Just outside of Brussels, in the sterile university town of Louvain-la-Neuve, a stark lopsided box appears to have been lowered and squeezed into place to house the new Hergé Museum. Opened in 2009, the stunning modern museum building designed by Christian de Portzamparc seems an odd fit for the works of Hergé, creator of the young adventurer Tintin. I might have envisioned a dusty old library with secret passageways for the collection, but in truth, this vision works to showcase the author, Hergé, along with his creations and inspirations.
Within the walls, the gorgeous light-filled atrium is the starting point of the tour. Pick up an iPod customized to your language (included in the admission fee) to guide you through the exhibits. They offer excellent background information, and would be a fine distraction for any child. If they are bored by the audio tour, they might enjoy some of the “games” which appear to be single question quizzes relating to the exhibits.
The Tintin Europalia exhibit starts with a bang with a blowgun from the Amazon – straight from the pages of The Broken Ear. (Oh yes, we know our Tintin books!) If that doesn’t draw your little adventurer in, I don’t know what will. But just beyond, you’ll find a room with displays that are too high for many kids, and they may be frustrated that they can’t reach the magnifying glass for examining beetle parts. An interior room draws you in with displays of mounted butterflies, but when you turn around you are face to face with what is described in the materials as a shrunken head collected by Belgian adventurer Robert de Wavrin. Just as Tintin often encounters dangerous situations, young visitors will find a few things that put them on edge.
If it’s not crowded, there’s a small alcove where you can send an ecard featuring a photo of you on an Hergé background.
A second floor gallery shows artifacts either collected or commissioned by Herge, and other pieces that inspired him from various lands. Stereoscopes offering the steampunk 3D black and white travel photos from the 1930s would be fun for kids. 3D glasses for viewing projected red/blue images of Tintin seem… random, but cool for 2 seconds, and maybe more for a kid.
If your kids are Tintin fans, they might also enjoy a visit to the Cinquantenaire Museum in Brussels’ Jubelpark, where massive collections from former Belgian colonies are housed, and where Herge is said to have drawn much inspiration.
Age: Best for children over 6, and any fan of Tintin. Photos of bare breasted women on the walls might shock some people.
Children under 7: FREE. Children 7 – 14: 5€. Adults: 9.50€. Large families and students with card: 7€.
Tuesday – Friday 10:30 am – 5:30 pm, Saturday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm. Closed January 1 and December 25.
You can take the Brussels Line bus or a train from Brussels to Louvain-la-Neuve. If you drive, be aware that many GPS systems will not recognize the museum’s name, nor its street, so you’ll need to enter “Boulevard du Nord” as your destination.
The on-site restaurant, La Petite Vingtième, serves lunch for 14.50€ and up, and offers vegetarian plates and children’s plates (10€). Step outside to the neighboring Grand Place to find several restaurants where you can have lunch for a bit less.