Although Belgium might be known for Bruges, lace and chocolates, and often just a stop in between Paris and Amsterdam for US tourists, it has much more to offer tourists than one might think.
For families travelling with kids, there are lots of amazing sites to visit and activities to do, some of them free. I took it upon me to compose my personal "top 10 with kids" to show that the country I grew up in has a lot to offer to travelling families. Wether you're looking for adventure, history, culture, food or anything else, this small country will have something to offer.
- Take a boat on the 'rijtjes' in Bruges. The inner city of Bruges, much like Venice, is interlaced with waterways. There are several quays and a boat trip costs about 5 euros and takes about half an hour. You get to see Bruges from a side you wouldn't normally see.
- Go all the way to the top of the Atomium and get a beautiful 360° view of Brussels. The Atomium was built for the 1958 expo, but - liking the monument so much - it was never taken down and is now one of the major landmarks in Belgium.
- While you're there, visit Mini Europe. This attraction park features miniature models of Europe's major landmarks. It's quite expensive but worth the trip and certainly a great learning experience.
- Take a stroll on one of Belgium's beaches. Don't expect bikini's and sunshine, but for the kids who like to play with the waves and hunt for mussels, this is a wonderful - and free experience. And why not go for 'pannekoeken' (crêpes) and whipped cream afterwards?
- Visit 'Het Gravensteen' in Ghent, an medieval forteresse complete with torture chamber. Ghent has many lovely things to offer, but this is probably the best landmark to do with kids. (Not for the very sensitive)
- Kayaking down the Lesse. For Belgian kids, a full day of kayaking on one of the beautiful Arden streams is a fixed activity in school. If you're looking for an adventurous and active family outing, this is one to remember.
- Langlaufing in the Ardens. Even in winter, Belgium has lots to offer the activity seeking family. The Ardens might not be the best venue for full on skiing, you can rent some langlauf ski's and glide along the glimmering snowy slopes. This combination of skiing and walking can be done by very young children.
- Visit the Royal Palace. Once a year for a whole month, Belgium's royal palace opens it's doors. Generally they put up some exhibition and dedicate part of it to kids. But even without special exhibitions, your kids will be in awe of the grand halls of the royal palace.
- Between March and April, the Haller Forest (hallerbos) floor is covered in a carpet of wild hyacinths, a wonderful sight for big and small. You can visit the forest for free and there are several hiking trails.
- Bokrijk, in the Limburg province is a site of historical buildings. They have been selected all over Belgium and rebuilt in situ to offer visitors a slice of history. Every year, they offer an additional exhibition. Houses are occupied by 'inhabitants' who can tell you about their lives of the past, and give you a taste or a sight of past traditions and occupations.
Atomium photo credit: o palsson via photopin cc
mini Europe photo credit: saigneurdeguerre via photopin cc
Gravensteen photo credit: jurvetson via photopin cc
Kayak photo credit: dinant evasion via photopin cc
Royal Palace photo credit: R/DV/RS via photopin cc
Hallerbos photo credit: Rita Willaert via photopin cc