The city of Brussels is the capital of Belgium and serves as the historic center and biggest municipality in the Brussels-Capital region. Apart from being an important administrative hub for the European Union, hosting a number of headquarters for EU institutions, Brussels is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.
Welcoming millions of tourists every year, Brussels is renowned for its gastronomy, historic landmarks and world-class museums. Whether you’re a culture vulture, an art enthusiast or a history buff, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to museums and galleries to visit in the Belgian capital.
While the museums in Brussels do not get the same attention as those in other European cities like Paris or London, perhaps due to ineffective promotion, this does not necessarily mean that they are not worth a visit. In fact, you may find yourself visiting some of the most unique museums and have an unforgettable experience while you’re at it.
If you are unsure of where to start, check out this list of the best museums in Brussels (in and around the city center) that you should not miss when in the city. To avoid having to carry around your heavy bags, look for a luggage storage locker in Brussels where you can safely deposit your luggage before you go museum hopping. then see the best of Brussels museums!
One of the most famous museums in Brussels, AutoWorld is a vintage car museum that showcases the history of the automobile and boasts one of the most valuable vintage vehicle collections in the world. This interesting museum is housed inside the South Hall of Parc du Cinquantenaire, an urban park situated at right the heart of the city center.
Upon exploring AutoWorld, visitors get to learn about the beginnings of the automobile and how it has evolved through different time periods – from La Belle Epoque, World Wars I and II, and the European Golden Age of Capitalism up until the present day. The museum’s permanent collection features more than 250 individual American and European vehicle models.
Some of the highlights of this amazing vintage car museum include the now-obsolete Belgian-made Minervas and some antique limousines once owned by the Royal Family of Belgium. AutoWorld is open every day from 8 AM until 5 PM, with the exception of some holidays and special events. To know their schedule as well as buy tickets, you can visit AutoWorld’s official website.
Military History Museum
The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History, also known simply as the Military History Museum, was established in 1923 and is dedicated to the history of the Belgian Army dating back to the 1700s up until the present day. Similar to Autoworld, the museum is found within the Parc du Cinquantenaire in the Brussels city center.
Widely considered one of the top military museums in the world, its permanent collection is comprised of military uniforms, armor, medals, weapons and other war-related artifacts. The Military History Museum also houses actual aircraft, tanks and other vehicles that were used during the Second World War.
Apart from its already superb collection of objects, the museum also regularly hosts events and temporary exhibitions. The Military History Museum is open every day from 9 AM to 5 PM except on Mondays and tickets can be bought via the museum’s official website.
Located inside the Altenloh Hotel, the Magritte Museum is a lovely museum that’s worth visiting for an art lover, especially one with a rather specialized interest. As its name suggests, the museum is dedicated to the life and work of Rene Magritte, one of the most important and prominent Belgian artists of all time. The museum is part of the group of art museums known collectively as the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.
Inaugurated in 2009, the Magritte Museum has a permanent exhibition consisting of over 250 out of the 2,000 works of art painted by Magritte; some of the highlights include two of his most famous paintings – The Domain of Arnheim and The Dominion of Light. The museum is divided into three floors, where guests can explore the evolution of the artist’s works and his experimentation with various styles such as conceptual art, pop art and expressionism.
One of six Brussels museums that are part of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, the Fin-de-Siècle Museum (which translates to “Museum of the Turn of the Century”) is an art museum dedicated to the different artistic movements that took place during the period between 1868 to 1914. Established in 2013, the museum is widely regarded as one of the best Brussels art museums and a must-visit when in the city, especially for art lovers.
The Fin-de-Siècle Museum has a permanent collection of artworks across numerous disciplines, including Art Nouveau, poetry, fine art, opera and impressionism. The stunning collection features the works of over 30 local and international artists; some of the famous Belgian artists whose works can be seen at the museum include James Ensor, Constantin Meunier, Fernand Khnopff and Victor Horta while foreign artists like Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin are also featured.
Museum of the City of Brussels
A five minute walk from Brussels Central Station and founded in 1887, the Museum of the City of Brussels is a cultural institution that showcases the evolution of the Belgian capital throughout the years. This beloved Brussels museum is located in the Grand Place, tucked inside Maison du Roi, and is the ideal place to visit if you want to get a better understanding of the city’s history.
The Museum of the City of Brussels is divided into two floors, with the first floor having a small permanent exhibition comprised of sculptures and porcelain figures that existed between the 16th and 18th centuries as well as paintings that highlight some of the most important events in Brussels. On the second floor, you can find what is arguably the highlight of the museum – an exhibit of some 600 outfits of the Manneken Pis’, Belgium’s most iconic landmark of a naked boy peeing in a basin. The collection includes a range of traditional outfits from various cultures, including football jerseys and bullfighter costumes.
Natural Sciences Museum
Housed within a lovely building along Rue Vautier, just a stone’s throw away from the European Parliament, the Natural Sciences Museum is one of the most popular museums in Brussels and one worth checking out during your time in the city. Part of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, the facility was established to showcase the origin and natural history of certain species and educate about evolution and nature.
The Natural Sciences Museum is known for having one of the biggest and most important dinosaur galleries in the world. In fact, it is Europe’s biggest hall that is solely dedicated to dinosaurs and other animals; this area boasts more than 400 animal species and 600 fossils that date back millions of years. Along with prehistoric dinosaurs, some of the animal fossils exhibited at the museum include elephants, bears, foxes and lizards.
Brussels’ BELvue Museum is located in the 18th century Neo-classical Hôtel Bellevue and is one of the city’s most important national history institutions. Before it was transformed into the national museum it is now, the building served as both a luxury hotel and a royal residence before. In 2005, it was converted into the BELvue museum and is managed by the King Baudouin Foundation (KBF).
The BELvue Museum tells the national history of Belgium in chronological order – starting from the 1830 revolution until 1993 when the current federal state was put in place. The museum’s sections are divided into seven social themes and offer interactive exhibits to recount the country’s history and give a clearer perspective of Belgian society. The museum also has a gallery consisting of over 200 pieces related to the country, such as renowned Belgian brands, sporting achievements, scientific discoveries and other cultural references.
Built between 1898 and 1901, the Horta Museum was the former home and studio of Victor Horta, considered the most renowned Art Nouveau architect; Horta is an important part of Art Nouveau history and is considered a key player in the movement. Designed by Horta himself, the museum is housed inside a striking Art Nouveau building and was created to pay homage to his life and work.
When visiting the museum, you can explore the different rooms, including Horta’s bedroom, music room, guest room and dining room. Taking a tour of the place allows you to take in all the details that Horta put together in order to create the beautiful Art Nouveau building that it is today – from the glazed tiles and mirrors to the wrought iron beams.
Musical Instruments Museum
Part of the Royal Museums of Art and History, the Musical Instruments Museum is an institution dedicated to sharing musical history from the Middle Ages up until the present day. The museum is housed inside a historic Art Nouveau building in the city center built in 1899 and was originally a department store.
The Musical Instruments Museum has an extensive collection of over 7,000 musical instruments collected in different periods and are displayed across the building’s four stories. The museum’s sections are divided by style, such as sections for traditional instruments and keys and keyboards. The museum also features interactive exhibitions where guests are given headphones that allow them to hear the music from the instrument they are viewing.
Belgian Comic Strip Center
Among the cool museums Brussels has to offer, the Belgian Comic Strip Center is a definite must-see when spending time in the city. The comics museum, which is situated inside an Art Nouveau-style building designed by architect Victor Horta, pays homage to the Belgians’ love for comics. After all, Belgium is the birthplace of some of the most iconic comic characters in the world, including Tintin, the Smurfs, Blake and Mortimer, Bob and Bobette and Spirou.
Located along Rue des Sables, the Belgian Comic Strip Center has a permanent collection of over 6,000 original comics. Additionally, the comics museum has an exhibition that features the process of creating comics – starting from sketching and story-writing until the creation of the final strip. If you find yourself drawn to any of the comics on display, you’re in luck because you can buy most of the issues being displayed at the museum shop.
What are the best free museums in Brussels?
If you did not prepare a budget for visiting Brussels museums, don’t fret; there are a number of museums in the Belgian capital that you can visit for without paying a single cent. Some of the best free museums in Brussels include the Wiertz Museum, the Meunier Museum, the ISELP Contemporary Art Center and Maison des Arts.
Which are the best museums in downtown Brussels?
If you plan to stay within the city center for the duration of your trip, there are plenty of museums that you can visit without having to leave the area. Among the must-see museums in downtown Brussels include AutoWorld, BELvue Museum and the Military History Museum.
Are there any cheap museums in Brussels?
The term “cheap” is subjective and what may be cheap for you is pricey for another. However, some options that don’t go beyond €10 include the Charlier Museum, the Museum of the City of Brussels and the Cinquantenaire Museum. Moreover, most museums in Brussels are completely free to access on the first Sunday of every month.
From Fine Arts to a Royal Museum
Finished shopping in Brussels and ready to start museum hopping? Brussels has no shortage of amazing museums that are worth visiting. By checking out these museums, you get to immerse yourself in the culture and have a deeper understanding of Brussels' history and the different aspects that make the city the interesting destination that it is today.