flower carpet, but its actual assembly is completed in just one afternoon. This year, the carpet will be put together between 12-7pm on the 14th August by a dedicated team of 120 green-fingered volunteers. The opening ceremony starts at 10pm, and includes a breathtaking firework display as well as a dramatic concert orchestrated by acclaimed composer Grégoire Dune.
The living carpet will remain in the Grand Place's square until the 17th August. As you can imagine, it's best admired from above, and visitors will be able to soak up the views from the balcony of the City Hall for a €5 fee. General entry is between 9am and 11pm, with magical sound and light shows taking place at 10pm, 10.30pm and 11pm. The Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Brussels is just a four-minute walk away from the Grand Place, so guests can easily wander back and forth from the festivities.
The history of the carpet: a Belgian visionary's dream
Brussels' first carpet was designed by landscape architect Etienne Stautemas. After experimenting with smaller flower 'rugs' in Knokke, Oudenaarde and Lille, he set his sights on Brussels, using his favourite flower, the begonia, as inspiration. He consequently unveiled the original Brussels Flower Carpet in 1971, and went on to create unparalleled floral carpets all over the world, from Vienna to Valencia.
Its awe-inspiring setting: the Grand Place
Although Stautemas achieved many great things before his death in 1998, he maintained that the flower carpet in Brussels represented the pinnacle of his career. He declared:
“Nowhere is the carpet more beautiful and distinguished than in the unique, ancient surroundings of the Grand Place in Brussels.”
The Grand Place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular attractions in Brussels. The styles of the buildings, such as La Maison du Roi and the City Hall, reflect an eclectic range of eras and influences, including Gothic and Louis XIV. Locals gather in the pavement cafes to enjoy glasses of Trappist beer, before wandering up to Le Pré Salé for a plate of their famous moules frites, a traditional Belgian dish. For a sweet treat, there's nothing better than a warm waffle from one of the many Grand Place stalls, dusted lightly with icing sugar and topped with tart fresh fruit. If you're stopping by to see the Flower Carpet, make sure you include enough time to take in Grand Place's gastronomic delights as well.