The collections of Brussels’ museums: permanent treasures

29 marzo 2022
The Iguanodons of Bernisssart Museum of Natural Sciences Brussels

Temporary exhibitions punctuate the seasons and give us a desire for change and variety. But the large permanent collections of our capital's museums are bursting with secrets, surprising objects and masterpieces to be rediscovered. We think we know them like the back of our hand, but in addition to the many surprises they have in store for us, they tell us a lot about the cultural history of Brussels. Here's an overview of some of the capital's most beautiful permanent collections.


MIM - Musical Instruments Museum

In addition to its Art Nouveau façade, which is ever-present on trendy Instagram feeds, the MIM boasts a fine collection of some 1,200 rare pieces. Spread over four floors, these instruments come from all over the world and take visitors on a journey back in time spanning from ancient times to Jean Michel Jarre!

Armed with your audio guide, let yourself be led between the sculpted drums of the Congo, superb violas da gamba, the oldest saxophone in the world and even the amazing barrel organ known as the "tooth puller"! This instrument decorated with automatons actually represents an open-air dentist's scene. Another great reason to visit the MIM? The second floor, dedicated to European instruments, has just been stunningly renovated... so let's hear it for music!


museum of musical instruments indoor - instruments

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

Did you know that of the 20,000 or so works in their collections, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium only exhibit 2,000? That just shows how many they have in storage! In their exhibition halls, you can drift serenely from the 15th to the 21st century through a series of emblematic movements in the history of art. We come across the brushstrokes of great masters like Rogier van der Weyden, Jérôme Bosch or Quentin Metsys (Old Masters) but also of Pierre Bonnard, Paul Klee or Klimt (Musée Fin de siècle Museum). The tour offers a beautiful intimate encounter with the Flemish Primitives and some emblematic works of the avant-gardes. A special mention goes to the beautiful works of James Ensor and the melancholy works of Léon Spilliaert.

For an extraordinary, out of this world encounter with the works of Rene Magritte, head to the adjoining museum that bears the name of the great master of surrealism. An immersive and intimate scenography guides you through the meanders of the painter's unbridled imagination.

Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium - interior

Art & History Museum

In the heart of Cinquantenaire Park, the Art & History Museum is a real playground for urban adventurers. Covering 4 hectares and some 140 rooms, the museum takes you from national archaeology to decorative art, through antiquity and non-European civilisations.

Among the real stars of this collection, don't miss the gigantic Moai of Easter Island, 6 tons of history inscribed in a massive andesite block almost 3 metres tall. Did the Peruvian mummy of Rascar Capac haunt your dreams when you were a child? Head to hall 36 for an intense face-to-face encounter with "He-who-unleashes-fire-from-the-sky". A little further on, Tintin enthusiasts will also recognise the small pre-Columbian wooden statuette that inspired the statuette from "The Broken Ear", another jewel in the collections of the Art & History Museum. In every room, you can enjoy the magnificent details of lesser-known but no less moving pieces, each of which tells a story in its own right.


Art & History Museum Brussels


In 2018, after 5 years of renovation work, the Africamuseum finally reopened. It was given a new look by making its spaces more fluid and its scenography was made more modern, more interactive and, above all, based on a critical view of colonisation. A view that takes a look at the past and the present without forgetting the future. A vision that is also reflected in the architecture of the site, skilfully combining contemporary additions with the architecture of the original building, dated 1910.

Walking through the permanent collections reveals Central Africa's many facets: elaborate masks, breathtaking zoological collections (from elephants to butterflies), everyday objects and even a music corner echoing with the sound of rumba. One of the museum's highlights is Moseka, the rolling robot. Almost 2 metres high, this android regulates traffic on the streets of Kinshasa and other Congolese cities.


Africa Museum Collection - Brussels - Tervuren

Museum of Natural Sciences

As you walk up Rue Vautier, the monumental silhouette of a life-size dinosaur can be seen in the distance. You've almost arrived at the Museum of Natural Sciences, home to the largest dinosaur gallery in Europe!

For those of you who know the Bernissart Iguanodons and the Gallery of Humankind by heart, take a tour of one of the most exciting new features of the moment: the museum's new permanent "Living Planet" exhibition. Covering everything from giraffes to aphids, it deploys a modern and interactive scenography to celebrate biodiversity with 850 specimens of terrestrial and marine animals. Bathed in natural light and free from any species classification, a brown bear can stand next to a hornbill and a llama has a disconcerting face-off with a cheetah! It's an exciting immersive journey into the heart of what makes our ecosystem so rich. Not to be missed by nature lovers!


Living Planet, Natural History Museum Brussels