The region of modern-day Belgium hasn’t just produced some of the most famous artists in history, it’s also home to museums with incredible fine art collections.
Most major museums in Belgium can be found in the major cities, Brussels, Antwerp, and Ghent, to name just a few.
You can find artworks there ranging from the Middle Ages to modern times, and every major art movement in between.
In this article, I have compiled a list of some of the best art museums to visit in Belgium.
The Groeningemuseum is definitely one of my favorite museums on this list. It’s located in the beautiful medieval city of Bruges and houses an impressive collection of Early Netherlandisch paintings, along with other masterpieces by predominantly Belgian artists.
Bruges was one of the largest cities in Europe during the Middle Ages and this attracted a lot of patrons for the artists who worked here. This included the likes of Jan van Eyck and Gerard David who painted “The Madonna with Canon van der Paele” and “The Judgment of Cambyses” respectively.
Official website: Groeningmuseum
Learn more on Art Facts: Groeningemuseum Paintings
2. Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp or “Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerp” (KMSKA) is the main art museum in Antwerp, the second-largest city in Belgium. The museum was founded in 1810 during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte and was completely renovated in the 21st century.
The museum is housed in a beautiful Neoclassical building and houses masterpieces ranging from the 15th to 20th centuries. Just like Bruges, Antwerp was a major arts center in Europe, especially during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and this is reflected in the museum’s impressive collection.
Official website: KMSKA
Learn more on Art Facts: KMSKA Paintings
3. Oldmasters Museum
The Oldmasters Museum is one of the departments of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, a group of art museums that consists of 6 different museums in the Belgian capital. The first venue was opened in 1801, once again by Napoleon Bonaparte who had great plans with Brussels for his future empire.
Back in the early 19th century, the museum was known as the “Musée Royal d’Art Ancien” or “Royal Museum of Ancient Art.” This is a reference to the fact that this place solely has paintings on display ranging from the 15th to 18th centuries.
Official website: Fine Arts Museum
Learn more on Art Facts: Royal Museums Paintings
4. Museum of Fine Arts Ghent
The Museum of Fine Arts Ghent or “Museum voor Schone Kunsten” (MSK)” is a major museum of fine arts in Ghent, another city in Belgium that has a very rich history. As you surely expected, this museum has a collection that features a wide range of artworks, including medieval artworks and 20th-century masterpieces.
The museum has a collection size of about 9,000 artworks of which only about 600 are permanently on display. Don’t let the rather small collection size deter you from visiting this place, though, because it includes artworks of most of the most famous Flemish artists in history.
Official website: MSK
The Rubenshuis is one of the most fascinating museums in Belgium because it combines a magnificent house museum with a collection of fine art. Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) ran a huge workshop in his native Antwerp in the 17th century which defined Baroque painting during this period in history.
He had this amazing mansion built when he returned from an extended trip to Italy in the first decade of the 1600s and it clearly shows the influence of the Italian-style palazzos on Rubens. Inside, you can find original furniture, as well as paintings by Rubens and many of his colleagues.
Official website: Rubenshuis
Learn more in Art Facts: Paintings at the Rubenshuis
6. Magritte Museum
The Magritte Museum is another museum that is part of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium which focuses on the paintings of René Magritte (1898-1967). He was a Belgian painter and leading Surrealist artist of the 20th century.
The museum houses a collection of over 200 artworks by Magritte, the largest collection of any museum in the world. It’s housed in a beautiful Hôtel du Lotto, a beautiful Renaissance-style building near the Mont des Arts (Kunstberg), the art district of Brussels.
Official website: Magritte Museum
7. Plantin-Moretus Museum
The Plantin-Moretus Museum is a museum in Antwerp that highlights the fact that the city was one of the first major printing centers in Europe. Christophe Plantin (1520-1589) and Jan Moretus (1543-1610) were some of the most influential figures in this medium and both published many books and prints.
The museum is housed in the so-called “Plantin Press,” the former residence of the printers and the place where they published dozens of books. It remained a family business that was run by several powerful women until the 19th century. Today, it houses a museum featuring prints and original printing machinery.
Official website: Museum Plantin Moretus
8. La Boverie
La Boverie is a fairly recent museum in Belgium compared to the other museums on this list because it only opened its doors in 2016. It’s housed in a beautiful Beaux-Arts building known as the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Liège and is named after the Parc de la Boverie where it’s located in.
This building was originally constructed for the Liège International Exposition of 1905 and has served multiple purposes throughout its history. It housed the print and drawings collections in the city between 1952 and 1980 and the Museum of Modern Art between 1980 and 2011. Today, it houses a combination of collections referred to as the “Musée des Beaux-Arts.”
Official website: La Boverie
9. Art & History Museum
The Art & History Museum is an immense museum in Brussels that is located in the Parc du Cinquantenaire (Jubelpark) just east of the city’s historical heart. It’s one of the largest museums in the world and mainly focuses on antiquities and ancient artifacts.
The collection was amassed by the Dukes of Burgundy and the Habsburg rulers over multiple centuries. The museum was established in 1835 in order to house all items in these impressive collections in one place. The collection size grew further in the 20th century, especially during the interwar period.
Official website: Art & History Museum
S.M.A.K. is the abbreviation of Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst or “City Museum of Contemporary Art.” It’s located at the Citadelpark, not too far east from the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent. The museum first opened its doors to the public in 1999.
It was established by Jan Hoet (1936-2014), a legendary figure in the world of art in Belgium. As the title suggests, it focuses on modern art and has both a permanent collection on display, as well as temporary exhibitions. The museum is renowned for its provocative modern art exhibitions.
Official website: S.M.A.K.