I should premise this entry by saying that I have only been to Brussels once, but the one time I have travelled there, I went solely for the purpose of seeing art.
For the frugal traveler, Brussels is the perfect city. Viewing the architecture is obviously free, and the museums in Brussels are cheaper than almost anywhere else in Europe, especially for students. Brussels is most famously known for what has been referred to as “the most beautiful square in Europe:” La Grande Place. If you so happen to venture to Brussels at Christmas time, be sure to catch the light show at La Grande Place, which highlights architectural details.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels is much larger than its website makes it out to be. Unfortunately, some of the collections were closed during my visit. But, even with some of the collections closed, the museum still had much to offer—Bruegel, Bosch, David, Rubens, etc. To me, it appeared that the most famous work in their collection is The Death of Murat by David, which has a very rich history worth researching before you go to the Museum of Fine Arts.
The Magritte Museum, located inside The Museum of Fine Arts, is a comprehensive collection of the famous surrealist. The collection is organized chronologically and portrays the breadth of the artist’s career. I find the Magritte Museum to be similar to the Dali Museum located in Montmartre, in that both museums highlight the diversity of the artist’s creative abilities. Films, sculptures, photographs, and paintings by Margritte are on display, and the wall plaques have English translations of the French text. The design of the museum flows well, working from the top into the basement levels of the Fine Arts Museum.
If you appreciate architecture as much as you do art, I know I do, then the Horta Museum in Brussels is a must-see. While you can see Art Nouveau all over the city of Brussels, the Horta House embodies the movement itself, due to the fact that the museum is attached to the house in which Victor Horta once lived. Like any of Horta’s works, God is in the details. Exceptional detail is paid to stained glass and steel work. In the Art Nouveau fashion, the house is organized around a central staircase. This house is worth spending some time inside, so allot at least an hour for this museum in your schedule.
If you enjoy spending some quality time around art, eat at the Museum of Musical Instruments, located across the street from the Museum of Fine Arts. The sign on the building reads, “Old England,” and the restaurant is located on the top floor. Not only will you eat in an intricately designed Art Nouveau building, but the view from the restaurant is superb.
When traveling around Brussels, save yourself some time and money and take the tram. Also, be sure to enjoy their vast selection of delicious beers and chocolates.