The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in Brussels is, as its name suggests, mainly focused on military and not solely focused on aviation either.
I still visited it during my long transit in Brussels the other day, though, as I wanted to see the ex-Sabena Sud Caravelle that is probably the most interesting piece for civil aviation enthusiasts in the museum’s collection.
Getting There, Opening Hours & Entrance Fees
The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History can be found in Park Cinquantenaire together with two other museums – Art & History Museum and Autoworld.
As it’s located in the city center, it’s easily accessible by buses and trains from all parts of the city including the airport. You can search for the right connection for you using Google Maps.
In case you will be going to the museum from the airport like I did, take bus #12 to Schuman (about a 30-minute ride) from where it’s just a short walk.
You can buy a single-journey ticket from the machine at the bus stop for 4.5 EUR. Depending on your plans after visiting the museum, though, you might be better off buying a 24-hour ticket for 7.5 EUR. In either case, don’t forget to validate your ticket once you get on the bus.
The museum is open between 9AM and 5PM every day except for Monday. It’s also closed on January 1, May 1, November 1, and December 25.
An adult ticket into the museum costs 10 EUR. If you have some extra time (which I unfortunately didn’t), you might also want to consider getting a combined ticket for all three museums in the park for 20 EUR.
You might want to check the museum’s website for the latest prices and opening hours before heading there to have the most up to date information.
Air and Space Exhibition Hall
While it wasn’t the first exhibition hall after the museum’s entrance, I’ll first talk about the Air and Space exhibition hall as that was the main reason I visited the museum.
The hall was located a short walk away from the museum’s entrance, and could be reached through the Historic Gallery and Navy exhibit which I’ll talk about a bit later in the review. It was well marked, and so it was easy to find.
The aircraft (and other exhibits) were spread across the hall’s main floor, as well as around an indoor balcony.
If you are planning to mainly visit the museum to take photos of the displayed aircraft, keep in mind that because of the large amount of exhibits and the relatively tight space, it was impossible to get “clean” photos of most of the aircraft.
On the main floor, dozens of fighter jets, military helicopters and transport aircraft, and bombers – mostly from World War II era and onwards – were on display. Among others, there were an F-16 (which was the most modern piece in the museum at the time of my visit) and a C-47 (the military version of Douglas DC-3) of Belgian Air Force.
All of the exhibits were clearly marked. Unfortunately, though, most of the descriptions were only available in Dutch and French.
There was also a small section of the Air and Space hall dedicated to Sabena – the former Belgian flag carrier that later turned into SN Brussels Airlines and then Brussels Airlines – as well as to the history of civil aviation in Belgium overall.
The former featured a Boeing 737-200 fuselage section and engine, vast array of memorabilia related to the airline ranging from vintage amenity kits and tickets all the way to crew uniforms, and historic photos.
The latter consisted of aircraft models of all the Belgium airlines that ever existed.
Finally, on the main floor, there were also some historic military photos and panels, as well as a mock-up of an aircraft workshop and a cafe where one could get some drinks and snacks.
Besides the aircraft displayed on the main floor, there were also several aircraft “flying” (suspended on pillars). The two most interesting ones of those were the Sabena Sud Caravelle, (registered OO-SRA) that I mentioned earlier, and a Junkers Ju-52.
As for the exhibits on the balcony, there were some more relatively modern aircraft and helicopters including a Britten-Norman Islander, but there were also many pre-WWII era aircraft that very few people nowadays would be willing to take a flight on.
While I won’t go into detail about the non-aviation side of the museum here, I’ll at least briefly mention them so that you can get a full picture of what you can expect to see in the museum.
Besides aviation-related exhibits, the Air and Space hall also included two smaller sections – one about the history of Belgian Navy and the other about Antarctic exploration.
Then, there was an outdoor exhibition with a variety of tanks on display.
Finally, there were several other exhibits where historic arms, armor, vehicles, and other items were displayed. Those included the following:
- Arms and Armors
- Historic Gallery
- Technical Gallery
- Napoleon’s Era
- 1914 – 1918
- Russian Gallery
- 1919 – 1945
Separate from the exhibits, there was also a fairly large shop with a wide range of publications, aircraft models, and other related items. And, throughout the museum, there were simple games children could play while walking around the exhibits.
Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History Summary
If you are interested in military history or military aviation, then visiting this museum on your next trip to Brussels is a no brainer. The number of items displayed is staggering, and even though I am not that interested in military history, I still enjoyed walking around and seeing all the different weapons, uniforms, and so on.
That said, the museum is worth a visit even if you are a civil aviation enthusiast only. If for nothing else, then for the ex-Sabena Sud Caravelle. However, you might also enjoy seeing military versions of some aircraft that were used for passenger transport as well such as the Douglas C-47 and Junkers Ju-52.
On a separate note, if you like the Sud Caravelle, make sure to also check my review of the aviation museum in Istanbul.