Brussels with kids – a family travel guide

things to see in Brussels, Belgium - ornate buildings line the Grand Place

This article may contain compensated links. See our full disclosure here

Considering a trip to Brussels with your family?

The city may not one of the obvious European capitals to visit but we loved the city as a family travel destination.

We spent a few days exploring the city and are excited to share with you the best things to do in Brussels with kids.

Brussels overview

parks - brussels attractions

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.

Exploring Brussels with our small children was easy as the centre is highly pedestrianised with lots of room for prams and strollers. We also took advantage of the hop on, hop off sightseeing bus to get around to the other sights.

There are also some wonderful big parks with plenty of space for little ones to explore safely. We found the trams easy to use too.

Older children will like the cartoons, murals and trying all the delicious food.

Things to do in Brussels

Explore the centre and its beautiful architecture

brussels grand place - things to see in Brussels

The medieval Grand Place is the natural centre of the city and a great place to people watch and admire the stunning architecture. 

Lining the square are six guild halls that once housed the headquarters of the powerful merchant groups of the city – oncluding boat makers, brewers, bakers, millers, and carpenters.

Considered one of the most beautiful squares in the world, the Grand Place is carpeted with begonias every second August in a stunning floral display.

mannekin pis - brussels things to see

There is a flower market in the place every other day and there many waffle and chocolate shops to grab a snack.

Don’t forget to say hello to Brussels’ most famous citizen –  the little Manneken Pis statue. He is the emblem of the city and the owner of over 900 costumes!

Wander the beautiful arcades and eat chocolate

brussels galeries - best place for chocolate in brussels

Brussels is also well known for its beautiful arcades and galleries. These may not be the most exciting for kids except that they are full of chocolate shops!

If you are traveling with teenagers then a chocolate making workshop and tour might be a fun activity to consider.

Get your art and comix fix

brussels -smurfs

Belgium is comic and mural mad and as you explore you notice many colourful murals on the buildings.  The murals celebrate  local favourites to characters known world wide like TinTin and the Smurfs.

We had a great time exploring the Comic Strip Museum. It has  a great section on The Smurfs and the exhibits are interesting for both kids and adults.

Discover art deco treasures

There are over 1,000 Beaux-Arts buildings throughout Brussels and many of them are found in the Saint-Gilles district.

We took a lovely walk through this area admiring the buildings. We would have loved to have visited the Horta Museum but felt the kids were a bit too little.

Enjoy the parks and public spaces

Arc de Triomphe Brussels

We love to take some time out in parks when we travel. Brussels has some magnificent parks and gardens. 

Our favourite was the Parc du Cinquantenaire with its incredible fountains but we also enjoyed the Bois de la Cambre in the south of the city, close to the Horta Museum.

Take in the views of the city

Atomium - things to do in Brussels with kids

Visit the futuristic Atomium for great views of the city. This iconic monument was built for the World Fair in 1958 is now looms the most popular attraction in Brussels. 

The structure has nine spheres connected by tubal walkways. The spheres represent an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. Apart from the view there are permanent and temporary exhibits about science and technology to explore.

The views are great but to get the most out of your entrance fee we recommend this activity for older children – over 10.

Note – there are 80 steps to walk up and 167 steps to walk down

For more information and tickets click here

Take a tour of Mini Europe

mini europe

Close to the Atomium you can take a whistlestop tour of the continent when you visit Mini Europe. In this park over 350 models celebrate the highlights of Europe. 

Little kids in particular love this attraction. You can even watch Mount Vesuvius explode.

You can buy tickets for Mini Europe in advance here

Only have one day in Brussels? Check out this itinerary

Eating and drinking in Brussels

belgian waffles - best things to eat in brussels

Belgian cuisine is not for those trying to eat low carb or paleo I’m afraid.

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 but if you really want to try the best waffles in Brussels click here.

Belgium is also home to what we know as the  70s classic “chicken vol-au-vent”.

where to eat in Brussels Belgian cuisine - 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.

But I am happy to say the food was very tasty and wholesome and the kids were welcome too.

Belgian chocolate

belgium - chocolates

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 Mary where they have been making artisanal quality pralines for almost a century. You can find Mary in the beautiful Galerie de la Reine.

Belgian beer

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.

At Moeder Lambic near the Grand Place you can choose from over 40 beers on tap. The staff are friendly and children are welcome. They have a range of snacks and charcuterie to nibble on too.

Practical information for a family trip to Brussels

How to get to Brussels

We took advantage of a sweet Eurostar deal from London for our trip to Brussels. Quick journeys with children is always a good idea so the 2 hour travel time from St Pancras was ideal.

Brussels is very well connected with most major European cities as the de facto capital of the European Union. You get there by train from Paris in an hour and a half and Amsterdam in around 2 hours. 

We use Omio (formerly GoEuro) to book train tickets in Europe.

Flight times are also short and the transit to central Brussels is easy. We use Skyscanner to find the best value flights for our trips.

Where to stay in Brussels

A nod to Magritte in our Brussels AirBnB apartment

We have stayed in over 50 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 other attractions were in walking distance.

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.

Unfortunately the apartment is no longer available but do your search for places close to the Grand Place and you wont go wrong. 

New to Airbnb? Click here to claim credit for your first stay

If you prefer to stay in a hotel check out this article for suggestions to suit all budgets.

Getting around Brussels

Our children were very small when we visited so we decided to use the hop on hop off bus around the city. This was a good choice because outside of the attractions in the centre of Brussels, the other sights are quite spread out. 

The sightseeing bus covers 2 routes and 22 stops of the main attractions in Brussels.

You can get more info and buy tickets for the hop on, hop off sightseeing bus in advance here

Day trips from Brussels

If you have a little more time than we did or are using Brussels as a base to explore Belgium.

You can easily take the train to Ghent and Bruges from Brussels and explore on your own. Otherwise you can join a guided tour

Day trip to Bruges – explore the beautiful canals and romantic cobbled streets of one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. Pocket sized Bruges is the perfect day trip from Brussels – click for tour info and prices

Combined day trip to Ghent and Bruges – I feel this might be a little rushed as there is plenty to see in both places but if you have limited time and want to see the highlights then it could be a good option – click for more info

Have you been to Belgium and Brussels?

Our trip to Brussels was lots of fun. We loved the mix of architecture found around the city, its parks and gardens, museums and of course chocolate!

Big fans of Belgium (having also visited Ghent and Bruges) we are looking forward to discovering more of Belgium soon. Next stop.. Antwerp!

As seen in:

the Pigeon Pair and Me

25 thoughts on “Brussels with kids – a family travel guide

  1. Linda @AsWeSawIt says:

    I had no idea that it’s only 2 hours from London to Brussels. Now that IS a surprise! We’ve not been to Brussels yet. I’m a foodie and those photos look delightful, though I’d need to avoid anything with wheat. It’s nice to know that if worse comes to worse I can rely on excellent chocolates and beers to see me through. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your great story on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    • Katy says:

      Thanks Linda. We unexpectedly really loved Brussels. Don’t worry there are plenty of eating options for the wheat intolerant other than chocolate, especially if you like steak ?

  2. Gina Caro says:

    Brussels is on my to visit list. It’s interesting that you got a Eurostar deal I hadn’t even thought of that! I’m off to have a look on their site to see what I can find #CityTripping

    • Katy says:

      I am definitely pro train Gina! Beats the airport queues any day. There’s a brilliantly site that has a lot of great info on booking trains inEurope. You can also book with them.

  3. Cindy G says:

    Love that display of treats and the murals look amazing! I cycled through Brussels for a charity challenge but would love to go back for sight-seeing – and the food looks delicious! #CityTripping

  4. Wander Mum says:

    Brussels hasn’t been somewhere I’ve longed to go – like you say – not mega glam but I love the murals, chocolate is always a bonus and didn’t realise they were comic mad. We went to Bruges a couple of years back and loved it – maybe we need to visit the capital too! #citytripping

    • Katy says:

      Honestly, I think you’ll find it way more glam thank you expect. And even the not so glam moments were fun. Like sitting in a square at dinner listening to music with 100 or so students happy to dance with our kids.

  5. MummyTravels says:

    I’ve been to Brussels a couple of times although not with my daughter – I definitely think the Atomium would be fun with her, but I don’t remember the murals at all! I do remember the food and the chocolate and some gorgeous buildings though, and love the fact it’s so easy with Eurostar. Thanks for linking to #citytripping

  6. Lolo says:

    I wasn’t prepared for how much I would fall in love with Belgium the first time we went! I fell in love with everything! The food, beer, chocolate, architecture, the friendliness! Had I found it sooner in life I probably would have moved there but I’m in Germany now. I keep trying to convince my fiancé we should move to Belgium! Without luck! 🙁 #MondayEscapes

    • Katy says:

      I love it! I’m always looking for an excuse to go to Belgium. Have you been to Antwerp? I heard it is more modern but just as fun. Here’s to yummy Belguan chocolate!

  7. Ahila says:

    I did visit Brussels once but just for a day. As I was meeting up with a couple of friends, who had moved there, we were too busy catching up so didn’t have time for exploring. I did manage to visit Grand Place though, which you have captured nicely in your above photo.

  8. Marta says:

    I love Brussels as it is the city where I met my husband! I was there again with kids a couple of years ago and it was great to see it from the point of view of the family, rather than the student: the one thing we found difficult was food – all places seemed difficult to access with buggies and none seemed to really cater for kids (we had two toddlers) so it’s great to read we were probably just a bit unlucky with the addresses we chose

    • Katy says:

      Awww what a nice memory to have of a city. We got engaged in Barcelona so I have similar fond memories of that city. We probably did get lucky with the food. I chose places that had a safe outdoor area for our toddlers to run around in. It was a sunny weekend so that helped too ?

  9. Ting at My Travel Monkey says:

    I think you’re right – Brussels doesn’t burn highly on people’s lists but every post I’ve read including yours shows what a great city it is for families. I really want to see the Brussels Atomium and my son would be fascinated by Manneken Pis. Plus good chocolate, waffles and food? Win win! Great insight. Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

  10. Nell (the Pigeon Pair and Me) says:

    We love stoemp! It’s such a child-friendly museum. The city really is full of cultural treasures – I espcially like the Tintin mural. I’ll have to look out for it next time I’m over. Thanks for linking up with #CulturedKids!

  11. aholeinmyshoe (@a_holeinmyshoe) says:

    Yum, I wish I had tried that chicken vol au vent when I was in Brussels. We loved the murals and saw several during our trip and loved that so many other beautiful cities are just a short train ride away making for some great day trips. We visited Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp.

Comments are closed.