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For the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the independence of Belgium, the architect Gédéon Bordiau traced the lines of the park on the plain of Linthout, former land of the Civic Guard who used it for manoeuvres, and erected two large exhibition halls connected by a long hemispherical gallery bisected at its centre by a monumental arcade. Unfortunately it was not completed by 1880 for the inauguration of the great National Exhibition dedicated to commerce and industry. As a temporary measure to give it an air of completion, the upper parts of the gallery and the arch were hurriedly constructed of wood and stucco.

Flushed with the success of this first exhibition, events followed one after another and major international exhibitions took place in 1888, 1897 and 1905. It was in 1888 that the site adopted the name of Parc and Palais du Cinquantenaire.

1880 - Célébration des 50 ans de la Belgique
Arc de Triomphe du Cinquantenaire

When Bordiau died in 1904, King Léopold appointed the frenchman Charles Girault, responsible for the Petit Palais in Paris, to continue the project which lead to the erection of the current arcade in 1905, in time for the 75th anniversary of independence. The same Charles Girault would be responsible for designing the current Museum of Africa in Tervuren. In 1946, a fire destroyed the right wing, symmetrical to our Bordiau hall. The building was rebuilt to house the Museum of Art and History, in a strong neoclassical style quite different from the original palace.

From 1930, the major exhibitions took place on the site of the Palais des Expositions on the Heysel plateau.

The Cinquantenaire is now visited for the beauty of the park, the wealth of the Museums of Royal Art and History, the Autoworld Automobile Museum and the Royal Museum of Armed Forces and its Aviation Hall.