The Singing Bells Of Brussels

The carillon of Mont des Arts is a musical clock on the facade of a connecting walkway of the Palace of the Dynasty, a reception hall that was part of Brussels’ ambitious urban renewal project leading up to the 1958 World Expo.

Juxtaposed, in striking contrast almost representative of the architectural melting pot that is Brussels, is the structure of the glass cube entrance to the Square Brussels Meeting Centre. The ‘Square’ is housed in the old ‘Palace of Congress’, another building from the 50’s expansion spree that was practically abandoned until 2004.

Carillon of Brussels

The carillon – a set of musical bells – was a 1964 addition designed by Jules Ghobert. The twelve painted figurines representing each hour on the twelve spoked clock face, honour nine historical Belgian citizens (including the artist Rubens), and an anonymous tam-tam player, a WWI soldier and a worker. They were designed to pop out of their niches consecutively with every strike of the hour at noon and at midnight, but are now fixed in place.

Eleven of the twenty four bells constituting the carillon are arrayed beneath the clock. Of these, nine represent Belgian provinces and the balance two, the arts and sciences. Twelve bells are hidden behind the figurines and a tenor bell sits on the roof with a top hat sporting bronze jaquemart (animated, mechanised bell striker similar to the Moors of Venice).

Carillon of Mont des Arts, Brussels

Together, they play two melodies in two languages every other hour: Où peut-on être mieux by André Grétry in Walloon (Belgian French) and Beiaardlied by Peter Benoit in Flemish (Belgian Dutch).
We didn’t get to listen to either. It was perhaps not working, or was drowned out by live music on the Mont des Arts. I found a consolation piece online.



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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

28 thoughts on “The Singing Bells Of Brussels

  1. I had to look up this place on Google Maps to understand where exactly it is in Brussels, and apparently it’s quite centrally located! I wonder why my cousin who used to live in the city (and moved back there recently) didn’t take me to Mont des Arts. I was probably too stuffed with French fries and Belgian beer! The clock somewhat reminds me of Munich’s Glockenspiel — I guess because of the figurines.

    1. Ha, we stumbled across it by accident ourselves Bama. We were standing on the upper level (at Mont des Arts) listening to live music when I happened to spot it, so we took that route on the way back to our hotel. I can see why the figurines reminded you of the Glockenspiel. These are far more stylised though. Would have loved to pick up a replica 🙂

  2. I wonder if this is the clock that inspired Phillip Pullman’s wonderful mystery/fairy tale — Clockwork. I can definitely see a connection.

  3. What a lot of detail they’ve pit into the clock, I hope the locals know about and appreciate it. Great post dear Madhu, I hope you’re well 🙂

  4. My daughter and her family were working there for several years. Beautiful city and the squares are so beautiful when filled with flowers at certain times of the year.

  5. Beautifully put together! I love it. I blog over at the Rocky Safari and would love for a seasoned traveler like you to check out my blog. I’ve just graduated college and I want to get my life on the road already! 🙂

    1. Thank you Rocky, pleased to meet you. And sincere apologies for the belated response. Got caught up with stuff 🙂

  6. My Belgian colleagues rarely venture into Brussels, but one night I showed them around town and this was one of the sights I pointed out. It’s one of my landmarks there.

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