St Hubertus – Brussels’ Grand Shopping Arcade:
Sitting high up, in the same class of grand arcades as the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan and The Passage in St. Petersburg, is the Saint-Hubertus Royal Gallery (Koninklijke Sint-Hubertusgalerijen in Dutch). However, St Hubertus has the distinction of being the first shopping arcade in Europe and is one of the most elegant covered galleries.
The idea for this grand arcade of St Hubertus was born of one young architect’s determination to clear away a seedy space in town and replace it with a covered shopping arcade of more than 200 m in length.
The site on which St Hubertus stands was previously a warren of ill-lit alleyways, an area where the bourgeoisie scarcely dared to venture to. Although Jean-Pierre Cloysenaer’s idea was conceived in 1836, it was only finally authorized in February 1845. Construction of St Hubertus began in May 1846 and it was inaugurated in 1847 by Leopold I, the first King of Belgium.
The gallery consists of two major sections, each more than 100 meters in length, respectively called Galerie du Roi (King’s Gallery) and Galerie de la Reine (Queen’s Gallery), and a smaller side gallery, Galerie des Princes (Gallery of the Princes) which branches off Galerie du Roi. The main sections (King’s and Queen’s Galleries) are separated by a colonnade at the point where the Rue des Bouchers (Beenhouwersstraat) crosses the gallery complex. Like Galleria Vittoria Emanuele and The Passage, this glazed shopping arcade has twin regular facades.
The Saint-Hubertus Royal Gallery is a listed monument and under its beautiful glass roof it houses apartments, offices and shops. For the visitor looking to do some Brussels shopping, there’s a unique mix of upmarket boutiques, a high concentration of jewellers, leather goods and specialist shops such as a cutlery shop, a glove shop, a hat and umbrella shop. The big chocolate brands are here as are a couple of glorious delicatessens and some quality restaurants.
Displayed in the front of its palace-like façade is the St Hubertus arcades’s motto “Omnibus omnia” (All things to all men). Even if you didn’t have the budget to shop here, Galeries St-Hubertus is still worthwhile visiting to feast your eyes on this beautiful arcade, window-shop or have a break at one of the cafés.
There is also a theatre inside the arcade – the Théâtre des Galeries Saint-Hubert, which is one of three royal theaters of Brussels, playing operetta and revues. Ever since the 1850s, the Gallery has been a favourite promenade location and place where all types of artists and intellectuals mingle.
Rue du Marché-aux-Herbes