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From museums offering astonishing international art exhibitions to those that educate you about the cities history in psychiatry, you’ll be impressed by any museum you visit in Ghent, Belgium.
Somewhere between the 13th and the 16th centuries, Ghent obtained its charming medieval city character by building gothic cathedrals, city halls, and other architectural landmarks. Nowadays, these buildings resemble centuries of history and go hand-in-hand with the city’s modern creativity. This makes it easy to create a unique photograph in the city, but more importantly: it gives the best museums in Ghent an extra dimension.
The Best Museums in Ghent
STAM – Stadsmuseum Gent
- Address: Godshuizenlaan 2, 9000 Gent
If you’re planning to visit any of the Ghent museums while you’re in the city, you must include STAM on your list.
The Ghent City Museum, STAM for short, tells the history of the city in its newly revised, permanent exhibit, ‘The Story of Ghent.’ With more than 17,000 pieces in its impressive art collection and interactive multimedia, visitors walk along a curated and chronological circuit to explore the museum, starting from the growth and prosperity of the medieval city to the modern city of knowledge and culture it is today.
In the 1830s, the museum was founded as the Musée Historique Belge by members of the city’s Monuments and Cityscapes Committee to reflect the public’s interest in Ghent and Belgium history. As the museum continued growing, the first curator was appointed in the 1880s, and even changed locations several times to accommodate its growth. Since 1928, STAM has been housed in the historic Bijloke Abbey.
S.M.A.K. – Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst
- Address: Jan Hoetplein 1, 9000 Gent
The S.M.A.K. Museum in Ghent – also known as the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art – was founded in its current form in 1999. It was first established in 1975 under Ghent’s Museum of Fine Art and the first museum in Belgium dedicated to contemporary art. As the museum grew in recognition, it outgrew the temporary spaces it had been given to showcase its collections.
Today, S.M.A.K. is located in Citadelpark, across the street from its former home, the Museum of Fine Art. It houses the largest collection of contemporary art in Belgium. The art on display rotates through a vast permanent collection that focuses on Belgian and international artists who have been creating post-1945.
M.S.K. – Museum voor Schone Kunsten
- Address: Fernand Scribedreef 1, 9000 Gent
MSK, the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent, is Belgium’s oldest museum. It’s home to a fantastic permanent collection featuring more than 600 works from the Middle Ages through to the present day and located on the outskirts of Citadelpark and across the street from the S.M.A.K. Museum.
Featuring a myriad of art types like murals, sculptures, drawings, paintings, and glassworks, the museum has collected an impressive list of masterpieces, including those by Jan Van Eyck, Hieronymus Bosch, and James Ensor.
Spend a day exploring the museum’s permanent and temporary collections, or relax in their small, on-site garden for a cup of coffee.
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- Address: Jan Breydelstraat 5, 9000 Gent
As the foremost museum on design in Belgium, the Design Museum is a must-see of the Ghent museums for those with an appreciation for design. Originally opened in 1903, it is home to a wide range of high-quality international exhibits about the various aspects of design.
Now, the museum holds more than 22,000 objects that explore the history of industrial and artistic design, with collections specializing in furnishings, including baroque, art nouveau, and contemporary avant-garde styles.
- Address: Coupure Links 627a, 9000 Gent
The Herbert Foundation is a private collection from Annick and Anton Herbert for contemporary art. The museum officially opened in 2013 and focuses specifically on two pivotal moments in history, 1968, a year of revolution, and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The Foundation now offers its Collection; housing works by an impressive list of artists including Marcel Broodthaers, Bruce Nauman, Mike Kelley, Franz West, Thomas Schütte, and Martin Kippenberger, and its Archive, which is home to many books, videos, recordings, pictures and other documents relating to Collection pieces.
Museum Dr. Guislain
- Address: Jozef Guislainstraat 43, 9000 Gent
Housed in a former psychiatric hospital, the Museum Dr. Guislain is a unique museum that explores the history of psychiatry and its treatment throughout the ages.
Once you enter the museum, it’ll take you on a journey through centuries of psychiatric history with their three permanent and various rotating exhibits. The museum showcases various photographs and treatment objects from the past to tell a story that is relevant to the present and will leave visitors wondering about the treatment of the mentally ill today.
The museum, which opened in 1986, is named after Dr. Guislain, who was a pioneer in his field and built the first institution in Belgium specifically for the humane treatment of the mentally ill.
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