Museums in Belgium

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium are a group of art museums in Brussels. 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 Constantin Meunier Museum and the Antoine Wiertz Museum) are dedicated to specific Belgian artists, are much smaller, and are located a few kilometers from th ...
Founded: 1803 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Groeningemuseum

The Groeningemuseum is built on the site of the medieval Eekhout Abbey. It houses a comprehensive survey of six centuries of Flemish and Belgian painting, from Jan van Eyck to Marcel Broodthaers. The museum"s many highlights include its collection of 'Flemish Primitive' art, works by a wide range of Renaissance and Baroque masters, as well as a selection of paintings from the 18th and 19th century neo-class ...
Founded: | Location: Bruges, Belgium

Rubenshuis

The Rubenshuis ('Rubens House') is the former home and studio of Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) in Antwerp. It is now a museum. A year after marrying Isabella Brant in 1609, Rubens began construction on an Italian-style villa at the time located at the banks of the canal Herentalse Vaart. Rubens designed the building himself, based on studies of Italian Renaissance palace architecture that also formed the ...
Founded: 1609 | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Plantin-Moretus Museum

The Plantin-Moretus Museum honours the printers Christophe Plantin and Jan Moretus. It is located in their former residence and printing establishment, Plantin Press, at the Friday Market. The printing company was founded in the 16th century by Christophe Plantin, who obtained type from the leading typefounders of the day in Paris. Plantin was a major figure in contemporary printing with interests in humanism; his eight- ...
Founded: 1576 | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium holds a large permanent collection of art from the Middle Ages until the mid-20th century. The collection focuses on Flemish Art (masterpieces from Hieronymus Bosch, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck) but also has several European - especially French - paintings. It also has a large amount of sculptures. The building was designed by city architect Charles van Rysselberghe aro ...
Founded: 1900 | Location: Ghent, Belgium

Curtius Museum

The Curtius Museum (Musée Curtius) is a museum of archaeology and decorative arts, located on the bank of the Meuse River in Liège. It was built sometime between 1597 and 1610 as a private mansion for Jean Curtius, industrialist and munitions supplier to the Spanish army. With its alternating layers of red brick and natural stone, and its cross-mullioned windows, the building typifies the regional style know ...
Founded: 1597-1610 | Location: Liège, Belgium

Horta Museum

The Horta Museum is dedicated to the life and work of the Belgian Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta and his time. The museum is housed in Horta"s former house and atelier, Maison & Atelier Horta (1898), in the Brussels municipality of Saint-Gilles. Housed in the Art Nouveau interiors is a permanent display of furniture, utensils and art objects designed by Horta and his contemporaries as well as documents relate ...
Founded: 1898 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Ghent City Museum

The Ghent City Museum (STAM) exposes the city history. With respect to the collection that is shown, the history of this museum goes back to 1833, the year in which the Oudheidkundig Museum van de Bijloke in Ghent was founded. In 1928 the museum was situated in the Bijloke abbey - this led to the name Bijlokemuseum. With the Bijloke collection as base and the Bijloke abbey and Bijloke monastery as buildings, the STAM fun ...
Founded: 2010 | Location: Ghent, Belgium

Royal Museum of Fine Arts

The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, founded in 1810, houses a collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries. This collection is representative of the artistic production and the taste of art enthusiasts in Antwerp, Belgium and the Northern and Southern Netherlands since the 15th century. The museum is closed for renovation until the end of 2017. The neoclassical buildi ...
Founded: 1810 | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Gallo-Roman Museum

The Gallo-Roman Museum is dedicated to the prehistorical times and Roman age of the region in South West Flanders. The museum was established in 1954 and received its modern building in 1994. In 2011, it was awarded as the European Museum of the Year. The permanent exhibition starts with the first humans in the region, the Neanderthals. It presents following cultures of hunters and several waves of farmers. The third floo ...
Founded: | Location: Tongeren, Belgium

Arlon Archaeological Museum

The Gallo-Roman Lapidary Gallery is the largest of its kind in Belgium, with the best-quality artefacts. It contains more than 425 sculptures from funerary monuments and civic buildings. The exhibits include around sixty large fragments sculpted on several sides, plus shards of pottery and other discoveries which paint a picture of daily life during the Gallo-Roman era. The museum’s fascinating Frankish gallery displays ...
Founded: 1847 | Location: Arlon, Belgium

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.