Grand Place (Grote Markt) - The Grand Place in Brussels is a great place to start with kids. The Grand Place, important since medieval times, is a large square, surrounded by gabled facades of the town hall, private residences, and guild halls of painters, tailors, butchers and bakers, coopers and cabinet-makers. It's a big wide space, where there's lots of room to run around, and cafes for a snack.
City Museum (Musee de la Ville, Museum van de Stad)
- In the King's House (Maison du Roi), is the city museum. Check out the models of Brussels from the 13th - 17th century and marionette collections. Don't miss costumes of the Manneken Pis, dressed as a postman, chef, soldier, Louis XV, samurai, Olympic bicyclist, El Cid, Elvis Presley, and more, plus a video.
- the third week in August, the Grand Place is decorated with a carpet of flowers, a truly colorful sight. Click here
for more info.
Costume and Lace Museum (Musee de Costume et de la Dentelle) (rue de la Violette) - This small museum has exquisite examples of lace-trimmed dresses, veils, shawls and fans from the 17th to early 20th century. Ethereal gowns, adorned with clouds of hand-made lace, seem to float in the air. This beautiful exhibit of a lost art is a must for anyone interested in clothing or fashion.
Le Manneken Pis (Kertje de Bruxelles) - Kids will get a big kick out of the Manneken Pis fountain, a diminutive cherub, perched in a little niche, peeing away night and day. Legends of the Manneken Pis abound, but one of the most popular is that the Manneken peed to put out a burning fuse of a bomb to blow up the Grand Place. It's also tradition to present the Manneken Pis with clothes, dating back to the 17th century. The cherub has over 700 different costumes (you can see part of the collection in the City Museum). Tip: Go early in the morning to avoid crowds, so it's easy to see the fountain.
Musee Magritte Museum – A museum full of Rene Magritte's paintings and other Surrealist painters is a great place for older kids and grumpy teens. Magritte (a native of Brussels) is perfect for the teenage mind, everything seems familiar, but somehow it's reversed or floating in mid-air. This is a must see!
The museum is closed on Mondays.
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique) – Next to the Musee Magritte are three museums, located at rue de la Regence:
Musee Old Masters Museum
– Kids will enjoy the Bruegels, a gorgeous unicorn tapestry, and the painting of Dona Juana surrounded by bunches of pet dogs, each one with a name.
Musee Modern Museum
– The collection includes paintings by Matisse, Dali and Miro.
Musee Fin-de-Siecle Museum
– A museum which older kids and teens will appreciate, check out the Art Nouveau architecture, paintings by James Ensor, such as Skeletons Fighting Over a Pickled Herring
Parks - Next to the fine arts museums are two parks, the Mont des Arts and Parc de Bruxelles. Mont des Arts has a small playset with climbing structures and little water play area with small fountains to dabble toes. The large Parc de Bruxelles shady trees and paths, and in the northeast corner is a playground with swings, sandbox and climbing structures.
Belgian Comic Strip Center (Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinee) - Belgium has a number of best-loved comic strip artists, including Herge, author of Tintin. This museum, housed in a lovely Art Noveau building, will appeal to older kids and teens, especially kids who like to do cartoon art. Exhibits show how comics are created, from scriptwriting, to sketches, lettering text and bubbles, coloring and printing, plus lots of examples of comic strip artists. The exhibits are labeled in French and Flemish, ask for the English guide.
Porte de Hal - In the Middle Ages, Brussels was a walled city with huge gateways. Today you can visit the 14th century Porte de Hal tower gateway - it's big and impressive. The city wall is long gone, but the tower is surrounded by a large grassy area, three cannons to climb on, a bit of the old moat, and a dry slope to roll down the grass.
The ivy-covered tower is complete with open slits (for weapons to poke out), high studded doors, and crenelations on the top. Inside, you'll climb up the stairway on smooth stone steps going round and round. On each level, there are exhibits with armor, chain mail, helmets, cross bows, tapestries. At the very top, the interior wooden structure of the tower is visible, and you can look out at the busy streets of Brussels through the wall openings.
Porte de Hal is closed on Mon.
Tearoom Dandoy ( 31, rue de Beurre) - For a special afternoon treat, sit down at the Dandoy tearoom, which has been making Brussels specialties since the early 19th century. Sample gauffre, cookies, crepes, pancakes. A kids' menu is available.