Full travel guide for visiting Brussels with kids: kid-friendly things to do, best family hotels and travel tips for the Belgian capital.
A visit to Brussels seldom appears in family vacation itineraries around Europe.
A little over an hour from Paris and less than 3 from Amsterdam, Brussels is often out-shined by its world-famous neighbors: however, it is a wonderful city to visit as a family and an easy one to enjoy at all ages.
We know Brussels well: Phil and I both lived in Brussels (it is where we met!) and since then we have visited Brussels with the children so that they could see where our family story started.
This is my family guide to visiting Brussels with kids.
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Brussels with kids: what to expect
Brussels is an easy city to visit with kids in tow.
It has a compact city center, easy to explore on foot, it has some nice parks and fun children attractions that are suitable also to very young kids.
It is a great European city to visit with children if you want to mix fun family time and cultural exploration.
How many days should you spend in Brussels?
I lived in Brussels for well over a year and always found interesting things to do there.
However, I believe that for 2 or 3 days are enough to see Brussels as a visitor.
During this time, you can visit the main sights and landmarks, visit a museum and get a taste of the local cuisine in one of the many city’s cafes, street stalls and chocolate shops.
Top things to do in Brussels with kids
The best things to see in Brussels with kids are in two main locations: the city center and the area of Heyzel, where the Atomium and Mini Europe are located (see below).
Moving between the two places is easy: Brussels has a well-functioning metro system and children go free, so moving around is pretty straightforward.
Marvel at the Grand Place
A trip to Brussels can only start at the Grand Place, the stunning, breathtaking and unique square in the center of the city.
Built in the 1400s, the square has elaborate, ornate, extravagant architecture and is a sight to behold.
The biggest building here is the City’s Town Hall, which you will recognize from its impressive tower, but each house has something special and the beauty is in the details.
I highly recommend savoring Grand Place slowly to admire it properly.
You can let the kids run loose (the Grand Place is car-free) while you get coffee or treat them to hot chocolate with a view: this is the type of simple pleasure that makes Brussels special!
Good to know: The Grand Place regularly hosts special events that are fun for kids. In summer, you have the Flower carpet, which transforms the grounds of the square in a stunning flowery extravaganza, and in winter here you have the Brussels ‘winter wonder‘, the Brussels Christmas market, filling the square and nearby la Bourse with stalls and festive cheer!
Have a giggle at the pissing statues
I know, not a heading I ever thought of using in a travel article but Brussels is a bit quirky and so are its attractions!
You probably already know that one of the most famous things to see in Brussels is the Manneken-Pis, the small statue of a pissing child that graces, so to speak, so many postcards and travel magazines showcasing the best of Brussels.
However, you may not know that Brussels has two more of these statues: one of a girl and one of a dog!
The girl’s statue is called ‘Jeanneke-Pis’ and is on the opposite side of the Grand Place from the Manneken Piss while the dog is a little farther away.
Honestly, none of them are worth a visit (maybe the Manneken-Pis as symbol of the city, if you must) but if you are in Brussels with kids, they can be fun and get a giggle.
Slow down in Place de Jeu de Balle
Almost as an antidote to the Mennek-Piss and the crowds that flock to it is the Place de Jeu de Balle, a lovely square with a bric-a-brac market.
It is not far from the Grand Place and has a completely different vibe.
Here the spirit is dusty and alternative and there is no grandeur: this is a lovely place in Brussels for kids who may like pottering around its weird and wonderful stalls.
Lots of independent cafes and restaurants in the area make this a good place for a family pit-stop.
Follow the Murals Parcours BD
Brussels is famous for comics and one of the best ways to get acquainted with them is to seek out the gigantic frescoes depicting comic strip characters that adorn many of Brussels’ inner city’s walls.
The frescoes are fun to see and the city has embraced them creating a walking itinerary to see them all.
They are wonderful even if you don’t recognize the characters (adults might, my children, however, didn’t) and they are also a fantastic way to motivate kids to walk a little longer than they otherwise would!
Visit the weird and wonderful Atomium
Another peculiar attraction and one of the most fun things to do with kids in Brussels is weird looking Atomium.
The Atomium is a landmark building in Brussels with a shape like no other: it is a tall iron structure made of 9 spheres connected by large steel tubes!
Fun fact: The Atomium was built in 1958 for the Brussels World Expo and its shape is that of an iron crystal, magnified 165 billion times!
The Atomium is now a museum and can be fun for kids because of the beautiful views from the top and the fun ‘explorers adventure’ program, a free museum tour just for kids.
This can be a good place for kids however, I do find the most fun element of the Atomium for kids is its shape so if you are short on time, a view from the outside is likely to be enough!
Be a giant in Mini Europe
Mini Europe is probably the best of all family-friendly activities in the city and the best thing to do in Brussels with kids.
Located just beside the Atomium, Mini Europe is a place where you can see Europe…. in miniature!
It is an absolutely wonderful place in Brussels for kids and a blast for a sunny day.
A little out of the city center, the best way to visit mini Europe is to combine it with the Atomium, the Planetarium or the Adam (the Brussels Design Museum), all in the area.
Learn about the European institutions
I believe no trip to Brussels would be complete without a visit to the European institutions and there are a couple of ways to go about it.
if you have very young kids, you can just take a stroll in the European Quarter and have a feel for the large, modern buildings and distinct international feel of this area.
If you go for this option, you can easily mix a stroll here with a stop in Place Jourdan for the famous frites (french fries) by Maison Antoine and a stroll in the park (see below)
The other way, which is perfect if you are visiting Brussels with kids that are older or teens, is to go and actually visit the Parliam hemicycle and the Parlamentarium, Europe’s largest parliamentary visitor center.
Explore Brussels parks
Brussels city center is not very green however, the city has some nice parks that are good for kids.
Parc de Cinquantenaire is large and flat, perfect for a good run around.
This is a great place in Brussels for toddlers and also a good one for older kids thanks to Autoworld, a vintage car museum.
Close to the Grand Place and the city center proper you have ‘Parc de Bruxelles’ which has a playground and is an easy stop while sightseeing.
Mont des Arts, while not equipped with a playground, is also a lovely outdoor area (with a great view too).
A little farther away you also have the ‘Etangs d’Ixelles’ (=ponds) which are perfect for a ‘feeding the ducks at the local pond’ moment (they are very pretty and there are lovely cafes in the area, I highly recommend coming here with kids!)
Last but not least, Brussels has many green spaces outside of the center, including the beautiful Bois de la Cambre which is a vast, wonderful green space ideal for cycling and picnics.
Explore the chocolate museum
Brussels is famous for chocolate and a fun way to not just eat but also learn about the art of making chocolate is to visit Choco-Story, the museum of cocoa and chocolate.
This is a wonderful place to visit with kids (and without!) and a great one to see at the start of your visit.
After seeing it, you can challenge the kids to spot all the amazing chocolatiers in the city – there are many and they look like jewelry stores more than sweet shops, a sight worth seeing!
Go to a child-friendly museum
Brussels has several museums and some are perfect for kids.
If your children loved the murals, then a trip to the Comic Art Museum is a must
Eat waffles and fries
What is a trip to Brussels without indulging in waffles and fries?
They are everywhere in the city and you don’t need a guide to pick the best ones: just follow your nose and tuck in!
Where to stay in Brussels with kids?
The last time we went to Brussels we stayed at the Novotel Grand Place, right in the city center and it was perfect.
The location is excellent for sightseeing, the hotel has spacious family rooms and you have many shops and restaurants nearby, making dinners out easy.
If you are traveling to Brussels tagging along a work trip, you can also consider other areas such as Merode and Ixelles, both close to the European Institutions and family-friendly.
The best time to go to Brussels with kids?
You can visit Brussels all year round but the experience will be very different if you are going in the winter or summer.
Brussels in winter is cold, grey and possibly snowy.
I only recommend a visit to Brussels in winter if you can go over Christmas and enjoy the festive cheer.
Summer is hit and miss in Brussels weatherwise but it is usually mild and can be wonderful.
This is my favorite time of all to visit as you can enjoy the parks and make the most of the long daylight hours for sightseeing.
What to pack for Brussels with kids
If visiting Brussels with toddlers, I recommend you bring a lightweight stroller that collapses small (perfect for the metro and the many small cafes).
While some restaurants have high chairs, this is not the norm yet and we fund a portable highchair a useful gadget.
I hope you enjoyed this family guide to Brussels and it helped you plan your city trip to Brussels with kids. Safe travels!