Found at the southern end of the Parc de Bruxelles, Coudenberg marks the site of the original palace of the Belgian Royal Family, which was destroyed to make way for the present Palais Royal. In the 12th century a small, fortified castle stood on Coudenberg Hill, and this was gradually extended and reworked by successive monarchs until it reputedly became one of the most beautiful palaces in Europe and the main residence of King Charles V.
In 1731 this imposing palace was destroyed by fire but it was not until 40 years later that its ruins were pulled down and the site flattened in preparation for the building of today’s stately Palais Royal.
The cellars and chapel of the original palace can now be viewed underground as they stretch far underneath the present-day Rue Royale. Once open to the elements, the forgotten medieval cobbled Rue Isabelle is now below the Place Royale. It ran alongside the Coudenberg Palace up to the Cathedral of Sts-Michael-and-Gudula on nearby Place Ste-Gudule.
Artifacts recovered from 25 years of excavation on the site at Coudenberg are now displayed at Hoogstraeten House, which was one of many aristocratic mansions that bordered the grounds of Coudenberg Place. Exhibits include clay pipes, armor and Venetian glassware.
Entrance into the Coundenberg archaeological site is via the BELvue Museum in Place des Palais. Opening hours are Tuesday-Friday 10am-5pm; Saturday-Sunday 10am-6pm. Access is from metro stations Gare Centrale, Parc, Trône and Porte de Namur or trams 92 and 93. Most of the underground site is accessible by wheel chair. There is limited parking in Place des Palais.