Filled to the brim with rich history, beautiful architecture, cultural events and great cuisine, Belgium may be small but certainly packs a punch. Museum fans will find a little paradise in this underrated country. These are the 10 best Belgium museums, fun and fascinating places that cover everything from fine art to world-changing inventions.
10 Best Belgium Museums to Visit
In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres
Let’s start this list with what is arguably the best World War One museum in the world. That might be a serious claim, but anyone who’s visited the In Flanders Fields Museum will agree that it’s absolutely amazing, humbling and fascinating.
Located in the historic Cloth Hall of Ypres, which lay on the very frontline during the Great War, this museum is exceptional because it does not glorify warfare. Rather the opposite, through first-hand witness accounts, stories and background information, it successfully focuses on the futility of war.
Belgian Comic Strip Center, Brussels
A well-established attraction in the heart of Brussels is the Belgian Comic Strip Center, housed in a building designed by Victor Horta (see below). Few people know that Belgium is the actual world capital of comic books. When you visit this museum, one of the best Belgium museums, you’ll realize just how many different comic book figures were created in Belgium. The museum exhibits begin with Hergé (creator of Tintin) and end with Peyo (creator of the Smurfs).
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels
This collection of art museums is undoubtedly the best cultural experience you can have in Belgium. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium exhibit works by pretty much all of the great Belgian artists. This includes people like Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck, but also more recent painters such as Paul Delvaux, René Magritte and James Ensor.
Horta Museum, Brussels
Housed in the former house and workshop of Victor Horta, one of the world’s most important Art Nouveau architects, the Horta Museum is dedicated to the man’s life and work. Inside, you’ll see a collection of furniture, art, artifacts and utensils designed by Horta. The building itself is a worthy attraction, too, being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp
Another fantastic museum in Antwerp’s historic city center is the Plantin-Moretus Museum. This is the world’s only museum that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It used to be the home and workshop of the Plantin and Moretus printing families, some members of which were contemporaries and friends of Peter Paul Rubens (see below). What makes it so significant is that it houses the two oldest surviving printing presses in the world. This is where printing became the powerful medium it is today.
Rubens House, Antwerp
One of the absolute best Belgium museums, especially for historic art, is the Rubens House in Antwerp. This is the former home and studio of Peter Paul Rubens, Antwerp’s most famous celebrity in the 17th century. You can tour the house and see period furniture and numerous of his works. The museum lies on a street just off Meir, the city’s main shopping street, a short stroll from both Antwerp Central Station and the historic Market Square.
Red Star Line Museum, Antwerp
Antwerp’s biggest drawcard is its wide range of features, from diamonds and fashion to architecture and art. This variety shines through in its museums as well. The Red Star Line Museum is yet another great museum in Belgium. This one focuses on turn-of-the-century and early-19th-century emigration to the United States.
While the White Star Line, from Titanic fame, transported emigrants from the U.K. and Ireland to America, its sister company the Red Star Line did the same from mainland Europe. Antwerp was one of its main departure cities. Literally millions of emigrants passed through Antwerp on their way to a better life in the New World, including famous people such as Albert Einstein.
The entire city center of Bruges can be considered a living open-air museum; it’s that stunning. If you’d like to visit an actual museum when visiting this impossibly beautiful town, however, you should opt for the Groeningemuseum. Constructed on the site of the medieval Eekhout Abbey, this surprisingly amazing museum tackles six centuries of Flemish and Belgian art, from the Flemish Primitives to Flemish Expressionism and much more.
Bastogne War Museum, Bastogne
While the In Flanders Fields Museum is dedicated to World War One, the Bastogne War Museum focuses on the Battle of the Bulge, which took place in the Belgian Ardennes during the Second World War. The museum’s exhibits are definitely interesting, and so is the building itself. It has the shape of a five-point American star.
Gallo-Roman Museum, Tongeren
If you’re an archaeology and history buff, this is one of the best museums in Belgium for you. The Gallo-Roman Museum in Tongeren, the oldest town in the country, covers everything related to the prehistory and the Roman Age in eastern Flanders. In 2011, it was voted the “European Museum of the Year”, proving the value this museum provides.
These are the ten best Belgium museums . They will offer you an insight in the heart and soul of this fascinating nation. Take the time to visit one or more of them whenever you’re in one of Belgium’s beautiful historic towns!