Mont des Arts, as it is known in French, or Kunstberg, as it is known in Dutch, is one of the top tourist destinations in Brussels. The name translates to Hill of the Arts, and there is good reason for the appellation. Here, you will find the best art museum, or museums, in Belgium’s capital city, and there’s plenty more here to keep your interest. For views alone, this historic square is ideal, and the imposing buildings that surround it give it a very prominent feel. When you are not checking out the sights and museums in the Kunstberg area, you can always settle in for some authentic Belgian food at one of the restaurants here, or head over to the nearby Sablon for some shopping or drinks. Mont Des Arts Brussels, or Kunstberg, has long been a sort of connecting point between the city’s Upper Town and its Lower Town. It starts just to the east of the famous
Grand Place, where it then leads up the hills into the more affluent upper city reaches. Some of the more prestigious Brussels shops and businesses are found in the Upper Town, though you may never quite make it up there once you hit Mont des Arts and its myriad of attractions. Interestingly enough, the Mont des Arts Brussels square was originally created for the 1910 World Fair, or Universal Exposition as it is also called. A park and some attractive monuments were added, and the staircase that led from the Place Royale down to Emperor Boulevard was flanked by cascading fountains. The Place Royale, or Royal Square, is connected to the Mont des Arts square. It has long been where the ruling factions of the city have set up residence. The first castle here was built in the eleventh century by the Duke of Brabant, whose successors eventually abandoned the city of Leuven to use it after his passing. That original palace was ruined by fire in 1731, however. A new, neo-classical palace was built on the site in the latter half of the 1700s, and it is still standing today.
You could definitely spend the better part of a day exploring Mont Des Arts Brussels, and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts deserve a few hours themselves. These museums are comprised of both the Museum of Historical Art and the Museum of Modern Art. Depending on your tastes and preferences, you might enjoy one more than the other, but they both deserve a look either way. The Museum of Historical Art houses works from some of the most renowned Flemish masters. Paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck, and Brueghel are in good number here, and you can also catch a few works by Rembrandt. At the Museum of Modern Art, the exhibits aren’t exactly as modern as you might think. Vincent van Gogh, Marc Chagall, and Joan Miro are among the artists with pieces on display here.
The Musical Instrument Museum can also be found at Mont des Arts, and it has more than 1,500 different instruments on display. One of the neat things about this museum is that once you pay the price of admission, you are given infrared headphones that can pick up which exhibits you are standing closest to and offer sample music for some of the pertinent instruments. The building in which the Musical Instrument Museum, or MIM, is housed is a splendid example of Art Nouveau architecture, which was partially pioneered in Brussels by Victor Horta. As a side note, the Victor Horta Museum is also a great place to spend some time when in Brussels. It is not found at Mont des Arts, so it can be visited later or on another day.
As mentioned, there’s plenty to do and see in and around Kunstberg, or Mont des Arts. While you are enjoying your time on this hill that separates upper Brussels from lower Brussels, the views of Grand Place in the distance are impressive. On clear days, you can even see further off, with the Koekelberg Basilica and the Atomium within clear sight. Congress Palace and the Royal Library of Belgium are among the postmodern structures that you will see at the Kunstberg square in Brussels. These somewhat unattractive buildings were built in the 1950s and 60s, when postwar construction in Brussels was at a high. One should note that Congress Palace, or the Palais de Congres, has been renovated. It is now a business and meeting center, boasting modern technology throughout.