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Best Museums in Brussels

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Built in 1929 in an art deco style for the Dutch banker and art collector David Van Buuren, this beautiful mansion was turned into a museum in 1973 featuring fine tapestries, blown glass and paintings by modern and classic masters. The most famous are Breughel's The Fall of Icarus and works by Ensor and Van Gogh. Contemporary sculpture exhibitions are organized in the garden.

Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique (Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium) is the largest museum complex in Belgium, and houses an array of museums including the Magritte Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. Located in the heart of Brussels, this museum has a rich collection of 15th-century fine art and artifacts, as well as modern artwork. Its prized possessions include a collection of magnificent paintings and sculptures, along with a plethora of documents and drawings. The museum offers guided tours and special packages for students.

This museum is a fairy tale come true, not just for grown-up boys, but for anyone who ever dreamed of being behind the wheel at the start of a Formula 1 Grand Prix. You'll find modern sports cars as well as vintage antique cars, including Belgian Rolls-Royce of the 1930s and even a limousine owned by John F. Kennedy. More tranquil minds can dream away in the D'Ieteren Hall, that shows a fine collection of carriages and other equestrian items.

The Royal Military Museum strives to illustrate the evolution of warfare technology from the Middle Ages onward. Walk through the displays and marvel at historical weapons, armor, medals and pennants from around the world. Make sure you visit the Napoleon collection for a particularly fascinating look about the Battle of Waterloo. There is also an onsite shop and cafeteria.

From dinosaur fossils to live tarantulas to rare gems, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences Museum explores the natural wonders of our fascinating planet. The permanent galleries are unique and interesting, including a Gallery of Evolution, Insects Hall, and Minerals Hall. In addition to the permanent displays, the museum features several temporary exhibitions throughout the year, including interactive exhibits. This museum also serves as a research facility.

Art Nouveau was practically born in Brussels. Victor Horta (1861-1947), considered to be Brussels' master of the arts, designed this house and made it his residence until 1919. It was restored in 1991 and is now a museum. Horta is known for his design of buildings using industrial materials such as metal and iron, manipulated to look organic and natural. The city features many similar buildings.

In this magnificent Old England building, one of architect Paul Saintenoy's creations, the Museum of Musical Instruments houses one of the world's largest collections of musical instruments: over 7000 strong. The exhibition displays an array of these, and visitors receive headphones so that they can hear the serenading tunes of these magnificent instruments. There is a museum shop and a library open by appointment. The restaurant on the sixth floor offers a breathtaking view of Brussels.

The five-floor Magritte Museum pays homage to world-renowned surrealist artist René Magritte. A trip through the museum provides deep insight into the Belgian artist's life. Along with 200 of his most famous paintings and sculptures, on display are Magritte's quirky creations such as vintage photographs, musical scores and surrealist film productions. During his brief stint in advertising, he designed a number of posters, which later fed into his artistic works. These are also displayed along with films that inspired him. The museum is part of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium and houses a center for conducting research on Magritte's life and works.

The Art & History Museum, previously known as the Cinquantenaire Museum, is part of Brussels's Royal Museums of Art and History, and is one of the largest museums in the world. All artistic disciplines except paintings are on display here. The first section displays a collection of ancient Egyptian (one room alone is filled with mummies and sarcophagi), Islamic, Oriental, Greek and Roman art. The second section is dedicated to non-European art and the third section houses a collection of European decorative arts spanning the 7th to the 17th-century. Other fascinating collections of beautiful glass and ceramics are also on display here.

BELvue Museum is in the House of Bellevue, which used to be an 18th-century hotel for wealthy travelers. Situated next to the Royal Palace, this grand building displays a rich collection of memorabilia collected from the Belgian Royal Dynasty. Located throughout two floors, its rooms are still in the original styles of Louis XV, Empire and Napoléon III, with furniture dating from the 18th century. Recently the courtyard was transformed into a delightful winter garden. Audio-visual tours can be organized for groups.

Housed in the artistic setting of the Waucquez Warehouses, two of Belgium's specialties go hand-in-hand: Art Nouveau and comics. Belgian Comic Strip Center, built in 1906 by Victor Horta, is home to a fascinating permanent exhibition featuring comics from more than 650 artists. The exhibit indeed traces the rise of comic books in Belgium after World War II, which have become the country's so-called "Ninth Art." The Center also features regular, temporary and interactive exhibitions. If you aren't fully satiated, the museum also boasts a great reading room, a delightful comic strip shop, a wonderful café and the largest library of comic strips in the world!

Located on Place Royale, with no less than eight floors underground, the Museum of Modern Art was constructed around a light shaft that allows daylight to filter down. As part of the Belgian Royal Museum of Fine Arts, it houses a selection of works by Belgian modernists such as Marcel Broodthaers, Rik Wouters and 28 pieces by René Magritte. It also includes foreign artists such as Andy Warhol and Marc Chagall. There is a gift shop and cafeteria. The Museum of Modern Art is closed for renovation works until 2012. Please check the website regarding the museum's reopening.

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