One of Belgium’s best fine art museums, the Groeningemuseum, holds a collection that covers around 600 years of Flemish and Belgian painting, from the 14th through the 20th century. Notable pieces include the 15th-century Flemish painter Jan van Eyck’s Madonna with Canon Van der Paele. This piece was completed in 1436 and features highly sophisticated techniques such as fine detailing and the use of multiple layers of oil and varnish to achieve texture and depth. This painting is regarded as one of Van Eyck’s most ambitious works.
Other works on display include Hans Memling’s Moreel's Triptych; Hieronymus Bosch’s The Last Judement, Gerard David’s Judgment of Cambyses, which depicts the corrupt Persian judge Sisamnes being flayed alive, and other pieces by early Flemish painter Rogier van der Weyden and the surrealists Magritte and Paul Delvaux.
The museum is small but thoughtfully arranged so that the layout of its 11 rooms follow a chronological order. Unlike many European art museums, the Groeningemuseum does not suffer from large crowds, even in the peak summer tourist season. The museum is set back from a main street in a small park behind a medieval gate. When you have finished inside the building, the surrounding gardens make an attractive place to spend some time.
The Groeningemuseum is in the city center, close to the canal-side flea market, and is open every day except Mondays. The entrance fee includes admission to the neighboring Arentshuis, an 18th-century mansion that houses the work of the Belgian-British artist Frank Brangwyn. An English audio guide is available and there is detailed information in four languages in each room.