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Historium - long report and useful information for my DE's

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Sluis, The...
Destination Expert
for Bruges, Zeebrugge
posts: 1,106
reviews: 22
Historium - long report and useful information for my DE's

Dear fellow DE’s and regular forum readers,

After already having viewed the Historium building a couple of times to get to know the layout of my new working place I finally got to visit the actual attraction yesterday afternoon. I assume some of you will visit Historium sooner or later, but I thought I’d give you all a short report of what to expect, so we can all inform our forum users when questions are asked.

Be prepared, it's a rather long story, but it does contain some new useful information.

Historium officially opens on Sunday 25 November 2012, but last week has seen several other openings for VIP’s, special guests, the Bruges tourism industry (that’s me), project stakeholders and a selected group of 1435 Brugeans. Not a random number, as the story of the attraction takes place in 1435, fifteenth century Bruges.

Let me just quickly recap again what Historium is all about. Historium is an all-encompassing attraction where sets, film, music and special effects merge into a 35 minutes visitor experience. Throughout 7 thematic rooms, all your senses will be stimulated while you follow the story of Jacob, a young apprentice of the renowned painter Jan van Eyck, who falls in love with Anna, a handsome girl posing for Van Eyck’s latest masterpiece: The Madonna with Canon Van der Paele. All set in Bruges’ golden age.

There’s a couple of things you need to remember about Historium.

First of all, and this is really important to accurately inform future visitors: it’s not a museum, but an attraction. Without giving any details away I can best compare it with the queuing at a theme park. To make waiting pleasant theme parks often already let you glimpse the atmosphere of an attraction by “dressing” the queue areas. Historium goes further though and takes it to the next level with (among other) its film, music, special effects and authentic materials to create the rooms.

Secondly, Historium strives to be the starting point for all Bruges visitors. It’s an entertaining and light introduction to the city, accessible to all. Don’t expect to be swamped with numbers, historical facts or reading panels. Historium pleasantly guides you through a more or less random day in Jacob’s life and thus allows you to experience certain aspects of how people lived in 1435. The attraction itself lasts 35 minutes, a deliberate choice as the majority of day trippers only spend 5 to 6 hours in Bruges. Buses from the train station literally drop you off at Historium’s doorstep. You get out of the bus and step into Historium.

And last but not least, Historium is more than just an attraction. While the attraction is only half an hour you can spend more time in the building. There is an after show highlighting the history of Bruges and further explaining things seen in the attraction. It also shows you where to find locations that are linked to the show in present day Bruges. This part is more traditional in terms of transmitting information, but still manages to be interactive. The after show also holds the entrance to the highest balcony (this is the second floor, third for American readers) from which you have a stunning view over the Market square. I tell you, this is a must see. Keep your cameras ready!

In Duvelorium, the beer café which also has a balcony (first floor, second for American readers), you can have one of numerous Belgian beers, including the local Brugse Zot beer. Duvelorium is sponsored by Duvel beer, so they sell several Duvel items including a specially designed Historium Duvel beer glass.

It’s not a tourism law, but it’s a given that you always exit through the gift shop. Historium holds a gift shop and a chocolate store (this is Bruges after all).

In addition you can find a tourist office in Historium as well (that’s my department) with a city explorer. The city explorer is an interactive data base which holds everything there is to know about Bruges. You can transmit information to your smartphone or tablet and thus compile your own portable wish list of things to visit. Three people at a time can use the data base. In the future this data base will also contain information about other Flemish art cities, it is still a work in progress.

Historium has its own information desk as well, so any questions about ticketing, the attraction, group visits and so on can be addressed to the person manning the Historium desk.

Furthermore there are public toilets in the basement (0,50 euro) and lockers (ground floor and basement). The lockers are easy to use and do not require money, just a 4 digit code you can come up with yourself (enter the code twice to lock the door, enter the code once to open it). It’s interesting to know that the lockers are public as well. For instance: a family with a baby buggy wants to make a horse carriage ride or sightseeing tour by bus (both depart from and end on the Market square), but they obviously can’t take the buggy with them. Now they can store the buggy in the Historium lockers and collect them after the tour.

The inner court yard of Historium holds an amphitheater where you can relax and hang around. This will be an official meeting point for guided walking tours, so you’ll probably come across tour groups here. The court yard also leads to the vending machines and ATM.

Let's hope you will never see the inside of it, but there is a first aid room as well on the ground floor. The top floor holds offices and staff quarters.

When you first enter Historium a lush carpet on your right will lead you to the shops, tourist office and Historium information desk, ticket machines and attraction entrance. You will also pass the grand staircase, the lift and come across a large screen where you can watch a making of featurette. The carpet btw is the one seen on Jan van Eyck's painting, just google "jan van eyck canon van der paele" and put it on images. They had it made especially for Historium.

If you go straight ahead after entering you will end up on the court yard.

Remember that the entire ground floor and basement area (tourist office, Historium desk, Historium ticket machines, toilets, lockers, gift shop, chocolate store, ATM, vending machines) and Duvelorium are accessible without an entrance ticket. Anyone can walk in at any time, during the opening hours.

The attraction and after show can be found on the first and second (second and third for American readers) floor. There is an elevator in the building, so wheelchair users can use this to move through the building and attraction.

To visit the Historium attraction you will need to buy a ticket. As the attraction is highly timed you will need to visit in time slots and use an audio guide. There is a time slot every 4 to 5 minutes, which means you never have to wait very long. Each time slot can hold a maximum of 24 people.

The audio guide, which is included in the ticket price, is available in 9 languages (Dutch, French, German, English, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Mandarin (Chinese) and Japanese, incl. two kids channels in Dutch and French). The audio guide is very easy to use (just plug in your headphone and adjust the volume to your liking, that’s it) will tell you when to move from one themed room to the next. It’s important to be on time for your time slot, if you miss your time slot your ticket becomes invalid. So it’s best to be in Historium about 15 minutes in advance. You can check in a couple of minutes before the time on your ticket. There is no need to announce your visit at the Historium desk, you scan your ticket and move through the turnstiles where you wait till the attraction invites you in. Staff is of course available when you have problems. They can easily be recognized as all men and women wear a medieval inspired tunic.

Tickets can be bought online or at the ticket machine (a really cool replica of the top of our Belfry tower) inside Historium. The ticket machine shows all available time slots. So you can for instance buy a ticket in the morning and come back in the afternoon for the show.

Some practical information to finish:

- Historium is on the corner of Market square and Philipstockstraat, with the entrance being on the Market square. It’s instantly recognizable by the Historium logo above the gate. There is also a green i on the façade to announce the presence of a tourist office.

- Opening hours for the attraction are daily from 10h00 – 18h00 (last entrance for the show at around 17h00) and on Thursday till 21h00 (last entrance for the show at around 20h00).

The tourist office inside Historium is open daily from 10h00 – 17h00.

Everything will be closed on 1 January and 25 December

- Adult entrance price is 11 euro, for children younger than 14 it’s 5,50 euro. Disabled people pay the full entrance price, but the accompanying person can enter for free. Family tickets are also available, it’s 30 euro for maximum 2 adults and 3 children younger than 14 euro.

The official website is www.historium.be

You can prepare your visit by reading among other about the 7 themed rooms.

Historium is already on Tripadvisor: tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g188671-d3… so visitors can already review Bruges’ newest attraction.

Please review the attraction ONLY. I’ve had Tripadvisor remove numerous reviews in the past about Bruges HISTORIC city center…………..although Bruges as a whole is lovely as well of course ;)

Anyway, that’s it for now. Should you have any questions about Historium, feel free to contact me at any time.

Kind regards,

Sabrina

Yorkshire, UK
posts: 289
reviews: 85
11. Re: Historium - long report and useful information for my DE's

Well we are back home and have to say that the Historium was a Tale of Two opinions for us , so here go`s ......................

We think for able bodied visitors this will be an easy attraction to view and visit but can see real problems for disabled and elderly visitors especially when transiting between floors via the lift especially when a full tour group is viewing , the main entrance is easy to access and the ticket machine is useable by wheelchair users , one accompaning person is free when buying the wheelchair ticket but there are quite a few purchasing options for different levels of viewing so take your time making the decision !

We think a few more directional signs would be a good idea as we found this a problem but had a young lady from the staff guide us around the various things to do , just as well as the access ticket machine reader would not scan to allow access to the viewing ! the young lady sorted this out for us but if we had to have gone back to reception we would have missed the time slot !

The Headphones and recorded script were crystal clear and informative but this is where we diverge on the actual Historium tale and rooms itself ........

Elizabeth thought it was entertaining and intersting while i thought it to be a poor use of the venue , differet views but something which you must make up your own mind , i just think it could have been so much better , Elizabeth was pleased with it !

One thing we both agreed on was the choice of floor covering using cobble stones ! we would NOT reccomend this for wheelchair/Scooter users with Spinal pain problems !! it being quite bumpy over the coble stones , other floor coverings were fine !

The whole show takes around 30 minutes and then there are the other rooms & shops to visit as well .

So as we said , a Tale of Two Views for us but please do make your own mind up about the Historium for yourselves !

Chris & Liz

Sluis, The...
Destination Expert
for Bruges, Zeebrugge
posts: 1,106
reviews: 22
12. Re: Historium - long report and useful information for my DE's

Hi all,

The mixed reviews on TA haven't gone unnoticed, which became clear yesterday when several newspapers paid attention to them and the Historium spokesperson in turn reacted on local TV.

I currently check the Historium TA site on a daily basis to read any new reviews, as I find it interesting to know what people think about Bruges' latest tourist attraction. There's nothing wrong with a healthy dose of criticism of course, but from reading the reactions I do get the impression that some people have the wrong idea about Historium and hence find the experience a bit disappointing. One person even thought it a shame "that such a beautiful building goes to waste".

Let's start with the package. Like several other buildings in Bruges the Historium building looks positively medieval but was actually built early 20th century, in neo-gothic style. It used to house government offices. You can view photos of the former interior on the Historium facebook page. I think the Historium team has done an marvelous job at transforming this somewhat boring interior into a modern day working place infused with medieval atmosphere. In my opinion it now reflects the glory of its exterior and I am actually very glad people now have to chance to walk into this building! I’ve been working in Bruges for 3,5 years now (and before that went to school in Bruges for 3 years) and I’ve never set foot inside the Provincial Court, which is the building right next to Historium…..

As for the attraction, Historium doesn’t strive to enlighten you by showcasing loads of historical information and numbers. It wants to give you a glimpse of what life in 15th century Bruges looked like by fully immersing you in a love story. The seven themed rooms are carefully chosen so that various aspects of medieval everyday life are touched upon.

In the afterzone there is ample opportunity to learn about Bruges. Things heard and seen in the attraction are explained and it is here that you have to do the reading, so essentially the edutainment concept of Historium is well implemented. Furthermore, a large wall in the afterzone is dedicated to pinpointing all the major scenes and places from the attraction on a map of Bruges, enabling you to connect to present day Bruges and inviting you to go look for them.

Historium has worked with the very best in the field, making sure each detail is historically correct, in order to bring you an accurate experience: from the decorations in the themed rooms and large painting in the entrance hall to the film and soundtrack. Much thought has gone into creating all of this.

As with anything new there are bound to be some teething problems. Yes, the audio guide didn’t work properly in the beginning and yes, the movie projection jammed a bit. But these things have now been fixed. As for the larger issues, like the staircase from the first to the second floor and signalisation for disabled people, Historium is monitoring everything. As I work at the tourist office (also inside Historium) I know for a fact that the Historium management is looking to improve the visitor experience, of the attraction but also of the building itself. Staff have been asked to report even the slightest problem and also offer suggestions based on what visitors tell them. In any case, Historium will receive a small update every 2 years and a large one every 4 years.

Constructive criticism will eventually help turn Historium into a better attraction. Given the fact that management has already responded to some of the negative reviews on TA it is evident that they are also keeping an eye on what the TA travel community thinks, so feel free to leave your own review (many thanks already to E-traveller1969, Chris & Liz, N8RJG and soonas)!

I perfectly understand we can’t all agree, but I also find it honest to give Historium time to prove AND improve itself. Hope we can at least agree on that ;-)

As always, kind regards

Sabrina

Ventry, Ireland
Destination Expert
for Dingle Peninsula
posts: 6,723
reviews: 95
13. Re: Historium - long report and useful information for my DE's

It is perhaps a little unfair to judge Historium too harshly in it's first days of operation, but then what else can we do at the moment. My major criticism was of the storyline and the script which do not match the anticipation generated by the wonderful athmosphere of the building. I work in the theatre so perhaps I am too critical. In any event I wish the venture every success

Wakefield, United...
posts: 220
reviews: 32
14. Re: Historium - long report and useful information for my DE's

I am still looking forward to my fist visit - I went to the Annie McLeod Experience in New Lanark, Scotland a few years back and loved the whoe concept.

Pricewise - I think it is spot on - it works out about 10 euros for the Annie McLeod one - and is in the countryside (lovely place at the Falls of Clyde)

I am hoping that they have replicas of Jacobs Rosary in the shop - :)

Stay tuned for my actual report after my visit - in just over 31 days (NOT that I am on countdown or anything lol)

Cannock, United...
posts: 1,230
reviews: 22
15. Re: Historium - long report and useful information for my DE's

Excellent points made by Sabrina and soonas. Agreed that new projects take time to settle and also that teething problems are inevitable.

I would be interested to know if the pricing of the attraction reflects this? So, when the teething problems are ironed out is there a plan to raise the price of the attraction?

Belgium
posts: 1
reviews: 6
16. Re: Historium - long report and useful information for my DE's

It is nice and interesting to see that quite a number of people take the time for a constructive review and feedback.

Reviews and feedback will allow us to improve the quality level or our attraction and are therefore very much appreciated.

It is not Historium's policy or strategy to raise our praising without a clear reason. Pricing, to our opinion, is a result of and depends on supply and demand. Our current pricing (audio guides in 9 languages included) reflects the quality of our experience attraction and is in conformity with the pricing level of comparable tourist attractions. Our prices would not be unnecessarily raised even though we have ironed out practically all of the teething problems.

Once again, thank you all for your contribution to gearing the experience level of our attraction towards greater heights.

René Tolenaars

Director of Sales & Marketing Communication

Historium Brugge

Yorkshire, UK
posts: 289
reviews: 85
17. Re: Historium - long report and useful information for my DE's

Hello Sabrina & Rene , It is obvious from the comments that the Historium is well received as a building that is a well thoughout venue for something like the exhibit contained within , indeed we found the building itself most attractive and interesting !

As with most new attractions things will settle down and visitors will see the best , problems will arise and will be dealt with , as in our case with the scanner ticket machine , it is the way things arising are dealt with that will polarise visitirs opinions !

Price wise we have no quibbles indeed it was refreshing to find a carer could be admitted free , not always the case !

We both wish the Historium well in the future and look forward to seeing lines of visitors waiting to go in :)

Chris & Liz

Paris, France
posts: 1
reviews: 3
18. Re: Historium - long report and useful information for my DE's

Thank you to Sabrina for this useful report. We have visited Historium this week-end (March 2013)

I have to say that it is quite disappointing. The reason is very simple.

You say that this is not a museum but, obviously, there is a game played on the marketing side to confuse it with a historical adventure, referring to Middle Ages and Bruges history. One could think Historium wants to play on all sides, pure entertaining and culture asset.

My feeling is that a lot of money has been spent on decorum around a surprising poor short film depicting a fictional mushy, sloppy love story between irrelevant figures. Are we, tourists, so gullible?

Special effects are pretentious and illegitimately mystical, like if there was some second level to unfold.

I would understand if the point was to reveal something about Bruges, but that also fails dramatically. I did not have the feeling to get an insight of Bruges in 1435. I think this is an excuse for Historium to gain legitimacy on a round trip to a city like Bruges.

Would I dare to say the whole thing feels vulgar? No…. I wouldn't

Edited: 10:28 am, April 02, 2013
19. Re: Historium - long report and useful information for my DE's

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