Cirque Royal/Koninklijk Circus
The Cirque Royal/Koninklijk Circus, or Royal Circus, came into being as part of the redevelopment of the Notre-Dame-aux-Neiges/Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-ter-Sneeuw neighbourhood initiated by a private company of the same name in 1876. Architect Wilhelm Khunen came up with a design in the shape of a regular polygon tailored to fit a rear courtyard plot. A suspended ‘ceiling’ of cashmere drapery concealed a framework supported by a series of 20 columns. The official opening of the Indian-inspired venue, in 1878, was marked by a performance by the Renz Royal Equestrian Troupe of Belgium. The Cirque Royal/Koninklijk Circus was the only permanent circus in Belgium. Its basement stalls could accommodate around 110 horses. As well as nautical shows and equestrian entertainments, it staged pantomimes and ballets, and between 1908 and 1914 even served as a cinema. From 1920, music-hall performances were staged there. Many years later, in 1953, architect Charles Van Nueten redesigned the building to chime with modern tastes.
Since its creation, the Cirque Royal/Koninklijk Circus has hosted many equestrian and circus shows, from (among others) the Moscow State Circus, the Cirque Bouglione and Holiday on Ice, and famed artists such as: violinists Eugène Isaïe and Yehudi Menuhin; singers Maurice Chevalier, Josephine Baker, Mistinguett, Charles Trenet, Louis Armstrong, Dalida and Gilbert Bécaud; dancer and choreographer Maurice Béjart; the dance company Ballet of the 20th Century; comedian Buster Keaton; and Popov the Clown. Now owned by the city authorities, this much-loved feature of Brussels cultural life underwent an extensive round of renovation in 2018, with a new management team. Its programme is hugely varied, featuring stand-up and dance shows and concerts by artists from all over the world, from Pascal Obispo to Kylie Minogue, from Hooverphonic to Vanessa Paradis.
Guided tours: Sat. at 10:00, 11:30, 14:00, 15:30 and 17:00 (in French); 11:00, 13:30 and 16:00 (in Dutch).
Sat. only, 10:00 to 18:00
Rue de l’Enseignement/Onderrichtsstraat 81, Brussels
By reservation only
Accessible with assistance