Things to do with kids in Brussels: Gaze at the stars at the Planetarium

 

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Echo

Its space fever over here at Life of Bear & Dragon. Talk of planets, stars and trips to the moon have taken over dinner conversation and evening story time. Somehow, the fact that there is an actual Planetarium in the greater Atomium complex had escaped me, until now!

Though small, the Brussels Planetarium (aka the Planetarium of the Royal Observatory of Belgium) packs a fun punch for the 3+ set. The big draw is of course the large projection dome where you can watch a number of beautiful shows projected across the metaphorical heavens. Narrated through headphones in French, English and Flemish, it was both fascinating and impressive to watch. The kids loved it though if you go with an approximately 10 month old baby, he will try to crawl back inside you to safety. Best left with a second parent if possible. There is a schedule of shows on the website.  Check when your favorite will start before you go.

Apart from the projection, there were a surprising number of interactive activities such as a rotating globe delving into a range of topics from ocean currents, facts and visuals of the different planets and even climate change related topics. We also rode a “space bike” between the planets and drove the Mars Rover.

Overall it was a really fun outing. I can see us heading there a couple of times per year and the kids getting something new out of it each time. If you have a fellow space head on your hands, it is for sure worth the trip! And with the highly realistic summer heat, a nice place to cool down and learn something new. Bon voyage space invaders!

Where: Avenue de Bouchout 10, 1020 Bruxelles. Right in the shadow of the Atomium but with its own parking.

When:
– Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm
– Weekends, public holidays and school holidays from 10 am to 5 pm

How much: For individuals:
-Adult: 8 €
-Child, student, senior: 7 €

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Voyager
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Global
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Just a little space cruide
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War of the worlds
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Hmm, about as interesting as my right foot
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Its criminal what those space helmets do it your hair.
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The heavenly dome
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Space

Though we are far away

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Legacy

This spring a small miracle occurred. After almost eight years overseas, my dad finally made it over for a visit to Belgium! We were so excited to show off our adopted country, it was nearly impossible to choose how to spend our too short time together. But one thing that was set in stone was a trip out to the apple blossoms for a special family photo session.

Today is Father’s Day in America, so I am happy to tell you a bit about my dad. When my mom went into labour with me, my dad drove like a maniac all the way to the hospital saying he wished a cop would pull him over so he could say he was having a baby. 🙂 One of my earliest memories I have is of my Dad waking me up and loading me in the car to run some far away errands. We always stopped at McDonalds for breakfast and then feasted on powdered donuts. No wonder it was a popular outing! When I was in the fourth grade, I cleverly changed a D on my report card to a B. Noticing, my dad pulled me into my room and explained that sometimes people make mistakes. That’s ok, but its when you made them twice that there is a problem. I use this philosophy today with my kids.

From my dad I got my work ethic, my ability to shake it off and my fingers. His taught me the importance of walking a mile in someone’s shoes before you judge them and one of his favorite sayings, “its not the money, its the money”.

I wish he was closer but at least we have this sweet spring day and the images I will never forget. A time when he stopped being just Dad and became Grandpa. Love you Dad!

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Another beloved pappa
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Delicate
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A gift
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Storyteller
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Love and laughter
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My heart explodes
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Cozy up
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Namesake
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Hanging out
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Full circle
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Hangers on
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Partners in crime
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The funniest thing
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Obligatory running photo 🙂
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My heart
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Making wishes
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Collector
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A tip of the hat

A day in the life: Wild and Free

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Pathway

I used to not like the wind. Restless making and loud. It was a strong cue to make tea, hop in bed and wait it out. Now, wind means more. It means movement and freshening. A whipping sea of summer stems, raw and elemental. Inspiration. And I let this inspiration take me to the swaying fields just a few minutes away for a little fun with my crew of adventureers.

Just this week, my long awaited new camera arrived! I have already been blown away by the power of the the newest member of the canon family, the 5D Mark IV. I can’t wait for this weekend’s sessions to keep on playing!

Do you love this location? Looking for something a little out of the ordinary, a little wild and free? I am looking forward to holding some sessions here this summer. Gorgeous setting for family, maternity or a love session. Especially to catch the lovely evening light. Contact me at bearanddragonphotography@gmail.com to book your Wild and Free session.

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Lead
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Strong
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Filous
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The mighty
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Stride
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Boys
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Breezy
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Escape
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Open
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Hide and seek
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Float

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Apple of our eye
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Possibilities
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Bounce
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Earnest

A Sprite in the Forest

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The light in the forest

As usual we had an amazing time during the Adventures in the Bluebell Forest at Hallerbos. Warm temperatures and sunny days brought out the best in the play of light, shadows and color. I am still very much working my way through the editing (we had 21 families join this year!) but I was so inspired by this lovely duo I had to share.

I have had the pleasure of photographing this sweet little girl and her family since she was just a couple of months old. Now becoming a proper big girl, she showed off her moves and larger than life personality while taking a special momma and me day in the forest. Such a cutie! I hope you enjoy their images as much as I have. 🙂

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Dreaming place
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Queen of the forest
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Glow
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Regard
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Stroll
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Fly
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A quiet place
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Bisous
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Play
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In the wind

 

How to prepare for a photo shoot: What should we wear?

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You have done the research and picked your location, date and photographer. Just a few weeks (hours or minutes :)) to go until your session and the question pops up, what do we wear? Now this question either fills you with dread or glee. For me, it is the latter. I love putting together a beautiful collection of clothes and accents that capture the feeling, season and our personalities all in one go. If this seems like too much to do, not to worry! I have broken down my thought process into some tips you may want to consider next time you want to maximize the fun and beauty of your photo session.

Color, color, color

When selecting outfits for a family session, the first step for me is to pick a color palette. A color palette is a range of 3 – 5 colors that you want to have represented in your pictures. You might want to start as simple as asking yourself a couple of questions.

  • Is there a special article of clothing I know I want to include? Sometimes you already have a special dress or other item in mind. Its color is a great starting place. 
  • Is there a primary color in the setting that want to resonate with? The yellows and oranges of fall, the soft lavender of a bluebell forest, deep greens of summer are all important elements of your color palette.
  • Is there a seasonal element to consider? Bright and cheerful during the holidays, muted and soft in late summer. What color first comes to mind when thinking about the season you are in?
  • What is the mood I am going for? I find it is a helpful exercise to come up with three words to describe the images you are after. For example: bright, fun, happy or romantic, rich, sweet. When you pick a color scheme, ask yourself if it evokes the words you had in mind. 

All of these questions are designed to help you pick just 1 – 2 colors that you would like to include. Next stop is one of the many online resources to help you round out your palette. I always recommend using Design Seeds because they let you browse through image based palettes based on one color you choose. Do NOT skip this step!  I often find color combinations that work beautifully but I would have never thought of by my own. Don’t have a color in mind yet? I suggest browsing in season. You are sure to find something you will fall in love with.

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fall

Balance light and dark

Whether using a palette or not, be sure to balance light and dark. Even the gorgeous, rich palette needs some pops of light! Remember the eye goes to the lightest part of an image so balance your highlighting color across the group to make sure the eye travels to each person.

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A splendid harvest
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Rich and balanced

Be bold and have fun

The number one piece of advice I give to families preparing for a session is to wear something you are comfortable in that represents your style. This is key to having fun and also getting timeless images that you love. That being said, I think there is also some space to make some bold choices your might not usually consider. That sparkly skirt that catches your eye that you might not wear to drop the kids off at school could be just the thing to bring fun to your session. A so-soft knit sweater, a new piece of jewelry, your son’s favorite impish hat.

If you have an idea you like but are not 100% confident about, bring it along to the session and ask your photographer what they think. They should be able to give you some good advice. I have had client’s come with whole suitcases of clothes and we always work together to create a great look. Just make sure this process does not cut too much into your photo time.

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Apple Blossoms
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Fresh and bright

Lay it all out

An absolutely critical step is to lay everything out together! Literally lay your outfits on the floor and you will quickly see if you are on the right track. Do the colors and fabrics work together? Is there one outfit that brings it all to together (see middle below)?  Is there a balance of light and dark? If you are debating on a few items, just switch them out here. Don’t forget to test out accessories in this way as well.

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Some mistakes to avoid

As in all endeavors, there are some mistakes to avoid…

  • Are we going to the same party? You plan a casual look and Dad shows up from work in a suit. Oops! A quick check should tell you if everyone is going to the same place. 
  • And for our next look: I think it is great to have 1 – 2 looks for a session. After all, you might not take pictures together very often so nice to have a more casual and a more dressy set! However, more than two changes can eat into your time more than you might expect and can quickly burn out the kids. 
  • Picking things out the night before: To be avoided if possible. You are making an investment in your images. Take some time to feel your best. 
  • Logos, characters and brand names: I try to avoid logoed and branded clothes as the images can end up looking like advertisements. 
  • The big negotiation: Our little angels are often quite set on their favorite fashion choices that may not be the same as yours. That’s fine! I often suggest letting your little ones each pick one special item that they can bring for a last picture. Yes, even that Elsa dress. 

Why not pamper yourself?

If you have the time and desire, a little pampering can give you extra confidence in your photos.  If you feel like you look great then you it will absolutely come across in your pictures! So go for a manicure, massage, beard trim or facial if you can possibility squeeze it in. You deserve it.

Moving on

Going all out on a coordinated look is fun but not necessary! Your photo session should capture life as it is and sometimes it is enough of an accomplishment just to book and get everyone to a photo session! Indulge, if you please but always have fun. 🙂

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Its that time again! Announcing the 2017 Bear & Dragon Adventures (mini sessions) line up

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Wood Sprite

Oh la la, things are coming up daffodils, snowdrops, crocuses and of course, bluebells all over the place. Sometimes the winter seems to drag on but somehow this year it arrived right on time. Warm days ahead. 🙂

It has been a wonderful fall and winter for me, getting to enjoy our littlest guy and see him grow now into a sweet and clever little six month old. It feels equally wonderful to balance this time with getting back to work a bit now. Just in time for some of my favorite spring Bear & Dragon Adventures. Why the name change? I am planning some true mini sessions in the future but these will be mainly holiday (Valentines, Mother’s and Father’s Day, Christmas), studio-based sessions offered at a great discount. In contrast, if the sessions are held in a fabulous and special location designed to capture the seasons at their height then voila, the will be called Bear & Dragon Adventures. I digress!

You never know when inspiration may strike so this many not be a complete list but without further adieu, I am excited to announce:

2017 Bear & Dragon Adventures 

  • Amongst the Apple Blossoms: Spring brings the blossoming of millions of apple, pear and cherry blossoms in the Belgian Haspengouw region. Not to be missed! Mid April. Check out last couple of years here and here.
  • Bluebells are Ringing: Capture the magical bluebell forest in Hallerbos. Our most popular spring session. Late April. You can see some examples here and of course below.
  • In the Light of the Sun (new!): Oh did I mention I found a field of blooming Sunflowers just outside of Brussels?! What could better capture the happy days of summer. Late August.
  • A Splendid Harvest (new!): A return to the Apple Orchards to capture the ripeness of summer and transition to fall.  Early September. Here is our family album.
  • A Walk through Time: Set in the 13th century Abbey, Rouge Cloitre, this adventure offers up the height of fall colors in a timeless and stunning location. Mid October.
  • Sea of Leaves: Autumn finds the lawns of Parc Cinquintenaire ankle deep in an amazing sea of fall leaves and colors. Our most popular fall session. Check it out here and here. Early November.
  • Merry and bright (new!): A trip to the Christmas Tree farm just outside of Liege is about as merry as it gets. A bit early in the season to help you prepare your epic holiday card. Mid November
  • La Vie est Belle (new!): Similar feeling to the Royals session, La Vie est Belle is set in another iconic Brussels property, a gorgeous Horta house in Sablon.  Come dressed to the nines for this very special art nouveau adventure. Check out Royals here.  Date TBD.

If you are not already excited, here is a look back at the fun we had at the Bluebells adventure last year.

If you haven’t signed up for the advance notice on mini sessions and adventures, what are you waiting for?! Sign up on the Say Hello page of my NEW website. Adventure on.

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Let’s go!
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Imagine
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Skip and hop
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Glow
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Peekabo
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Adventurers
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Happy days
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Swing
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Pathway
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Growing up boy
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In a sea of blue
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Spring kisses
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Touch
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Anticipation
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On we go

 

Things to do with a baby or kid in Brussels: Brunch, play and much more at La Tricoterie

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Les oeufs

Its no secret that Brunch is a cultural phenomenon close to my heart. Lazy Sunday mornings, yummy eats and if you throw in kid’s activities as well, I am sold. So its been pretty much ages that I have been meaning to get to La Tricoterie. Many a trusted source has touted this blend of local and fresh breakfast, event space and fun stuff explosion.

So finally last week we managed to get dressed and get into town lured by the additional sweetener of a Maker’s Market. La Tricoterie is located in the St Gilles neighborhood sandwiched between the questionable Gare Midi zone and the lovely Parc de Forest. Choose your parking wisely!

Upon entering, you discover a warm and open space with some intriguing remnants of its former industrial factory life. There are several seating spaces but we chose to sit in the Arches room which is where the kids play area is. Long tables line the open space and seating is open so no need to worry if you have a group coming.

The menu consists of several formula (Classic, Vegetarian, Children’s) and also an a la carte section. We chose the classic menu and children’s which for us meant a plate with several cheeses, bread, a small salad, soup and a seasonal crumble. Decidedly non-traditional brunch and it felt a bit expensive at 16 EUR.   The kid’s food was more of a hit with a soft boiled egg, bread and chocolate dipping sauce for 7 EUR (if memory serves!). In retrospect I wish I had chose the Eggs and Toast from the a la carte menu or even the intriguing “Croissant Perdu” as for me there is a strong emphasis on the “Br” aspect of Brunch foods.

While we chatted with friends in the surprisingly (welcomely) quiet space, the littles played in the kid’s zone which was fenced off and filled with fun activities of the creative sort. Blocks, drawing supplies, books, toy animals and a tunnel. Just a heads up, its also 3 EUR per child to join in on the fun.

Though we came for the brunch, I think the real Tricoterie magic comes from the many and varied activities they put on. As seen below, in addition to the Creator’s Market, also massage, painting, language conversation tables, etc. I would love to spend some time exploring these options.

I know I write many a gushing review but for La Tricoterie I say intriguing space for activities. Excellent to have a space for the kids to play while you chat but perhaps stick to the a la carte menu for a better value. Worth checking out to see if its your cup of tea. Brunch on.

 

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Things to do
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Service
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All things fresh and yummy
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Arch
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Build
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Use your imagination
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Hearts and hearts
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Overhead

A playful Valentine to you!

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Let your love rain down

Hearts, candy, flowers, love. We love St Valentines Day! This year we decided to do it up with a modish flair. Set in the classic but quiet Gallerie Bortier, I even made a thorough search for sweet and fun props to add a little sparkle.

Special thanks to my stepmom Cindi for coming out and keeping me sane during a long away trip for the Bear. Without her this session would have been completely impossible!

Today do something playful and loving for yourself and those you hold dear for time passes too fast.

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These two
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Where it all began
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The sweetest girl in the whole world
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Gotcha
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Heartbreaker
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Imp
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Stroll
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Who wrote the book of love?

Things to do with kids outside of Brussels: Walk through time at the ruins at Villers la Ville

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Idol

I looooove history. The feeling of walking in a place where so many have walked before. Touching stone, cold now but one warmed by fires, conversation, conflict and an unknowable life. Impossibly remote and yet just at hand. Belgium is brimming with historical treasures from the well known to the nearly forgotten. Luckily the ruins at Villers la ville are enjoying a second lease on life due to a recent investment and creation of a world class visitor center.

Tipped off by an article, I was amazed to find that the gorgeous ruins of this 12th century abbey are just 40 minutes outside of Brussels, just past Waterloo. Without delay, I bundled up my little man, grabbed my camera and away we went. After an easy drive, we turned the corner and my jaw dropped. This place is huge! It covers a sprawling 36 hectares with many buildings including the cathedral, abbot’s palace, a dungeon (!) and the many buildings and rooms in which the monks went about their daily life, largely in silent reflection.

The old mill building has been converted to a modern and beautiful visitor center which gives information about the abbey and monks who lived there. There is even a room sized model of the grounds so you can see what it once looked like. The visitor center is connected to the abbey via a bridge and once you step onto the grounds, the adventure begins.

Left to decay after the French revolution and subsequent capture of Belgian territory, it is hard to imagine that such a busy and epic place was left to the elements but so it was. Walls and fixtures but no roofs. Crumpling brick and stone. Complete and yet broken. It is a hair raising experience to walk through. And the cathedral will take your breath away and bring a tear to your eye. It is magical.

We have definitely added this to our official visitors tour. And you KNOW this is the site of a future Bear & Dragon Adventure. Go check out it!

Where: Rue de l’Abbaye, 55, 1495 Villers-la-Ville

When: 1st November – 31st March: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (open everyday)
1st April – 31st October: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm (open everyday)

Annual closing: December 24, December 25, December 31 and January 1

How much:

  • Adults: € 8
  • Children (aged 6 to 12):  € 3
  • Children (<6 years), disabled persons**, teachers, friends of the Abbey: Free
  • Audioguide: € 1,50
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Layers
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Peekaboo!
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Cracks in the face of time
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Mythical creatures
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Tangled
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Holy
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Framed
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Bones
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A walk through time
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En guard!