Support Us

12 architectural power houses of museums

Some collections are just outplayed by the location that hosts them. Not so in Brussels. The following museums are just as lovely for their classy architecture as for their valuable collection, expect rather big buildings with vast white halls, wooden or shiny marble floors, architectural technicalities and – almost forgot – a kick-ass set of art objects.

BOZAR

The Centre for Fine Arts, known as BOZAR, is one of those buildings that shapes and defines the capital of our tiny country. You know what to expect from a creation by Victor Horta, and still you’ll be surprised by the Belgian master of Art Nouveau. Not even mentioning the Henry Le Boeuf Concert Hall and magnificent foyer, the 8-story building is even more of an achievement as it’s build mainly underground. Why build a monumental construction mainly beneath the surface, you ask? So you wouldn’t spoil the king’s view on the city from his own palace, obviously.

Cinquantenaire Museum, Military Museum and Autoworld

The spacious Parc du Cinquantenaire, built upon request by Leopold II to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence, is the décor for the next 3 museums. You might get distracted by the triumphal arch by French architect Charles Girault, but the 3 museums are one by one not to be missed!

The Cinquantenaire Museum is one of the four Royal Museums of Art and History. Of those four this department contains the largest collection of art and historical objects from antiquity to now out of Belgium and almost any corner of this earth. That means you’ll need to be cautious while discovering the collection, since the ‘you break it, you pay it’-policy is quite strict.

Covering about 40.000 m2, the mouthful Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History is what we like to categorize as an enormous example of a museum. All those square meters are well spent though, with a collection that was launched after the world’s fair of 1910 and expanded exponentially over the years, significantly “supported” by the 2 World Wars. Rest assured, ranging from medieval armour and swords to uniforms and an F-16 Fighting Falcon, these 10 centuries of military history will move even the most devout pacifists.

Autoworld, located in the opposite wing of the Army Museum, narrates the fascinating history of the four-wheeler from the early beginnings until now, where its usefulness in our society is questioned. From horse drawn carriages to rally cars: car enthusiasts are sure to have a glorious experience in this one. Absolute eye-catcher of the ensemble is the dazzlingly elegant dark green Minerva coupé from 1929, a testimony of the Belgian heyday in automotive industry. If you finished all 3 of the listed above, drinks are on us!

Old Masters Museum

The neoclassical Old Masters Museum just radiates true class, in the first place thanks to Alphonse Balat, the architect responsible for the hall of the museum. Although the many masterpieces, from Flemish Primitives to Renaissance and Baroque, are equally a force to be reckoned with. Art and architecture are in perfect harmony here however, so let’s call it a flawless fengshui!

Musical Instruments Museum

Music, maestro! The world renowned collection of ancient and modern instruments was assigned in the late 20th century to a beautiful building originally known as the Old England department store. In 1899 Brussels’ architect Paul Saintenoy added elements of Art Nouveau such as glass constructions and gridded steel to the neoclassical construction by Barnabé Guimard. With all due respect to the impressive set of instruments, we would even visit this complex mixture of architectural styles - a cacophony of the most charming kind - if it was about to collapse. Make sure to take the antique elevator to the rooftop as well, you won’t regret it.

Modern Religious Art Museum

Undeniably, religion has always been a major subject and motive for many artists. We do agree that the Modern Religious Art Museum doesn’t sound too sexy, but the Basilica of Brussels, in which the museum is located, is one of the most exciting temples in the world, provided those 2 terms are somewhat compatible. Add a stroke of Constant Permeke and a tad of Joan Miro and the wonderful revelation will be all yours.

Palace of Charles of Lorraine

Different palace, same story. The Palace of Charles of Lorraine, dating from the 18th century, is a reflection of the governor of the Southern Netherland’s his own philosophy: as a real Bruxellois, he knew all about how to live the good life, and had quite the knack for quality art and culture. The lavishly decorated rooms of his former palace are reminding visitors of his impeccable taste every first Saturday of the month.

Royal Museum for Central Africa

Located slightly further from the city centre, the Royal Museum for Cental Africa in the park of Tervuren comes as a total package: it’s more than a monumental building as it’s surrounded by vast gardens in French tradition. Having a keen eye, you might have noticed that the main building where the permanent collection is conserved, was designed by the same Girault as the triumphal arch in the Parc du Cinquantenaire. And again, this was upon request by Leopold II, obviously having a contentious relationship with Africa, who conceived the idea after the world’s fair of 1897. Today, the museum contains one of the most comprehensive collections of articles on Central Africa, thanks in large to the discoveries of the legendary explorer Henry Morton Stanley. As the pictures show, this museum is currently under construction.

Belgian Comic Strip Center

It’s been a while since we talked about him, so let’s get to it: the Belgian Comic Strip Center, where the fantastic world of the Ninth Art reigns, is located in the former business of textile wholesaler Charles Waucquez, which was designed by … Victor Horta! As the building was inaugurated in 1906 it came along the same period as Belgian comic art arose. Sharing a similar age, the organic, free-spirited Art Nouveau architecture and the enchanting art of comics are nothing less than a match made in heaven. Step inside this former warehouse and let the adventure to another world begin!

Horta Museum

The former home and studio of Victor Horta summarizes the architecture of the Belgian Art Nouveau prodigy between the four walls of a house. The Horta Museum is all grace and dignity: the naturalistic ornaments, recurring decorative arches and vibrant light will make the road back to your own place after a tour through this beauty of a mansion in Saint-Gilles quite challenging.

Brussels City Museum

Of all the imposing facades that make the Brussels’ Grand Place famous, the Brussels City Museum is the cream of the crop. The neo-gothic building, a work of Victor Jamaer, is guaranteed to give you a somewhat stiff neck from staring at the impressively detailed façade. That finesse is only reinforced by the interior which houses a valuable collection illustrating the history of the Belgian capital through tapestries, paintings and a wide variety of objects. Furthermore, it lodges a royal guest: none other than Brussels’ icon Manneken Pis, the little peeing man himself.