We had a few days between housesitting assignments in Belgium and France so we decided to make a quick trip to Brussels. We did some research to pick the attractions and activities we thought were best to experience Brussels with kids. Known for quirky art, a huge variety of kid’s favorite foods, and fun children’s museums we had a very long list of things we wanted to see and do during our short 48-hour stay. Honestly, we had so much family fun I think we’ll have to make another trip!
Here’s why we think Brussels is the perfect city for a quick trip with kids.
The food- Chocolate, frites, and waffles
For kid-friendly restaurants, Brussels is the best! Famous for chocolate, waffles, and crispy fries (frites) it’s no surprise we didn’t hear Makai complain about trying the local fare.
We took a Beer and chocolate tour at the beginning of our stay. Our guide was wonderful, she shared her vast knowledge about beer, chocolate, and other places in the city to try Brussels various specialties. We took her advice and discovered a few of the city’s gems ourselves.
The most impressive place to eat chocolate was without a doubt Pierre Marcolini located at the Place du Sablon, Rue des Minimes. The chocolatier has different locations around Brussels but the one at Place du Sablon is beyond compare. An intense feast for the senses, the sights, sounds, and smells in this shop were simply divine.
Flowering vines adorned the facade and wound their way throughout the interior as well. There were so many vibrant colors; the flowers, the macaroons, and the intricately decorated chocolates. Then there were the sounds; happy music, happy customers, and happy staff.
The tasting was the best part! So many chocolates, macaroon flavors, and ice cream varieties to choose from. The whole experience was absolutely magical. Mak’s favorites included the salted caramel Pralines and the vanilla macaroons.
Locals take their fries (frites) very seriously in Belgium. Authentic Belgian frites are thickly cut and fried twice in beef fat, with a bit of cooling time in between. This makes them crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
They are typically enjoyed with a savory kind of mayonnaise. But, if you don’t like mayonnaise, a wide assortment of sauces are available at any friterie, as well as a variety of meats and other snacks. Restaurants that serve frites are easy to find because they are the favorite kind of fast food in all of Belgium!
We enjoyed a couple of healthy sized servings of them at Fritland, located right in the heart of the center. They’ve been serving delicious fries for over 40 years! Many restaurants in Brussels use frozen chips to prepare this local specialty. Not Fritland, they receive new potatoes daily to make them fresh for their guests.
Belgians eat waffles as a snack more than a breakfast food. They come in two varieties; the Brussels waffle (more like the waffles in North America) and Liege waffles.
Made with a thin, yeast-leavened batter, Brussels waffles are light and fluffy. Their appearance is rectangular with deeper holes and nice even smooth edges. These are the ones you add powdered sugar, whipped cream, fruit, ice cream, chocolate or whatever else your little heart desires.
A great place to try Brussels waffles is The Waffle Factory. They offer sweet and savory varieties and their front window provides lots of mouthwatering inspiration if you’re not sure which kind to try first. They’re located in the center, on Rue du Lombard not far from Mannequin Pis.
The simpler Liege waffles (named after a town in Eastern Belgium) are made with a batter that is thick and sticky more like bread dough. The batter has bits of sugar throughout, which caramelizes and forms a crispy, golden coating. Spread, not poured, into a waffle maker, Liege waffles come out with uneven edges and a denser, crispy texture.
These ones are delightfully sweet enough, they don’t require any toppings, and they’re cheap! They are sold for 1€ many places in the center. Conveniently, you eat Liege waffles with your hands, like a pastry. A delicious, non-messy, on the go snack, perfect for kids.
The whimsy- Quirky art and iconic comic characters
Brussels beloved Mannequin Pis, a funny little statue of a little boy peeing. There are different stories about why he was created but no one really knows the true inspiration for sure. Locals love the statue and celebrate him throughout the city. There are replicas in various sizes; eating waffles, and even made from chocolate! Mak loved seeing him all over the place.
It was especially fun to visit the City of Brussels Museum to explore the dressing room of Mannequin Pis. His vast wardrobe comprises over 900 costumes from around the world. One hundred of them can be viewed in vignettes on the top floor of the museum. The rest of his outfits are lovingly stored away to preserve them. These ones can be viewed on an interactive display in his dressing room as well.
Another thing Brussels is known for that kid’s love is comics. One of the more notable Belgian comic strip characters, Tin Tin, can be seen in various street art installations around the city.
We visited the Brussels tourism office, Brussels Info Place (BIP) to orient ourselves with the city and get ideas on what to see and do. We found all the information we needed including various small pocket size route maps. The “brussels, the capital city of comic strip” mini map and “Tin Tin in brussels” map were our two favorites. They highlighted different comic strip street art installations on an easy to follow marked map. Mak enjoyed taking detours to see different ones during our 48-hour stay.
The wonder- Futuristic monuments and marvelous miniatures
Two places we couldn’t miss seeing were Atomium and Mini Europe. Both considered “must sees” on Visit Belgium’s website. We wanted to find a convenient and affordable way to get the attractions, as they were both quite far from the center.
We decided a ride on one of the “hop-on-hop-off” tourist buses was the best way to travel and from the site both attractions share. The double decker buses give visitors a guided tour in their chosen language. There are two routes, red and blue, that show the most important sites in Brussels. A ticket allows riders to hop on and off for 24 or 48 hour periods
We caught a blue line bus in the center and traveled to the Atomium learning about various sites along the way. Sitting on the top level is definitely a fun way to get around Brussels with kids! A comfortable and convenient mode of transportation for parents as well.
One of the most unusual pieces of architecture in Brussels is the Atomium. The futuristic structure was built for the Brussels Worlds Fair, Expo 58. It is still an awe-inspiring spectacle to behold today. Mak couldn’t wait to get inside to explore. Well worth the price of admission, the Atomium was such a fun experience. The incredible light shows, exciting escalator rides and engaging educational exhibit make it a must see for kids.
Mini Europe, located at the foot of Atomium offers travelers the chance to see Europes most important monuments all in one afternoon! There is so much to learn in this incredible park. We took a guided tour and I’m so glad we did! Mini Europe is loaded with hundreds, if not thousands of cool details. Taking the tour really helped us appreciate the amazing effort and attention that goes into each and every part of the park.
A catalyst to spark the imaginations of kids and grown-ups alike. We all really loved the interactive displays and tiny details we learned about on the tour. A really fun way to learn a lot about the European Union and Europe’s official capital, Brussels.
Fun for parents- Great ways to save, happy kids, and more
Brussels with kids is fun and affordable! There were a few things that helped us save a ton of money during our stay like staying in a great hotel right in the center, Motel One Brussels. Everything we enjoyed in the city was easily accessible from the hotel. Room rates are really reasonable with Motel One, double rooms are as low as 79€ a night.
Additionally, we got three 48 hour Brussels Cards which were good for unlimited free access to 37 museums, and discounts for various shops, tours, and attractions. There are different choices of cards available, we opted for the 48€ cards with the added bonus of free rides on the hop on hop off tourist buses.
The cost of the hop on hop off tourist bus on its own was 25€ for 24 hours. Getting those rides free, plus free rides on the metro, free entry to the Brussels City Museum, and discounts on tours (the Beer and Chocolate tour), attractions (Atomium and Mini Europe), and restaurants helped us save so much on our short trip.
Many things surprised us about Brussels. It ended up being a lot more fun, beautiful, and affordable than we had been lead to believe it was. The diverse culture, excellent cuisine, and multitude of family friendly things to do have us looking forward to our next visit.
Have you visited Brussels with kids? Please feel free to share your tips and advice in the comments below.