Saturday 6 October 2018

Brussels museums: the lowdown

When I went to Prague I wrote a post about the museums I’d been to and whether they were worth the trip/entrance fee – I love museums because I have such a passion for learning new things and seeing artefacts that I haven’t seen before, or that you can’t see anywhere else. I visited a few museums in Brussels (though maybe not as many as I would have liked) and I thought I’d write a similar post this time around. So, if you’re heading to Brussels and want to know which museums are worth it, here’s my two cents.

get up stand up exhibition mima

mima museum in brussels

The first museum I went to was MIMA, the Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art, which was conveniently located opposite my hotel – it’s part of the old brewery that the hotel is in, and MIMA also has a bit of a roof terrace that offers some decent views. You can’t see the Grand Place or anything, but it’s a nice view all the same. The museum costs €9.50 to get into, and is included in the Brussels Card if you have one; I did and I loved it, because it meant I wasn’t worrying about finding cash to pay my entrance fee, or wondering if I had enough to spare. But more on that later! MIMA has a gift shop which sells t-shirts and notebooks, and you get a free pin badge on entry which I think is amazing – it also has a cafĂ©/restaurant and you can take dogs in (to the restaurant, although I’m not sure about the rest of the museum). There’s a mixture of temporary and permanent exhibitions, and the current main exhibiton is called Get Up Stand Up; it focuses on posters used for political protests throughout the years in various countries. There were some I recognised, and some that were completely new to me, and they were all fascinating. There is also an exhibition with punching bags that have people illustrated on them who do a variety of different professions, and some stuff about the moon landings etc. If you’re staying at the Meininger Hotel, you can get in for a reduced cost of €6; under 12s are free, and under 18s/students/OAPs/disabled or unemployed people can get in for €7.50; the museum is open 10-6 Wednesday through Sunday.

mima museum brussels get up stand up

brussels flower carpet 2018

The next museum I visited was the Brussels City Museum mainly because I wanted to go on the balcony and get a better view of the flower carpet; the museum costs €8 to get into, and is also one of the museums you can access for free if you have a Brussels Card. I had to pay an extra €1.50 to access the balcony, which I felt was a little steep – I’m not sure if this was because the flower carpet was down, or if this is a general thing, but either way I paid it. The museum itself was okay, nothing TOO special – it houses loads of little outfits for the Mannekin Pis statue, which is cool, and some artwork and archeological discoveries. It’s not the most glamorous or exciting museum, but there is a lot to see. The balcony is quite narrow but it did offer an amazing view over the Grand Place, and allowed me to get some gorgeous photos of the flower carpet. This museum is one I’d say go to if you’re really interested in learning about the history of Brussels, or if the flower carpet is down and you want to see it from a different perspective. But for me, it’s definitely not a must-visit museum.

brussels flower carpet 2018

belgian brewers museum brussels

Another museum you can probably skip, unless you’re REALLY interested, is the Belgian Brewers Museum which costs €5 per person, also in the Grand Place. It’s down a questionable set of stairs, and there’s a dingy-looking bar there; I asked barman/ticket man if I could use my Brussels Card (again, I could) and he scanned it then pointed through an opening on the other side of the bar. I followed his direction into 1 (one) room which makes up the entirety of the museum. Most of it is taken up with seats and there’s a screen which was showing a film of the beer-brewing process. The remainder of the space was filled with tanks and funnels and pipes, each one with a tiny placard alongside it with the bare bones of information. I felt a bit let down and I only stayed for around 5/10 minutes because there really wasn’t all that much to see and do. I’d have loved it to be bigger and more interactive, but you can’t win ‘em all. Apparently the entrance fee also gets you a beer at the bar, only I didn’t see this advertised anywhere and the man didn’t tell me, so I left without any beer and only just found out when it came to writing this post. Had I known, this definitely would have redeemed the museum slightly!

marc sleen museum belgium

As I mentioned in my day two travel diary post, I also visited the Belgian Comic Strip Centre.  The main museum is in a stunning art deco building, but there’s a smaller exhibition over the road all about Marc Sleen who was a Belgian comic book creator. It was nice to see all of his work laid out and to learn about him, and this part of the museum is completely free of charge so it’s worth popping in if you’re heading to the main comic book museum anyway. The main museum itself costs €10 to get into, and again is covered by the Brussels Card if you have one. It has three floors, and contains comic book artwork from a huge variety of creators and artists from Belgium. There’s loads of stuff about Tintin, of course, and also about the Smurfs – including a little Smurf house that you can go into which is probably mostly for kids but is adorable all the same. There was also an exhibition called Drawn Destinies of Strong Women, by Catel – the drawings are beautiful and there’s a replica of her work station, too. There’s so much to see in the Comic Strip Centre and I’d definitely say it’s worth a visit – while it’s not right in the city centre, it didn’t take me too long to walk there and it’s fairly close to the cathedral, too.

belgian comic strip centre brussels

drawn destinies of strong women

Out of the four museums I visited in Brussels, my top two recommendations are definitely MIMA and the Comic Strip Centre; both are bright and colourful while being interesting and informative. I had a Brussels Card*, gifted to me by the Brussels tourist board, which gave me free entry into all of these museums. It covers most of the museums in the city, and also gets you discount in various shops and restaurants. There’s an option to upgrade your card to include the use of public transport or a hop on/hop off bus, and you can get the card to last 1, 2 or 3 days. Prices start at €26 and in my opinion, it’s well worth it. My card was the most basic one, the 24h card that doesn’t include the transport or bus tour, and for me it was definitely worth it – had I paid for my Brussels card I would have spent €26, while entrance fees to the four museums I visited that day would have added up to €32.50 so I’d have saved €6.50, easily enough for some fries or a pint of Belgian beer. I could definitely have fitted in some more museums that day, and I’m disappointed that I didn’t make it to the Musical Instruments Museum with its rooftop bar that offers views across the city centre, but I’m pleased with what I did see. If you’re heading to Brussels, definitely have a look into the Brussels Card and see if it will save you any money based on your plans!

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