The Greenhouses of theRoyal Palace at Laeken (Brussels) are open to the public, free of charge, for a few days each year. Built in the 1870s by King Leopold II, the royal blooms are housed in six acres of neoclassical rotundas, domes, and galleries with 323,000 square feet of glass set in elaborate ironwork.
Highlights include the Azalea House, with banks of red and pink blooms overhung by massive basket of ferns like chandeliers; the rotunda, with 25-foot columns supporting the central dome and a colony of birds and a collection of orange trees, some of them 300 years old and bearing healthy fruit. The connecting walks are filled with climbing geraniums and fuschias, whose bell-like blossoms form a canopy overhead.
During May 1981 individual visitors will be welcomed between 2 and 6 p.m. on May 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, 16, 17, 20, 23, and 24. Groups may visit from 10 a.m. to noon on May 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, and 24. Authorization for groups must be requested from the Master of Ceremonies, Royal Court, Laeken, B-1000 Brussels. Entrance to the greenhouses is through the door of the private entrance, Avenue du Parc Royal, near the great Lindentree.
Two excursions offered by Welcome Swiss Tours are biking around Lake Geneva, a leisurely, yet active way to see two countries -- Switzerland and France. You will bike on small roads and winding paths, through picturesque villages and orchards, using the best Swiss bicycles. There are 15 tours from April to October, all conducted by professional guides.
The best way to get a taste for the Alps is by hiking for a week in Valais Canton, with its splendid scenery and beautiful Alpine flora and wild mountain fauna. There are eight departures from May to October.
For more information on these tours and others, write Welcome Swiss Tours, Avenue Benjamin-Constant 7, 1003 Lausanne, Switzerland.
Affordable Scandinavia is the title of a new 63-page booklet available free from Scandinavian Airlines, written for independent travelers on a budget, and covering Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.
The booklet lists inexpensive restaurants, free sightseeing and low-priced entertainment and provides instruction on taking advantage of local public transportation bargains. A section on "bargain beds" lists small, clean hotels, private home accommodations and youth hostels. There is no age limit on hostels in Scandinavia. Travelers arriving in Copenhagen or Oslo without advance reservations are assured of a bargain bed by contacting Room Service at the central railroad stations.
The booklet may be obtained at any SAS office or SAS/Scandinavian Airlines, 8929 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Calif. 90211.
On the little island of Bermuda, several islands open their doors each spring to friends and strangers during the annual homes and Gardens tours sponsored by the Garden Club of Bermuda. This year's tours will be conducted for seven consecutive Wednesdays, taking place rain or shine from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. between April 1 and May 13. The itinerary lists 21 homes, with three houses scheduled for each Wednesday except April 22, when there'll be two. A $5 tour fee is charged each Wednesday.
Every home has a volunteer hostess who points out traditional architectural characteristics and relates significant histories. Most homes have extensive well-kept gardens that lend a splash of color to every tour.
One of the homes that will be open this spring is Sea View house, located at the western end of the island, standing in a miniature park that has many small gardens. Bordering the ocean, the house was built in the 1800s and the owners have a varied collection of modern and antique ornamental sculptures, as well as a collection of local handmade cedar furniture.
Perhaps the most noticeable feature of any Bermuda house is its roof. Made of overlapping limestone slates that by law have to be covered with a white lime wash, these roofs evolved during the late 1600s when home owners realized that catching rainwater would solve the problem of drinking water shortages.