Having lived in Europe for 4,5 years, we finally decided to visit its heart – the capital city of Brussels.
We had been not very eager to go there, having heard of the high crime rate and other scary news. But after visiting Gent and Brugge, which left a positive impression, we decided to give the capital a chance.
Having Dutch as a common language, this similarity between Belgium and The Netherlands ends here. Brussels has much more in common with the French culture – from the dominant French language to the architecture reminding a bit of Paris.
The opulent buildings, trimmed in gold or painted bright with graffiti are somewhat shadowed by the abundance of street dwellers, with accompanying untidiness and corresponding smells from bushes and corners.
Naturally, the heart of the heart – the city center – is overcrowded with people of all kinds but it was still possible to stroll with a buggy and even make some pictures of Manneken Pis, who was dry that day, probably in order not to wet his festive suit. Do you know that this little statue has a big collection of about 960 costumes? It grew so big that a new separate museum was established at Rue du Chêne 19 to accommodate all those garments.
It’s best to use public transport to move around the city. We rented an Airbnb room near a metro station and were content using metro to reach the centre. Unfortunately, not all the stations have lifts, or they’re hidden so well we couldn’t find them, so with a buggy it’s not very convenient. Still, it’s better than browsing the narrow streets in search of a parking spot for the car. We also walked a lot and a lot, as we usually do, as that’s the best way to see the city.
Toddler in the city
To get around with a stroller in Brussels is sometimes quite a challenge because of the cobblestones and absence of ramps and lifts in many places, or they’re hidden so well we couldn’t find them. No place we’ve been to had any changing facilities. Do they ever go out with babies here?
It starts with a dilapidated and neglected area around this iconic site. But inside it’s an interesting and informative place, which represents European landmarks with all the buildings on a scale of 1 to 25. You can take a booklet in one of the plentiful languages with some information about every European country, when it joined the European Union, how wealthy it is etc. There is also an informative room with lots of historical facts about the European Union. This place is sure to be of a great interest for older children but we were glad our toddler was getting ready for her nap in the buggy. We could see some toddlers willing to climb or play with the collections. Too bad our little one fell asleep when we were finishing our (self)tour, so we had to stay at their cafe which had a small variety of fast-food only and lots of noisy kids. When she woke up and changing time came, we were disappointed to see no changing facilities in any WC.
Right next to Mini Europe, this impressive building promises magnificent views and educational entertainment. It is better to buy tickets online to skip the long lines.
Toddler’s favourite place in Brussels
Brussels park turned to be one of the best places to visit with a toddler in Brussels. First, it’s a park, with no crowds, with plenty of shadow and still in the center, right at Brussels Palace and a short walk to the main square. And right next to the fountain there is a big, spacious, functional playground! Our toddler girl had a happy wake up after her lengthy nap (=our sweet peace time) and next 2 hours she was climbing, sliding, running and swinging without a stop. After that she was so exhausted that asked to flip the buggy flat and lie in it, so we got some more time for sightseeing.
When your toddler is bored in the buggy and makes you let her out, you can see nothing around but her fast and unpredictable little feet bringing her in all possible directions, and you run around protecting her from all kinds of danger in the busy streets. When she finally agrees to go back to the buggy, you suddenly notice nice architecture and other things above the cobblestones.
And how about the culinary attractions?
Everybody knows that Belgian waffles are a must try when visiting Brussels, and while whipped cream, fruit and Nutella toppings are offered everywhere, some places try to lure you with crazy combinations, like goat cheese and zucchini toppings.
Belgian fries are believed to be the best and there are crowds of tourists standing patiently in lines waiting for their portions of the treat. We are probably the wrong people to appreciate and savour fries, however exceptional they are claimed to be, but we did try the Belgian fries and our verdict is – nothing special, to us there are much better food choices.
Belgian chocolate. Of course. It is impossible to be in Belgium and not try at least a bit of it. Chocolateries of every kind are present everywhere and offer an incredible variety of chocolate art, from small pralines and simple bars to chocolate towers and intricate figures.
Brussels is a good option for a weekend getaway – you won’t spend too much time on the road and you will have enough time for sightseeing, even travelling with little ones.