Thursday, June 20, 2013

A family city trip to Brussels

Soon, we’ll be travelling through Asia. For families who are travelling across Europe and who are planning to visit the Belgian capital city this summer, I leave a few tips behind.
They might not be all fool-proof. Although (or because) I live very close to Brussels, I haven’t seen all its tourist attractions yet. Here’s a list of things to do in Brussels that are either tested and approved by children or very high on my “to-do” list. I start with the most “commonplace” attractions which I believe should not be neglected, even on a city trip with kids.
Take a stroll through the city center
Grand-place is a must-see in Brussels. Really, it is genuinely beautiful. Even if your children aren’t really interested, you’ll have to go and see it. In fact, the Grand-place is a pedestrian zone: you’ll be able to stop and admire the wonderful medieval architecture while your kids run wild around the square (keep a watchful eye on them though, or come in the early morning hours, otherwise you might lose them in the tourist crowds).
From Grand-place, follow the herds of tourists and walk a few blocks to the Manneken Pis. This ordinary fountain is nothing exciting for adults but it’s fun to see with kids (especially boys, as the statue features as young boy). The Manneken Pis changes clothes every day; if your hotel is near, you could consider coming back the next day to say hello to the little man. There is also a museum that collects all outfits, but we’ve never been there.
If you’re willing to take a longer walk through the city, you can turn this into an amusing visit for children by looking for its numerous “comic walls”.  Check this list: http://www.brussels.be/artdet.cfm?id=5316&#a_2 , spot the walls that are in the neighborhood of your favorite attractions and create your own “Brussels discovery tour” with children.
You can end the tour by a visit to the Comics Center, where you will learn more about the displayed Belgian comics’ characters: http://www.comicscenter.net/en/home
Visit the atomium
This one is high on my list of “things to do”, but I’ve never visited it. It’s been renovated recently and I am sure it’s a great place to “get high” (See my earlier blog post: getting high in cities). Check online for more information:  http://atomium.be/
Visit one or more of these museums
Next to art galleries and historical places, consider visiting one of these family-friendly museums. Below is my top list:
The Museum of Natural Sciences is a great place for children of all ages. Definitely one of my favorite with kids! More information: http://www.naturalsciences.be/index_html
The Royal Museum of Central Africa is somewhat dusty and old-fashioned but has amazing exhibits for young and old. The museum will soon close for renovation, seize your chance to visit it this summer (re-opening scheduled for 2016). The museum is surrounded by a beautiful park, ideal to break from the city crowd. More information on: http://www.africamuseum.be/home
The MIM (Museum of Musical Instruments) is one that I confess I have never visited. My children have seen it: it is a popular destination for school trips. Not only it has excellent reputation with children, it is also located in a beautiful art deco house. The building itself is worth a detour. More: http://www.mim.be/en
More tips and ideas to come as they pop to my mind…