Laeken (French pronunciation: [lakɛn]) or Laken (Dutch spelling, pronounced [ˈlaːkə(n)] ( listen) ) is a residential suburb in north-west Brussels in Belgium. It belongs to the municipality of the City of Brussels and is mostly identified by the Belgian postal code : B-1020. Prior to 1921 it was a separate municipality.
Buildings and key features
The Royal Castle of Laeken, official home of the Belgian Royal Family, is situated here. The castle was built between 1782–1784 by Charles de Wailly. It was partly destroyed by fire in 1890 and rebuilt and extended by Alphonse Balat. The French architect Charles Girault gave it its present outline in 1902. It has been the royal residence since the accession to the throne of King Leopold I in 1831. The former King Albert II and Queen Paola live in the Belvedere in the grounds of this castle, while King Philippe and Queen Mathilde live in the main castle.
The royal domain also contains the magnificent Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, a set of dome-shaped constructions, accessible to the public only a few days a year. They were designed by Alphonse Balat, with the cooperation of the young Victor Horta.
Chinese Pavilion and Japanese Tower
A little north of the royal palace stand the contrasting Chinese Pavilion and the Japanese Tower. The Chinese Pavilion was commissioned by King Leopold II. The halls are designed in Louis XIV-style and Louis-XVI-style and decorated with Chinese motifs, chinaware and silverware. The Japanese Tower is a pagoda, inspired by a construction Leopold saw at the Paris Exposition of 1900. King Leopold II asked its architect Alexandre Marcel to build him a similar one in Laken.
Church of Our Lady
A little south of the royal palace, you can find the neo-gothic Church of Our Lady, initially built as a mausoleum for queen Louise-Marie, wife of Leopold I, whose children included Leopold II of Belgium and Empress Carlota of Mexico. The architect was Joseph Poelaert, designer of the famed Brussels Palace of Justice.
The church contains the royal crypt, where the members of the Belgian Royal Family are buried.  In February each year, a memorial mass for deceased members of the royal family is held at the church. In the nave of the church the tomb of cardinal Cardijn can be found.
The cemetery behind the church is known as the "Belgian Père Lachaise" because it used to be the burial place of the rich and the famous. It harbours the graves of, among others, Fernand Khnopff and Maria Malibran and also features an original cast of Thinker by Auguste Rodin.