By Diana Goodwin
What are the Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta?
These are four separate town houses designed by Victor Horta, one of the main pioneers of the Art Nouveau style. They are the Hôtel Tassel, Hôtel Solvay, Hôtel van Eetvelde, and Maison & Atelier Horta (now the Horta Museum).
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At the end of the 19th century, Horta took advantage of new industrial methods and materials to create open interiors that were full of light. He filled them with decorative details inspired by nature and executed in stained glass, ceramic tile and carved wood. The result was a revolutionary new architecture which was embraced by a progressive, wealthy, urban clientele.
Hôtel Tassel, built in 1892-93 for a friend of the architect, is considered the first fully Art Nouveau building. For Hôtel Solvay (1894), Horta was able to conceive and execute his ideas on a grand scale, resulting in the most luxurious and exuberant of the four houses. The elegant Hôtel van Eetvelde, built for a Belgian diplomat, followed in 1895. And in 1898, Horta designed and built his own house and studio.
Why are Horta’s houses a UNESCO World Heritage site?
According to the UNESCO World Heritage website: “These four houses, that bear testimony to the immense talent of this Belgian architect, achieve a remarkable sense of unity with meticulous attention to the smallest detail of the building.”
Besides being outstanding examples of Horta’s genius and vision, the four houses are also remarkably well-preserved and give an authentic impression of his original design. In the case of Horta’s own house and studio, which were later altered for subsequent owners, the interiors have been carefully restored to reflect their original appearance.
What can you expect on a visit to the Major Town Houses of Victor Horta?
Although all four of the houses are easily viewed, as they are located on public streets, only two of the houses are open to the public. The former home and studio of Victor Horta is now a museum where you can freely explore the rooms and view details of the interiors and furnishings up close. The Hôtel Solvay can be visited on a guided tour on a limited number of days per month (generally on Saturdays).
Are Horta’s houses worth visiting?
If you have any interest at all in Art Nouveau architecture and design, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” Even if you are not familiar with Art Nouveau, but do enjoy beautiful houses and decorative arts, you will certainly appreciate the town houses of Victor Horta.
Any architecture buffs who find themselves in Brussels should try to visit at least the Horta Museum. For true Art Nouveau aficionados, I suggest booking one of the guided tours of the Hôtel Solvay as well.
Tips for visiting the Major Town Houses of Victor Horta
The Horta Museum is only open on weekdays (Tuesday-Friday) from 2:00 pm to 5:30 pm, and weekends (Saturday and Sunday) from 11 am to 5:30 pm. The last entrance is at 4:45 pm.
You can purchase a Victor Horta “Walks in Brussels” map in the Horta Museum gift shop (or in the City of Brussels tourist information office). It contains three different self-guided walking tours of Horta’s works in Brussels, including the four UNESCO sites.
Another option is to book a three-hour guided tour all about Art Nouveau architecture in Brussels, including Horta as well as other architects. Use the form below to reserve:
Tickets for guided tours of Hôtel Solvay must be purchased in advance through this website.
Neither Hôtel Tassel nor Hôtel van Eetvelde are open to the public.
Where are the Major Town Houses of Victor Horta?
The houses are all located in the city of Brussels, Belgium, and three of them are located within easy walking distance of each other. There is paid street parking near all four houses.
The 92 tram (a short walk from Brussels Central train station) stops 2 blocks from the Horta Museum, located at 23-25, rue Américaine. Likewise, the 93 tram (which leaves from the same tram stop) stops right across the street from the Hôtel Solvay (Avenue Louise 224). These two houses are less than a kilometer apart, and the Hôtel Tassel is just a few blocks from the Hôtel Solvay at 6, rue Paul Emile Janson.
The Hôtel van Eetvelde (Avenue Palmerston 4) can be reached by Metro from Brussels Central train station.
For more information about the Horta Museum, its opening hours and admission fees, visit the official website.
To book tickets for guided tours of Hôtel Solvay, visit its website.
Diana Goodwin has degrees in history and art history from Yale and the University of Michigan. She worked in Hollywood for 10 years before moving to Belgium, where she currently lives with her husband and two cats. When she’s not traveling, she works as a freelance writer and translator. Read her blog, Based in Belgium.
Have you been to Brussels and seen any of the town houses of Victor Horta? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!