DESTINATIONS / EUROPE / BELGIUM

Brussels with children – family-friendly activities in this beautiful Belgium city

Brussels with children – family-friendly activities in this beautiful Belgium city

Things to see and places to visit in Brussels with kids and the whole family

There are so many wonderful things to do, places to see and activities to enjoy in Brussels, here is our pick of the best.

Grand-Place

The starting point for any visit to Brussels is the Grand-Place – its main square.

It’s huge and dominated on all sides by beautiful buildings, many adorned in gold.

A wonderful spot to wow children, it can get crowded with tour groups.

You can wander the cobbled streets around the Grand-Place – it’s not a huge city so a pleasant stroll won’t tire out young legs.

We enjoyed going into the renovated Stock Exchange building nearby to have a look.

The St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral  is nearby too – Belgium’s national church, which looks similar to Notre Dame and has played host to the country’s biggest occasions for centuries.

Another good spot to sit is the Mont Des Arts, a large, open space with lovely flowers and a good view over the city.

Grand-Place, Brussels, Belgium
Grand-Place

Mini-Europe

A great way for children to learn more about Europe is at this small park with 1:25 scale models of famous European monuments like the Eiffel Tower, Houses of Parliament and Acropolis.

Mini-Europe is an EU project built in the late 1980s and the models still look great – they are all hand made and some cost up to £300,000.

You can push buttons to make Mount Vesuvius erupt with steam or at each country to play its national music.

When we visited, there was a little treasure hunt to follow looking for miniature statues of famous figures like Shakespeare, Isaac Newton and even Boris Johnson!

Some of the interactive games as you go round are a bit old fashioned but our daughter enjoyed walking round the site and learning more about the different countries.

They have to add more nations to the park every time a new country joins the EU.

Despite Brexit, the UK’s models remain in the park but the guide book doesn’t have any information on them now.

It takes around an hour to walk around the park at a leisurely pace and there’s a cafe and restaurant.

You could combine a visit with a trip to the Atomium landmark building next door.

The park is a little way out of Brussels. The Heysel stop on the metro is the nearest public transport.

You can also book a ticket and combine it with Tootbus Hop On, Hop Off bus experience.

Looking at the Grand-Place in miniature at Mini-Europe
Looking at the Grand-Place in miniature at Mini-Europe

Tootbus

We love a hop-on, hop-off bus when sightseeing. With Tootbus you can buy a one or two-day pass or even enjoy a non-stop evening tour of Brussels.

You can use Tootbus to get to Mini-Europe using the red route. This runs from near Brussels Central Station, out to Mini-Europe and then around the city.

We find hop-on, hop-off buses a great way to see a lot of a place quickly without tiring out children – and we’ve used Tootbus in other cities including Bath and Paris.

Manneken Pis

Okay, so a small statue of a toddler urinating doesn’t sound the highlight of a visit but it was one of ours.

And it seems others agree – crowds flock to the Manneken Pis statue. The boy’s a Brussels landmark with copies in shop windows, displays and postcards. People love to have their photo taken with him and sometimes dress the statue in clothes like football kits or Elvis outfits.

It’s fun for children to laugh at and keeps them entertained as you wander the streets, as they can spot every new model of the boy.

Manneken Pis statue in Brussels
Manneken Pis statue

Brussels Park

For a bit of green space in the city, visit Brussels Park, it’s up a small hill from the Grand-Place.

There are cafes and beer gardens, space to ride bikes and walk.

There are also playgrounds and fountains in this royal park, which is near the Palais De Bruxelles.

Brussels Park
Brussels Park

Food

One of the best things to do with children is sample Belgium’s favourite foods – chocolate, waffles and frites.

You’d struggle to find three better options to keep most children happy. In the city centre it seems every second shop is selling one of these three items.

Frites – think chips somewhere between the thickness of French fries and chip shop chips in the UK – are taken very seriously in Brussels,

You can buy them in a cone to eat on the move – with mayonnaise traditionally, but ketchup’s also always available.

We went to Fritland, which has been open since 1978, for a takeaway cone, and also Patatak, where you can sit at tables on the street and enjoy.

Waffle houses are everywhere, with two main types of waffle – the Liege and the Brussels waffle.

Make sure you get yours from somewhere making the batter freshly – they taste amazing warm.

You can go for any sweet sauce and topping you can think of, and there are also savoury options.

And chocolate – well you’re spoilt for choice. You can smell the aroma coming from stores and cafes.

Waffles in Brussels

Chocolate Story

Speaking of chocolate, there’s a small museum called the Choco Story Brussels near the Manneken Pis.

You get an audioguide to listen around a small tour with exhibits telling the story of the cocoa bean.

Then you get to see one of the master chocolatiers at work creating the tasty treat.

There’s even the odd sample to try as you go around.

Choco-Story chocolate museum in Brussels

We enjoyed complimentary access to some attractions to enable us to review the area. All views are our own.

Have we missed any activities that your family enjoys in Brussels? Please let us know!

Interrailing review – we take our children on a train trip around Europe

Interrailing review – we take our children on a train trip around Europe

The highs and lows of a family Interrail holiday using Global Passes

I get some strange looks as I edge down the corridor in my pyjamas.

I’ve already had to stand on a suitcase to get out of the room without waking the other three occupants.

It’s the smallest bedroom we have ever slept in and it’s moving at 100mph.

We are on our first overnight train and it’s certainly an experience we won’t forget in a hurry.

After boarding at nearly midnight, we have to make up the beds as the train rattles along.

There’s no room for us all to stand let alone store our two suitcases.

But it’s all part of the adventure. We have set ourselves a challenge to travel around five countries in 10 days by train.

And it’s made possible thanks to Interrail. We are trying out its Global Pass which allows us to travel on almost all trains around Europe.

This includes Eurostar and trains in our own country while on the outbound and inward journeys.

Frankfurt to Nuremberg train, Interrailing around Europe with children

Although the less said about our outward journey the better – signal problems saw our easy trip to London mutate into a four-train nightmare which left us wondering if we would even make it to the capital, let alone our Eurostar from St Pancras.

But we did. And it has been mostly plain sailing from there. Or plain railing, if that is even a word. And if it isn’t then it should be.

First stop Brussels. We visit Mini Europe with its miniature replicas of famous landmarks and indulge in Belgium’s famous waffles and frites (not together).

Most memorable is the famous Manneken Pis sculpture of a boy urinating in a fountain – he is everywhere we look – replicas are in shop windows, on socks and even made into mini chocolates.

The local trains we catch here are double decker delights to the joy of my daughter.

(Read our full guide to Brussels for more information).

On day three we depart for Germany, changing trains in Frankfurt to get to Nuremberg.

The trains feel so clean, modern and spacious. Plus, we are lucky enough to have the first class Interrail option – the price difference is relatively small and worth the extra if you can afford it.

After settling into a big apartment hotel (review here) and armed with a Nuremberg Card (which gives free access to attractions and free local transport), we start at the city’s pretty zoo where we spot polar bears and enjoy a dolphin show.

We get a glimpse of German culture, lederhosen and bratwurst at the twice annual fair Volkfest and explore the Old Town.

(If you are planning a trip of your own to Nuremberg, read our full guide).

Nuremberg
Nuremberg

Munich is our day five destination. Although it’s nearly 200 miles from the sea, we join crowds of spectators watching surfers take turns to ride the waves of the Eisbach River where it gushes out from under a bridge.

It then meanders through a huge park, the English Garden, where thousands are gathered enjoying the sunshine and the relaxed atmosphere.

We view the city from the top of St Peter’s Church and my son enjoys a visit to the home of Harry Kane and Bayern Munich – the Allianz Arena.

Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany
Allianz Arena

And you can’t visit Munich without stopping for a traditional Bavarian meal at world famous tavern The Hofbrauhaus, by far the biggest restaurant I have ever seen.

It’s nearly midnight when we take to our (not so comfortable) beds on the aforementioned overnight train, which is taking us from Munich to Venice in eight-and-a-half hours.

And the reason I am to be found early in the morning wandering around in my pyjamas? I’m in search of a toilet and my clothes are firmly inside the one suitcase we could fit under a bed. Our night has been disturbed by noisy passengers getting on and off and I’ll do anything to avoid waking the children.

Although I nearly turn back when I realise everyone else is fully dressed!

A couple of hours later, we arrive in Venice, not exactly refreshed from the journey.

But stepping out of the station is a feast for the eyes – the turquoise waters, fabulous architecture and gliding gondolas soon wake us up.

A canal in Venice
Venice

And the room back at our hotel later feels gloriously spacious after our cramped conditions the night before.

A travelling day beckons next. We take three trains from Venice to Paris with stops at Milan and Zurich. It’s our most stunning journey to date as we pass through the spectacular scenery of Switzerland.

We have three nights in Paris and manage a whistlestop tour of all the main attractions, without the help of trains, using the Tootbus hop-on hop-off buses.

A trip up the Eiffel Tower takes me back to the last time I looked over Paris from on top of it when my boyfriend asked if we could move it together.

Up the Eiffel Tower
Up the Eiffel Tower

So it is nice to return, now, married with children.

We can’t resist a trip to Disneyland for our last day where another train leaves an impression – but it’s just one of the rides, the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Then it’s back on the Eurostar home.

We have been on 28 trains this holiday – so you would think I would know how to exit one.

But at our final top, our village station, I press the wrong button, only to sound an alarm that makes everyone jump.

What a way to announce our arrival home.

Are you interested in an Interrail trip, check out our full guide: Interrail – our guide and top tips for travelling around Europe by train – The Family Holiday Guide

If you would like to hear more about this journey, here is our full day-by-day diary: Interrailing with children – a diary of our adventures on trains travelling around Europe

Related article: Brussels with children – family-friendly activities in this beautiful Belgium city

Related article: Things to do in Nuremberg with children – the best family activities

*All views are, as ever, our own. To help us review the experience and areas travelled around, we were given complimentary Interrail passes, Tootbus passes, a Nürnberg Card and accommodation in Nuremberg.

Interrail – our guide and top tips for travelling around Europe by train

Interrail – our guide and top tips for travelling around Europe by train

Everything you need to know before using an Interrail Pass

What is an Interrail Pass?

An Interrail Pass is a train pass that lets you travel as much as you want across most of Europe.

They are for European residents or citizens only, if you live outside Europe you need a Eurail Pass instead.

Different types of Passes

Location

Interrail Global Pass is valid in 33 European countries, perfect for if you are travelling across more than one country.

Interrail One Country Pass, is self-explanatory – it works across one country. It lets you explore all corners of one country to really get to know it.

Time

You can choose a pass which lasts for anything from four days to three months.

Class

You also have the option of first or second class passes and this depends on your budget.

Second-class is more affordable but the difference in price isn’t as much as you would think and the extra luxury when travelling can really be worth it. Also, meals are often included which you can take off the cost.

Mobile or paperless

Mobile Passes work on your phone if you have Apple devices iOS 13.0 and later and Android devices 6.0 and later. 

This means you can have access to your Interrail Pass straight away and should never leave it behind. It also doesn’t start until you travel.

Issues can occur if you are using the Interrail app and it crashes so keep your mobile pass code handy, it will be a six-digit PNR code.

Traditional paper passes can be ordered online or bought at railway stations. You have to state the start date which offers less flexibility.

What to take with you

Pack as lightly as you possibly can as you will be carrying your luggage around a lot. Backpacks are seen as a traditional option but many like us, opt for suitcases with wheels. We chose these ones from Amazon – the grey three-piece – really reasonably priced, attractive and sturdy, plus they hold a lot. We took the large one on our train trip and used packing bags inside it. We also took the small for spare items, rain coats and electronics.

While you need to limit what you take, don’t forget the essentials:

*Passports and European Health Insurance Cards.

*A steel water bottle that you can refill. This means there is no need to keep buying plastic bottles and everyone can see which is theirs.

*Travel adapters and multiple chargers. We took this European adapter for a British plug to use with my laptop and hair straighteners and this one with only USB sockets for phones and Kindles.

Make the most of sockets on trains and in stations to charge your devices.

*First aid kit – make sure you have painkillers, plasters and travel sickness tablets if needed, plus of course any medication you need and hand gel.

*Credit card/cash – We took some cash for emergencies, around 100 euros, but used specialist cards with no foreign exchange fees. Our preferred one is Halifax Clarity but there are others available. Take a spare card in case one doesn’t work. And always pay in euros never pounds, if you have the option.

*No matter how nice the scenery, nobody and especially children, will want to spend hours and hours on trains just looking out of the window, so make sure you take things to occupy you such as a Kindle or other e-reader (you don’t want to be lugging books around), tablets, card games, activity books, cards or travel games which won’t take up too much precious room. Download any books, podcasts, films or shows before you go, there is often WiFi but it can be sporadic.

*Headphones – the whole train doesn’t want to hear Peppa Pig.

*Comfortable clothes and shoes, this isn’t the time for worrying too much about what you look like and being fashionable.

*A random one, but if you like an uncommon tea, take a few bags with you, I take peppermint tea bags with me then can always ask for a hot water to put my tea bag in if they don’t have any.

Seat reservations

So the beauty of an Interrail pass is being able to hop on and off trains as much as you like. However it’s definitely worth booking seats on busy routes.

Some trains have compulsory booking including Eurostar, other high speed trains, night trains and many in France, Italy and Spain, so make sure to check first.

It also means you are guaranteed a seat, usually have access to a charging point and can sit with any friends or family you are travelling with, especially important when you are with children of course.

The price of seat reservations is sadly not included in the Interrail Pass and the cost can build up.

You can avoid paying seat reservation fees entirely by taking smaller regional trains but this will make the journey a lot slower. We preferred paying for speedier trips between locations but if you’ve got lots of time, it’s an option.

Interrail App

Download Interrail’s Rail Planner app to keep track of your journeys, book seat reservations and access your Mobile Pass.

It should also give you the latest information on train timetables although this relies on you keeping it up-to-date. Some people have also reported issues with the data being wrong in places like Poland.

Alternative sites for timetable data include DB Reiseauskunft.

There’s also a fantastic website which explains everything about European trains and tips and ideas for Interrail newbies called The Man in Seat 61 – we used it to plan a lot of our trip, especially reserving seats and looking at route options.

Accommodation

Book your accommodation in advance. If you are travelling with children you need to know you have a safe, welcoming space where you can all relax and recharge.

It also makes sense to book breakfast in the hotel if you’ve got a long journey that day so the children can fill up on food they like rather than relying on the train menu, which isn’t really designed for youngsters.

Night Trains

If you have a long journey and there is a sleeper train available, go for it! It is such a novelty for children and the cost is similar to a hotel.

However, don’t expect to want to do it again!

We took a night train from Munich to Venice. Boarding wasn’t until nearly midnight, then we had to make our own beds up in a very tiny compartment with a toilet down the corridor.

The beds were hard, the pillows very thin and the passengers getting on and off at the various stops, so noisy, it sounded like they were in a compartment with us!

Am I glad we did it though? Absolutely. It’s a night we won’t forget in a hurry.

When things go wrong

No matter how carefully you plan, something is likely to go wrong.

You can’t prepare for train delays or cancellations, except to try to allocate more time and vow to keep calm when plans change.

Our first day of travelling on our Interrail trip went very wrong before we had even left the UK – full diary here.

There were multiple train cancellations due to signal problems on the line and we struggled to even get to London in order to leave the country and get on the Eurostar. Thankfully, all went smoothly once we had boarded.

Try not to let children pick up on your stress, you don’t want to spoil the trip for them.

Let them know in advance that things might go wrong but that it is all an adventure.

Above all, make the most of this amazing opportunity to explore new places. And of course, have fun.

Now read our INTERRAIL DIARY: Interrailing with children – a diary of our adventures on trains travelling around Europe

*This article contains affiliate links to products we genuinely bought for our trip and recommend. We may make a commission if you make a purchase after clicking on one of them.

*We had complimentary passes for our Interrail trip to enable us to review a holiday like this, all views, as ever, are our own.

We would love to hear any other tips you have, have we missed anything? Please comment!

Interrailing with children – a diary of our adventures on trains travelling around Europe

Interrailing with children – a diary of our adventures on trains travelling around Europe

The highs and lows of our Interrail trip including a very memorable overnight train

We are off on a 2,000-mile train adventure around Europe, only it hasn’t started off quite as planned..

Day 1: Disaster

Route: Cheshire to Brussels. 

Our day starts on a high with a plan to catch three trains.

But fate will soon intervene. 

Carrying as little luggage as possible, we catch our local train to Crewe, a big hub for the north west and here is where our problems start. 

Our train to London Euston is cancelled with talks of a signal problem on the line. 

We find another train but it has to terminate at Birmingham due to the same issue between Milton Keynes and Watford. 

Panic around us is rising as are passenger numbers as people from multiple trains cram on to a platform at New Street awaiting another one. 

We make it on and breathe a sigh of relief. We even find seats. 

But catastrophe rears its head again. After a 20-minute wait at Rugby, the screens aboard ominously declare that the train is not stopping at stops including our destination of Euston. 

Eventually the train driver confirms this to be true and the entire train has to get off at Northampton. The issue means that the platform already resembles a cattle grid and we join the tense throng. 

We have been creeping further south train by train but it seems we may not get any further. Will we even make it to London today let alone Brussels? We start to look at buses and coaches, our journey by train apparently foiled at the first hurdle. 

Suddenly an announcement that a train to London is leaving from platform one and everyone – now waiting upstairs in the concourse – surges down the stairs and back on to the platform, staff urging caution.

To make it worse, we then get separated, three of us packed into one carriage like sardines, my husband in another one with the luggage. We get off and reunite and I’m amazed to see how much clearer this furthest away carriage is. Lesson learned. 

Might we still make it to Euston and then St Pancras in time for our Eurostar to Brussels? 

Train one!

Day 1, part 2 

After a challenging journey and four trains, we are thrilled and relieved to finally arrive at London Euston. 

A hurried walk to St Pancras and we are miraculously still on time for the Eurostar and we sail through security and two passport checks (UK and French).

We have been given Interrail Global Passes to try out for this review – train tickets that allow us to travel on almost all trains in Europe. 

This includes Eurostar and trains in our own country while travelling on the outbound and inbound journeys. 

We are lucky enough to have the first class option, which actually doesn’t cost too much more and is well worth it. 

Our Eurostar carriage feels plush and quiet and we have a meal included. 

It only stops once, in Lille and we arrive in Brussels, Belgium in just two hours. 

Our sixth and final train of the day delights us all. It’s a sleek double decker and we make sure to sit upstairs despite the short journey from one part of Brussels to another.

We walk to our hotel near the main square. 

The city is bustling, it’s fabulous and there are more frites and waffles than you can shake a stick at. 

Waffles in Brussels

Day 2: Brussels

We wake in Brussels. It’s a bustling, thriving, fabulous city whose most famous resident is a boy urinating in a fountain. 

If you’re on a European rail trip then this, the capital of Europe and home of the EU, is a great place to start.

And Mini-Europe is the place to learn more about the continent.

Travelling there is our only train ride of the day. 

It’s got miniature 1/25 scale replicas, made by hand, of famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Mount Vesuvius and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

We also visit a chocolate factory – Choco Story Brussels and a fun, famous sculpture. 

Manneken Pis, a bronze statue of a little boy and a fountain, was designed by Jerome Duquesnoy in 1619, and has become a familiar symbol of the city.

You can’t miss him, there are replicas all over the place!

And yes we tried the waffles, they’re delicious. And more frites. 

Only one train today. But three tomorrow, we are off to Germany. Next stop Nuremberg. 

Manneken Pis in Brussels

Day 3: Back on the rails 

Route: Brussels to Nuremberg 

After breakfast, we pack up and catch a train back to the main station in Brussels.

Comfortably settled on our next train to Germany, we are happy everything is going to plan.

‘Please get off the train. There is a technical problem. Please get off the train’.

We are good at this now and obligingly gather up all our stuff and exit, hoping this isn’t a repeat of day one in England. It’s not. 

Twenty minutes later, we are back on and moving. The train is so, so nice. So much nicer than any I’ve used back home in the UK. The glass doors between carriages automatically slide open as you approach. 

The seats are fabulously comfortable – recliners with foot stands. 

There are tempting, private little booths for four behind glass screens available to book. 

These trains just feel so clean, fresh and spacious. And yes we are lucky enough to have complimentary first class passes with Interrail but all the spaces feel more luxurious.

The children are engrossed in their tablets and I read a book (via the Kindle app on my phone in honour of the first Interrailing rule to travel light) and properly relax for the first time in a long while. 

The gentle swaying, the views – trains are my favourite way to travel when things go to plan. And with me they often don’t.*

A car is never an altogether relaxing experience, even when you’re not the driver, planes feel so cramped and your ears pop. 

The station at Frankfurt is a further revelation, it’s bright, airy and welcoming.

We board our final train of the day for Nuremberg. 

Boarding at Frankfurt for Nuremberg

*Just ask my friends about the time last month when I was meant to be meeting them for a long-awaited catch-up in Birmingham and accidentally ended up on a non-stop train to London Euston.

Day 4: Nuremberg

I wasn’t expecting to see polar bears in Germany. Or a dolphin show.

But both are highlights of our trip to Nuremberg Zoo, a pretty site and an unexpected workout (it’s very hilly). 

Travelling around this city is easy as it has both a tram service and underground trains.

And the tram drops you directly outside the zoo.

Paying for attractions and transport is a doddle* too as it is all free if you buy a Nürnberg Card.**

Worth it for the convenience as well as the cost – zoo entry alone would be over half the price of the card.

We are lucky enough to be here for the twice yearly fair Volksfest.

There are lederhosen, bratwurst, a great family atmosphere and lots of funfair rides. A real glimpse of German culture – and the weather helps as it’s an unseasonably warm and sunny 25 degrees. Shame I forgot to pack our sunglasses while ‘travelling light’. 

We are staying at The Living Hotel in the suburb of Gostenhof on the outskirts of the city.

It’s nice to be able to spread out as our roomy apartment has two floors, plus the bonus of a small kitchen and two bedrooms.

The Old Town is just a 20-minute walk away.

We have more exploring to do here tomorrow before we leave for Munich.

And I must buy some sunglasses. 

Nuremberg Zoo

*I pledge to drop this expression into conversations more regularly, it’s not used enough! 

Day 5: Munich 

Surfing and flirting 

Munich may be nearly 200 miles from the sea but it doesn’t stop professional surfers from flocking here.

They come to enjoy some of the best river surfing in the world and it’s a spectacle to behold as they take it in turns to ride waves that surge from under a bridge.

Crowds of spectators watch to see how long they last before plunging into the water and being whipped downstream. 

It happens on the edge of a park, the English Garden. The Eisbach river continues to flow through the park, creating a lazy river effect.

Today in 25C temperatures, dozens are using it to cool off.

There are thousands of mainly younger people enjoying the warm weather in this huge open space. There’s an amazing vibe and it’s fascinating to walk among them as they dance, play volleyball, sunbathe and flirt. It takes me back a few years. Or possibly decades. 

Games continue in another beautiful nearby park – Hofgarten – with groups of people playing boules.

There’s an almost film set feel about the place that I can’t quite put my finger on not least because of the appearance of some of the buildings. 

Loads get around by bicycle, but transport options are plenty, you can use trams, underground trains and electric scooters. 

It feels like a salubrious university city, which it is. This the country’s third biggest city is also one of its wealthiest. 

It took just an hour to get here from Nuremberg where we started the day wandering the historic streets around the Imperial Castle.

We’ve got another full day to enjoy here tomorrow before our very exciting overnight train to Venice. 

Surfing on Eisbach river in Munich

Day 6: Munich 

Workouts and lederhosen

I have an unexpected workout today. Three hundred and six steps to climb St Peter’s Tower in order to tremble on a narrow ledge with great views over Munich. 

We also look around the Viktualinen market which has opened every day (other than Sundays and public holidays) since 1807. And then wait with a crowd, phones all around pointed in the air, to watch the 11am Marienplatz clock tower show. It’s a mechanical clock which re-enacts scenes from Munich’s history on the grand New City Hall. 

Meanwhile my son is keen to see the home of Harry Kane – and Bayern Munich – the Allianz Arena. 

Inside you can do a tour of the stadium and visit the Bayern Munich museum and club shop. The museum’s very well done, with displays in German and English.

Next we take a flight through 7,000 years of Bavarian history (Munich is the capital of Bavaria) with VR technology at TimeRide Munich. 

There’s plenty of history in our dinner choice.

The Hofbräuhaus has been serving beer, sausages and more since the 1500s.

It’s absolutely huge, full of atmosphere, music and filling German food. 

Sat at tables around us are some of the regulars, often in lederhosen, drinking out of their own beer jugs – kept under lock and key for them. 

No time for trying too much beer though for any of us – we’ve got a night train to Venice to catch.

Next stop Italy.

At the top of St Peter’s Tower in Munich

Day 7: The reality of an overnight train and tears for Venice 

So I don’t get much sleep. 

As it turns out, overnight trains are rather noisy and the beds do not feel like fluffy clouds.

I’m a two-pillow kind of girl but I may as well be lying horizontal, they are so thin. 

Our compartment is obviously tiny. With four of us and two suitcases plus a ladder to get to the top two bunks taking up valuable floor space, attempting to make up the beds when we get inside at nearly midnight on a moving train, is a bit of a challenge. 

The passengers laughing, shouting and  chatting as they get on and off at the various stops, sound like they are in the room with us as we try to sleep. 

Plus a loud ‘Get off the train, get off the train,’ by a guard at one point to a man who presumably has wandered on when he shouldn’t have, is slightly alarming. 

I’m also not sure of the sleep train/pyjama etiquette. There is no en-suite to our cabin and I have to pop to the loo early in the morning while the other three are sleeping.

My clothes are shut in our smaller case which eventually had fitted under a bed (no such luck with the bigger one which I have to clamber over to get out of the room). So I am forced to shuffle self-consciously along the corridor in my PJs. 

EVERYBODY else I see is fully clothed. Is this an embarrassing faux pas? Should I have slept in my clothes? 

I also miss the nearest toilet and have to get into the next compartment along a wobbly connector. Then do the walk of shame all the way back!

Hoping for a final hour of sleep, the guard then brings around four breakfast trays which I balance on the bed around me, until they wake up. Then he is back again to collect all the bed sheets and pillows that they are still sleeping in.

It’s not all bad though. Although I won’t be hurrying to try out an overnight train again, I’m very glad we did it. 

What an experience to travel in a bed and wake up (if I’d slept) in another country for the cost of a hotel room. 

And what a country it is. We love Italy and the children have never been to Venice before. 

We’ve only had one weekend here pre-children and I feel emotional as we leave the station and our eyes feast upon the turquoise waters backed by picturesque architecture. 

My favourite part is standing on the little bridges watching and photographing as the gondolas pass underneath.

We make the most of our day in Italy to dine on divine pasta and pizza.

And I have never appreciated a hotel room as much as the one we are in now, its spaciousness is heaven-sent.

The view from the famous Rialto Bridge 

Day 8

Location: All over the place

We are having a travelling day, working our way across Europe from Venice to Paris with stops in Milan and Zurich. 

The route through Switzerland is slow through the mountains but scenic and I wish we had time to stop for a night here to take in the views some more. 

I also wish for the first time that I’d taken a travel sickness tablet as it is rather winding! 

The children have done well with journeys of two, four and four hours. 

Our last train is a double decker and we sit upstairs although much of the journey is through darkness as night falls. 

I sleep on and off despite the interior automatic doors sounding like the drum sequence used after a joke’s punchline on opening and firmly shutting on everyone on closing, even trapping my handbag in its clutches at one point. 

Other sounds come from our fellow passengers. We aren’t in first class for this leg. Despite our first class Interrail Global Passes (kindly gifted for our review) some trains require seat reservation costs and the charge for the better seats was much higher for this particular train. 

The family next to us make their presence known and break many unofficial train travelling rules throughout the hours. Starting with a loud FaceTime call to a toddler, continuing while watching music videos without headphones and ending with a series of loud, unapologetic burps from the dad! 

The seats are still lovely and comfortable with plenty of leg room. 

We set off at 8.30am and are due to arrive in Paris at 10.30pm. 

Day 9: Paris

I love the Eiffel Tower. Standing on it looking over Paris many years ago, my then boyfriend asked if we could move in together. 

So to return today, not only living together but married with two children, feels special. 

Although this time he says he wants to ask me to move out instead. He jokes. I think. 

Not only do I go back up it, I also photograph and film it from all different angles. 

Including from the top of a hop-on hop-off Tootbus. 

It’s a fabulous vantage point for lots of key Paris landmarks including the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysées.

There’s an audio guide on board and place to charge your phones. 

And it stops at all the best tourist spots so we can explore around the Louvre and enjoy a crêpe in the Tuileries Garden.

Notre-Dame is still impressive despite being under reconstruction following the fire nearly five years ago while a violinist gets even more attention than the cathedral itself as she shimmies about while playing beneath it. 

We finally alight back outside the Eiffel Tower, completed in 1889 and now surrounded by men trying to sell miniature sparkly models. 

My daughter, having started off the day excitedly spotting the Eiffel Tower, ends the day clutching a rose pink replica to take home. 

And I have another crêpe. 

Day 10: Paris

We hurtle along at an alarming rate, thrown from side to side while people scream all around us. 

This train is not the relaxing, comfortable experience we have come to expect over our mammoth railway journey. 

Thankfully it’s not part of our Interrail experience. 

It’s a coal train – the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride to be exact. 

We have decided to spend our last day before we travel home at Disneyland Paris. 

And it’s another sunny, warm day to end our Easter Holidays European adventure. 

We enjoy lots of rides and a fabulous Disney show under Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. 

Meanwhile we are getting our beauty sleep in a hotel for the last time. Tomorrow we are homeward bound.  

Disneyland Paris

Day 11: The journey back

After nearly 30 trains in 11 days you would think I would know how to exit one. 

But typically, it seems I don’t and have to bring attention to our arrival home. 

I confidently press the green button to open the door at our village station and a loud alarm sounds. 

I have inadvertently pushed the SOS button, scaring passengers and driver alike. 

It’s the end of another travelling day and the end of our Interrail adventure. 

Arriving in England on Eurostar I’m pleasantly surprised at how grand and welcoming St Pancras station is after being impressed with its European counterparts like Frankfurt. 

And impressed with the speed of the journey – six hours from Paris to our home in Cheshire. 

We have travelled over 2,000 miles on this trip.

If you include every journey, long and short, we have been on 28 trains, six trams, five hop-on hop-off buses and one water taxi. 

Plus of course, there’s been a lot of walking.

What an experience but now I’m glad to be at our final stop. 

We are home. 

Catching Eurostar home from Paris

All views are, as ever, our own. To help us review the experience and areas travelled around, we were given complimentary Interrail passes, Tootbus passes, a Nürnberg Card and accommodation in Nuremberg.