Brussels with Kids
Too often, parents don’t equate cool places with being family-friendly. But here’s the insider tip: almost everywhere, in the whole world, is family friendly. You just need to know where to look! You certainly won’t have any problem traveling with your kids in Brussels, Belgium. Brussels is not only an extraordinary destination (we love the Grand Place!), but it is also a very cool place to take your kids. Think comics, chocolate, waffles, funny statues, castles, great food, and fun day trips. But not sure where to get started?
Véronique Autphenne and Paige Conner Totaro, of All Over the Map and Belgium with Kids, have written a very detailed – and inspiring – travel guide, called Brussels with Kids. We received a review copy and let me tell you, it’s time to head to Brussels. Packed with excellent information on exploring Brussels (and environs), this is THE book to have when traveling to Brussels. Brussels with Kids includes a funny comic, age-appropriate travel tips, free things to do, chocolate, arts, architecture and history, side trips, a bibliography of children’s books about Belgium (!), holidays, practical tips, shopping, playing, eating, and exploring. Best of all, it comes from real experiences with real traveling families. We can get behind that! With this excellent guide in hand, you’ll not only enjoy exploring Brussels, but I bet you’ll find yourself planning many return trips for more – it’s such a magical place.
We caught up with Véronique and Paige, to get the backstory, inspiration, favorites, and more. Here’s what they had to say…
Please tell us about your new book, Brussels with Kids...
Paige: Brussels with Kids is a guidebook for families traveling to Brussels, but it’s also a bit of a love story. We firmly believe that Belgium is a magical place to take kids, with more castles per square mile than anywhere else, a global history, and tons of attractions for kids. The guidebook tells you the best places to go with your kids, and the best times to go there. We’ve also got a section just for kids – a comic book full of fun facts about Belgium.
What inspired you to write this book?
Vero: I was born and spent most of my childhood in Belgium and had just started traveling there with my own kids when I realized there was no guidebook devoted to Belgium with kids. I couldn’t believe it. Brussels has so much to offer kids, from medieval squares and an underground palace, to chocolate and comic books. And the emphasis on fine food and trappist beer doesn’t make it too painful for the adults either! So Paige and I set out to share our passion for the city and, hopefully, offer useful information to families who are lucky enough to find Belgium in their travels.
How can parents prepare kids for travel?
Paige: Some kids love new adventures, but some crave routine, and for the latter, thinking about a trip can be stressful. For kids of all ages, building excitement about the trip beforehand is important. Read books, watch movies, and listen to music from the place you’re going. If you’re going to Belgium, you might not need to do much more than show them pictures of chocolate and frites and waffles to get them excited, but you could also read some adventures of one of Belgium’s most famous characters, Tintin.
What were your kids’ favorites, in Brussels?
Vero: They loved walking around the Grand-Place, eating waffles at street stands, strolling through the Galeries Royales, shopping for comic books and paraphernalia at the Comic Strip Museum shop and Multi BD, and taking a day trip to Ghent’s Gravensteen Castle.
Were you surprised by anything, in traveling Brussels with kids?
Vero: Brussels is not a particularly cheap place to visit but we were pleasantly surprised at how affordable travel with children can be. In fact, other than paying for extra food, it hardly costs more than traveling solo. For example, off-peak travel throughout Belgium (after 9:01am) is free for children under 12 on Belgian trains, as long as they are accompanied by an adult. And the vast majority of museums are free to children under the age of 12, some even older. In contrast, we’ve often found ourselves paying 2/3 of the adult admission price for our kids in many U.S. museums. Some children’s attractions’ hours of operation threw us for a loop. School children are off every Wednesday afternoon in Belgium so most children’s arts and museum programs are held at that time. Some museums, such as the Children’s Museum in Brussels’ Ixelles neighborhood, are only open on Saturdays and Wednesday afternoons!
the waffle aisle in the grocery store, Brussels, Belgium
Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
Paige: Just one more fact about Brussels that might tickle a toddler: the symbol of Brussels is a small statue of a boy, er, peeing – the Mannekin Pis. And not only that, he is so beloved that he is dressed in costumes most days, everything from native garb from foreign lands (often donated by visiting heads of state) to an Elvis jumpsuit. You can check the schedule of costumes online, and view a selection of the costumes in an exhibition hall on the Grand Place in Brussels.
To learn more about Brussels with Kids, please see:
All photos courtesy and copyright Brussels with Kids
Note: We received a review copy of Brussels with Kids from the publisher. Thank you!