I’m always vivified strolling in cemeteries (check the Cemetery of Dieweg article) and parks (check the Rood Klooster or Woluwepark article), yet nothing beats a combination of both.
The Cemetery of Brussels is the largest in the Brussels-Capital Region, located in the northeast municipality Evere. Starting at the end of the 18th century onwards, rapid population growth forced dead citizens out of the city centre. That’s why today many cemeteries are to be found on the outskirts.
Opened in 1877, the 400.000 m² Cemetery of Brussels was designed as an English landscape garden. It makes for a park in which to get lost among avenues and cobblestone streets, ramshackle graves and sepulchres, grass and greenery. Funerary art will incite mournful musings not only on your own mortality, but also others’: impressive monuments and graveyards for the Waterloo Battle (1815), Belgian Revolution (1830) and Belgian, British, German and Russian World War victims are strewn across the site.
Most ironically, a few eternal tenants in this city of the dead testify to some destructive episodes in Brussels’ architectural history. Politicians Charles de Brouckère’s and Jules Anspach’s names live on in Brussels’ central boulevard, for the construction of which a thousand houses disappeared in the 1870s, and politician Paul ‘Manhattan’ Vanden Boeynants was responsible for the North district’s demolition in the 1960s.
Fun fact to counter all this gloom: look for Adolphe Quetelet, who coined the Body Mass Index (BMI). That’s right. A mathematician from Belgium – land of chocolate, fries, beer and waffles – invented the BMI.