Finding a great photo location can be a bit of a fine art. I look for beautiful features and shapes, easy access, not too crowded and often for a place with a little extra magic and wow factor. Though it changes quite often, my favorite photo location at the moment is the Rouge Cloitre which is a beautiful abbey located in the Sonian Forest just 10 minutes from the center of Brussels.
Founded in 1367, definitely brings the wow which makes it a very special backdrop for a photo sessions in all seasons. Brilliant colors, large reflecting ponds, a wild flower and vegetable garden and of course the abbey.
I don’t just come for photo sessions either. They have a great playground, a weekend cafe for cake, coffee or a beer and special events around the year including our favorite haunted forest around Halloween time.
I can’t wait for the Walk through Time Adventure on October 21 in my favorite fall location of all. 🙂 Here is a look at some of my favorite Rouge Cloitre images from all around the calendar.
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 €
It is a stunning fall day and with an special Momma and Babatwo morning ahead we decided to get ourselves down to the new Train World in Schaerbeek. If you have a major train lover on your hands then you might want to think carefully before taking them to this over-the-top mecca of traindom because it is very possible that their heads might actually explode. As a medium train appreciator myself, I was still blown away by the sheer volume of the collection and impressive attention to detail. It is truly is a captivating experience.
We arrived around opening time (10 – 17:00 everyday except Monday) and walked right into the ticket office. Very well organized entrance where you pay the fee (10 EUR for adults and FREE for children under six) and receive a map, ticket which you scan to get entry to the different buildings and a handheld devise which provides commentary in English, German, French and Dutch.
The entry takes you into the oldest remaining train station in Brussels built in 1887. Here you can catch a glimpse of the evolution of the ticket office including original tickets, train conductor uniforms and some neat model trains. I have to admit, I was already pretty satisfied that my 10 EUR was well spent but truly we have not even scratched the surface.
Exiting from the rear you walk a bit to the right into the modern building constructed for the museum. We scanned our ticket, opened the door and were immediately engulfed in a whole new world. The first space is dark. Really very dark and the music is tense, suggesting a scary but bold adventure ahead. Looming in the darkness were six large and fully restored engines dating back to the 1830’s. For me this was good fun. I loved the little spine tingle of this foreign environment. For the little guy, not so much. Poor thing was scared nearly out of his wits and to be honest, never fully recovered until we exited to the bright sunshine of the outside world.
So needless to say, we beat a fairly quick path through the rest but I was both seriously impressed and mentally book marking all the things I wanted to more fully explore when I come again. The museum traces the history of train engines, train lifestyle and travel, track development, and yes, even has a train simulation which was a hit based on the number of pushable buttons alone. Each exhibit is thoughtfully put together, creating a fascinating and immersive environment. It really shows off the best of the best of modern museum experiences that can blow us away even when coming from a high tech and high information lifestyle.
Although it was a little scary for my almost two year old (he’s a little afraid of the dark to begin with), I would still recommend this experience for the toddler and kid set. It is beautiful, interesting and just enough hands-on to keep them going to the end. With friendly opening hours and excellent value for money, this is a spot you can visit again and again, each time finding new surprises. And how do you get there? By train of course. Choo, choo!
It is just too beautiful out today. Exactly the kind of day that you just want to spend outside. But this next baby and toddler hot spot will have you scanning the weather report for any hint of clouds. Just enough to give you an excuse to stay inside and play.
I have written before about the ludotheque in Etterbeek. Having lived in Etterbeek and with a tiny slice of Etterbeekois pride, it pains me to say that the ludtheque in Ixelles is seriously kicking our ass. Located in a breezy neighborhood a stone’s throw from Square Ferdinand Cocq, this ludotheque is chalk-full of new, bright and shiny toys. Lots of options for play from an extensive train collection, up and downstairs playhouse, loads of lovely frocks and dresses for make believe and the mother of all crawling tunnels (see happy face snail below). I was really impressed to say the least.
There is a bit of admin to get started. Upon proof of residence in Belgium, but not necessarily Ixelles, you can get your yearly membership card for 10 EUR. This card entitles you to as much free play time as you like as well as the right to borrow toys and games from the ludotheque for between 1 – 2,50 EUR. Don’t forget to return your toys within 1 – 3 weeks or you start accruing late fees. Also don’t put them away in your closet and forget about them for nine months and end up with a fine 10x the value of the toys (lesson learned the hard way, thank you…).
Next time the clouds descend, get yourself over to Ixelle, get a cookie at Sucre Sale and play play play. Cheers!
Where: Rue Mercelis, 13-1050 Brussels
Tuesday from 10h to 12h and 13h to 17h
Wednesday from 13h to 18h
Thursday from 13h to 17h
Friday from 10h to 13h and 14h to 18h (for 10 years)
I constantly get amazed at how many great resources and things to do with kids there are in Brussels. Especially when I get a hot tip on an English-language Children’s Library right in our very backyard in Woluwe Saint-Pierre. Thank you so much to Pippa for cluing us in!
Set back from the street a ways, the library is housed along with a ludotheque in an intriguing old home surrounded by a garden. Head up the stairs and to the left and sure enough, there it is. A 20 sq meter space packed floor to ceiling with loads of children’s book. Board books on the bottom all the way up to early teen novels near the top of the shelves. So many books and a nostalgic atmosphere of the children’s library section you visited growing up complete with little cards that get stamped with the date when you check them out.
With so many options we had a lengthy negotiation process but ultimately all left happy. To check out books, you have to sign up for a library card that is 4 EUR per year. Then you can check out up to three books for 50 cents. 50 cents! If you are addicted to acquiring children’s books like me, this is a real coup. 🙂 You can keep your books for two weeks and then the fun begins again.
The library is only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays so you have to plan things a bit. Saturday morning has story time every other week.
Where: Center Crousse, Rue au Bois, 11 — 1150 Brussels
Wednesday 3-5.30 pm
Saturday 10-12.30 pm
Closed on public holidays
School Holidays – opening times may vary, changes will be posted on this site
On a recent February morning we decided to embrace the Swedish concept of “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes”, and headed out to Mechelen to check out the zoo at Planckendael. We love animals and as Babatwo is finally able to differentiate between gorillas and giraffes, it felt right to introduce them in person.
To call Planckendael a zoo is really not doing it justice. With restaurants, play areas, and interactive exhibits, it really is a full day of fun, including lots of time and contact with the many varieties of animals. A bit of a maze, as you might expect but one thing you are really struck by is how much effort has been put in to masking or minimizing the barriers between you and your furry or feathered friend. This alone makes the experience special. As you wind your way around the map of the world, you come across many different play areas which give a very nice break from what can become a monotonous checklist of going from one animal to the next. Inside you find the excitement stays high as you bounce from activity to viewing and back.
Without a doubt the monkeys stole the show for my little ones though the elephants held their own. The passage to Africa was closed when we visited as the giraffes are expecting a little one soon. Hey, we are all due for a little privacy when so pregnant you want to just lay down and hibernate until your 100 kg and almost two meter tall baby makes its arrival. Lord have mercy.
The park provides cute wagons you can pull the littles along in which I highly recommend!
It is easy to get stuck in your Brussels bubble but come on, Mechelen is only 25 minutes away. Take advantage of the discounted offers meant to bring you out for a winter viewing. See animals, have fun. 🙂
Where: Leuvensesteenweg 582, 2812 Mechelen
When: Check their calendar for times. Open 7 days a week!
How much: Not cheap but for me worth it when you see that the animals are actually happy and well cared for. 🙂
Today I have a throwback for you. All the way back to the green and lush summer. It was a warm day, though a bit overcast with light showers. Classic Brussels. Set in one of my favorite parks, Parc de Tervuren which was once the hunting lodge (aka stunning side castle) of the Duke of Brabant. Here you will find fishing and duck ponds, long tree lined lanes and the soon-to-reopen Royal Museum for Central Africa.
On this particular day, I had the pleasure to work with a lovely British family including little girls Seren and Fion. One thing that I love about working with kids is how much fun you have just messing around! Dancing, running, playing with feathers. These girls were a blast and absolutely gorgous in their matching dresses and bows. What a lovely day and a sweet reminder that long summer days are just around the corner. Enjoy!
Its cold, its dark but somehow these kids still demand to be entertained. The nerve! Why don’t they want to curl up with tea and a good book or the latest Oscar contender and wait for longer days like me?
Now placed under these unreasonable demands we were forced to look further afield. Sunday indoor play options are next to non-existent but one recommendation caught my eye. Acting on a tip from Nicola Tunks (among others) we decided to give Planet Kids a chance.
Located out in Sterrebeek, Planet Kids is housed in an unassuming white building that resembles an old farm house. Being a dreary winter Sunday, it was packed to the gills with marauding kids and merry makers. There is an indoor and outdoor section. The outdoor seemed to be dominated by a go-cart track (mental note for a couple of years and more degrees from now). Indoor had a really cool indoor labyrinth that is sure to challenge your little person. Climbing, rolling, swinging, you name it. The labyrinth areas were organized by age but we found that the one for the little ones was still dominated by less than gentle older kids. You can join your kids in the up to 4 year play area but after that they are on their own!
One big feature of Planet Kids is that you can bring the family, let them play, and relax and enjoy a coffee or beer in the open area cafe. Many seemed to be taking this approach. There is also a special area for birthday parties and while we were there, an extended Happy Birthday tune was celebrated.
Although a separate playground for babies is advertised, it was pretty basic and definitely not a destination for those who can’t yet enjoy the climbing maze.
The prognosis? A solid weekend destination for 3 – 4 year olds and super awesome one for 5+. If you go with your little one, make sure to stay close to make sure they don’t get overwhelmed by the big kids. For your long winter Sundays, this is definitely an option. A challenging place to take some pictures but I gave it a try! Climb on.
Let’s face it, the gorgeous weather couldn’t last forever! This week is forecasted to be rainy, grey and dreary. That rules out parks so we turned our gaze inside to see what kinds of adventures we could find.
I have walked by the Brussels Natural History Museum aka The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences many a time on the way to Place Boniface. While the big dinosaur mural was appealing, I was not sure if bababoo was quite ready to enjoy it. Now that she is a couple of months past two and a firm animal lover, the time seemed right to check it out. Also somehow the word dinosaur made it into her vocabulary recently. Helloo Peppa Pig…anyhow!
Very accessible by bus, driving (there are two parking lots) or walking of course, the museum is immediately welcoming. Truly it is gorgeous, bright, well laid out and clearly the product of a lot of imaginative science-minded people. Pressed for time, we went straight for the baby animals exhibition. Who can resist baby animals? Once you get past the fact that they are stuffed, you can really appreciate the care that went into the displays and interactive sections. There are videos, games, and activities. You can try to crawl through a maze with a turtle shell balancing little eggs, build a nest out of Styrofoam noodles and try to locate you spirit animal mother by following her scent. So cool! We could have spent much longer but lunch and nap time beckoned.
Walking out we past the halls for dinosaurs (one of the best collections in Europe), mammals, biodiversity and more. I want to go back! Definitely a recommend for the 2ish+ set.
Where: Rue Vautier 29 – 1000 Brussels
Tuesday – Friday 9.30 – 17.00 Saturday and Sunday 10.00 – 18.00 School holidays (Tuesday – Sunday) 10.00 – 18.00 Closed on Mondays, 1 Jan, 1 May and 25 Dec
How much: The cost for adults is 7.50 EUR and for kids under five it is free.