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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.
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
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.
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 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
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
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
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
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
Eating and drinking 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”.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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