13 museums with an architectural panache

Brussels was an architectural hub for Art Deco and Art Nouveau. But about one century after the heyday of both art forms, it’s clear that the Belgian capital has much more on offer: factories revisited, breweries reinvented, medieval constructions with timeless flair. Thanks to their elegant architecture, following museums remind us of the endless possibilities of architecture and art.

Villa Empain

The Boghossian Foundation stimulates the dialogue between east and west. The Villa Empain however, that shelters the foundation, stimulates our desire for luxury. In the 1930s the mansion was constructed upon request by the loaded Empain family. The crib of all cribs carved out its definition of ageless class in a giant shiny block of marble.

WIELS

With the Blomme building the Brussels’ Centre for Contemporary Art, let’s stick to WIELS, couldn’t have dreamed of a more suitable location. What used to be the brewery Wielemans-Ceuppens is since 2007 a shrine where the most relevant of the contemporary art scene is celebrated. The copper kettles remained, as did the inventive components of the visionary design by architect Adrien Blomme (1878-1940). The modernist building may be one of the defining buildings of Forest for more than a century now, it might as well be brand new thanks to the wide open, bright spaces. The WIELS is a concrete classic. 

Van Buuren Museum & Gardens

This former mansion of the art collecting and wealthy couple Van Buuren is a total experience. From the outside, the carefully maintained garden demands your immediate attention. While there’s a chance you’ll never find the entrance because of the green Labyrinth in the garden, you’d almost forget the treasures hidden on the inside. The red bricks marking the exterior are an example of the Amsterdam version of Art Deco while the rather eclectic interior is the result of the collecting zeal of the eccentric lovers David and Alice Van Buuren.

Halle Gate

With all that modernism and contemporary stuff we’d almost forget that Brussels is in fact a centuries-old city. Fortunately, the 14th century Halle Gate regularly reminds us of Brussels’ rich history. As the city gate is the last remnant of the second city wall it’s an exceptional testimony of bygone times, offering both from in- and outside a remarkable and unique view on Brussels’ past and present. 

MIMA

It was in 2015 that MIMA conquered the former Belle-Vue brewery next to the Brussels’ canal. A state-of-the-art museum that settles in an old brewery: sounds familiar doesn’t it? A well approved recipe if you ask us! Try to keep up while we float along the current of Culture 2.0 in all its diversity.

Halles Saint-Géry

The Halles Saint-Géry in the heart of our beloved Brussels are a fascinating piece of folklore. Beware though, as the road to the entrance of the covered market hall from 1881 is one full of obstacles and distractions (read: bars). Resist and you’ll be rewarded with the beautiful interior of the halls, in which the remarkable steel structures with an abundance of light will make you actually forget you made it to the inside.  

Clockarium

Just about every sunday at 3:05 PM (sharp!) the enchanting Clockarium opens its doors. The art deco front of the house will catch anyone’s attention as it’s radically different from the other row houses lined up in this street. Once inside, you’ll understand that time literally never stops, soundly confirmed by the extensive and surprising ensemble of gorgeous faience clocks dating from the inter-war period. 

Train World

Entering the old trainstation of Schaarbeek, which is now the monumental entrance hall of Train World, we’re overwhelmed with wanderlust as a nostalgic desire to jump on a train fantasizing about an adventure with a clever plot and a bittersweet romantic touch. Fortunately, a visit to Trainworld is close enough, less time consuming and well, probably cheaper. 

Cauchie House

The absolutely fabulous mansion of Brussels’ artist Paul Cauchie in Etterbeek is undeniably a piece of art itself. You won’t be surprised that the property was finalized during the heyday of Brussels’ Art Nouveau. The sensational decorations and ornaments, especially the numerous sgraffiti, probably gave that away as they are a straight anthology of what Art Nouveau makes so special. Give in to the glamour as the Cauchie House is a fairy tale of a mansion. 

Museum Marc Sleen

The location for the Marc Sleen Museum, one of the Belgian juggernauts as far as comics goes, feels like coming home. The collection commemorating the cartoonist is housed in the former newspaper office of "De Nieuwe Gids" where Sleen once conceived the idea of his favourite and most famous figment in Nero. What not many people are about to discover here is that the ever-smiling Marc Sleen was so much more than Nero’s originator, as he began his career as a popular sketch artist for the Flemish quality newspaper "De Standaard". 

Royal Library of Belgium

Since 1969 the national library is part of the collection of buildings populating the Kunstberg or Mont des Arts, which means “the mountain of the arts”, and to which BOZAR and MIM belong as well. If the dignified Albertina, a nickname referring to the statue of the celebrated king Albert I next to it, can’t excite you, the rooftop will change your mind. The grey construction is a sort of vintage you love to hate, giving it a sense of je-ne-sais-quoi, all of that while preserving and reviving books.  

Planetarium

Founded in 1935 for the world’s fair the astronomical museum of Brussels is by now overshadowed by the Atomium, that was built for the later World Expo of 1958. We don’t want to downplay the atoms of André Waterkeyn, but it’s time for the Planetarium to step out of the shadow. The dome, with its diameter of 23 meters and a projection area of 840 meters one of the continent’s largest, reminds us of our slightly insignificant existence.