Galerie Ravenstein, Brussels


Galerie Ravenstein in Brussels almost feels as if it’s the set for a 1950s sci-fi movie. It was built in 1958, at the time Brussels was developing into the home of the new European institutions. It must have looked so futuristic at the time, with its dramatic round glass ceiling, its ornate tiling, and the colourful murals on the ceilings above both entrances, which depict star constellations at one end, and Egyptian figures at the other.

As it’s set into the natural slope of Brussels city centre, you enter at ground level at both ends, but once past the entrance foyer at the top, you look down on the four storey central section and further down to the arcade corridor which takes you out and on towards the Grand Place.

There’s a real mix of occupants of this arcade these days: the Belgian National Orchestra have been based here longest, but they are neighbours now to sushi bars, a latino restaurant and donuts, with an art studio and hearing aid centre alongside. More on my favourite shop, the low carbon products shop, below, but half the units are empty now and Galerie Ravenstein feels as if it has not quite lived up to the expectations of its builders all those decades ago.

My favourite shop today

Artisans Sans Carbone – An extraordinary little shop run by a guy from Sardinia who makes most of the things for sale himself, using recycled products. I particularly liked his ‘Hugo Brosse’ range, making things out of old brushes (‘brosse’ is French for brush). If it he doesn’t make them himself, he brings things in from local suppliers in order not to sell products with a carbon footprint. Excellent shop, great guy.

My pick of the arcade’s past

Galerie Ravenstein was originally built with space for 81 businesses or organisations.

In 2006 a sculpture called ‘The Abduction of Europa’ was itself abducted from its spot in the middle of the round foyer area. Well, it disappeared overnight and has never been seen since… The sculptor was commissioned to produce something on the theme of Europe, since the arcade was being built just as the new European institutions were being developed. It was placed over the spot of a mediaeval well. Sadly the sculpture was damaged during a festival in 2005, and the sculptor did not want to repair it – a year later it disappeared…

This arcade in films or books

I have yet to find any – please help me out, here.

What’s your favourite shop in the arcade today?

What memories do you have of visits in years gone by?

Have you got any good stories to add on the past of this arcade?

Have you seen Galerie Ravenstein in any films or books?

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