Family travel: Long weekend in Brussels

Family travel: Long weekend in Brussels

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.

Brussels, Belgium

Brussels view from Jardin du Monts - weekend in Brussels

View from Jardin du Monts

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.

Brussels highlights - elegant arcades and Mannekin Pis

Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert and Mannekin Pis

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.

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Highlights of our trip to Brussels

✪ Exploring the Grand Place and old Brussels

✪ Looking for murals on walls across the city

Weekend in Brussels - Street art murals can be found all over Brussels

Murals seen on the streets of Brussels – spot Tin Tin!

✪ 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

Arc de Triomphe Brussels

The Brussels Arc de Triomphe looks over the Parc du Cinquantenaire

✪ 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!

Comic strip museum in Brussels

✪ 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.

Belgian cuisine - vol au vent

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

Atomium - weekend in Brussels

The futuristic Atomium

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.

A nod to Magritte in our Brussels AirBnB apartment

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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!


Brussels | Belgium - this European city has all the ingredients for a great weekend break with kids

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25 Comments

  1. 29th February 2016 / 9:05 PM

    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.

    • 29th February 2016 / 9:21 PM

      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
    1st March 2016 / 10:09 AM

    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

    • 1st March 2016 / 11:48 AM

      I am definitely pro train Gina! Beats the airport queues any day. There’s a brilliantly site loco2.com that has a lot of great info on booking trains inEurope. You can also book with them.

  3. 1st March 2016 / 11:00 AM

    The comic strip museum got my attention. One for my teens I think…

    • 1st March 2016 / 12:01 PM

      Yes, it’s a lot of fun and right near the arcades full of chocolate shops!

  4. 1st March 2016 / 1:59 PM

    I did. I loved the Atomium the best. and the waffles and pralines 🙂 #city tripping

    • 1st March 2016 / 7:48 PM

      I can feel myself expanding just thinking about those waffles!!

  5. 1st March 2016 / 2:04 PM

    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

    • 1st March 2016 / 7:50 PM

      The murals were the best surprise Cindy. I am such a fan of street art

  6. Wander Mum
    1st March 2016 / 4:36 PM

    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

    • 1st March 2016 / 7:53 PM

      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.

  7. 2nd March 2016 / 8:06 PM

    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

    • 2nd March 2016 / 8:55 PM

      The chocolate!! I hadn’t idea there would be so much ???

  8. 6th June 2016 / 10:34 AM

    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

    • 6th June 2016 / 3:12 PM

      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!

  9. 6th June 2016 / 3:26 PM

    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.

    • 7th June 2016 / 6:34 AM

      Maybe time for another visit? I love catching up with friends in their new town.

  10. 7th June 2016 / 7:12 PM

    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

    • 7th June 2016 / 8:46 PM

      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 ?

    • 12th June 2016 / 3:51 PM

      I think it’s such an underrated place actually. Love Brussels. Glad you had a good time too.

  11. 15th June 2016 / 11:21 AM

    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

  12. 7th November 2016 / 8:37 PM

    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!

  13. 22nd April 2017 / 2:42 AM

    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.

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