Brussels may not be the largest European capital, but culturally it has relatively a lot to offer. The Wikipedia list of museums in our town shows no less than 83 of them!
I personally still have some museums to discover, although I do understand there’s more to visiting museums than just crossing them off a list.
Each museum in Brussels has its own history, purpose, and unique stories to tell. They are part of the city, and thus, discovering these places can be a great way fo you to integrate into Brussels life.
Ok, I know I said the purpose of visiting museums is not just to cross them off a list, but here are 12 must-see museums in Brussels, just to get you started.
This museum is a true Valhalla for car lovers. Not less than 250 vehicles from all around the world are on display, spanning over one century of automobile history. Located in Parc Du Cinquaintenaire, the museum is organized into various themed exhibits.
You can find sports and competition cars, Belgian automobile history, utility vehicles, and many more models and interactive displays for the entire family.
Museum of Natural Sciences
A stone’s throw away from the European Parliament lies a splendid museum full of bones. Dinosaur bones that is! This museum contains the most extensive collection of dinosaur skeletons in the continent, including those of the famous iguanodon. These bones were discovered by accident in the 19th century, deep beneath a coal mine in the town of Bernissart.
The museum includes other interesting permanent exhibitions, including a gallery completely dedicated to evolution, the history and many expeditions in the museum’s history, and an entire exhibit all about the development of humankind.
Royal Museums of Fine Arts
Now, this one is actually more than one museum all rolled into one big umbrella. Six museums span a whopping 7 centuries of visual arts with a collection of around 20000 works of art. The Fin-de-Siècle, Old Masters, and Modern Museum are all located in the same location.
Many renowned works of art are housed in this museum, including those of names like Pieter Bruegel, Peter Paul Rubens, Auguste Rodin, and Paul Gauguin. Also part of the Belgian Museums of Fine Art are the Meunier, Wiertz, and Magritte Museums.
Although a part of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, this museum deserves its own entry. Dedicated to surrealist painter René Magritte (1898 – 1967), this museum opened only a few years ago. Over 200 Magritte works are on display, including his famous “Ceci n’est pas” works and his photography collection.
The museum is a pretty impressive effort to make previously unseen works of this artist available to wider audiences. Works from the Fine Arts collection, as well as loans from external museums and private collectors, are now available for the world to enjoy in a single place.
The legacy of architect Victor Horta is visible all over Brussels. But it’s the Maison & Atelier Horta is the crucial place to visit. In fact, it’s not a traditional museum, but a former residence. Here’s where the master actually lived and worked. The house is located close to Place Châtelain and is Art Nouveau into the very details.
The Horta House is on Rue Americaine (left), and the two other houses are located on Rue Defacqz and Rue du Lac. You can also enjoy some Art Nouveau guided walks around the neighbourhood.
BELvue & Coudenberg
These are two museums literally on top of each other. The BELvue Museum is dedicated to the history of Belgium that began with the revolution in 1830. Through many unique documents, artefacts, and videos, you will gain an in-depth understanding of the country you live in.
The Coudenberg Palace sits right below. It is, in fact, the archaeological site of the palace that stood there three centuries ago. During your underground visit, you can discover these old and fascinating structures.
Musical Instruments Museum
Also known as the MIM, this beautiful museum is located at Mont des Arts, a few meters away from the Magritte and BELvue museums. It houses a unique collection of musical instruments from all over the world, including a specific tribute to the inventor of the saxophone, the Belgian Adolphe Sax.
The museum dates back to 1877, but it exists in its current location since 1978. And what a stunning location it is! with its Art Nouveau style, the Old England building houses a great musical display with 4 exhibition galleries, a concert hall, and even a rooftop restaurant.
Art & History Museum Cinquantenaire Museum
This museum is also part of another group of museums, the Royal Museums of Art and History. The MIM, the Museums of the Far East, and the Halle Gate are all part of this group. If the name is not familiar, it’s because this is the place that used to be known as the Cinquantenaire Museum.
The name is, of course, due to its location at Cinquantanaire Park. In this museum, you can find artefacts from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, as well as treasures from the far East, the Americas and the Islamic world.
Museum of the City of Brussels
Even if you’ve seen very little of the city, the chances are extremely high you’ve already passed by this museum. It’s located in the Brussels Grand Place, opposite the City Hall. You know, that other building most people are taking pictures of!
As inhabitants of Brussels, you can’t miss the museum that is fully dedicated to the history of our city. Visitors will get a good view of the historical background of this city by guiding them through a range of artefacts, from paintings to sculptures, and from tapestries to city maps.
Van Buuren Museum and Gardens
An Art Deco villa is hidden deep inside the municipality of Uccle in Brussels. The museum was firm home to its namesake, David and Alice Van Buuren. Built in 1928, Van Buuren was a banker and patron of the arts. His wife, Alice, set up the foundation that oversees the museum’s overall preservation.
The home presents an impressive collection of art that includes names such as James Ensor, Vincent van Gogh, and Peter Brueghel the Elder. Equally impressive are the six garden spaces that span over 1.6 hectares.
Royal Museum for Central Africa
This museum was considered somewhat controversial based on how the display of its subject matter brushed over a dark part of its history. Located in Tervuren, just outside of Brussels, the museum began as a showcase by King Leopold II of the Congo Free State for the 1897 World Exhibition.
After an extensive 5-year renovation, the museum opened its doors to modernized exhibits of the thousands of Central African artefacts. It also depicts a more realistic image of the horrors the Congo faced during the period of colonization.
Very fitting to its name, this museum is nestled within the Schaarbeek train station in Brussels. And you guessed it, you can also reach it by train. A place entirely dedicated to the history and significance of railways and the role trains in everyday life, the museum is definitely a place that all ages can enjoy.
At Train World, you will find everything about the history of the Belgian Railways, including some real awe-inspiring models restored to what they used to be. Everything from commuter trains, long-haul, and even trains used during the wars.
As you can see, there are wonderful and fascinating museums to visit in Brussels alone, and this list is only scratching the surface.
Museums are a great way to discover the city in a fun and relaxing way. They’re also a fantastic way to expand your horizons!
What do you think of our list? Tell us in the comments below!