City Center Museums, Brussels (Self Guided)

Known as the cultural capital of Belgium, Brussels has a large number of museums located in the heart of the city. Brussels is famous for such museums as the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, the Magritte Museum, the Museum of Brussels, the Museum of Musical Instruments, etc. This

tour includes the most popular museums in Brussels City Center, all within a pleasant walking distance.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for IOS   Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for Android

City Center Museums Map

Guide Name: City Center Museums
Guide Location: Belgium » Brussels (See other walking tours in Brussels)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 km
Author: audrey
BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts

1) BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts (must see)

The Centre for Fine Arts is a primary cultural venue in Brussels. Its construction was completed in 1928. Funding was originally denied for the project; however, a society dedicated to construction of a fine arts center was established in 1922. This society renewed interest in building a fine arts center. The government finally supported the construction but put some restrictions on the building. For one, it needed to include shopping on the ground floor. Also, the height of the building was to be limited so as to not block the King’s skyline views from the Royal Palace.

The building features an Art Deco architectural style and was designed by Art Noveau architect Victor Horta. The building is recognized as an Art Deco masterpiece and is often lauded for its ability to put together many uses and functions into a relatively small building plot. The design incorporates eight different building levels, with much of it underground. The complex includes a sizable concert hall, recital room, chamber music room, lecture rooms, and has an extensive gallery for temporary exhibits. Today, the building goes by the name BOZAR and features several different artistic departments.

Why You Should Visit:
Brussel's multicultural hot-spot – be it an exhibit, a concert, a screening or any other cultural activity, this is where they will premiere.
The Henry Le Bœuf Great Hall (2,200 seats) is a must-see in itself – a beautiful oval concert hall with marvelous acoustics.
Not only is the centre well worth seeing but the area is wonderful to roam around, too!

If you have little time and/or money, check out which free exhibition(s) they have on display.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Wed, Fri-Sun: 10am-6pm; Thu: 10am-9pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Bellevue Museum

2) Bellevue Museum

For those interested in the national history of Belgium, the BELvue Museum is the place to be. The museum is next to the Royal Palace and is located in the 18th century Bellevue Hotel. The hotel served as a resting point for wealthy travelers and dignitaries. In 1977 the hotel was transformed into the present-day museum. Spread over three floors and twelve rooms, the museum exhibits cover the major periods in Belgium’s history from 1830 to 2005, with special emphasis on the Belgian Revolution, World War I and World War II. Contemporary topics like suffrage, the golden 60s, and state reforms are also presented. The exhibits are rich in original documents and audiovisual testimonials, which provides additional context to the topics on display. Two floors of the museum maintain the original styles of Napoleon III and Louis XV, and are decorated with 18th century furniture. Each of the Belgian kings has an exhibit which takes the visitor through a series of works and portraits which display each king’s unique personality and accomplishments. Temporary rotating exhibits are also presented at the museum.

The BELvue is open from 09:30 to 17:00 Tuesday until Friday, Monday only for groups with reservation, and from 10:00 to 18:00 Saturday and Sunday in July and August.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Royal Museums of Fine Arts

3) Royal Museums of Fine Arts (must see)

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium are situated in the capital Brussels in the downtown area on the Coudenberg. There are four museums connected with the Royal Museum, and two of them (the Museum of Ancient Art and the Museum of Modern Art, Brussels), are in the main building. The other two (the Museum Constantin Meunier and the Antoine Wiertz Museum) are dedicated to specific Belgian artists, are much smaller, and are located at different points in the city.

The Royal Museum contains over 20,000 drawings, sculptures, and paintings, which date from the early 15th century to the present. The museum has an extensive collection of Flemish paintings, among them paintings by Bruegel and Rogier van der Weyden, Robert Campin, Anthony van Dyck, and Jacob Jordaens. The museum is also proud of its "Rubens Room", which houses more than 20 paintings by the artist.

Why You Should Visit:
An easy choice for an afternoon in Brussels, the combination of The Old Masters Museum, Modern Museum, and Magritte Museum is a veritable steal for the cost of admission and although at times clustered, the variety and expanse of the collection is something that needs to be seen. Not free, but inexpensive and the extra charge for the audio guide is worth it. You can buy entry to all the collections or just one.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Fri: 10am-5pm; Sat-Sun: 11am-6pm;

Tue-Fri: 10am-12pm, 12:45-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Magritte Museum

4) Magritte Museum (must see)

The Magritte Museum is dedicated to showing the works of the famous Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte. Centered in Paris, the surrealist movement began in the 1920s and incorporated an element of surprise and unexpected connections. Known for his humorous and witty images, Magritte challenged the viewer’s perception of reality. He is known for saying, “If the dream is a translation of waking life, waking life is also a translation of the dream.” His artwork featured common objects in uncommon circumstances, such as umbrellas, pipes, stones, apples and men in bowler hats.

The museum opened in 2009 and has over 25,000 square feet of exhibit space and five exhibition levels. With over 200 original paintings, sculptures and drawings, the museum is the largest collection of his works in the world. Work on display includes The Empire of Light, Scheherazade, and The Return. In addition to serving as a repository for Magritte’s works, the museum is also the hub of research and information related to the artist. The museum is arranged chronologically and provides an overview of the artist’s life and the progression of his artwork. The Magritte museum is housed in the lovely Altenloh Hotel, a restored neo-classical landmark which is part of the Museum of Modern art complex on Brussels’ Place Royale.

Why You Should Visit:
Very well laid out over three floors – a nice escape into a different world for a few hours.
Interesting to see the genesis of Magritte's major themes and also what happens when one becomes a retired surrealist.
The gift shop has a lot of prints of the art on various objects for good prices.

Make time for the Magritte film on the same level as the gift shop.
For the best experience get an audio guide – however, beware the ordering can get a bit awry in places.
Consider buying an 'all museums' ticket, as it is inexpensive and allows access to two additional beautiful museums, which are interconnected, so you don't have to go outside.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Fri: 10am-5pm; Sat-Sun: 11am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Musical Instruments Museum (MIM)

5) Musical Instruments Museum (MIM) (must see)

The Musical Instruments Museum started out as a place to display the musical instrument collection of two individuals: Françoise-Joseph Fétis and Raja Sourindro Mohun Tagore. The collection was further expanded under the leadership of the museum’s first curator, Victor-Charles Mahillo, who headed up the museum in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Subsequent contributions to the museum expanded the collection. Today, over 2,000 instruments are on display. The collection includes musical instruments from many countries and from different time periods, with some pieces over 500 years old. The exhibits are spread over four floors. Visitors to the museum are provided with headphones to listen to individual samples of over 200 of the instruments exhibited.

The museum was originally located adjacent to the Brussels Royal Conservatory, where its primary purpose was showing students early instruments as part of their curriculum. In 2000, the museum moved to its current location, a beautiful Art Nouveau style building that housed the former Old England department store. The store name is still visible on the upper facade of the building. The interior of the building was significantly renovated when it became a museum. The top floor of the museum features a restaurant and tea room which affords sweeping views of Brussels and is particularly popular in summer.

Why You Should Visit:
There is a great collection of instruments to see/hear, as long as you don't expect too much information on their history, context, and development.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Fri: 9:30am-5pm; Sat-Sun: 10am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Printing Museum

6) Printing Museum

The Printing Museum is housed in the Royal Library building and focuses on the technology and history of books, printing, book crafts, and office equipment. The museum started in 1975 and has the most significant collection of printing equipment in Europe. The museum owns over 400 presses dating from the 18th century through the 20th century. Particularly notable presses in the museum include a wooden 18th century typographical press, a metallic arm press, a Stanhope printing press, and unique presses from Elskamp, Curvers and Rops. The museum also presents a cylindrical press from 1916 that was used by German forces that were occupying Brussels during World War I. The museum also displays gilding and bookbinding samples as well as presses and furniture associated with copperplate engraving, offset printing, typography and screen printing (silkscreens and stencils). The office equipment portion of the museum displays typewriters, copy machines and calculation machines. As a historical note, the printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440. Gutenberg was born in Mainz, Germany. His creation of a press that included movable type remained the primary method of printing until the late 20th century. The museum is open by request Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 4:45 pm.
Museum of Costume and Lace

7) Museum of Costume and Lace

The Museum of Costume and Lace is located near the Grand Place and focuses on the textile history of Belgium, specifically lace and fabric. The clothing and manufacturing industry is one of the reasons that Brussels and the surrounding area was so prosperous during the Middle Ages. If you love fashion, fabric, or lace, this museum will be a “must see” on your list. The museum has a mix of permanent and rotating exhibits. Some of the costumes in the museum date back to the 1800s. In addition there are accessories, lace samples and other related items. The museum is housed in two 18th century houses that had their interiors redesigned so the flow would work for a museum space. The collection covers three floors. The first and second floors display handmade costumes from many eras. The third floor shows fine delicate lace on display. Visitors to the museum will be provided a printed guidebook during their visit. English language booklets are available, though the film on fashion that is screened in the museum is only in French.

Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday: 10.00-17.00;
Closed: Monday & 1/1, 1/5, 1/11 and 11/11, 25/12
Museum of the Belgian Brewers

8) Museum of the Belgian Brewers

Situated in the basement of the historical Maison des Brasseurs (Brewer’s House), the Belgian Brewers Museum provides the visitor with an overview of the history of beer brewing in the country. The history of beer in Belgium dates back to the Middle Ages and the tradition of brewing has continued since that time. Today, over 400 varieties of beer are brewed annually in the country. The museum sits adjacent to the Town Hall in a baroque-style building adorned with bas-relief golden barley. Visitors to the museum will experience representations of three different brewing time periods during their visit. The first is an 18th century brewery from Hoegaarden, which includes brewing and fermentation tubs, boiling kettles and other typical materials from the time period. The second is a cozy café, where you get a feel for what a bar/café scene would have been like. From the antique porcelain, old beer tankards and old inn-keeping objects, the details create a sense of authenticity. The third portion of the tour is a representation of a modern state-of-the art brewery. Visitors will learn about different raw materials that go into making beer. The best part … beer samples are included at the end of the tour.

Operation hours: daily 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
King's House / City Museum of Brussels

9) King's House / City Museum of Brussels (must see)

The King’s House, also known as Maison du Roi, is designed in a Neo-Gothic style incorporating many decorative statues. The Dutch name for the building is “Broodhuis”, which translates to “bread house”. This gives a clue to the early origins of the building. At the beginning of the 13th century, a wooden structure stood on this location and was used by bakers to sell their products. In the early 1400s, a stone structure was constructed to replace the original wooden building. In the 1500s bakers favored selling their bread door-to-door and the need for a bread selling house slowly diminished. Instead of letting the building sit empty, it began to be used as a government administrative building. Over the next couple of hundred years, the building declined to the point that it had to be rebuilt. In 1860 the city purchased the building and initiated a complete tear down/restoration. The neo-gothic architecture of the King’s House was inspired by the Oudenaard City town hall.

Today the building houses the City Museum of Brussels. The museum portrays the history of the City and features pieces of Brussels’ heritage including original statues of the town hall, wall tapestries, earthenware, silverware, paintings and other artifacts that speak volumes about the past of the Belgian capital.

Why You Should Visit:
Good way to familiarise yourself with the history of the city while on the run.
While the building itself is a sight to behold, its balcony gives a great view of the plaza.

There's an entire exhibit dedicated to the genuine 'Manneken Pis' on the top floor, which is unmissable.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate

10) Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate

By now you have probably realized that chocolate is a national passion in Belgium. The 2,000 chocolate shops in the country certainly speak to that fact. The Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate is another example that the country is crazy for chocolate. The museum was founded in 1998 and is dedicated to all things chocolate. A guided tour is included with a visit to this museum and presents an overview of the history of chocolate in Latin America and Europe and how it is made in modern times. Special attention is given to the Belgian praline; a candy featuring a soft fondant center dipped in chocolate and produced in the shape of a shell. The tour includes a chocolate demonstration where you can watch a master chocolatier make the popular pralines. The museum includes two floors of exhibits and is permeated by the scent of melted chocolate. Particularly unique items in the museum include chocolate sculptures and chocolate-decorated fabrics. The museum director is Jo Draps. She is the granddaughter of Joseph Draps, the founder of Godiva chocolates. Tours are available in English and French. Visitors are encouraged to sample the chocolates being made by the demonstrating master chocolatier and by dipping cookies into a chocolate fountain.

Operation hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 10:00 am - 4:30 pm.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Brussels, Belgium

Create Your Own Walk in Brussels

Create Your Own Walk in Brussels

Creating your own self-guided walk in Brussels is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
City Center Orientation Walk

City Center Orientation Walk

Brussels is a major European capital with a remarkable history and cultural heritage. It features a large number of architectural sites, museums and world -famous specialty shops. Take a walk and discover the main landmarks of Brussels such as the world-renowned Grand Place and the Royal Palace.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.4 km
A Walking Tour in Heysel Park

A Walking Tour in Heysel Park

Situated in north Brussels, Heysel Park was home to the 1935 Brussels International Exposition. Today, Heysel Park is a great place to take your family and kids, it is home to such entertainment venues as the Planetarium, Carousel and Oceade water park. Heysel Park also includes a number of significant tourist spots, such as the Atomium, the Palace of Exhibitions, Bruparck, and other Art Deco...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 km
Cinquantenaire Walking Tour

Cinquantenaire Walking Tour

Cinquantenaire is a famous public park in Brussels. Planned by King Leopold in the late 19th century, Cinquantenaire hosts some of the most significant museums in Brussels, such as the Museum of Art and History, the Museum of the Army and Military History, and the Autoworld museum. There are also a number of monuments located in the park. Check out this guide to fully explore this wonderful park.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 km
Leopold Quarter Walking Tour

Leopold Quarter Walking Tour

Built in 1837, the Leopold Quarter is a popular district in Brussels and features some of city's most significant buildings, like the Paul-Henri Spaak building, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and Antoine Wiertz Museum. The district is also home to the popular Leopold Park and Jean Rey Square. Check out this next three-hour tour and enjoy the best sites of the Leopold Quarter...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 km
Central Nightlife Tour Part 2

Central Nightlife Tour Part 2

Brussels' nightlife is represented by the variety of its clubs, among which are not only out and out discotheques, but also clubs that host world-famous DJs and live music. Brussels has some of the most fashionable night clubs in Belgium, such as Fuse, Bazaar and Havana. Take this walking tour to visit the most famous venues located in Central Brussels, all within a pleasant walking distance.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 km
Manneken Pis Surroundings Walking Tour

Manneken Pis Surroundings Walking Tour

Seen as the emblem of Brussels, Manneken Pis is a statue in the center of the city. The famous statue is surrounded by the city's fanciest points of interest, such as the Brussels Regional Parliament building, the Church of Our Lady and the Stock Exchange building. Take this three hour tour to visit the popular Manneken Pis and its wonderful surroundings in the center of Brussels.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

Belgian Beer Tour of Brussels

Belgian Beer Tour of Brussels

Belgium is world-renowned for its beers and Brussels is the best city to sample the huge variety of flavors. We'll show you the best places to buy them and to drink them. We'll even show you a family brewery where the liquid gold is produced right in front of your eyes! This tour is meant...
What to Buy in Brussels: 15 Ideas for Travelers

What to Buy in Brussels: 15 Ideas for Travelers

It's no secret that Brussels is not all about JCVD muscles and EU headquarters. Small country as such, Belgium abounds in signature items, such as beer, chocolates and... the peeing boy. All of these have made prime Belgian souvenirs for years. Now you can explore the Brussels gift scene in...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Brussels for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Brussels has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money getting around Brussels and visiting the city's multiple highlights, you may want to resort to the Brussels City Card.

Among other conveniences, this card allows its bearer to explore Brussels's top attractions, tours, restaurants, bars and clubs, and selected shops either completely free of charge (41 museums) or with great (up to 50%) discounts. The card provides 24-, 48-, or 72-hour passes to these locations, plus free ride on the hop-on hop-off bus and public transportation (optional) thus putting Brussels at your fingertips! Reduced rates for children and students also apply at participating venues.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Brussels hotels that are conveniently located, but at the same time, also not so ridiculously expensive: NH Brussels Carrefour de L’Europe, Rocco Forte Hotel Amigo, Hotel Novotel Brussels Off Grand Place.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Brussels, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close, with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, as a guided tour of Brussels typically costs from around US$20 up to US$50+ per person:

- Take a 3-hour guided walk around central Brussels to discover the city's historic locations, learn about its legendary men and women who made history, delve into the origins of Brussels, and acquaint yourself with the Belgian capital's contemporary culture and gastronomy;

- Embark on a must-see tour of real Brussels exploring the city's top attractions through the eyes of a local guide revealing a flip side of the well-known locations, plus discovering a few secret spots only the locals know about, away from the trodden tourist paths. En route, you may give yourself a treat to the authentic Belgian cuisine at a local eatery, not forgetting the world-famous Belgian chocolate, plus indulge yourself in some other local delights along the way.

- Appreciate Belgian gastronomy in its diversity – chocolate, waffles, beers, fries, and more – on the Food and Beer walking tour of Brussels offering a unique chance to savor a variety of local foods, drink local beers and unleash your sweet tooth onto the delicious local chocolate, whilst listening to a great deal of fun stories associated with each of these delights!

- Come and see what's made Belgium an international beer superpower on a 2.5-hour beer tasting tour of Brussels led by a local expert. Here, you will learn to tell a difference between the Belgian and foreign-made brews plus acquaint yourself with some of the 1,000+ craft beers made in this country.

- Pedal your way across Brussels on a 3.5-hour guided biking tour to discover the city's beauty manifested in its top landmarks, breath in the local atmosphere, plus enjoy along the way some of the best fries and beer (optional) the city has to offer.

- Explore the artistic side of Brussels on the tour following in the footsteps of renowned Belgian artists who left their mark in the field of Surrealist painting and Art Nouveau architecture. On this tour you will see some of the city's hidden gems, visit independent galleries and more, led step by step by a knowledgeable local guide.

Day Trips

If you have a half or full day to spare whilst in Brussels, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations, like Ghent and Bruges, Antwerp, Maasmechelen, or Waterloo. For as little as US$10+ to US$100+ you will get a chance to acquaint yourself with the UNESCO World Heritage city of Ghent's medieval architecture, learn about Bruges's Viking and Middle Age history, get to see Antwerp - the hometown of Peter Paul Rubens and one of the largest harbors in the world, shop till you drop at Maasmechelen Village with over 100 international boutiques offering big-name brand clothing at reduced (down to 40%) prices, plus visit the site of one of the most significant battles in the history of Europe that saw the ultimate defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte. All these trips start and end at your hotel and you'll be carried by a comfortable air-conditioned coach or minivan, accompanied by an English-speaking tour guide.