Museums and Galleries Walk (Self Guided), Ghent

Ghent is a beautiful Belgian city, the largest one in the East Flanders province. It boasts many interesting museums and art galleries , many of which showcase contemporary art. The most important museums include the Design Museum, the House of the Alijn Family, the Museum of Folklore and more. An art lover's trip to Ghent won't be complete without a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Modern Art, known by locals as S.M.A.K. Take this self-guided tour to visit the most popular ones Ghent.
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Museums and Galleries Walk Map

Guide Name: Museums and Galleries Walk
Guide Location: Belgium » Ghent (See other walking tours in Ghent)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.8 Km or 3.6 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Museum of Contemporary Art (S.M.A.K.)
  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • Ghent City Museum (STAM)
  • Kunst in Huis
  • Museum A. Vander Haeghen
  • Design Museum Gent
  • Huis van Alijn
  • Museum of Industry
  • Lapidary Museum
Museum of Contemporary Art (S.M.A.K.)

1) Museum of Contemporary Art (S.M.A.K.) (must see)

S.M.A.K. (Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst) displays the best of contemporary art and is renowned both for its permanent collection (Karel Appel, Francis Bacon, Panamarenko, Andy Warhol, etc.) and for its provocative exhibitions created by both Belgian and international artists. Here you can view very unusual and extremely creative art pieces, such as the Aeromodeller of the future. Much of the work on display is made from different materials using a variety of techniques.

Why You Should Visit:
If you are a fan of modern art/design, you'll feel at home in this gorgeous building.
It's right next door to the Fine Arts Museum, so you can do both at one go.
Excellent café serving hot and cold lunches – seating both inside and outside.

Check beforehand which exhibitions are running and you'll have a good time.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Fri: 9:30am-5:30pm; Sat, Sun, Holidays: 10am-6pm
Museum of Fine Arts

2) Museum of Fine Arts (must see)

Situated on the east side of Citadel Park, the Museum of Fine Arts (Museum voor Schone Kunsten) holds a large permanent collection of art from the Middle Ages to the mid-20th Century. The collection focuses on Flemish Art (Southern Netherlands) but also has several European – especially French – paintings. It also has a large number of sculptures. Aside from its permanent collection, the museum houses temporary exhibitions. The building was designed by city architect Charles van Rysselberghe around 1900. The museum is a member of The Flemish Art Collection, which is a structural partnership joining the three main museums of fine arts in Flanders: the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, the Groeninge Museum in Bruges and the Gent Museum of Fine Arts.

Why You Should Visit:
To enjoy works of different periods including the 17th-century and Baroque styles as well as most that followed: Romanticism, Impressionism, Expressionism, abstract art.
A particularly interesting part of this gallery is the restoration workroom that allows you to witness and understand the technique of restoring the older paintings.

Make sure to pick up a map as the layout may be a bit confusing, but once you figured it out it is easy to follow the timeline from oldest to modern works.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Fri: 9:30am-5:30pm; Sat, Sun, Holidays: 10am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Ghent City Museum (STAM)

3) Ghent City Museum (STAM) (must see)

The City Museum of Ghent, otherwise known as STAM, exposes the city history and opened its doors in 2010. Among other things here you will learn about the ancient Bijloke Abbey on the grounds of which the museum is situated. The permanent exhibition titled "The Story of Ghent" charts major milestones of the city's development throughout centuries, starting from modern Ghent on the first floor to the medieval period, featuring the "chastened city" of 1600-1800, the "industrial city" of 1800-1950 and ultimately the "network city" from 1950 to the present day.

Eyecatching parts of the museum are the sky picture of Ghent (300 m² large) on which the visitors can walk around, and software with which Ghent can be viewed in detail and over the course of four centuries. "Views on Ghent" is another multimedia application: a screen shows a city view from the year 1534, floor-plans from 1614 and 1912 and a sky picture from the present. There is also a room for temporary exhibitions.

Why You Should Visit:
The displays, organization, items, and flow through the rooms and the history of Ghent are so well done – no wonder this won the 2012 Flemish Museum Prize.

It is well worth supplementing the info boards with the free audio guides, as some of the panels are in Flemish only.
Also, notice the benches in the corridors. Lean back and press the English button on the seats for more commentary.

Operation hours:
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri: 9am-5pm; Sat, Sun: 10am-6pm
Kunst in Huis

4) Kunst in Huis

Kunst in Huis translates into English as "Art House". Here you can see the contemporary work of young Flemish artists. The Art House promotes emerging artists by organizing temporary exhibitions of their works. Here the selected artists find venue to showcase their creations, but also the much needed financial remuneration. Visitors to Kunst in Huis can buy the displayed items as well as meet their authors.

Operation hours: Thursday - Friday: 1 pm - 5:30 pm; Saturday: 10 am - 4 pm
Museum A. Vander Haeghen

5) Museum A. Vander Haeghen

The Museum A. Vander Haeghen has several remarkable collections, including the library of the Nobel Prize in Literature winner, Maurice Maeterlinck. Here you can also find an exhibit that tells the story of great world artists such as Victor Stuyvaert and Charles Doudelet. Be sure to not miss the museum's splendid 18th-century painted silk wall. The museum is housed in the building of the former Hotel Clemmen, a mansion that was built in 1746 and was designed by David 't Kindt.

Operation hours: Thursday-Saturday 8:30 am- 4 pm.
Design Museum Gent

6) Design Museum Gent (must see)

Design Museum Gent is the only museum in Belgium with an international design collection. It showcases objects from various periods and has two major collections displayed in two different sections. One is housed in the former Hotel de Coninck, built in 1755, and containing 17th and 18th-century decorative furnishings. The hotel's exquisite decor – grand with the carved wooden chandelier in the dining room – is an attraction its own right. The other, newer space is a modernist wing constructed in 1992. Its focal piece is a hydraulic lift in the middle, surrounded by floors of malleable space. Here visitors can observe a superb collection of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and contemporary/avant-garde design.

Check which exhibitions are on before you visit.
Entry included in the excellent value CityCard.

Opening Hours:
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri: 9:30am–5:30 pm; Sat, Sun, Holidays: 10am–6 pm
Closed on Wednesdays, Christmas & New Year
Huis van Alijn

7) Huis van Alijn (must see)

Complete with a beautiful inner garden, café and shop, this museum holds a special place in the historic center of Ghent. The House of Alijn brings to life a fascinating tale of all things big and small, offering a vivid portrayal of the evolution of the 20th-century everyday life culture. On display are ordinary objects and curiosities which deliver a striking introduction to mankind's common heritage. The exhibited items convey the spirit of the times, much as the ways and customs of people, and serve as a reminder of the days gone by. Visitors to the museum have at their disposal the digital photo album, sound-recordings, and vignettes from various films.

Why You Should Visit:
To learn how people used to live around Ghent, and the changing expositions are always fun to see.
Particularly enjoyable exploring with someone else instead of alone, to talk to each other about the objects.

The courtyard with a delightful café in the center is worth popping into even without entering the museum. During the Patershol festival, they even have a stage and live jazz band in the evening.

Opening Hours:
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri: 9am-5pm; Sat, Sun, Holidays: 10am-6pm
Closed on Wednesdays, December 24th, 25th, 31st, and January 1st
Museum of Industry

8) Museum of Industry (must see)

In the centre of Ghent, just a stone’s throw from the Vrijdagmarkt, the Industiemuseum is located in an impressive factory building. In the former cotton mill – you can still smell the machine oil! – major and minor stories out of the eventful history of industry are brought to life. Various generations of entrepreneurs, merchants and labourers sweep you along in a universal story about people and machines, and how they changed the world around us.

The Industiemuseum’s surprisingly diverse collection with international appeal piques visitors’ curiosity. Evocative images, historical films, notable objects and gripping tales make the industrial past come to life; from a colossal steam machine to old advertisements, to the story of a labourer living in a humble factory-provided workman’s dwelling.

Why You Should Visit:
Surprisingly fun, interesting and well laid out place, with everything written in multiple languages thanks to guidebooks that are placed on the different floors.
Some of the machines still actually function and are being demonstrated. In the shop, you can buy the products that are made with them.

Find the English written guides at the main entrance of each floor, and don't miss the unique view over the city from the large windows on the top floor!

Opening Hours:
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri: 9am-5pm; Sat, Sun, Holidays: 10am-6pm
Lapidary Museum

9) Lapidary Museum

The Lapidary Museum is located on the ruins of what used to be St. Bavo Abbey. The museum displays pieces of old stone buildings, monuments and memorials, among which are tombstones dating back to the 13th century. The majority of these tombstones come from abbeys, monasteries and churches which at some point decided to sell their old stones to clear space for new ones. The museum features the tombstone of Hubert van Eyck, author of the magnificent 'Adoration of the Mystic Lamb' painting.

Walking Tours in Ghent, Belgium

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