Monday, August 20, 2012

Weekend Wanderings: Brussels for kids

We spent the weekend in Brussels, which is currently one of my favourite cities in Europe.  The traffic there is crazy, but the vibrant culture does make up for it.  We've stood and listened to a string trio play "Summer" from "The Four Seasons" on the street (they were really good), and we've driven past a pair standing in the middle of the zebra crossing juggling lit torches.  We've also spotted peregrine falcons that are known to nest at the top of the St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral.

Junior J particularly loves this place because of the Museum of Natural Sciences, which boasts the largest dinosaur gallery in Europe.

Junior J sitting with "Iggy"
(what we've christened the Iguanodon statue that stands outside the museum).

One highlight would be the large display of Iguanodon skeletons from a coal mine discovery in Bernissart:

The dinosaur gallery feels alot more open and less crowded compared to the one in London (which was rather dark and cramped), and the boy loves running from exhibit to exhibit exploring and identifying the various skeletons.

There are many interactive displays, and the boy especially loves digging around in the mock excavation site:

Kids can learn how rocks in the dino's stomach help to break down the plant material, and how to estimate the weight of a dinosaur based on their thigh bones:

And of course, if you tire of the dinosaurs, there are other galleries to explore, such as the one on the history of natural sciences, as well as on minerals and the animal kingdom:

If your kids (or yourself) like chocolate, then you could check out the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, which has various exhibits on the history of cocoa and chocolate production:

There's also a chocolate making demonstration, where you get to see how pralines are made.  Junior J was rather happy when we visited the museum during our previous visit, because he got to eat quite a bit of chocolate!

We are rather tickled by the all famous Le Manneken Pis, which is a statue of a little boy peeing.  There are usually crowds surrounding this little fountain, and he apparently has a wardrobe of over 700 different costumes!  During our previous visit, he was dressed in a jersey for the Euro:

As for our recent visit, he was being changed into an Indonesian costume to commemorate Indonesia's Independence Day.  We didn't stay for his unveiling since it was way too hot, but we walked past a whole troop of Indonesian dancers and a couple of folks wearing jackets with a Manneken Pis crest, all headed for the fountain.

He may be a small statue, but he certainly is big in Brussels!  (More legends on the little statue here.)

Did you know that both the Smurfs and Tintin were comic strips created by Belgians?  The older kids would probably enjoy the Belgian Comic Strip Center.  We didn't manage to visit the center, but it does look interesting!

Spotted during one of our walks around the city center.

And if you would rather go shopping for toys, we spotted two toy stores during our walks around Brussels.  There's Le Comptoir (Rue Blaes 114, 1000 Bruxelles), which is a DIY shop that also stocks toys, of which many are made of wood.  Some of them are made in Russia, and are cheaper than the German versions, and there's also a range of wooden toys that are made by the disabled.  

There's also Woodee, which is outside of the city center.  They seem to have a huge range of toys, but we've not got a chance to go in since its always closed when we walk past it in the evenings!

If your kids are more of the outdoors type, then there are parks to explore, like the Mont des Arts, and the bigger Parc de Bruxelles.  Or you could head down to Bruparck, and explore Mini Europe, have a splashing good time at the water-themed park, the Oceade, or take a walk around the Atomium.  Those were on our itinery for both visits, but both times we chickened out since it was so blazing hot (it was 39 degrees out today when we left Brussels!).

Scorching hot summer weather aside, Brussel's a pretty cool place for kids to visit!


  1. Gorgeous pictures as always!! Mannequin Pis was naked when we visited. Omg now I remember there was a shop nearby with the most amazing Belgian waffles. Drool....

    I would love to visit a dino museum some day! Our museums have a lot of catching up to do in terms of fun stuff for kids!

  2. Hi Justina!

    thanks for sharing this post! We didn't know there's such a huge Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels! Certainly a good reason for us to revisit this charming city again! It's especially mesmerizing at night when the lights come on in the Main Town Square. When we were there, I remembered asking what's the big deal about the peeing boy statue but let's just say they're proud of their folk legend and heritage - something we Singapore desperately need! :)

  3. Adora: Thanks! Oh, that's something rare since he was always dressed when we saw him! :) And I agree, our museums do have catching up to do, but at least now there's the Children's Season...

    Dana Mommy and Daddy: The museum isn't the biggest around, but the dinosaur gallery certainly is quite large. And we too were not impressed when we saw how small the Manneken pis was... but you have a point, they are certainly proud of their history and culture!

  4. Woooo I love tin tin! The building you saw is so cool! Thanks for linking up :)

  5. Madeline: No prob, I've enjoyed the posts for the train thus far! :)



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