Museums in Belgium. In the first of a new Together series on must-see museums, Liz Newmark takes a trip down memory lane at Brussels’ Urban Transport (Tram) Museum – which will be 40 years’ old on 22 May.
This vast (1,500m²) museum, with the old 1897 depot now beautifully restored to all its 1945 glory, sports a wonderful array of more than 60 old trams (as well as buses, taxis and a trolley bus) dating from 1868. Some are still in working order.
The collection, which is one of the most extensive in the world, includes the iconic 685 yellow ‘standard’ Brussels tram, 671 trolleybuses, the first 1950s buses as well as bygone taxis and tubes. It is a real trip to the past from the early 20th century ‘Belle Epoque’ period, through Expo 58, to the 1970s and the early days of the Metro from 1976.
Every Saturday, Sunday and national holiday you can take a magical green journey on a charming vintage tram from the museum through the Soignes Forest to Tervuren. If you prefer a vintage bus, trips to the Cinquantenaire park and Place Royale are available on Sundays and national holidays.
Or finally (on reservation only), why not take in Brussels’ amazing architecture on the Brussels Tourist Tramway – a four-hour round trip on Sundays, taking in communes from Saint Gilles to Schaerbeek? The 1935-built tram will treat you to the best of Brussels – from its Art Nouveau and Art Deco gems to the gleaming Atomium. This Belgian icon was built especially for Brussels’ famous ‘Expo’ 58’ exhibition and designed by the sons of another Belgian architectural great – Michel Polak.
You will see the stunning works of Victor Horta (for example the astonishing Hotel Solvay), Paul Hankar (the Ciamberlani mansion) or Gustave Strauven’s Maison Saint-Cyr on Square Ambiorix and go past the wonderful François Schuiten-designed Train World museum. This is minutes away from the quirky and comfortable Train Hostel, which offers accommodation in a real early 20th century train carriage.
You can also hire a tram for birthday or cocktail parties, with or without food and drink, for private or business functions.
And, cerise on the gateau, on Sunday 22 May you can celebrate the tram museum’s 40th birthday. Myriad guided tours and extra activities are planned for this special day and most of the tram rides are free.
For more information:
The Tram Museum is open every weekend and national holiday 1-6.30pm from Easter to 9 October (also open 12-13 November, 3-4 and 17-18 December). Ticket prices including unlimited tram trips on day of issue are €12 for adults and €6 for children. Museum entry only tickets are €8 for adults and €4 for 6-12 year olds. The Brussels Tourist Tramway costs €20 for adults and €15 for children.