Have you visited Brussels? The city may not one of the obvious European capitals to visit on a weekend break but we loved the city as a family travel destination. We spent a long weekend exploring the Brussels and are eager to return to discover more.
Capital of Belgium and home to the headquarters of the European Union, Brussels is a diverse and interesting city with lots to explore. The historic centre is the beautiful Grand Place or Grote-Markt – a large cobbled square surrounded by 15th and 16th century city and guild hall buildings. Surrounding the square are quaint little streets and elegant arcades housing Belgium’s famous chocolatiers.
We loved the mix of architecture found around the city. The medieval Grand Place is the natural centre of the city but it is also well known for its magnificent 19th-century arcades and Art Nouveau buildings. There are over 1,000 Beaux-Arts buildings throughout Brussels and many of them are found in the Saint-Gilles district.
Belgium is comic and mural mad and as you explore you notice many colourful murals on the buildings. This mix of medieval and art deco architecture and modern art makes for a fun city for kids of all ages.
Exploring Brussels with our small children was easy as it is highly pedestrianised and lots of room for prams and strollers. There are also some wonderful big parks with plenty of space for little ones to explore safely. Older children will like the cartoons, murals and trying all the delicious food.
Highlights of our trip to Brussels
✪ Exploring the Grand Place and old Brussels
✪ Looking for murals on walls across the city
✪ Visiting the futuristic Atomium for great views of the city
✪ Discovering the art deco neighbourhood of Saint-Gilles – we would have loved to have visited the Horta Museum
✪ Relaxing in the magnificent parks and gardens – our favourite was the Parc du Cinquantenaire
✪ The Comic Strip Museum – with a great section on The Smurfs!
✪ Don’t forget to say hello to perhaps Brussels’ most famous citizen the little Manneken Pis statue. He is the emblem of the city and the owner of over 900 costumes!
Eating and drinking in Brussels
Belgian cuisine is not for those trying to eat “paleo”. Frites (fries) with mayonnaise, chocolate, waffles, patisserie and stoemp (mashed potato – sometimes with other vegetables) are all local specialties. You will find these foods everywhere and they are really delicious.
Belgium is also home to what we know as the 70s classic “chicken vol-au-vent”. We tried the original version at a local tavern La Fleur en Papier Doré. I would recommend a visit there for the atmosphere alone. Artist Magritte was known to frequent the establishment and is said to have scrawled on the walls. The food was very tasty and wholesome.
You know, as a chocolate lover I have always been aware of Belgium’s chocolate heritage but I was not prepared for the sheer number of amazing boutiques selling pralines, gânaches and all kinds of sweet treats. You literally cannot avoid chocolate in Brussels – oh well! My favourite chocolatier is
You literally cannot avoid chocolate in Brussels – oh well! My favourite chocolatier is Mary where they have been making artisanal quality pralines for almost a century. You can find Mary in the beautiful Galerie de la Reine.
After all that eating you are bound to be thirsty so that’s where the beer comes in. I’m not a big beer drinker but if that’s your tipple you are in the right place with over 450 varieties produced.
Practical information for a weekend in Brussels
We took advantage of a sweet Eurostar deal from London for our trip to Brussels. Quick journeys with toddlers and children is always a good idea so the 2 hour travel time from St Pancras was ideal.
We have stayed in many AirBnB‘s across Europe and like to think we know a thing or two about choosing the best holiday apartment for our travels. The apartment we chose for this trip to Brussels was among the best we’ve stayed in for location, amenities and general help from the host.
We were a 2-minute walk from the Grand Place and despite that, it was very quiet for those all important afternoon naps. An added bonus was the ‘Magritte’ theme of the apartment. I love quirky touches like this and it made our stay a little more special.
Have you been to Belgium and Brussels?
We are big fans of Belgium and have also visited Ghent and Bruges. Looking forward to discovering more of Belgium soon. Next stop.. Antwerp!
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