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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!

How to do London on a budget with children – our top tips for a cheaper break

How to do London on a budget with children – our top tips for a cheaper break

A family trip to London does not need to be as expensive as you think – read our tricks to save money

Find the free attractions

There are plenty of museums in London which don’t charge an entry fee. The dinosaurs and whales of the Natural History Museum and the next door rockets in the Science Museum are great for children.

There are also the historical artefacts in the British Museum and there’s the chance to walk the streets of Victorian London at the Museum of London.

If you want to take a step back into your own younger days, the V&A Museum of Childhood has toys, teddy bears and dolls through the decades as well as hands-on fun.

One area per day

Be sensible and tackle one part of London at a time where you can walk between attractions and save money on transport.

Try to do one section a day otherwise costs rise and children’s feet start to hurt.

This was our recent three-day itinerary:

Day 1 – Westminster, London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace.

Day 2 – Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Hyde Park.

Day 3 – Tower Bridge, Tower of London.

The Tower of London and boats on the river Thames

The area around the Tower of London is one to explore

Mix your transport

It is expensive to get around in London.

If you stay centrally, you can walk to lots of attractions, so pick a well-located hotel.

The Tube is the quickest option for longer trips but can be expensive, although an Oyster card makes it cheaper and children up to aged 10 are free with paying adults. You can also use contactless credit or debit cards now to pay as you go on London’s public transport, which makes life much easier, see the Transport for London website for more.

However, the London Underground can be difficult with a pram or buggy as most don’t have lifts. The wheelchair symbol on the Tube map shows stair-free stations.

If you have to go further, then the bus is the cheapest option and you can see the sights from the top deck, which can be great fun for children.

A taxi or Uber can work out relatively cheap too if you’re a large family but children’s car seats are not readily available.

Some taxi companies have children’s car seats, but they have to be booked in advance. It is legal for babies and children to travel in a taxi in London without a child safety restraint if one isn’t available. But a proper car seat is by far the safest option for your little ones.

Eat for less

It can be very expensive to eat out in London.

If you are on a budget and staying in a hotel, enjoy a big breakfast allowing you a smaller lunch.

Then think about making a picnic, we often buy a loaf of bread and cheese and make up our sandwiches to take out.

If you want to eat out, check for voucher codes and offers in advance. Read through the small print though because some chain restaurants exclude prime locations from voucher offers.

Don’t forget, London has amazing street food. We love the street food market at Camden for delicious lunches.

The Changing of the Guard

The Changing of the Guard is a great free show but can be a long and busy wait. One tip with toddlers is watch the band warm up at Wellington Barracks instead of battling the crowds outside Buckingham Palace.

Then you can go into St James’s Park when the soldiers are at the palace and watch them marching away afterwards.

Fewer crowds and less waiting around. Check the dates of the event here Changing the Guard.

Buckingham Palace on a sunny day

Buckingham Palace hosts Changing the Guard but we watch elsewhere

For a full list of free child friendly attractions see this link Visit London with kids.

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Do you have any tips to share for doing London on a budget?

(Pictures in this article are courtesy of VisitLondon.com)