The Egmont Palace, a historical site and the scene of important diplomatic meetings
In the heart of Brussels, a stone's throw from Sablon, nestles the Egmont Palace, a temple of diplomacy that has hosted heads of state and government and numerous international conferences.
More than 500 years of history have been written within its walls.
As early as 1532, the Hôtel du Luxembourg, also called the 'Petit Hôtel d'Egmont', was located on the current site. It belonged to the widow of Jean d'Egmont, born Françoise de Luxembourg. But only a few columns of this building remain in the garden. In 1547, the same Françoise de Luxembourg also acquired the 'Grand Hôtel d'Egmont'. The present façade of the main building in the Flemish style with touches of the Renaissance style at the back of the main courtyard dates from this period. The palace was owned by this family until the 18th century.
It became the property of the Dukes of Arenberg from 1752, and numerous works were then undertaken. Pavilions, colonnades and an open passage were added in 1760. The left wing, which housed the riding hall and stables, dates from 1832, as does the façade on the garden side. It was the architect Servandoni who set about restoring the site's prestige in the classical style. He also laid out the palace's French-style gardens.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the architect Cousin designed the Directoire-style library on the ground floor and the prestigious "white and gold" ballroom that now houses the Mirror Gallery. In 1892, a fire destroyed the right wing which was then rebuilt between 1906 and 1910 by the architect Flanneau. This period also saw the construction of the imposing ambassadors' staircase, based on the plans of that in Versailles.
At the end of the war, in 1918, the City of Brussels bought the Egmont Palace without really knowing how it would use it. Unfortunately, the building was abandoned and again fell victim to a fire in 1927.
In 1962, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Paul Henry Spaak, was looking for a prestigious place to support Belgian diplomacy and convinced the Belgian State to buy the Egmont Palace. After a thorough renovation, the premises were returned to their former glory and could host high-level bilateral and multilateral meetings.
The Régie des Bâtiments has been responsible for the management of this listed Palace since 2002. Far from being a museum, it is a veritable centre of Belgian diplomatic life. In 2019, 723 high-level visits were held in the salons of the Egmont Palace. 351 heads of state were welcomed, including the Presidents of Poland, DRC and Romania, as were 372 foreign ministers. In addition to these visits, there were international meetings such as the She Decides meeting which works to support women in developing countries. And because this site is exceptional in more ways than one, its sumptuous salons are also sometimes used as the backdrop for films such as The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir and Raid Dingue with Dany Boon.
Many famous people have visited these rooms, including Pierre Le Grand, Louis XV, Wilhelm II of Germany and Voltaire, as well as Nelson Mandela, Gorbachev, Angela Merkel, and many others. It is a real Palace of diplomacy.
If you are in Belgium during the Heritage Days, its doors will be open to you.