Europe boasts some of the most magnificent glasshouses in the world, each showcasing unique architectural styles combined with exceptional botanical collections. These iron and glass structures represent a blend of industrial revolution engineering, technical prowess, and a desire for exotic flora from unknown lands. In this article, we’ll explore three remarkable greenhouses that have stood the test of time and continue to captivate visitors today – Palmenhaus in Vienna, the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken in Belgium, and Grandes Serres du Parc de la Tête d’Or in Lyon.
The Imperial Palmenhaus: A Showcase of Austrian Opulence
Inaugurated by Emperor Franz Joseph in 1882, the Palmenhaus situated within the Schönbrunn Park is one of Europe’s largest greenhouses. Architect Franz von Segenschmid was commissioned to bring the Emperor’s dream to life by creating a greenhouse worthy of imperial grandeur.
Inspired by London’s Kew Gardens, the Palmenhaus features a central pavilion connected to two side pavilions via tunnels, representing different climate zones. Housing cold, temperate, and tropical environments, this colossal iron building spans an impressive 111 meters in length and stands at 28 meters high. Notable elements of its alluring design include a century-old palm tree soaring 23 meters towards the celestial glass roof overhead.
The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken: Belgium’s Majestic Garden Kingdom
- gigantic dome crowned by the royal crown
- Camellia greenhouse, Azalea greenhouse, Rhododendron greenhouse, Iron Church, Congo greenhouse, and Palm Plateau
- December 1909 – King Leopold II transported his bed here
- available for public visits each spring
The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken are a sprawling complex of botanical beauty in the Belgian royal residence park. Constructed by King Leopold II during the 19th century, over time it has expanded to feature a multitude of linked greenhouses filled with blossoming biodiversity. Its dramatic focal point is a gigantic dome that reaches up to 26 meters, crowned boldly with a symbolic symbol of its regal roots.
King Leopold II loved this incredible ensemble so much that legend has it he had his bed transported there as he approached the end of his life. Today, these stunning greenhouses are open to the public each spring for others to experience their exquisite splendor firsthand.
Grandes Serres du Parc de la Tête d’Or: Lyon’s Enchanting Botanic Temple
- 1875 – Iron framework & cast iron pillars replace original wooden greenhouse
- Covers an area of 3,000 square meters
- Central pavilion (Grand Dome) reaches 21 meters in height housing tropical species
- Pandanus greenhouse & Camellia greenhouse replicate hot-humid and colder climates
In 1875, an iron framework supported on cast iron pillars replaced the original wooden greenhouse construction designed by landscape architect Denis Bühler in Lyons’ prestigious Parc de la Tête d’Or. The reimagined structure now extends across an area of 3,000 square meters with several interconnected chapels showcasing mesmerizing flora from various global regions.
The central pavilion – known as the Grand Dome – stands tall at 21 meters, embracing a tropical setting with banana trees, coffee plants, traveler’s trees, and glaucous bauhinia.
A Journey Through Europe’s Architectural Horticultural History
Europe is home to some of the world’s most impressive glasshouses— architectural marvels that house exotic plant species. These greenhouses represent the pinnacle of engineering during the industrial revolution, combined with the passion for horticulture and botanical exploration. As you journey through these grand structures in Vienna, Belgium, and Lyon, immerse yourself in nature’s beauty and appreciate the visionary people who created them.