Gallo Roman Museum, Tongeren

The renewed and improved Gallo-Roman Museum in Tongeren is impressive. It’s spacious, airy, atmospheric, with an excellent mix of the traditional and the new, and all in a superb location right in the heart of the historical city of Tongeren.

A new museum was certainly necessary. The old one was simply over-run by visitors. Designed to accommodate 20,000 visitors a year, by 2005 it was attracting 100,000 per year. Three years after the original museum closed to the public, a new museum opened in May 2009.

Covering four floors, the museum leads you on a journey of exploration through the lives of the people in the region from prehistory to the early Middle Ages. The story is illustrated with 2,200 authentic objects as well as by text, interactive animations, films, evocative reconstruction drawings, lifelike figures and scale-models.

The collections are extremely diverse. Highlights include a selection of bronze axes from 800 BC; gold coins used by the Eburones, the local tribe that defeated one of Julius Caesar’s legions; early Roman sculptures; and a 4th century Christian tomb. Children will probably be enticed by the interactive touch-screens, the short movies of how to make and throw spears, and the lifelike representation of a successful Neanderthal hunt.

Also of interest in Tongeren is the second largest antique market in Europe. Held every Sunday, morning from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., Tongeren is transformed into an antique-shoppers paradise.

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