Unusual Museums: Belgium and Netherlands

Visiting Belgium (Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels) and the Netherlands. For when I am done with viewing Vermeer, van Gogh and Rembrandt paintings, I am interested in first hand suggestions and opinions on other small museums that are not typically frequented by the tour bus groups and which focus on unique, offbeat collections you do not normally see. All suggestions welcome and right now I am considering visiting some of the following, so if you have been to any of these I would be interested to hear your thoughts on your visit: Museum Vrolik (Amsterdam) Tassen Museum Hendrikje (Amsterdam) World Press Photo Tour at De Oude Kerk (Amsterdam) Stichting Nationaal Brilmuseum (Amsterdam) The Torture Museum (Amsterdam) Erotisch Museum (Amsterdam) Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum (Amsterdam) Teylers Museum (Haarlem) Museum Dr. Guislain (Ghent) Mode Museum (Antwerp)
Musee de la Medicine (Brussels)

Posted by Frank
Oxford, MS, United States
26 posts

The Museum of Central Africa just outside Brussels contains all sorts of stuff that King Leopold plundered from the Congo. It's set to close later this year to be "modernized," which likely means ruined. It will be closed for years. So see it now or not until like 2018. It's a big, beautiful building that was built for an international exposition.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2176 posts

Altough it is an art museum, the Kröller-Muller museum in Otterlo is well worth a visit, even if you skip its main paintings hall altogether and focus only on the parks and the magnificent, giant sculpture park and the nature surrounding it. If ethnography is a thing that attracts you, make sure to visit the Tropenmuseum. I consider the Erotisch Museum, the Marijuana museum and especially the Torture museum to be mostly tourist traps (the last one is a major trap together with the "dungeon"). If you want to visit a different and odd collection, you ahve options such as: - the Zaanse Schans museum + minor museums nearby on the same site - the wooden boat museum in Einkhuizen
- the Maritime meusum in Rotterdam

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6839 posts

I remembered another one. Technically this place is a small store, but it feels like a museum. The store sells vintage video games/hardware dating back to the 1980s....Atari 2600, Colecovision etc. It's across from Centraal Station in the alleyway that separates to the halves of the Victoria Hotel: http://youtu.be/DQEpuGKTga8

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9131 posts

If you're interested in Tin-Tin/Kuifje, there's a Hergé museum not too far from Brussels in Louvain La Neuve. You are probably aware of the Comic Arts museum in Brussels, but this isn't too interesting if you can't read Dutch or French. And don't forget the wonderful Musical Instrument Museum. There's some kind of contemporary design museum in Ghent that I think deserves a visit for it's acronym name alone- SMAK!

Posted by Philip
London, United Kingdom
1698 posts

I found the Dr Ghislain museum in Ghent very interesting, but the labelling is only in Dutch and French.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6839 posts

French Fry and Chocolate Museums in Bruges. Surprisingly they take their subject matters very seriously. Also in Bruges the De Halve Maan Brewery tour. It's a modern working brewery housed in a historic building. All their beverages are there before being trucked off to it's bottling facility outside the city. In Amsterdam the Tropical Museum has interesting exhibits about third-world cultures. It's cafeteria also had interesting dishes from those countries. The FOAM photography museum can have some unusual exhibits as well. The World Press Photo show is a must see exhibit. It's an annual show that features the best award winning news photos from the past 12 months. The photos are enlarged to poster+ size, and they cover the complete spectrum oh humanity. Some heartbreaking others heartwarming any everything else in between.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
672 posts

Since you asked for an opinion, I have to say that Erotic and Hash museums strike me at marginally trashy attractions designed for post-adolescents (like the very early Rick Steves!) On the other hand the Gevangenpoort Museum in Den Haag is sometimes billed as the Torture Chamber museum, which it is. But it could also be called the Conciergerie of Den Haag, and it's better than in Paris, because you get to go into the cells. When I was last in the fine Foto Museum in Antwerp, there was a smart exhibit on young Chinese artists that included a video recalling the Mongol tradition of, er ... consummating a marriage while galloping on horseback. It wasn't XXX-rated, but certainly 1 1/2 X's. Every single museum in Antwerp is worth your time. Like many towns with historic town halls, the one in Antwerp can only be visited by guided tour, on Sunday only, advance tickets at the TI across the square. Also only on Sat-Sunday, the Deurne Volksmuseum, which is a cross between a barn museum in New Hampshire and a city history museum. Tickets (and refreshments) at the bar in front of the museum. Trolley stop nearby. Koraalplaats 2, behind Bar "an de Pappegei". Sat & Sun 14:00-17:00, 1€, turninum.ch.vu Tram stop one after the Deurne neighborhood town hall with flags.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
672 posts

(annoying, inaccurate character count limited previous post length) Lier, Belgium has several cute small museums, not the least of which is a monument to a clock machinist. It's a house-sized, 100+ faced astronomical clock . As I remember, it even has some religious touches, like animated cocks that crow for St. Peter. The machine shop is to one side of the museum. Turnhout has the National Playing Card museum, which is not a "novelty" like an Erotic museum. For example, before we invented notepads, people made accounting and to-do lists on old playing cards. Turnhout also has some public sculpture by Luc van Soom that's pretty erotic. Corporate art gallery outside town: http://www.wurth.be/html_nl/kunst/index. Also sweet little UNESCO beguinhof, with museum. There is a village outside Antwerp that was spared but emptied when vast areas were cleared for the new ship port. I think it's only open on Sunday, too. Public bus goes there frequently.

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1353 posts

hi, in Amsterdam, of those you listed that i went to was the Erotisch Museum (Amsterdam). according to RS book, there is 2 of this theme and i chose the same one RS recommended. It was okay and if i remember correctly (IIRC) wasnt that expensive and it was close to the Red Light District and Central Station. if you want some "hands on" fun, go to the NEMO near the Central Station. Its like a really cool science center. Its hands on and covers just about everything. happy trails.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

In Utrecht in the Netherlands, the Museum Speelklok http://www.museumspeelklok.nl/ is a museum of music boxes (some tiny) and fairground organs (some huge). You see it on a 1 hour tour, during which the guide demonstrates many of the pieces. Unique and fascinating. Utrecht is an easy day trip from Amsterdam, and it's a nice city as well. If you're seeing more than a few museums in the Netherlands, you'll probably get a good deal buying the Museumkaart. It costs about €45, but is good for one year, and for museums all over the country.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8756 posts

The floating floor museum in Edam
The most interesting Dutch Stove Museum in Alkmaar. The Resistance Museum in Amsterdam is hardly off the tourist trail but, my word, what an evocative and comprehensive coverage. Well worth a visit. There is also an extremely informative Resistance museum in Groningen. One small difficulty, but it is quite small, is that (at least when I was there a few years ago) the very poignant descriptions are all in Dutch. The very interesting point of view in this museum is to portray facts from all sides and then ask the viewers what decisions they would have made. Extremely extremely thought provoking and engrossing.

Posted by Teresa
Seattle
464 posts

Hi, Regina. I visited the Teylers Museum in Haarlem in 2010 and enjoyed it very much. In fact, I ended up spending about an hour longer in there than I had intended. I started out that day at the De Adriaan windmill, which is close to the Teylers, and it was also interesting. I've also visited the Kattenkabinet (Cat Museum) in Amsterdam. It's a pretty quirky museum in a canal house with all sorts of art and other stuff with a cat motif, and there are several live cats that inhabit the museum. You'll find them lolling about on sofas or wandering wherever they please.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
672 posts

I neglected to single out the Middelheim outdoor sculpture park in Antwerp. (Good weather only.) It's a long walk from a long public transportation ride. But it is more comprehensive than the excellent sculpture garden at the Netherlands stand-out Kröller-Muller Museum. Note that the latter has free "white bicycles" to ride from the outer gateways to the regional park. But the sculpture garden is pedestrian only.

Posted by Sylvia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
331 posts

The Torture Museum while interesting was quite sickening. I wouldn't recommend it to a friend. I would however suggest Rembrandthuis museum. Very interesting and not nearly as crowed as the Rijksmuesum.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3509 posts

As Nigel said, the Resistance Museum in Amsterdam is well worth a visit. I also loved the Maritime Museum there. Right across the street from the Van Gogh Museum is the House of Bols. An interesting exhibit on the history of gin, then a discovery of how colors and smells affect taste. Finally you get to choose a cocktail from an incredibly long list and watch an expert bartender make it. Seconds are relatively cheap.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9131 posts

If you're interested in obscure distilled spirits that taste like paint thinner, Hasselt in Belgium has the National Jenever Museum. In the summer, they even have a tram that picks you up at the train station and takes you on a short tour of the city before dropping you off at the museum.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
672 posts

Tom, speaking of paint thinner, I noticed in Antwerp that there is a Genever flavored with Speculoos (cookies), a really important low-countries invention. I couldn't bring myself to buy a 750ml bottle, but that flavor doesn't come in miniature bottles!

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9131 posts

Funny you should mention that, Tim. I bought a bottle of speculoos-flavored Jenever at the Christmas market in Leuven a few years ago. Fortunately, it was delicious, tasted mostly like speculoos, with only a hint of the bite of plain Jenever. I've had palatable flavored Jenever, it's just the raw stuff I can't tolerate.

Posted by Regina
Cheshire, CT
14 posts

Thank you all for the input. On this trip, I will not be visiting Bruges as I have been there in the past. I will also have to pass on the jeneever. I am just not a gin drinker, but I'm sure someone else who might be looking for something different will appreciate the tip.