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☺No Sore Muscles or Shortage of Mussels in Brussels. Be Sure to Visit Ghent / Bruges Too!☻

Brussels, Brussels, Belgium
18 Kudos
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Belgium is known for waffles, beer and fries but there's more to this great city than it's food and beverages. Everyone eventually finds their way to either Manneken Pis or the old town square but be sure to venture out to Bruges and Ghent for some really cool stuff. When we visited Brussels this year in early August, we had no idea that Europe was going to be hit by a crushing drought and heat wave. Neither did all of Europe. Global warming is here. Although we baked in the heat, it didn't stop us from enjoying our time and exploring this cool city. Brussels is a bit more modern than a lot of other European cities (IMHO) but still has lots of old European feel here and there. You have the requisite castle, cobble stone streets and old buildings but you also have the home of the UN (was on our itin but we didn't have a chance to see it) and Waterloo (where Napoloen was defeated). While I can't say Brussels is teeming with kid-centric things, we planned out a bunch of fun stuff for the kids to see and do. If you're the itin type who wants to plan an activity-a-day, Brussels has you covered. Some off the beaten path things abound. Did you know that the Smurfs were created in Belgium? Yup, the little blue guys got their start in 1958 and are still an institution. Not only that, Belgium is also known for a famous globe trekking detective named Tin Tin created by Hergé. If you're familiar with both then you must visit the Brussels Comic Strip Museum. All manner of Belgian comic strip related history abound in this small but historically well apportioned museum. Lot's of photo-ops and things to see as you learn the history of Belgian comics. Another fun item on your list should be to visit the Atomium, Little Europe and the adjacent water park called Océade. Once you figure out the tram / train / bus / Metro system, you'll find the tram or Metro drops you off right next to all these places at Heysel station. We didn't visit the Atomium or Mini Europe but did hit the water park to cool down from the immense heat. We found it fun and my kids loved it. Plenty of water park stuff for young and old. Something else the kids might enjoy is Parc du Cinquantenaire. If you're into old cars, there's a car museum. If you're into old war stuff, there's a military museum. There's also a small Art / History museum as well. The park is just a nice place to have a lunch and hang out as well. If you can find the hidden stairs, you can climb up to the second floor for a nice city view and photo-op. One thing on our itin I wish we could have gone to is the Royal Puppet Theater Toone. It's a cash-only place and they have a cool puppet show but only on certain days. You'll have to Google the info to find out which days / times they allow kids. Another free and fun thing to do is to go on the Mural Walk. Many of the famous comic strips of Belgium have been painted as giant murals on buildings all through the city center. You can find some maps of where they are online. Are you a flea market fanatic? Make sure you head to Place du Jeu de Balle and rummage through the odds and ends being offered. This very old flea market was featured in a Tin Tin comic as well. And speaking of Tin Tin, if your kids are Tin Tin freaks like mine, stop across the street at Game Bubbles / Jeu de Bulles and prepare to empty your wallet and max out your credit card. There are tons of vintage Tin Tin items to look at. If you're getting hungry and want to duck out from the touristy food spots, just up the road from Game Bubbles was a fantastic non-touristy place that had amazing food. It's called Restobières (Rue des Renards 9). We ate some amazing food all over Brussels but this place stood out among the places we ate at. It had a nice mom and pop feel to it and seemed to be where the locals ate. Brussels is a small but walkable city so you when you've seen the required stuff, hop a train to Bruges or Ghent. Bruges is often dubbed the Venice of northern Europe and for good reason. This very old former powerhouse port of trade used to rule the port & trade game. Sadly, those days have past but what is left is an amazing bunch of canals and rich history. Stop off at the town square and take a horse carriage ride and learn about the rich and interesting history of Bruges and its architecture. You might even hear the Carillon being played if you plan your day right. Next, jump a train to Ghent. Ghent is a bit more modern and hip than Bruges but has something that Bruges doesn't have: Gravensteen Castle. This well preserved and interesting 10th century castle sits smack in the middle of the town alongside the canal and tram line amidst bustling crowds and restaurants. Well worth the visit for a walk along the parapets and for an amazing view of the city from up top. Another good photo-op! Don't stick your finger in the Guillotine! If you're hungry and you've had you fill of Belgian waffles and fries, walk a few minutes from the entrance of Gravensteen castle and drop in to Otomat Gent (Kleine Vismarkt 3) for some great pizza. No, it's not like any pizza you're probably used to. Trust me. It's a nice tucked away place off the bustling streets and crowds where you can sip beer and and catch your breath in the garden area. Otherwise, plan your food adventure to the Holy Food Market but be mindful of the time that it opens so you don't get stuck waiting for the vendors to open. We went too early and missed the food. Brussels was a great visit with lots of tasty food, great beer if you're a beer lover and places to see and things to do. I highly recommend a side trip to Ghent and Bruges as it is very affordable via train.
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Culture and experiences

Théâtre Royal De Toone
Old school puppet theatre / pub. Mostly locals hang out here. Cash only and they do have specific times when kids can come.
Grand-Place
On your visit to Brussels, you'll eventually wind up here as most visitors do. Lots of food vendors, lots of beautiful buildings to see and tons of photo ops.
Ghent
A more college town feel but a lot more hip than Bruges. You come to Ghent to wander around and also to see the famous Gravensteen castle.
Bruges
Bruges is often referred to as the Venice of the North (Meaning norther Europe). A great place to see the former powerhouse of nautical trading.
Brussels
Not just known for their great chocolate and beer, Brussels is also home to the European Union.

For kids

La Boutique Tintin
If you kid wants to pick up some Tintin momentos, shirts or other memorabilia, this is the place to go.
Brussels Comic Book Museum
My kids loved this place. It features many prints and historical items of importance from the early period of Belgium's comic strips. Lots of place to take photos. Good place to visit if you're near the Grand Place.

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