This is an engaging journey through almost two centuries of train travel, from the early steam engines to the sleek international models that now whisk us around the continent. It begins in the beautifully preserved ticket office, before continuing in a giant shed, bursting with magnificent steam engines and a lovingly restored station worker’s cottage from the 1950s. Throughout, there are reminders that the story of the railways is also a story about people. There are recollections from people such as the little boy who used to catch “Tommy the train” to town with his grandmother, or the son of the railway worker rocked to sleep each night by the sound of passing trains. The dark shed opens out into an airy, split-level gallery, with vast windows overlooking the tracks where the trains of today whizz past. Step into a luxury wagon-lit with its opulent dining car, or have a go at driving a train in one of the simulators. The visit ends with a cinematic vision of the railway of the future. Audio guides and information panels are in four languages, while children can follow an interactive comic strip as they play the role of a cartoon hero. The splendid scenography of the museum was designed by Belgian comic-strip artist François Schuiten. Schaerbeek is a natural home for the museum. it is the oldest station in Belgium still in its original state and is on the oldest stretch of track in the first country in mainland Europe to have a railway.
Open Tues-Sun; ticket office closes at 15.30, Schaerbeek Station, 5 Place Princesse Elisabeth
This temple to art and design is set up in a former wholesale market and furniture store next to the unmissable silver spheres of the city landmark. Fittingly, it possesses distinct design features of its own with an eyecatching entrance that include a red and yellow scaffolding-style staircase and some striking plastic statues in the outside gardens. The interior is all understated industrial design. It boasts a permanent exhibition, the Plasticarium, a collection of plastic objects bought from enthusiast Philippe Decelle. It includes riotously-coloured items from the golden age of plastic in the 1960s, Pop Art and the postmodern era. In total, the museum offers 2,000 plastic items, from art objects via design to everyday utility objects. The temporary exhibition space is dedicated to design and contemporary art. It also includes a children’s lab where workshops will take place, a lecture programme, film and documentary screenings, guided tours, event rooms for hire, a shop and cafe.
Open Wed-Mon, Place de Belgique, Heysel
A cutting-edge showcase of culture 2.0, MIMA is unique in Europe. While focusing on visual art, the museum aims to break down barriers between art and other creative worlds. It explores multidisciplinary art forms that have emerged in the internet era, from musical genres as diverse as punk, electro, hip hop and folk, to street and performance art, graphic design and extreme sports. Eight exhibition halls contain permanent and temporary exhibition space across three floors, while the fourth is reserved for workshops and a brasserie boasting panoramic views. Its first temporary exhibition, City Lights, runs until 28 August. It showcases five acclaimed American artists: Maya Hayuk, Swoon, Momo and Faile, the artistic partnership of post-punk pop artists Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller. The museum is an icon; a highly-visible monument to the city’s ability to reinvent itself. Occupying the former Belle-Vue brewery, a vast red-brick industrial building overlooking the Brussels-Charleroi canal in Molenbeek, it is conveniently located near the city centre. The old industrial site also houses the designer Meininger Hotel, a budget option for young travellers.
Open Wed-Sun, 39-41 Quai du Hainaut, Molenbeek-Saint-Jean
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