See these fabulous Art Nouveau buildings? The decorative facades? That golden balcony? This is the result of being thrown out of the music conservatory at a young age, for misbehaving. But he must have been forgiven; the conservatory named a concert hall after him. Yep, that’s a Victor Horta fun fact for ya.

As is frequently the case with architectural heritage sites, you can’t really experience them, since they are people’s homes. Completely understandable, and completely frustrating. Brussels seems to be particularly good at this, see my thoughts on Stoclet House, the Belgian capital’s “secret” site. In short, since no one lives in Stoclet House, I think the World Heritage Committee should require that it be open to the public in one form or another.

With Victor Horta’s creations, it’s different. People live here, so it’s a bit more difficult to demand they open up their homes to the public.

The four major town houses of Victor Horta are Hôtel Tassel, Hôtel Solvay and Hôtel van Eetvelde, constructed in 1893, 1894 and 1985 respectively, as well as Horta’s private residence and studio on Rue Américaine over in St-Gilles. According to UNESCO, they are outstanding examples of Art Nouveau architecture. Once a month, it is possible to take an exclusive, pre-booked guided tour of Hôtel Solvay (on Avenue Louise).

The architect’s home, the Horta Museum, is open six afternoons a week for a reasonable entrance fee of 10 EUR (in 2020), though unfortunately, photography is forbidden, as it is so eloquently (and slightly ominously) stated on the website.

I would have loved to show you photos of the beautiful marble staircase, of the iron banisters with the extravagant swooshes mirrored on the wall opposite, the fabulous floors, the even fabulouser skylight, the columns, door handles, lamps and mirrors. Such elegant design details – and clever use of light. I would have liked to snap a few close-ups of this golden balcony.

But I can’t. The only way to get (legal) photos is to buy postcards in the museum shop. I can’t understand this thinking. Surely, photos uploaded by enthusiastic visitors will boost interest, not diminish it. Unless… surely, visitors aren’t discouraged, are they?

Since I have precious few photos to show you, I’m reluctantly popping this post in the one-photo-only World at a Glance-category. (We’ll just call these three-in-one, since it’s the same building, but from slightly different angles and different level of detail).

Since you’re in St-Gilles, have a wander about – and remember to look up. You’ll see heaps of gorgeous Art Nouveau buildings in this area, and not only by Horta.

World at a Glance is a series of short articles here on Sophie’s World, with a single photo (yeah, yeah), portraying curious, evocative, happy, sad, wondrous or unexpected little encounters.


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Musée Horta is one of four buildings comprising the UNESCO World Heritage site Major Town Houses of Victor Horta. Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited around the world.