Brussels, Belgium is a fantastic starting point for any trip to Belgium: home to the most beautiful central plaza in all of Europe, the best beer & chocolate& waffles & fries & Speculoos cookies in the world, a tiny statue of a boy peeing, the capital of the European Union, the creation of Art Noveau, and about a zillion museums (108, to be exact). Brussels is kind of an overachiever, don’t you think? It’s like the city version of Hermione Granger. We were super stoked to find out about all of the museums in Brussels, because when we arrive in a new city – bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to go explore – one of the first things we do is hit the museum scene. Yes, we’re big nerds. But museums are such a fantastic way to learn about a new place and its culture, art, and history! We figured that with 108 museums, the possibilities for learning were just endless. But we quickly realized that Brussels’ museums aren’t your typical nerdfest.
True to form, overachieving Brussels – with its rich history, quirky sense of humor, delicious food and drink and stunning European architecture – is also home to a bunch of really weird, quirky, totally offbeat museums. In Brussels, museums aren’t just places to learn about art and culture and history. Museums in Brussels can also be places to drink beer, eat chocolate, get sort of creeped out, wander through the sewers, have your mind blown, explore conspiracy theories, and see a lot of dicks. (Don’t worry. They’re art dicks. So it’s educational.) Sit back, relax, and let us take you on a journey through the best museums in Brussels – both conventional and totally weird.
How to see Museums in Brussels on a Budget
The problem with visiting a lot of museums is that it can get kind of pricey. Knowledge is expensive, y’all. The solution? The Brussels Card. The Brussels Card is like a free pass to a bunch of the best museums in Brussels, as well as discounts at shops, restaurants, and attractions. For budget travelers like us, it’s a fantastic way to save money! We definitely recommend picking up a Brussels Card if you’re planning to see multiple museums in Brussels.
The Brussels Card has a ton to offer for all types of traveler. Want to check out some sassy surrealist art? Dying to dress up a peeing statue in cute little outfits? Or maybe you just want to do your best Jeff Goldblum impression while looking at dinosaurs? Well…”The Brussels Card…finds a way.” We highly recommend picking one up if you’re going to be visiting more than a couple of museums in Brussels. Plus, along with our Brussels Cards we also recieved a handy little map with every single one of the 108 museums on it!
The Best (Conventional) Museums in Brussels
It wouldn’t be fair to make a list of the museums in Brussels without including the ones that aren’t weird at all, but are still super great museums. So here’s a list of some of the best attractions and museums in Brussels about the usual sorts of things. These are the museums in Brussels you can visit with your parents, your kids, and that friend who gets queasy easily.
- The Mannekin Pis Garderobe: The famous Mannekin Pis, Brussels’ ridiculous city symbol, is eponymous with the city’s fantastic sense of humor. The fabulous statue is regularly dressed up in adorable little costumes – complete with a perfectly placed hole in the front – and has amassed an enormous wardrobe of all of his cute little outfits. This museum is like his very own massive closet (and of course, you can play dress-up with him, too).
- Cost: FREE with a Brussels Card (included with entry to the Museum of Brussels). Garderobe Website
- Museum of the City of Brussels: Learn all about the history of Brussels, and see the original Mannekin Pis statue in all of its tiny glory. They keep the real version here because people keep trying to kidnap it, Carmen Sandiego style.
- Cost: FREE with the Brussels Card. Brussels City Museum Website
- Musée Fin-de-Siècle Museum: A wonderful art museum dedicated to turn of the century early 1990’s art… with a Belgian twist. Brussels was the turn of the century capital of Art Noveau, which was terribly avant-garde at the time. So the art is much more irreverant than your typical snoozefest Rennaissance museum. There’s also a really rad elevator with a couch in it.
- Cost: FREE with the Brussels card. Fin-de-Siecle Website
- Belgian Comic Strip Center: Good-humored Belgium is world famous for its comics, such as the Smurfs, which you probably thought were an American invention, didn’t you? (Don’t worry, we totally did too.)
- Cost: €7 entry with the Brussels Card. Comic Strip Center Website
- The Atomium: Originally constructed for the 1958 World’s Fair, this massive model of an iron crystal (ironically made out of aluminum) magnified 165 billion times is something to behold. You can go up in the balls (hehe) for a great view, and there’s a cool art & design museum too.
- Mini Europe: Directly next to the Atomium, you’ll find perfect miniatures of European sights. Wanna know what’s overrated? Going to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower. Wanna know what’s awesome? Feeling like a giant as you stand next to mini The Leaning Tower, which is about your height.
- Cost: €12 entry with the Brussels Card. Mini Europe Website
- Museum of Costume & Lace: Fascinating museum about fashion history (such as an exhibit about the history of wedding dresses) and lace making, which is a historical Belgian craft. If you love beautiful old dresses and fashion (me!) this is a must visit.
- Cost: FREE with the Brussels Card. Museum of Costume & Lace Website
- Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History: This enormous, beautiful museum contains a staggering collection of arms and armor, a detailed explanation of the history of Belgium’s militia over 10 centuries of warfare (with its many conquerings and upheavals) and even an airplane hanger. Yes, with actual airplanes. Inside the museum. If you’re a history or military fan, this is your spot.
- Cost: FREE with the Brussels Card. Royal Military Museum Website
- Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences: The Brussels Natural History Museum, AKA Dinosaurs.
- Cost: FREE with the Brussels Card. Natural Sciences Museum Website
- Bibliotheca Wittockiana (Museum of Book Bindings and Book Arts): The museum for nerdy book lovers. If you get that warm fuzzy feeling when you smell a book and shed a tiny tear when watching the library scene in Beauty and the Beast, this museum is for you.
- Cost: FREE with the Brussels Card. Wittockiana Website.
- Musical Instrument Museum (MIM): A huge collection of musical instruments from throughout history, like lutes with 84 strings and jazz harpsichords or whatever.
- Cost: FREE with the Brussels Card. MIM Website
- Museum of Original Figurines (MOOF): Adorable tiny little figurines of all of your favorite characters, like the Smurfs, in adorable tiny little settings.
- Cost: FREE with the Brussels Card. MOOF Website
Weird Museums in Brussels
On a quest to prove that museums can be about anything, Brussels is home to a number of weird, quirky, unusual museums. These offbeat museums seem to pop up and shut down with frequency (it is with deepest sorrow that we must regretfully inform you that the Museum of Underwear and the Museum of Cats have both closed as of this posting). Luckily, there are still plenty weird museums in Brussels left in their wake. Here’s a list of our favorite unique, weird, and offbeat museums in Brussels. If you thought museums were boring and learning stuff was lame, think again.
- Museum of Fantastic Art: As if the title isn’t enticing enough, one description says “fantastical, bizarre and weird creations, sculptures and pictures” and elsewhere, “fantastic history of the biosynthesis works of professor D.” Who’s professor D? What’s biosynthesis? Does it matter??!! We’re in.
- Cost: €6 and a small piece of your soul. More Fantastic Information
- Magritte Museum: Sassy surrealist pop art from the cheeky man who painted a picture of a pipe and wrote “this is not a pipe” underneath it. Yes, the really famous one. Sarcastic artists are the best. Plus, now you can un-ironically own that t-shirt from Urban Outfitters and educate all of your less-cultured friends when they ask you about it, you snobby art douche.
- Cost: FREE with the Brussels Card. Magritte Museum Information
- Belgian Museum of Freemasonry: Because we may have quietly developed a theory that Brussels & the whole of Europe are actually being run by the Illuminati, #staywoke
- Cost: FREE with the Brussels Card, but your eyes will be opened forever. More Information
- Museum of the Black Sisters: Not at all related to the African Diaspora, but in fact about nuns and the black plague, which is rad. Mysteriously, it’s only open for 2 hours a week, on Wednesdays.
- Cost: €5 and the bubonic plague. Museum of the Black Sisters Website
- Spontaneous Art Museum: We were hoping that this was a museum full of people spontaneously bursting into fits of song and dance and painting and such. It’s not, but it’s just as interesting. The cheeky description on the Brussels Museum website describes it as a “bewildering journey through non-conventional art forms” and then says a bunch of other sassy stuff about how weird it is. Yes. Sold.
- Cost: Somewhere between €1 and €2, plus abandoning all of your “aesthetic preconceptions.” Sassy description here
- Clockarium: A whole museum just for art deco clocks!!?!?!?!? Is this real life?! You can only tour this masterpiece on Sundays at 3:05 pm sharp. Also, the tour is in French. Who cares? Worth it.
- Cost: €6, and the burning desire to stock your home with art deco clocks. Clockarium Website
- Sewers Museum: Exactly what it sounds like. Don’t worry, we hear this museum isn’t shitty. GET IT?!?!?!?!
- Cost: FREE with the Brussels Card, but you’ll need to do laundry ASAP. Sewers Museum Website
- Art & Marges Museum: Outsider art from artists “outside of the mainstream,” such as differently-abled and mentally challenged artists. Prepare to have all of your assumptions about artists destroyed.
- Cost: FREE with the Brussels Card, and you’ll have to check your privalege at the door. More information
- International Puppet Museum: Puppets are an important part of the history of Brussels, thanks to some insecure king years ago who made plays illegal because they were making fun of him, but agreed to let puppet theatres exist “for the children.” The puppet theatres made fun of him too, but secretly. Also, how creepy must this museum be for the poor janitor who has to clean it late at night?
- Cost: €9 and Chucky-esque nightmares for weeks after your visit. Puppet Museum Website
- Museum of Erotics and Mythology of Brussels: Aka the Museum of Sexy Sex. Prepare to be culturally titillated and see a LOT of dicks. Historical dicks, maybe even educational dicks, but still … dicks. This goes without saying, but expect mature content. (And dicks.)
- Cost: €10 and your innocence. Website (PG)
- Museums of the Far East: King Leopold II, who was a complete asshole, had an Asian fetish, so he built a quasi-racist Asian-inspired pavilion (it’s totally unauthentic and a poor representation of an entire continent, but it IS a gorgeous building) and a stunning Japanese garden with some of the billions he made exploiting and mass-murdering African natives in the Congo. While you’re strolling through Belgian Hitler’s palacial estate, think of the blood that was spilled to create it. (Note: there’s a LOT of controversy surrounding Belgium’s bloody history in the Congo. Royal Museum for Central Africa, which has its own shady and racist past to overcome, is currently under renovation, ostensibly to take a good hard look at itself.)
- Cost: Currently closed “for safety purposes,” whatever that means. Museums of the Far East Website
- Toy Museum: According to the Brussels Museum website’s descriptions, the Toy Museum is basically a giant attic filled with old toys that you can run around and play with to your heart’s content and there are no guards and everyone gets to be a kid again. So like, heaven.
- Cost: FREE with the Brussels Card, but you’ll never want to grow up again. Toy Museum Information
- Choco Story (Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate): Choco-Story is a cute little chocolate museum with a ton of free samples. You can even learn how to make pralines from an excellent demonstration (yes, you get to eat the pralines). There’s also a chocolate fountain. With Speculoos. Confession: We each ate like 36 and may have elbowed a kid out of the way to get more. #noshame
- Cost: FREE with the Brussels Card, and like 10 pounds of chocolate weight. Choco-Story Website
If you want to squeeze in more weird places before your flight out and you want a place to store your bags check out LuggageHero, a service that helps you find a safe place to keep your luggage while you’re running around! Use the code PRACTICALW for 2 hours of free luggage storage on us.
What’s your favorite weird and wacky museum in Brussels? Tell us below in the comments!
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Disclaimer: We were gifted Brussels Cards by Visit Brussels. All opinions, snide remarks about various museums, and mention of dicks are purely our own and absolutely not their fault.
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