Whether you’re a history buff, an art-lover, or a self-confessed chocoholic, here are some of the best museums in Belgium to satisfy your interests.
Belgium may be small, but it certainly packs a punch when it comes to top museums and cultural attractions. Whether you love art or history, science, or chocolate, there is a museum dedicated to it in this diverse country. To give you an idea of what’s on offer, here are ten of the best museums in Belgium that are well worth a visit.
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1. Musée Magritte Museum, Brussels
One of the most famous museums in Belgium is dedicated to the renowned Belgian Surrealist artist René Magritte. Visitors will discover more than 230 of his artworks at the award-winning Musée Magritte Museum; located on the Place Royale in the heart of Brussels. In fact, the museum boasts the world’s largest collection of work by the artist and attracts a whopping 300,000 visitors each year. The impressive collection includes paintings, gouaches, drawings, sculptures, and various painted objects. Visitors will also discover displays posters, musical scores, photographs, and films shot by Magritte himself. Depending on when they visit, they might also catch temporary exhibitions on other artists such as Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí. Discover more great museums in Brussels.
Musée Magritte Museum, Place Royale 1, Brussels 1000
2. Euro Space Center, Transinne
You don’t need a rocket to fly to outer space when you can have an intergalactic adventure at the Euro Space Museum. This popular family attraction is ideal for kids – and big kids – who are fascinated by space exploration. During a tour of the interactive center, visitors can enjoy a thrilling 5D Space Show, moonwalk on other planets in a virtual reality simulator, and explore the Solar System through a film projected inside a huge planetarium dome. They can also play a Space Heroes role-playing game on a tablet. Depending on when you visit, you might be lucky enough to catch one of the temporary exhibitions. These center on different themes such as Focus on Mars and Space Tastes.
Euro Space Center, Devant les Hêtres 1, 6890 Transinne
3. Gallo-Roman Museum, Tongeren
Located in Belgium’s oldest town, Tongeren, the Gallo-Roman Museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in archeology. It is dedicated to the prehistorical times and Roman age of the region in south-east Flanders. The permanent exhibition depicts the story of man in the region; beginning with the Neanderthals and ending with the Romans. Along the way, visitors can listen to an audio guide and learn about the various cultures that inhabited the land. These stories are brought to life by displays featuring realistic figures of ancient people. Visitors can also marvel at more than 2,000 objects from the museum’s own collection; all beautifully presented in a highly-original set. The impressive exhibition has won the museum several awards over the years, including the European Museum of the Year in 2011. Needless to say, it makes for a fun day out for all the family.
Gallo-Roman Museum, Kielenstraat 15, 3700 Tongeren
4. In Flanders Fields Museum, Ieper
One of the most internationally renowned museums in Belgium is the In Flanders Museums in Ieper. Located in the rebuilt Cloth Hall in the city center, the museum presents the history of WWI in the West Flanders front region. Its permanent exhibition tells the story of the invasion of Belgium; through to the four years of the trench war in Westhoek and eventually, the end of the war. By exploring a series of hundreds of authentic objects and images, visitors can gain a glimpse into the human war experience. This is made all the more realistic by life-like characters and interactive installations. They can also climb the 231 steps of the belfry and enjoy stunning views over the city and surrounding battlefields. Unlike other war museums, In Flanders Fields aims to focus on conveying a universal and contemporary message of peace; rather than focus on the horrors of war.
In Flanders Fields Museum, Grote Markt 34, 8900 Ieper
5. For Freedom Museum, Knokke-Heist
For a more intense dose of history, the For Freedom Museum in Knokke-Heist provides a realistic portrayal of life during WWII. There are three collections to explore: uniforms, vehicles, and aircraft remains. The experience is made all the more authentic with realistic displays of allied and axis forces in various scenes. An accompanying audio tour provides expert explanations alongside life-like background sounds, bringing each scene to life. Visitors will also discover genuine artifacts from this very important period in history. The highly-acclaimed museum centers on the theme of the bleakness of war. However, the ultimate message that visitors will walk away with is that freedom has a price and must be cherished.
For Freedom Museum, Ramskapellestraat 91/93, 8301 Knokke-Heist
6. Chocolate Nation, Antwerp
Belgian is, of course, famous for its rich and decadent chocolate. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that there are a plethora of chocolate museums dotted around the country. The mother of these, however, is without a doubt Chocolate Nation; the world’s largest Belgian chocolate museum which can be found in Antwerp. There are 14 thematic rooms to explore during a 60- to 90-minute tour. During the journey, visitors can learn the story of how cocoa traveled from the far plantations of the equator to Antwerp. They will also discover chocolate traditions, history, brands, products, and innovations that have built its worldwide reputation. One of the highlights of the museum, however, is the gigantic fantasy machine. This shows how chocolate is made and where the velvety smooth taste comes from. Still hungry? Read our guide to Belgian chocolate.
Chocolate Nation, Koningin Astridplein 7, 2018 Antwerpen
7. Museum aan de Stroom (MAS), Antwerp
Located along the Scheldt River in Antwerp, Museum aan de Stroom explores the city’s history and position as an important international port. The striking 60-meter-high building is designed to resemble boxes stacked in a spiral tower. It also features curved glass panels that provide visitors with impressive views outside. There are more than 180,000 museum pieces to explore, displayed across the nine floors of the museum. These range from maritime objects that document international trade, to the history and culture of Antwerp. The museum also displays art from Africa, America, Asia, and Oceania. Visitors can scan QR codes on most objects to listen to background information in multiple languages. They can also hop on an escalator to the roof terrace and enjoy a fantastic 360-degree view of the city, the port, and the river down below.
Museum aan de Stroom (MAS), Hanzestedenplaats 1, 2000 Antwerpen
8. The Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art (S.M.A.K), Ghent
Contemporary art lovers will no doubt enjoy exploring more than 3,000 works of art dating back from WWII until the present day at SMAK. The museum covers a number of important movements in the art world including Cobra, Pop Art, and Minimal Art. The permanent collection features world-famous works of art from Belgium and beyond. These include Figure Sitting by Francis Bacon, Wirtschaftswerte by Joseph Beuys, and the iconic Marilyn Monroe collage by Andy Warhol. The modern layout of the exhibition aims to encourage visitors to delve deeper into each work of art while providing background information on the artist. Every four months, the museum exhibits a selection of these alongside provocative temporary exhibitions which aim to encourage visitors to contemplate their connection.
SMAK, Jan Hoetplein 1, 9000 Gent
9. Groeningemuseum, Bruges
Located in the beautiful medieval city of Bruges (also dubbed the ‘Venice of the North’) the Groeningemuseum provides a varied overview of the history of Belgian visual art. The collection includes works by Belgian painters dating back to the Flemish primitives in the 14th century all the way to modern art in the 1900s. Along with work by René Magritte, Emile Claus, Gerard David, Bram Bogart, and many more, visitors can glimpse at masterpieces such as the Moreel Triptych by Hans Memling and the iconic Madonna with Canon Joris Van der Paele by Jan van Eyck. The museum sometimes hosts temporary exhibitions too, so you can check the schedule ahead of your visit. As a nice touch, tickets to the museum also include entry to the Artentshuis museum on the other side of Arentshof garden.
Groeningemuseum, Dijver 12, 8000 Brugge
10. François Duesberg Museum, Mons
For a truly decadent museum experience, few places top the prestigious collection of decorative arts on display at François Duesberg Museum. Visitors can marvel at the astonishingly exquisite objects from the 18th and 19h centuries. These include more than 300 clocks, Neoclassical-inspired sculptures, porcelain, jewelry, and other rare and beautiful treasures from the period. Inside the palace-like museum, they will also gain a glimpse into how life in Paris was from the reign of Louis XVI to the time of Napoleon and Charles X. The impressive collection, which belongs to Baron François Duesberg and his spouse, has earned the museum two Michelin stars in several categories. Needless to say, it is an absolute must-visit for anyone who daydreams about living a life of pure luxury.
François Duesberg Museum, Square Franklin Delano Roosevelt 12, 7000 Mons