The Historium is a two-part edutainment experience. To start, we were in a group of about eight, all wearing audio sets and headphones to follow along in our own languages. The entrance door opened into a darkened hallway, smoke seeping out and dramatic music playing in our ears; it all felt exciting and mysterious as we began our adventure into Bruges in its 15th century glory days.
I would describe what came next as an immersive movie. Each of the several rooms was a set supporting the events on screen, even down to the occasional animatronic person. (Thankfully the cleaver-wielding butcher with his slaughtered pig did not move; my five-year-old was needlessly terrified enough of the innocently snoring man.).
A love-at-first-sight story between a famous painter’s apprentice and his model was used to lead us on a journey through medieval Bruges, from the docks to Van Eyck’s workshop to the bath houses and elsewhere. Here is where I must get slightly parentally prudish: the bath house scene, though short, is quite provocative and consists almost entirely of a shot of rear nudity, but also includes couples kissing in the baths, implied prostitution, and, early on, brief female frontal nudity. Any child who happens to not watch the screens for this scene will not miss any plot points.
In an innovative twist, some of the scenes were accompanied by smells like turpentine or smoke, or projected in a different way, like on a table top. After several rooms—each a different stop in Bruges of yore–and about half an hour, the love story came to happy conclusion. I found that it had given me an overview of what life in Bruges may have looked like back then, while peaking my interest in learning more.
Our group was then released into the museum-style part of the tour, where we could choose to read or listen to more about any of the pieces of history seen in the movie. There was also access to a balcony with a lovely view of the Grote Markt.
As we exited we stopped for a refreshment at the Duvelorium Grand Beer Cafe, which has a fun and funky decoration style and different beers available for sampling.
Location: Grote Markt, Bruges
Cost: Adults 11 Euro; Kids 3-14 5.50 Euro; 0-2 free; Family Pass 30 Euro
Hours: Open daily 10-6, except Christmas and New Year’s Day.
The Historium involves stairs and strollers are not allowed. We were provided with stroller parking.