Top 10 masterpieces to discover in Brussels

Brussels counts more than 100 museums! Among them are masterpieces of inestimable value whose reputations are known far and wide.

From Flemish primitives (do Brueghel, Rubens or Bosch ring a bell?) to Magritte, or from some thirty authentic Iguanodons to even the Smurfs, Brussels is full of unexpected treasures.

Whether artistic, architectural, historical or scientific, our selection of examples of where Art Nouveau meets comic strips or symbolism, details Brussels from every angle. The following masterpieces are also freely accessible with the Brussels Card: your key to our city.

Discover our top 10 masterpieces to behold in Brussels with the Brussels Card:

  • 1. The Empire of Light, René Magritte

    Considered one of the prominent artists of the 20th century, René Magritte is the master of Belgian Surrealism. In this masterpiece from the Magritte Museum, the painter evokes the encounter of night and day in a vision made of dream and poetry.

    Visit: from Tuesday to Friday 10:00-17:00. Saturday and Sunday 11:00-18:00 – Magritte Museum

    1954, Inv. 6715 © Charly Herscovici, with his kind authorisation c/o SABAM, Belgium, 2016, RMFAB, picture: J. Geleyns / Ro scan

  • 2. The Census at Bethlehem, Pieter Brueghel The Elder

    This scene illustrates daily life in a snowy Brabant landscape with the biblical arrival of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem as backdrop. Here, Brueghel affirms himself as a precursor painter, a genius with details who departed from the religious tradition of the Renaissance.

    Visit: from Tuesday to Friday 10:00-17:00. Saturday and Sunday 11:00-18:00 – Old Masters Museum

    1566, Inv. 3637 © RMFAB, picture: J. Geleyns / Ro scan

  • 3. The Death of Marat, Jacques-Louis David

    This iconic painting is often considered as the first painting in the History of Modern Art, due to the contemporary subject chosen by its author, as well as its technique and context. Hereby Jacques-Louis David pays tribute to the French politician, journalist and revolutionary Marat who was assassinated in 1793. This masterpiece was completed later that year.

    Visit: from Tuesday to Friday 10:00-17:00. Saturday and Sunday 11:00-18:00 – Modern Museum (Selection)

    1793, Inv. 3260 © RMFAB, picture: J. Geleyns / Ro scan​

  • 4. Chimú Offering Bearer

    This unique statuette cut in ornamental balsa wood is a vestige of the Chimús, an ancestral civilisation wiped out by the Incas. On top of its refinement, the statuette gained world fame thanks to Belgian comic strip illustrator Hergé, who made it a very coveted talisman in ‘Tintin - The Broken Ear’.

    Visit: from Tuesday to Sunday 10:00-17:00 – Cinquantenaire Museum

    1100 – 1470, Inv. AAM 5713 © RMAH

  • 5. The Caress, Fernand Khnopff

    Considered Belgian symbolist painter Fernand Khnopff’s most famous painting, this enigmatic artwork conjures the image of a hybrid woman-cheetah in a decor of Antiquity. This vision of an inaccessible dream, in which the woman is both muse and temptress, is the prime example of the Symbolism movement.

    Visit: from Tuesday to Friday 10:00-17:00. Saturday and Sunday 11:00-18:00 – Fin de Siècle Museum

    1896 © Gillion Crowet transfer to the Brussels-Capital Region, 2006. Collection in Trust of the RMFAB

  • 6. The Bernissart Iguanodons

    An unprecedented discovery in international palaeontology, this collection of about thirty skeletons of Iguanodons that were discovered between 1878 and 1881 in the Bernissart coal mine (Hainaut, Belgium) finds a grandiose home at the Museum of Natural Sciences.

    Visit: from Tuesday to Friday 09:30-17:00. Saturday, Sunday and school holidays 10:00-18:00 – Museum of Natural Sciences

    © Museum of Natural Sciences, Th. Hubin

  • 7. Manneken Pis

    This statuette of a little boy, emblematic of Brussels, is the subject of many legends. Created by Jérôme Duquesnoy for the city in 1619, it quickly became an icon that represents the mentality, resistance and a hint of self-deprecation that the inhabitants of Brussels are famous for. The statue, whose original is preserved in the Brussels City Museum, is also known for its extravagant wardrobe of around 1,000 outfits!

    Visit: from Tuesday to Sunday 10:00-17:00 – Brussels City Museum & Garderobe MannekenPis

    1619, Inv. B/1966/2 © Brussels City Museums

  • 8. The birth of the Smurfs in “The Flute with Six Holes”

    The ninth album of Johan and Peewit, a pair of adventurers living in an enchanted medieval world, saw the birth of the soon-to-be-global-phenomenon, the Smurfs. The original sketch of our little blue imps by genius illustrator Peyo can be admired at the Belgian Comic Strip Center, an architectural creation of Victor Horta himself.

    Visit: from Monday to Sunday 10:00-18:00 – Belgian Comic Strip Centre

    Johan en Pirrewiet. De Fluit met Zes Smurfen, 1958 © IMPS

  • 9. Villa Empain

    A genuine architectural Art Deco gem, the Villa Empain is a monument to a glorious era. Turned into a centre of art and dialogue between the cultures of East and West, it hosts the rich contemporary art programme of the Boghossian Foundation.

    Visit: from Tuesday to Sunday 11:00-18:00

    © Georges de Kinder

  • 10. Museum of Musical Instruments – Former Old England department store

    One of the finest examples of Art Nouveau in Brussels, the Old England building, designed by architect Paul Saintenoy in 1899, used to be a department store. Now hosting the Museum of Musical Instruments, the creation is decorated with many details inspired by nature and possesses an incomparable panoramic view of Brussels to complement its collection of some 1,100 instruments from all over the world.

    Visit: from Tuesday to Friday, 09:30-17:00. Saturday, Sunday & School Holidays, 10:00-17:00 – Museum of Musical Instruments

  • Discover them all, and 29 others with the Brussels Card!

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