Hidden Belgium: Square Ambiorix

Hidden Belgium: Square Ambiorix

Named after a Belgian warrior who defeated the Romans in 54 BC, the romantic Square Ambiorix in Brussels is planted with old chestnut trees and neatly clipped hedges.

The weathered head of Ambiorix stands in front of the apartment building at No. 23. It originally decorated a town house that was torn down in 1969.

Square Ambiorix was part of an ambitious plan by the architect Gédéon Bordiau to develop a difficult site that sloped up from the Maelbeek valley.

He began at the bottom of the hill in about 1880. By the end, he had created a new neighbourhood landscaped in romantic English style with statues, fountains, ponds and a secret grotto.

The original residents were wealthy Belgian families who built houses in a variety of styles, including Art Nouveau. But the neighbourhood began to change its identity in the 1960s when the European institutions arrived.

Many of the original town houses were torn down to build office blocks and apartment buildings. But some have survived.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.

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