Mont Des Arts Walk (Self Guided), Brussels

Mont des Arts, meaning "hill/mount of the arts", is a historic site in the center of Brussels. The Mont des Arts offers one of Brussels' finest views, the famous tower of the Brussels Town Hall in the Grand Place is clearly visible. On a sunny day, the Koekelberg Basilica and even the Atomium can be seen.
Major tourist attractions are located within walking distance of the Kunstberg: the Musical Instrument Museum, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, the Royal Palace, and the city's cathedral.
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Mont Des Arts Walk Map

Guide Name: Mont Des Arts Walk
Guide Location: Belgium » Brussels (See other walking tours in Brussels)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 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
Godfrey of Bouillon Statue

3) Godfrey of Bouillon Statue

This imposing statue was erected in the Royal Square in 1843. It depicts Godfrey of Bouillon on a horse and was designed by Eugène Simonis. Known for being one of the leaders of the First Crusade, Bouillon was a Frankish knight born in the Brabant region of France (which is now part of Belgium). The First Crusade was called by Pope Urban II in 1096 and was meant to liberate Jerusalem and aid the Byzantine Empire. Both of these places were under attack from Muslim forces. Godfrey felt compelled to participate in the Crusade and wanted to pull together a group of knights to fight in the Holy Land. By taking out loans or selling his land outright, he was able to gather thousands of knights. He died in Jerusalem in 1100. There are differing reports of the cause of his death, from getting shot with an arrow, to contracting an illness, to getting poisoned. Godfrey of Bouillon’s legacy continues on through his appearance in classic written texts. For example he was named the hero on Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata. In The Divine Comedy the spirit of Godfrey is seen by Dante in the Heavens of Mars. Mark Twain gives a mention of Godfrey’s sword in “Innocents Abroad.”
Sight description based on wikipedia
Church of Saint-Jacob

4) Church of Saint-Jacob

Historically, this site supported a medieval abbey church. However, the original church was destroyed in the mid 1700s in favor of a new church that would be more consistent with the overall urban planning efforts that were underway by Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine. The new church location was proposed so it would be in line with rue Montage de la Cour. The current church was constructed over a 14-year period, from 1776 to 1780, with the addition of the nave, transept, choir and sacristy constructed in the years 1785 and 1786. Following its consecration, it was used as both an abbey and parish church. During the French Revolution, the abbey was suspended and the church became a Temple of Reason and later a Temple of Law. Temple of Reason was a temple for a new belief system created to replace Christianity during the French Revolution. The church was put back into Catholic control in 1802. The building features neoclassical architecture, though some of the neoclassical appearance was diminished with the addition of a 19th-century bell tower and placement of colored frescoes on the pediment by artist Jean Portaeles. The building is topped with three sculptures depicting Saint Andrew, Saint James, and Saint John. The interior of the church is rather simple compared to that of other churches built at this time; however, it does have some notable features including large paintings located on each side of the transept. These were painted by Portaeles and are called The Crucifix and the Spear Blow, on the left, and the Cross of Salvation, on the right. The vault of the cupola is decorated with octagonal caissons full of roses.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Royal Museums of Fine Arts

5) 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

6) 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)

7) 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
Magritte Gallery

8) Magritte Gallery

What to buy here: art prints, books and postcards. It’s an odd thing that it took René Magritte so long to get his own museum in the very town he lived in for most of his life. Not until 2009 did the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium decide to give the influential surrealist artist a permanent exposition in one of its buildings. In the first six months alone the René Magritte Museum attracted 300.000 visitors and has continued to be a huge crowd pleaser for art-loving tourists.

In its halls, more than 200 of the master surrealist’s works are on permanent display, which makes it the largest collection of Magritte’s works in the world. One of the highlights is L’Empire des Lumières (translated as ‘dominion of lights’ or ‘empire of lights’), commissioned in 1954 by the museum that now exhibits it. Magritte made no less than seventeen versions in oil paint of this work, which can be found in museums all over the world, including the MoMA in New York. L’Empire des Lumières also made quite the impact outside of the art world, as it was supposedly used as inspiration for the iconic movie poster of The Exorcist. Not surprising, as his paintings are notorious for their eerie and unreal atmosphere.

If you can’t get enough of Magritte, take him home with you! The nearby Magritte Gallery sells a good selection of reproductions of his most famous works, including high-quality prints of L’Empire des Lumières (200 euros). The small gallery also has an assortment of books and postcards on display.

Open: Mon - Sat (9:30-19:00), Closed: Sun

Phone: +32 (0)2 503 31 10
Palace of Charles of Lorraine / Museum of the 18th century

9) Palace of Charles of Lorraine / Museum of the 18th century (must see)

This palace was named for Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine, the governor-general of the Austrian Netherlands from 1744 to 1780. He served as one of the principal commanders in the Austrian military during the War of the Austrian Succession. The building started out as an old townhouse for the Counts of Nassau but was transformed into a neoclassical palace. Notable features of the building include a rotunda with a central rosette made from 28 different types of Belgian marble. The marble came from the Prince’s personal collection of minerals. The Prince was very interested in science and his personal collection of mineral pieces numbered over 5,000.

The palace has five halls, each decorated in stucco and silk. Each hall reflects a particular aspect of Charles de Lorraine’s life, including science, leisure, traveling, freemasonry and music. It is in these halls that guests were entertained and state affairs were handled. Today it serves as a museum for 18th-century items demonstrating the aristocratic and intellectual life at the time, including sedans, china, silverware, clocks, scientific instruments, and medals. The exhibited works are from the collections of the Royal Museum of Art and History and the Royal Library.

Why You Should Visit:
Architecturally attractive, in spite of being almost hidden from view (and tourists).

Opening Hours:
10am-5pm – only on every 1st Saturday of the month; free admission
Sight description based on wikipedia
Arts Mountain

10) Arts Mountain

The Kunstberg or Mont des Arts, meaning "hill/mountain of the arts", is a historic site in the center of Brussels. The showcase square was created for the Universal Exposition held in Brussels in 1910. It featured a park and a monumental staircase with cascading fountains descending the gentle slope from Place Royale down to Boulevard de l'Empereur/Keizerslaan. The original square was destroyed during the post-war construction frenzy known as Brusselization; between 1954 and 1965, the square and its surroundings gave way to massive, severely geometric postmodern structures such as the Royal Library of Belgium and the Congress Palace. The Mont des Arts offers one of Brussels’ finest views. From the vantage point on a hill, the famous tower of the Brussels Town Hall at the Grand Place is clearly visible. On a sunny day, the Koekelberg Basilica and even the Atomium can be seen.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Royal Library

11) Royal Library

The Royal Library of Belgium is a key cultural institution in Belgium with a long history. The library’s history dates back to the Dukes of Burgundy in the 800s, though it has occupied different areas through time. Its current location in the Mont des Arts area puts in adjacent to many of the important cultural institutions in Brussels. The library’s collection is eclectic. For example, the library maintains historically-important collections, including the Fétis archives. Fétis was an influential figure in Belgian music and was a computer, music teacher and critic. The library also serves as a depository for any book published in Belgium or a book published abroad by a Belgian author. In addition the library has over 200,000 maps, atlases and globes. Old books, printed as early as the 15th century, are housed in the library, as well as 35,000 manuscripts, including codices from the Middle Ages. A special Medal section is dedicated to the preservation and study of coins. The Center for American Studies is also housed in the library. The Institute is affiliated with four universities (University of Antwerp, Free University of Brussels, University of Ghent, and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) and students can earn a Masters degree in American Studies.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Printing Museum

12) 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.
Statue of Albert I

13) Statue of Albert I

This statue depicts King Albert I, who served as the King of the Belgians from 1909 to 1934. It was designed by Alfred Courtens and was inaugurated in 1951. Albert grew up in the Palace of Flanders. Interestingly, he was fourth in line of succession to the Belgian throne, but quickly moved closer as both his cousin and older brother died. By the time Albert was 16, he was second in line, after his father, to take the throne. Albert took his future task of king very seriously. He was very studious and was particularly concerned about the welfare for the working class of Belgium. He made trips, incognito, to various working class districts to become acquainted with the living conditions of the working class. He also made a trip to the Belgian Congo to gain a better understanding of the situation in the colony. Moved by what he saw, he returned to Belgium and initiated reforms to protect the native populations and to increase progress in the Belgian Congo. King Albert I was often referred to as a “soldier king”, due to his brave actions on the battlefield. This statue is located at the entrance of the Mont des Arts, which is dedicated to his memory. Fittingly, his statue stands across from one of his wife, Queen Elisabeth I.
Statue of Queen Elisabeth I

14) Statue of Queen Elisabeth I

This statue depicts Queen Elisabeth I, also known as Elisabeth of Bavaria. Elisabeth was married to Prince Albert, who later became the King of the Belgians and served as such from 1909 to 1934. The statue was designed by René Cliquet and was completed in 1980. Elisabeth’s statue faces the equestrian statue of her husband, Albert I. During World War I, the Queen made visits to the front lines and also sponsored a nursing unit. This endeared her to many people in both Belgium and in other European countries. In her later years, she became a significant patron of the arts. In 1937 she established an international music competition as a place for young virtuosi to showcase their musical talent. The competition continues to this day, with the challenge being held every three years. In the early 1940s, during the German occupation of Belgium, she used her German connections and influence to assist in the rescue of hundreds of Jewish children who were facing deportation by the Nazis. After the war, her efforts were recognized by the Israel government and she was awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations. This award recognizes non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Elisabeth died in 1965 at the age of 89. She is interred at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken in Brussels.

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