Forget the chocolate and beer, it’s time for some tombs

Tourists are attracted from far and wide by our historic city centre, imposing classic and modern skyline, abundant nature in a relatively compact area, unbeatable gastronomy. Yet travel lovers increasingly seek new sights and experiences. Indeed, there are all kinds of exciting things to be discovered off the usual tourist trail.

Such as the rich, remarkable but relatively unknown funerary heritage, the personalities, vegetation and biodiversity in cemeteries around the world. The Council of Europe has now created a European Cemeteries Route, allowing so-called necro-tourists to indulge themselves. 63 cemeteries in 50 cities across 20 European countries are already involved in the project.

Laeken cemetery in Brussels has recently been added to the route, as the capital’s oldest cemetery and the last of the parochial type, so still in its original location around the Church of Our Lady of Laeken. Many Belgian aristocrats, politicians, artists, philosophers and scientists chose to be buried there, following the example of Belgian monarchs and close members of the royal family in the crypt of the nearby church.

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The garden of the sleeping ones…

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There’s also Ixelles cemetery, known for its architecture, iconography and the many artistic, scientific, political and military figures laid to rest there. The many grave statues in stone, marble or bronze are a good reflection of our Belgian sculptural heritage, going from neoclassicism to expressionism.