| 4 min read
Definitely an off-the-beaten track experience, the Brussels Sewer Museum (or 'Musée des Égouts' in French) at Porte d'Anderlecht sheds a light on a hidden but essential city service. Not only will you learn about the sewage system, you'll also get to explore underground Brussels yourself. Descend under the streets into a part of the working sewer system, and meet the Senne river that today flows under the city.
The entrance of this unusual museum is situated in the Pavillon de l'Octroi, one of the two former toll pavilions at Porte d'Anderlecht that used to collect taxes on goods entering the city.
The first exhibition spaces feature maps of old Brussels that explain how the sewer system was made, and how the river Senne was banished underneath the city. You'll understand why at times there are so many mosquitoes in the metro station Bourse or Anneessens (the sewer runs underneath), and you'll also learn something about the underground wildlife of Brussels. Meet our community of Brussels rats! Luckily, no alligators have been found so far, but apparently that's daily reality in America though.
The museum does a good job at raising awareness concerning our water consumption. Did you know that an average citizen consumes around 150 liters of water per day?! All this 'dirty' waste water ends up in the same sewer as our 'clean' rain water, all of which then has to be processed by water treatment plants. Unfortunately, Brussels doesn't dispose of a smart dual sewer system like newer cities such as Louvain-La-Neuve unfortunately.
When you descend to the lower exhibition spaces, you'll quickly notice that you're getting closer to the sewer. (You might want to bring a clothes pin for your nose :-) ) Nevertheless, we thought entering the bowels of Brussels was the most exciting part of the visit! We walked along a part of the river Senne, and entered one of the tunnels of the sewerage network. The entire sewer network under the City of Brussels is nearly 400 km long, and in the museum you'll get to explore about 300 meters of this subterrean labyrinth.
At the end of the obscure tunnel you're in for a treat. The Brussels graffiti artist PAROLE has covered the walls of this waste water collector with calligraphy art. Take a closer look and you'll recognise a series of words that tell the story of sewer workers. The artwork is ephemeral as floods will gradually carry the message through the bowels of the city.
You'll exit the sewer on the other side of the street, where the last exhibition room details the life and work conditions of a sewer worker. Finally, you will leave the museum through a souvenir shop in the second toll pavillion (where you'll be able to take a deep "fresh" breath again.)
- Address: Pavillon d’Octroi - Porte d’Anderlecht, 1000 Bruxelles
- Entrance fee: 8 euros
- Every first Saturday of the month, you can take a free guided tour, led by experienced guides or ex-workers. You might to plan your visit accordingly.
- With the Brussels Card you have free access to the Sewer Museum and 40 other Brussels museums during 24, 48 or 72 hours (depending on what you chose). There is also a formula of the Brussels Card that includes free public transportation.
- Free guided tour on every first saturday of the month
- It is recommended to understand some French of Flemish, as all the info is in those languages, or take the English audio guide.
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