Timings : Tuesday to Sunday, from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m; Closed on Mondays
Time Required : 1-2 hours
Entry Fee : Adult: EUR 8.00; details below
City Museum, Brussels Overview
An ode to the rich cultural history and folklore of the city, the Musée de la Ville de Bruxelles, is a central attraction within Brussels. Located smack in the middle of Grand Place, the busiest intersection of the city, the City Museum is a sight to behold. Right from the medieval sculptures to the new age works of art, the museum traces how Brussels developed as a city of its own.
Housed opposite to the City’s Town Hall, in a Gothic revival style building known as Maison du Roi or the King’s House, the City Museum was inaugurated in 1887 on its second floor. The building itself is often called the Museum’s most celebrated masterpiece and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, along with the Grand Place.
Apart from the regular exhibits, the museum often puts up art shows featuring local talent and avant-garde art styles. It hosts a variety of guided tours and activities in an attempt to involve visitors more deeply into the history of Brussels. Fine arts and masterpieces that contributed to the fame and reputation of the city are exhibited in the museum such as paintings, altarpieces, faience and above all an exceptional collection of Brussels tapestries and the original statue of Manneken-Pis.
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Ticket Information for City Museum, Brussels
Adult: EUR 8.00 Senior, group: EUR 6.00 Student, job seeker: EUR 4.00 Free of Cost for those below 18 years and on first Sunday of every month.
Featuring more than 7000 separate pieces, the City Museum tells the tempestuous but fascinating story of Brussels. Here are five of the most relevant highlights of the City Museum:
1. Maison du Roi
The building housing the City museum is itself a piece of art. La Maison du Roi is one of the most accomplished examples of the “neo” styles that were cultivated during the 19th century. It resonates with all the other buildings on the Grand Place. It is the final element of this highly original urban scenography. The rhythm of its bays mirrors those of the Baroque houses next door to it; its tower imposes itself as an elegant and feminine twin to the Town Hall.
2. Saluzzo Masterpiece
A result of cross-collaboration between many artists and artisans, the Saluzzo combines various techniques, including carpentry, painting, sculpture, moulded elements, polychromy, gilding, polished silver, stamping, to form a harmonious whole. The different aspects of altarpieces correspond to an initiatory path which focuses on the Holy family while leading us into the mystery of the birth of Christ and the encounter with the divine.
3. The Wedding Cortège
Dating back to the 1600s from the region of Pajottenland, the Wedding Cortege is an intricately created masterpiece. The subject and its anecdotal implementation immediately invite the spectator to make comparisons between customs in the 16th century and those of the present-day, between those in Brabant and those in other regions. A search for differences and similarities. Of the fifteen different versions of the Wedding Cortege that exist around the world experts agree that the one conserved at the Museum of the City of Brussels is, without a doubt, the best version that exists.
4. The Bombardment of the Grand-Place in 1695
The only painting to show the monuments and houses of the famous square in flames during the bombing of Brussels in 1695 by the troops of Louis XIV, King of France, this anonymous piece is an extremely accomplished work of its genre. This canvas stands out thanks to the splendour of its colours and the implementation and texture of the flames, which appear to leap out of the painting and envelopes each visitor who approaches it. The scene is furthermore enhanced by the particularly alarming night time atmosphere.
While the humorous statue of Manneken-Pis is not one that would directly quality as a masterpiece, its elements and candid depiction of the Belgian state of mind are what make it such a popular attraction. Manneken-Pis personifies the city. When it is under threat, such as during the bombing of 1695, it speaks on behalf of the inhabitants of Brussels to denounce the attacker. It symbolises the spirit of the city’s resistance during the World Wars. At less dramatic times, its image was used to poke fun at the authorities gently. The inhabitants of Brussels identify themselves with this mischievous young boy, who shows no sign of pretension and appears to enjoy life.
Virtual Reality Tour of City Museum, Brussels
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the City Museum being declared as a UNESCO World Heritage sight, the museum has teamed up with the Cellule Patrimoine Historique to introduce a one of its kind virtual reality tour of the Grand Place. The exhibition walks visitors through the magnificent Grand Place prior to the bombings in 1695. You will find yourself immersed in the 17th-century setting, an onlooker as you watch the structure go up in flames. One can even partake in the virtual reconstruction of the incredible palace. This immaculately designed exhibit has been vetted by architects, historians and archaeologists to make it as authentic as possible.
Ticket price: EUR 2
Rules for Visiting City Museum, Brussels
Being one of the oldest and most revered museums in Brussels, the City Museum has a certain code of conduct for its visitors.
Unaccompanied children under the age of 14 are not permitted into the museum
Animals, other than guide dogs, and irrespective of size, are not permitted
Any person clearly under the influence of alcohol or drugs may be refused admission
Objects that might cause damage to the works of art and/or the interior of the museum are not permitted
The museum reserves the right to inspect visitors’ bags, school bags and briefcases pursuant to Belgian laws
Eating, drinking and/or smoking inside the museum is prohibited
The use of mobile phones and photography is not allowed inside the premises
Visitors are also not allowed to touch or tamper with any of the works displayed
History of City Museum, Brussels
Built in stages on the Southern side of the Grand Place, Brussels' Town Hall became a seat of municipal power. In response to this, the Duke of Brabant built the great Maison du Roi to symbolise ducal power. Since it was built at the site of an erstwhile bread market, the Dutch name Broodhuis (Bread Hall) stuck.
The building was destroyed many times over the years due to the Wars of Religion. Only in 1868 was the Maison du Roi reconstructed in the neo-Gothic style it has today. In 1887, the City museum was inaugurated on the second floor of the building.