The Royal Palace of Laeken is the official residence of the King of the Belgians and the royal family. It sits in a large park called the Royal Domain of Laeken, which is off-limits to the public.
The Palace at Laeken should not be confused with the Royal Palace of Brussels, in central Brussels, which is the official palace (not residence) of the King of the Belgians and from which affairs of state are handled.
The palace was built at Laeken, then outside of Brussels, between 1782-1784 after the plans of the French architect Charles de Wailly under supervision of Louis Montoyer as a summer residence for the Governors of the Habsburg Netherlands, Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria and her husband Albert of Saxe-Teschen. Jean-Joseph Chapuis provided the royal furnitures.
After Belgian independence, Rouppe, as burgomaster of Brussels, received the new king Leopold I at the Palace of Laeken on 21 July 1831; the day of Leopold's coronation. The palace was partly destroyed by fire in 1890 and was rebuilt by Alphonse Balat. The French architect Charles Girault gave it its present outline in 1902. It has been the royal residence since the Leopold I's accession to the throne in 1831. The domain also contains the magnificent Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, a set of monumental dome-shaped constructions, accessible to the public for only a few days each year. They were designed as well by Alphonse Balat, with the cooperation of the young Victor Horta.
The vast parks of the Royal Domain include lakes, a golf course and various pavilions like the Chinese Pavilion and the Japanese Tower. The Chinese Pavilion was commissioned by King Leopold II and now forms part of the Museums of the Far East. The rooms are designed in a chinoiserie Louis XIV and Louis XVI Style. They are decorated with Chinese motifs, chinaware and silverware. The Japanese Tower is a pagoda, originally built for the World Fair of Paris in 1900.
Upon their accession to the throne in 1993, King Albert II and Queen Paola preferred to remain living at Belvédère, a château on the grounds of the park surrounding the palace. The current occupants of the palace is King Philippe, Queen Mathilde and their four children.References:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.