Published on April 2nd, 2017 | by Brussels In View0
Belgium’s odder museums
Long-time Brussels resident Martin Banks does a virtual tour of some of Belgium’s odder museums
Yes, there’s a museum for each of these (and lots more unusual items) in this country.
Quirky and,frankly, odd museums are hidden around Brussels – and the rest of Belgium – all of them telling you stories that you are unlikely to find in mainstream places.
The Belgians are famous for their self-deprecating sense of humour and a spokesman at the Belgian tourist office in Brussels said: “There are so many quirky museums here because people love to celebrate what makes them unique.”
So here, in no particular order, is Brussels In View’s guide to some of the strangest – and most fascinating – museums you will find here.
Carrot Museum, Berlotte
Created more as a lark than as a serious homage to a hearty vegetable, the Museum of Carrots is a real labour of love.
Berlotte is a tiny village directly on the Belgian-German Border and lays claim to the only “Carrot Cultivator Society” to exist in either country. Some suspect the society of being a practical joke, but the dozen or so members emphasise that growing carrots is a serious business and nothing to joke about.
Taking the Pis
A new museum featuring 133 outfits worn by the Manneken Pis, the city’s much loved mascot, has opened near the ever popular statue.
Arranged into seven sections, the GardeRobe museum features outfits from his 965-strong collection, including a fireman, miner and a beekeeper. Don’t get stung.
Friet museum, Bruges
The Friet museum is the first and only museum dedicated to potato fries.
Together with delicious Belgian chocolate, the potato fry is certainly the product that is the most characteristic of Belgian culinary expertise. This museum, housed in one of the most beautiful buildings in Bruges, explains the history of the potato and fries and the different condiments with which they are habitually served.
Laundry Museum, Spa
This place tells the story of women who lived down the years before the washing machine was invented. It shows the evolution of linen-laundering techniques. Watching a demo of how great-grandma did the washing in the 1930s can certainly put things in perspective. It left us in a bit of a lather.
Filled with Art Deco ceramic clocks, some dating from the 1920s and 1930s, this museum is a must for nostalgia lovers who may recall when such things decorated every corner of the house (in Belgium at least).
You can even combine a visit, for a small fee, with a traditional afternoon tea. Hurry, the clock’s ticking…
Strawberry Museum, Wepion
Thanks to a favourable microclimate and a surplus of sunny days, Wepion has been cultivating super-sweet strawberries for more than 150 years.
Wepion is known as the Belgian Strawberry Capital for its history of producing the berry, and even today the strawberry is considered to be inseparable from the Wepionnaise way of life.
International Carnival and Mask Museum, Binche
An original place in Europe, here you can discover masks and costumes from all over the world.
Travel through the arenas of winter festivals and carnivals and discover the ritual functions of the mask on five continents, along with the masked festivities in rural regions, big European cities and the carnivals of Wallonia.
Here you will learn about the diversity of masks and the symbolic transformation that their wearers often undergo.
Museum of Fantastic Art, Brussels
A museum filled with wonder, but not for the faint of heart. Here you find crazy, scary and simply strange artwork, from the biography of The Elephant Man, made famous in the great John Hurt film, to works such as ‘Les Momies de Mato Grosso.’
Sewers Museum, Brussels
This one is most certainly one of the whackiest. It leads visitors through a stretch of the actual sewage network of Brussels, explaining the history of the sewage system and the vital tasks performed by the people who keep the city up and running. We smelt a rat, but it’s real.
Museum of Erotics and Mythology, Brussels
This is a private collection offering the chance to discover everything you ever wanted to know about sexuality and sensuality across the ages. The erotic art on display takes the visitor from the Ancient Greeks to the modern age, showcasing sculptures, paintings and other curiosities from all over the world.
And there’s more…
Due to space constraints, we were unable to go into much detail on other museums, but worth mentioning that this, being the home of Tintin, has, of course, a puppet museum at Ixelles containing almost 4,000 puppets from around the world, some of them more than 200 years old as well as a fencing museum, also in Brussels, and believed to be the only such place devoted to fencing as an Olympic discipline. It displays a large collection of medals, weapons and equipment.
There’s also in Street Light Museum, in Laeken, which sheds light on the history of urban lighting in Belgium. It highlights design plus technical and artistic innovations.
Not to be outshone is the Museum of Original Figurines (Brussels) which is dedicated to Japanese manga, American comics and Flemish comic book culture.
Of course, we cannot conclude this tour of the unusual without a mention of arguably the goriest: the Musee du la Medicine (Anderlecht), which contains no end of anatomical models depicting the horrific results of untreated sexually transmitted diseases. What?!!
Don’t let anyone ever again tell you that museums are boring. And enjoy Belgium. After all, where else in the world will you find a museum dedicated entirely to carrots?