What was it like to be a winemaker in the 19th century, a schoolboy in the 1910s, a baker who climbed his coal-fired steam oven or someone who lived within the walls of a medieval castle.
While books can give us the key events that changed or shaped history, museums of the past give us a first-hand view of what life was like for ordinary people like farmers or artisans. Not only can we see what it took to complete daily chores, from washing clothes to churning butter, these museums show the architectural styles and artifacts of the era and tell the stories of our great-great-great-grands -fathers.
There are several museums of yesteryear in Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany. We list what you can expect and the hours of operation.
Country Museum – Binsfeld
“A Schiewesch” is the place to go if you want to visit a country kitchen or see what a bedroom in an old cottage might have looked like. The building itself is over 300 years old and houses thousands of old antiques and photos recreating the rural scenes of the past, specific to this region of northern Luxembourg. There are 50 themes, spread over twenty rooms.
The building was originally erected in 1600 as a sheepfold, and a house was added in 1725. An inn is being renovated and is due to open this summer, and in early September the museum usually holds a festival of potato.
It is open from Easter to early November every day from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. On request, you can participate in many activities. It revolves around a day in the life of the village, including baking, milking cows and handicrafts. The museum also organizes treasure hunts for older children and adults.
Thillenvogtei Museum – Rindschleiden
More rural life, this time from the 1900s, in another authentic farmhouse in this picturesque village, the smallest in Luxembourg. The founder of the museum, Jean Ney, has been collecting objects related to rural life and craftsmanship for decades.
In the kitchen of the 1900s
Photo: Nico Muller
House documents were found in the attic and dated from 1688. They showed that Rindschleiden was an important agricultural center with stables, pigsties and barns. Ney’s uncle had also collected pistols, helmets, and uniforms left behind by American soldiers, and the collection grew to include farm tools and old paintings.
An old school has been set up in the dairy farm, with a small stove, old maps of Luxembourg, wooden desks with slates and chalk. Next door is a recreation of an old store, and you can tour the house, including a bedroom filled with clothes, a dining room and kitchen, and perhaps most surprisingly, a hairdresser with a collection of old hair dryer.
The village is in a hidden valley surrounded by forests and pasture fields, it has only one official inhabitant, but also the church of Saint Willibrord, one of the oldest in the country with a ceiling decorated with frescoes from the Sixteenth century. The museum organizes various school programs, including baking bread, sewing clothes or picking potatoes. You can visit from July 21 to September 8 on a Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. but you must contact them first.
Museum “A Possen” – Bech Kleinmacher
Enter an 18th and 19th century winegrower’s house in the Moselle region of Schengen. You will be able to get an idea of both the social and artisanal life of the inhabitants and the history of viticulture in the region, as well as Moselle folklore. You will be able to see the workshop of a cooper, a shoemaker, a tailor, a weaver and of course a winemaker.
What a winegrower’s room might have looked like in Schengen in the 19th century
Photo: Gerry Huberty
Exhibits are presented in rooms including a nursery and a school for teddy bears, with fascinating artifacts including an old dollhouse and several dolls, model trains, beautifully preserved clothing including a wedding dress, a old movie camera and a sink. The house was built in 1617, and there is currently a temporary exhibition on religious customs from birth to death.
The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Guided tours in English are offered at an additional cost for a group of up to 15 people.
Rural, craft and coachbuilder museum – Peppange
So what was life like as a wealthy farmer between 1880 and 1930? The craft section of the museum features various workshops including a working blacksmith. You can visit a reproduction of a small diary complete with butter churn, a cobbler’s workshop, an old school room and an old kitchen, as well as an interesting section showing statues and religious vestments. There is a farmer’s garden with vegetables, spices and medicinal plants, and a medieval forge. The main museum is open for self-guided tours (they advise it takes 45 minutes), from March to October, Tuesday to Friday from 2pm to 5pm and weekends from 2pm to 6pm.
Cars that belonged to the Grand Ducal family
Photo: Guy Wolff
The carriage museum displays 40 historic vehicles, eight of which belong to the Grand Ducal Court. It includes harnesses, trunks, lanterns and travel utensils, with a story about the evolution of horse-drawn vehicles. This part of the museum is open from May to October on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Sheet Factory Museum – Esch-sur-Ssure
Head to the Haute-Sûre natural park, which in the 16th century was also known for its weaving guilds. The old textile machines have been lovingly restored so you can see the weaving process of the fabric, from wool to finished fabric. Local craftsman Martin Schoetter-Greisch built a machine in 1807 and 10 years later installed the first spinning machine.
Cloth woven wool was a staple industry in bygone days
Photo: Chris Karaba
In 1866, the workshop had been enlarged. You can see the restored machines in operation on a guided tour, and today the factory still produces woolen fabrics using these machines, available for purchase in the shop. In July and August, the factory is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. From April to June and from September to October, it is open on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on weekends from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. From November to March, it closes an hour earlier at 5:00 p.m.
Folklore and open-air museum Roscheider Hof – Konz
Explore the traditional way of life in the Rhine regions of the Eifel, Hunsrück and Saargau, including what it was like to sit in a classroom in 1912, visit a traditional grocer, barber and even a village pub. The site is home to replicas of 19th century homes and farmhouses, fully furnished with original artifacts.
The estate house, around a rectangular courtyard, now incorporates a visitor center, and is the oldest part of the museum, and originally built where it stands. Roscheider Hof was first mentioned in records in 1330 and belonged to a Benedictine monastery and was used by sharecroppers for grazing. It was sold to a French soldier in 1805, who together with his son took part in the 1848 revolution, even spending time in prison. The oldest remains of the building date from the 16th century and include a small fortified Gothic window.
The children’s world section has over 100 antique dolls, as well as an 1840s middle-class period saloon and a 1930s Gail’s Bakery, which used a coal-fired steam oven and tank to generate steam. To close the oven, the baker had to climb into a closable pit in front of the oven opening. You can also see an umbrella workshop, a millinery and an exhibition of original objects tracing the history of laundry. The village contains a shepherd’s hut from 1749 and a replica of a farmhouse from the 1820s.
The living museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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House of medieval heritage – Dinant
Housed in the ‘Spanish House’ of this pretty Belgian town, you can peek into the life and death of medieval inhabitants, learn about their religious ceremonies and their work with ceramics and copper.
Discover what life was like inside the castle walls, as well as town planning and architecture in the Middle Ages, which evolved from earth and wood in the 10th century to stone in the 13th century. The dungeon was also slowly replaced by more comfortable dwellings as weaponry evolved. It was also a time when cities began to grow, and the growth of the bourgeois class, freedoms and rights.
The museum is also interested in Mosan or terracotta pottery and the evolution of manufacturing techniques and styles during the Middle Ages. A temporary exhibition in 2022 shows how writing became widespread in medieval times, with millions of words written by thousands of hands.
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer and until 5 p.m. in winter. There is an audio guide with three different routes including a children’s tour, available in French or English, and usually a self-guided tour lasts 1 hour to 90 minutes. On Sundays there is a free guided tour at 3:00 p.m. but you must email to reserve a time slot.
This living wool museum and sheep pen near Bastogne offers children the opportunity to meet 25 species of woolly animals and discover the stages of wool production since the beginning of the 20th century. You can also step back in time in a completely rebuilt period house. Open from April 1 to September 30 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed on Wednesdays. Open on Saturday (and Sunday in July and August only) from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets cost €8 for adults and €7 for children.
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