Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is home to more than eighty museums. From the fine arts ones to museums dedicated to natural history, musical instruments, comic books and many more. When it comes to its museums, Brussels has something for everyone. To help you choose which one to visit during your trip to the Belgian capital, here is a guide to the best museums in Brussels.
The best museums in Brussels
Brussels is one of the European centres of arts and culture and a place any art lover should put on their bucket list. It also has a long history of art collecting, so you’ll find many interesting art galleries and fairs around the city, too. However, in this article, I decided to focus on some of the best museums in Brussels and some of the art classics you can find in them.
Amsterdam. I always travel by train between the Netherlands and Belgium and strongly advise you to do the same. The trains are very comfortable and are departing quite often. Check out the timetable on the NS International website, and book your tickets.TIP: You can easily visit Brussels on a weekend trip from
A short history of Brussels museums
The Brussels’ museums history began more than two hundred years ago with – Napoleon Bonaparte. During the French occupation of Belgium, they seized numerous Belgian works of art. Some of the most famous pieces of art from that country were taken to France to be exhibited at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
However, in 1801 French Government decided they would found fifteen department museums around France and their new territory. One of them was located in Brussels, and it marks the beginning of the museum practice in Belgium.
During the Dutch regime (1815 – 1830), King Willem I. gave numerous donations to that early museum. But, the actual start of the first Belgian museum happened in 1835. This was when King Leopold I. founded the National Museum in Brussels. He wanted to make it home to the most distinguished artworks from Belgium. That museum was the basis for the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.
Which museums to visit in Brussels
With so many lovely places, it could be hard to choose which museum to visit in Brussels. However, here is my selection of the best museums in Brussels with some info about each one of them.
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
As the plural in its name suggests, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium consists of few museums. The majority of them are located in joined buildings, so it’s easy to visit them at once. You can use the main entrance and decide which collections to see then.
The Old Masters
Address: Rue de la Régence 3, 1000 Brussels
The Old Masters collection covers the period between the 15th and 18th centuries. It’s home to the best collection of Pieter Bruegel‘s paintings in the world. You can see some of his most famous paintings at the gallery dedicated to his work. However, you can also learn more about them by researching his artworks on multimedia screens located in the central area of the room.
This collection is home to works of Flemish, Dutch, Italian and French masters. One of the most famous paintings there is The Death of Marat, painted by Jacques-Louis David. It’s one of the best-known paintings in art history, representing French revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat. The painting was made in 1793 and is one of the symbols of the French Revolution today.
This must-see museum in Brussels is home to the largest collection in the world of the famous surrealist artist René Magritte. It’s a great introduction to the work of this famous Belgian painter. However, with around 230 works on display, together with his letters, movies and other exhibits, it’s a place to visit for anyone interested in his work, as well.
Address: Rue de la Régence 3, 1000 Brussels
I discovered this museum area only during my last visit when a lovely lady at the information desk told me about it. Fin-de-Siècle Museum in Brussels is dedicated to art produced around 1900 when Brussels was one of the European leading art centres. It was significant for the development of the Art Nouveau movement. That’s why a large section of it is dedicated to that art style.
Not only paintings are displayed in it, but also statues, craft objects, photography, scenography models and many other forms of art. If you’re interested in the Arts and Crafts movement, you’ll find this place one of the best museums in Brussels.
TIP: You can visit all the collections of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium for free each first Wednesday of the month from 1 pm.
Musical Instruments Museum
Although I’m not especially interested in musical instruments, this museum is so lovely that it definitely made it to the best museums in Brussels. It’s located in a former Old England building, one of the city’s most beautiful Art Nouveau edifices.
Founded in 1877, the museum collection is displayed on four floors. The visitors can see some of the oldest musical instruments from Prehistory, a great collection of instruments from India, China and Africa. You can also enjoy discovering the development of musical instruments throughout history.
TIP: The restaurant on its top floor offers one of the best views of Brussels. So, be sure to have lunch in it during your visit to this lovely museum in Brussels.
BOZAR, or the Brussels Centre for Fine Arts, is one of Belgium’s major cultural venues. It’s a real gem for modern art lovers and is absolutely one of the best museums in Brussels.
It’s also one of the architectural highlights of the Belgian capital. The building was designed by the famous Belgian architect Victor Horta and opened in 1928. It’s also quite unique because it’s one of the rare Art Deco buildings he made.
Today, it’s a cultural venue where exhibitions, movies and music performances are taking place. During my visit, I had a chance to see David Hockney’s exhibition that’s open until January 23rd 2022. If you are in Brussels before that, I strongly recommend you visit it.
Meet the Masters
Although not officially a museum, this place offers one of the best art experiences in Brussels. During the visit, visitors are guided by a virtual guide who takes you on a journey to visit some of the most famous Flemish masters: Jan van Eyck, Pieter Bruegel and Pieter Paul Rubens.
The most impressive is the last room in which you feel as you enter some of the paintings made by these masters. These virtual exhibitions have had increased in popularity during the last few years. However, this one is absolutely one of the best I have seen lately. And that’s why it made to this list of best museums in Brussels, too.
The Belgian Comic Strip Center
Being home to famous characters like Tintin, Spirou, Bob and Bobette, the Smurfs, Lucky Luke, Blake and Mortimer, Belgium is a true homeland of comic books.
It comes with no surprise, Brussels is home to one of the best museums dedicated to the ninth art. It has the largest comic books collection globally that’s open to the public. And the best thing is, you can buy the majority of the issues exhibited at a museum shop, as well. The museum is located in one of the Art Nouveau buildings designed by Victor Horta in 1906.
The permanent exhibition shows the drawing techniques and different stages of strip creation from sketching, creating the story and characters until the final production. These are accompanied by numerous examples from different strip genres, spanning SF, mythology and history to children’s comic books.
The Royal Library of Belgium (KBR)
Although libraries may not be the first places to visit during the trip, this one is a true gem. The Royal Library of Belgium hosts diverse exhibitions through which it presents art on paper.
The library is home to more than eight million documents and objects witnessing Belgium’s cultural history. It also collects all Belgian publications.
Even if you’re not in Brussels right now, you can enjoy in some of the previous exhibitions and virtual collections on their website. I especially enjoyed the one dedicated to Pieter Bruegel (check it out on a link here).
With so many fantastic museums to visit, Brussels is one of the arts and cultural centres of Europe. Here is a short overview of the best museums in Brussels. However, there are many more fantastic cultural venues worth exploring in the Belgian capital.
Have you visited any of these museums? Which one was your favourite?
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