Black Tower – Brussels, Belgium - Atlas Obscura

Black Tower

A fantastical 13th-century fortification sandwiched by a modern hotel in central Brussels. 


With its dark pointed turret and rounded walls overgrown with foliage, the Black Tower impresses itself as an edifice right out of a fairytale. Its name, likewise, conjures up thoughts of medieval fantasy and the majesty of ancient legend.

Step back, however, and 21st-century reality brutally crushes the illusion. Indeed, Brussels’ Black Tower is diminished and dwarfed by a relatively bland modern hotel building that appears to have been constructed around it. Despite the ignominy, though, the tower (known locally as Zwarte Toren or Tour Noire) still stands proud as one of the best preserved of the city’s historical fortifications.

Built at the beginning of the 13th century, the tower was already obsolete by the 15th century thanks to the construction of new fortifications around Brussels. The edifice somehow survived centuries of redevelopment in the area around Saint Catherine’s Church, a district of the city that became an inland port.

Safely ensconced in its cozy niche, the Black Tower remains as an appealing antique oddity. It’s a true hidden medieval treasure, right in the middle of the modern city.

Know Before You Go

The Tower sits in an open public square and you can walk behind it and all the way around it. The Tower isn't far from Grand-Place (about five-minutes' walk). The nearest train Metro stations are Sainte Catherine and De Brouckere (which is also an overground station).

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