As the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union, the bustling city of Brussels has certainly placed itself in the thick of all things political — not just in Europe, but in the world. Home, also, to the central offices of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the World Customs Organization (WCO) and EUROCONTROL, it has more ambassadors and journalists than Washington D.C. does. It is, undoubtedly, a hotbed of politics and business, diplomacy and deals. With so many people from so many places, it’s a good thing Belgium’s main hub has so much to offer visitors and locals alike. With a rich history that can be traced back to the sixth century and over 80 museums dedicated to everything from modern art to the American Civil War and chocolate, its significance as a cultural center is as impressive as any other feature of its dossier. Read on for a short look at a handful of museums whose variety will help reveal the varied interests covered among these hallowed — and fascinating — institutions peppered throughout Brussels.
Belgian Comic Strip Center
The building that houses the Belgian Comic Strip Center was once the Waucquez Warehouse, an art nouveau masterpiece designed by Victor Horta with stunning light and space that makes for a fantastic viewing and walking experience. Dedicated to the comic strip and its makers, this museum highlights how a comic strip is created from beginning to end while also showcasing an ever-changing display of cartoon art from Belgium’s most famous cartoon artists and artists from around the world. With a collection of over 7,000 original drawing boards, it’s possible for even the locals to see a different museum each time they stop by. Highlights include a library and reading room as well as three-dimensional reproductions of some famous cartoon pieces, like Tintin’s rocket ship.
Musical Instrument Museum
The Musical Instruments Museum boasts one of the largest collections of musical instruments in the world. Located in the wonderfully restored art nouveau buildings that used to comprise the Old England stores, the MIM’s rotating display of 120 instruments is taken from around 7,000 found in its permanent collection. With interactive terminals and sound spaces, the museum is tailored to give all its visitors — even those with visual or hearing difficulties — an experience of human musical endeavor throughout the years. Don’t miss the view at the top of the museum; it’s breathtaking! And if you’re an architecture lover, this part of the city will surely delight you. You could look here for hotels that are close by this area of Brussels.
Gueuze (Beer) Museum
The Gueuze Museum is housed within the Cantillon Brewery and is as specific to Brussels as the beer it highlights — the Gueuze lambic (also called “Brussels champagne”), a local style of beer that is made through spontaneous fermentation. Because it’s in a working brewery, the Gueuze Museum gives visitors the chance to not just learn about the history of beer and brewing in Belgium, they are also given ample opportunity to taste it. Cantillon is the only remaining brewery in the city, and it has been in continuous operation since 1900, producing gueuze, kriek and faro lambics according to the traditional style. For the beer lover, there is no better museum in all of Brussels.
Arguably one of the most interesting and specific museums in Brussels, the Clockarium is dedicated to the art deco faience clock, which was the first timepiece produced that nearly everyone could afford. Prior to the 20th century, timekeeping was an expensive endeavor enjoyed only by the very wealthy. As industrialization and mechanization took over more of work life, the need to keep time became a concern of every class. During the 1920s and 1930s, the faience clock, a stylish, ceramic mantel clock was purchased and proudly displayed by almost every Belgian household. To compete and keep up with people’s tastes, the clock’s designs are incredibly varied and sometimes extravagant. The Clockarium houses over a thousand of these clocks, as well as other art deco ceramics in a beautiful art deco house.
Brussels’ museums will enhance the experience of people who love museums and people who may not love museums as much. This short list is but the tip of a remarkable iceberg. Whether you visit for business or pleasure, learning or fun, these museums are a sure bet.
Tintin at the Belgian Comic Book Center photo credit: AIBakker / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
Cantillon Brewery photo credit: MMortAH / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
About the Author: Louise Vinciguerra is a fantastic joke teller and contributing writer. When she’s not on Facebook, WordPress or Twitter, she’s traveling in search of fun, from her current headquarters in Rome.