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Top 10 best museums in Belgium ranging from art to science

Known for its chocolates, waffles, football and music festivals, Belgium is also home to some of the best museums in the world. 

Belgium is a country rich in history, art and culture.

You can find some of the world’s most famous museums that attract millions of visitors in Belgium.

From fine art to history to science and technology, Belgium’s museums have something for everyone. 

Here is a list of the top 10 must-visit museums in Belgium:

1. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (Brussels)

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, located in Brussels, is one of the most renowned art museums in the world. 

Spread across six sites, the museum has an extensive collection of over 20,000 pieces ranging from 15th to 21st-century artworks from Belgium and abroad.

The museum’s main site is the Magritte Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of works by the famous Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte. 

Some of Magritte’s famous paintings like The Son of Man, The Treachery of Images and Empire of Light are the highlights. 

You can also view his lesser-known sketches, photographs and films.

Other sites include the Old Masters Museum showcasing masterpieces by Bosch, Bruegel, Rubens, Van Dyck and Rembrandt.

You can visit sites like the Fin-de-Siècle Museum, featuring art nouveau and symbolism works and the Wiertz Museum, dedicated to Belgian romantic painter Antoine Wiertz.

2. Royal Museum for Central Africa (Tervuren)

The Royal Museum for Central Africa, located in Tervuren just outside Brussels, has one of the world’s most extensive collections of the Congo in central Africa. 

Its ethnographic and natural history collections contain over 250,000 African artifacts.

Highlights include the Stanley Collection of documents and other objects from 19th-century European expeditions to the Congo. 

The museum also has an excellent collection of colonial-era paintings and sculptures depicting the Congo. 

There is also an aquarium hall, an extensive collection of musical instruments from Congo, and samples of animal life in Africa.

The museum building, designed in neoclassical style, is an architectural gem not to be missed. 

Visiting this museum in a scenic park makes for an excellent day trip from Brussels.

3. MAS Museum (Antwerp)

The Museum Aan de Stroom (MAS), meaning “Museum at the River,” is a modern and interactive museum focusing on Antwerp’s history as a global port city.

The 60m tall iconic red building designed by Dutch architects Neutelings and Riedijk stands right on the river Scheldt. 

You can enjoy panoramic views of Antwerp from the museum rooftop.

The museum has an impressive collection of over 500,000 artifacts, including paintings, sculptures, scale models of ships, maps and archival material etc.

These artifacts display the centuries of Antwerp’s role in international trade and cultural exchange. 

The highlights are the gallery with religious paintings and the room exhibiting exotic artifacts from Africa, China and pre-Columbian America. 

You can also enjoy the gallery of paintings by Antwerp’s famous 17th-century artist, Peter Paul Rubens.

4. Red Star Line Museum (Antwerp)

Red Star Line Museum
Image: Fosfari.be

The Red Star Line Museum is one of the best museums in Belgium that focuses on European migration to America from 1873 to 1934. 

More than 2 million immigrants traveling on Red Star Line ships departed from Antwerp to start new lives in America.

This interactive museum in Antwerp’s historic shipping warehouse recreates the ocean travel experience during that era. 

Original ship rooms, passenger dormitories, luggage, and personal stories of the migrants are powerfully displayed.

For anyone interested in the history of immigration, this museum provides great insights through the unique perspective of the journeys and hopes of the European migrants.

5. Museum Plantin-Moretus (Antwerp)

Museum Plantin-Moretus, in Antwerp, offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of printing and publishing in Europe. 

This museum consists of the fully intact building, once the house and printing office of the famous 16th-century printer Christophe Plantin and then the Moretus family.

It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The exhibits include the original printing presses, publishing books, manuscripts and an impressive collection of artworks collected by the Plantin-Moretus families.

Highlights include the famous library and paintings by Rubens. This museum is a must-see for understanding the impact of the printing revolution in Europe.

6. Photography Museum (Antwerp)

Located near the port, the Photomuseum or FOMU focuses on photography as an art form. 

The museum has a collection of about 130,000 photographs from the 19th century to today.

The diverse galleries feature excellent temporary exhibitions showcasing historical and contemporary photography. 

The museum also promotes new talent by organizing competitions and festivals.

Whether you are an expert or new to art photography, the changing exhibits at this museum provide great exposure to this visual medium.

7. Comics Art Museum (Brussels)

Belgium has a long tradition of comics and the Comics Art Museum in Brussels celebrates this beloved art form. 

The museum has an impressive collection of original plates, sketches, unpublished drawings and a vast archive of comics.

While exhibits keep changing, the highlights are always the original drawings of famous Franco-Belgian comics like Adventures of Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke, and Smurfs. 

Fans can also see manuscripts by Herge, Edgar P Jacobs and Andre Franquin, who are legends of European comics.

This museum brings back the childhood nostalgia of reading comics while also providing insights into the production process behind graphic novels and stories.

8. Musical Instruments Museum (Brussels)

As one of the world’s premier museums of musical instruments, this Brussels museum houses over 8,000 instruments originating from all continents and ages.

You can see exhibits from ancient Greek and Roman instruments, medieval European instruments, harpsichords, pianos, organs, guitars and all modern musical inventions. 

There is an excellent section in this museum showcasing musical traditions from Africa, Asia and Central America.

Music enthusiasts can spend hours listening to recordings and viewing demonstrations of how instruments are made and played.

You can also learn about the evolution of musical instruments throughout human history.

9. House of European History (Brussels)

Inaugurated in 2017, this modern museum in Brussels aims to promote understanding of Europe’s shared cultural heritage. 

Through multimedia exhibits, artifacts and film, the museum showcases major events in Europe’s history from the 19th century to today.

You can walk through the permanent exhibition that covers milestones from the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 to the creation of the European Union.

The museum’s temporary exhibits highlight themes or artists important in Europe’s intellectual landscape.

The museum also has excellent educational programs for all visitors. 

Located next to the European Parliament, it is a great place to visit to make sense of Europe’s complex past.

10. Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (Brussels)

One of the oldest natural history museums in the world, established in 1846, this museum lets you marvel at the diversity of life on Earth.

Located in Brussels, the museum has an enormous collection of over 37 million specimens, including insects, mammals, dinosaurs, animal skeletons, fossils and more.

One of the must-visit areas of this museum is the gigantic dinosaur gallery with complete dinosaur skeletons.

Other highlights include the diamond gallery showcasing the world’s largest cut diamond and 500 other gems.

You can also visit the insect gallery exhibiting millions of insect specimens from across the globe. 

Along with the educational exhibits, the museum also conducts necessary research in biodiversity conservation, which you can witness and take part in.

Featured Image: Frans Ruiter on Unsplash

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