By Barbora Volková

Do you plan to visit or move for a longer period to Belgium, maybe for an internship in Brussels? If yes, then continue reading, I have a great tip for all lovers of culture, art or history as there is a great way to visit many Belgian cultural institutions and save a lot of money while doing so! The answer is the Museum PASS Musées.

What is a Museum Pass?

While I was doing my internship in Brussels, I figured I knew very little about Belgian culture and history and that I should change that. And where is a better place to learn in an engaging and interactive way than museums? I found out about the Museum Pass online on the website of one museum that I was interested in visiting. The idea is that for 59 euros, you will receive a single free admission for a whole year to all museums participating in the programme. And this number is not small at all – around 220 Belgian museums are part of the Museum Pass network. And that sounds like a good deal.

This Belgian project unites museums from Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels with a single goal: give more visibility to Belgian museums and provide greater access to culture for all. What I like about this is that a huge variety of institutions are included – from the big, popular ones covering the whole history of Belgium, to small museums focusing on individual artists and exhibitions. And this is what makes the idea of Museum Pass so great, next to the saved money, of course. Because I had the possibility to go anywhere for free, I decided to visit museums that I would normally not choose to visit, such as the museum of graphic illustrations Museum De Reede in Antwerp. 

The subscription process is very easy, although the website is only in Dutch and French. You may decide to receive the Pass in an online form immediately or have it delivered in a physical form to your address (with an extra fee for delivery). You can download a Museum Pass app (also only in Dutch and French) to your phone and once signed in, you will have your pass available in the form of an easy-to-use QR code – just show it at the reception of the museums, because there is no need to book your visit ahead.

Museum Pass in Brussels

As I spent 5 months living in Brussels and mostly used the Pass there, I want to share with you several museums that I managed to visit and that I highly recommend! There are 46 museums and 52 expositions participating in the network, representing a huge challenge for everyone wishing to visit all of them. Well, I definitely didn’t manage that. However, it was a very good investment and money well-spent, and if I come back to Brussels in the future, I will purchase the Pass again in order to visit more (and maybe revisit my favourites!).

Coundenberg Palace

Do you love archaeology? Me too, and so this was the number one place for me to visit. Coundenberg Palace was a luxurious home to the rulers of Brussels between the 12th and the 18th century until it was completely destroyed by a fire. Well, almost completely destroyed, as you can still visit and wander around the underground remains of its passages and chambers under the busy Place Royal. This is definitely the number one archaeological site to visit in the capital.

Standard price without a pass: €10

BELvue Museum

Located in the same building complex as the Coundenberg Palace, BELvue is a great interactive museum that will introduce you to the Belgian culture and show you that the country is way more than just fries, beer and chocolate. The exposition focuses on the contemporary history of Belgium, featuring seven themes: democracy, prosperity, solidarity, pluralism, migration, language and Europe. It is accompanied by a rich collection of objects and photographs depicting the material memory of Belgium. After visiting, I definitely have a clearer idea of what it means to be Belgian.

Standard price without a pass: €10

Brel Foundation

This is an example of a museum that I would most probably never have visited without the Pass. Have you heard about Jacques Brel? The famous Belgian singer who is considered a master of modern chanson? I admit that I didn’t know about him before visiting the small digital exposition dedicated to his life and art. Within only two rooms, you can spend hours watching and listening to short movies, documentaries, performances and stories of people who knew the singer personally. 

Standard price without a pass: €12

Belgian Comic Strip Center

Belgium is the kingdom of comics, as there are more comic strip artists per square kilometre than in any other country in the world. Everyone knows comics like Tintin or the Smurfs, but there are so many other artists to be discovered on the 4,200 square meters of permanent and temporary expositions of the Comic Strip Center. The museum has been open for over 25 years and is located in a beautiful Art Nouveau building from 1906. Belgium is justly proud of its authors who keep shaping the world of comic art, and this museum is for sure worth visiting even if you are not big fans of comics.

Standard price without a pass: €13

KBR Museum

The museum in the Belgian Royal Library was a real surprise for me, as the library building itself does not belong to the nicest in the city centre. Inside, however, is the hidden 600-year-old book collection of the Duke of Burgundy, considered by many to be a masterpiece. You can explore 15th-century Brussels through different images, stories and characters and find out the making process of such valuable manuscripts. It’s a real treasure for the eyes. And. the best part is that the exhibition changes twice a year, as the manuscripts are too fragile to be on display long-term.

Standard price without a pass: €11

Brussels City Museum (The King’s House)

With the Pass, you can also visit the iconic King’s House building located on the Grand Place in the very heart of Brussels – this whole square is celebrated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is always great to visit one of the main symbols of the city, and, in the case of the King’s House, you will additionally learn about the interesting medieval history of the town. And as a bonus, you can see the original Manneken-Pis statue with some of its outfits on the top floor of the museum! Yes, I also didn’t know that the one displayed in the city centre was a fake one.

Standard price without a pass: €10

Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History

The army museum in Brussels is a sight to see. With its 40 000 square meters it is one of the biggest museums of its kind in the world, and you can definitely spend the whole day wandering around the multiple expositions focusing on the history of the military and army from the Middle Ages to the era of aviation. Additionally, there is a great view over Parc du Cinquantenaire and the European Quarter included in the price of the ticket. It is true that the museum has lived through some time and is not in the best condition any more, but I think it still provides a unique experience to its visitors.

Standard price without a pass: €11

Did I convince you to purchase a Museum PASS Musées on your next journey around Belgium? You can see that the standard entrance into just those six museums would cost 77 euros without a pass. I really like this idea of unlimited access to cultural institutions and would love to see more such projects.

Among other Euroculture countries, you can do the same in the Netherlands as there is a similar Museumkaart providing access to about 450 Dutch museums for a year for just 65 euros. Germany, France and Switzerland joined forces and created the Association of Museum-PASS-Musées which has been running already since 1998. For 146 CHF (around 148 EUR), you can visit all 345 selected museums, castles and gardens in those countries for 1 year. Happy museum wandering!

Photo Credit: Mihai Surdu

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