Undecided about Belgium for your next family holiday? Think chocolate, waffles and Tin-Tin; outdoor adventure in historic Wallonia; and no long journeys anywhere.
It’s one of the smallest countries in Europe, easy to explore by road or rail and just over an hour’s flight from the UK. So whether you visit for summer cycling and sailing in Ardennes or Bruges’ Christmas markets, Belgium’s hospitality and accessibility is made for family holidays.
Direct flights from London to Brussels take just over an hour.
Brussels is two hours by road from Calais and the Folkestone to Calais ferry crossing is one hour and 34 minutes.
The historic cities of Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent, Tournai, Mons, Namur and Liège are all under an hour by train from the centre of Brussels.
You can drive right across Belgium, south to north, in just over three hours.
As one of Europe’s main administrative capitals, Brussels has lots of space when the Eurocrats head home to Paris, Strasbourg etc. on Friday night. So it’s a great city for cheap weekend hotel deals.
Brussels has the largest green belt of any European capital and it contains the 12,000ha Soignes Forest.
Belgium has 13 UNESCO World Heritage sites, is home to the Ghent Altarpiece and charges less than anywhere else in Europe for entry to its public museums and galleries (average €8 for adults over 26 and €2 for children).
Belgium’s divided into two distinct areas: Flanders to the north which includes Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp, Bruges and Ostend; and French speaking Walloon to the south where you’ll find Mons, Tournai, Liège and Namur. The country’s road and rail network is excellent and there’s a wide choice of accommodation from country inns and guesthouses to five star city centre hotels, self-catering apartments, campsites and Airbnb.
The capital of Belgium and administrative heart of the EU, Brussels is a lot friendlier, more relaxed and less business-like than you’d expect. It’s a small city and fun with kids since the ‘grown-up’ sightseeing’s well balanced by masses of green space, cute museums and pretty much endless cafés to compare waffle toppings, eat chips and sample chocolate. A good base for exploring Flanders and Wallonia and half an hour from Ghent by train and just over 40 minutes from Antwerp.
Antwerp is a city with a very cool reputation for fashion and design, a rich heritage of diamond trading and a young atmosphere which goes a long way with older kids and teenagers.
A city you can sail through, walk about and run around, Ghent might be ancient and majestic, but it’s also made for kids. The entire historic centre’s pedestrianised and all museums, galleries and monuments have free entry for children and teenagers. There are parks, gardens and beaches for playing. And the city’s passion for eating well starts young, so expect to be pleasantly surprised by child-friendly restaurants and an innovative approach to ‘kids menus’ almost everywhere.
UNESCO World Heritage Bruges is famously lovely and a snowy fairy tale at Christmas. It isn’t the liveliest Belgian city for kids but there’s plenty to do and see on a day out and Brussels is only an hour away by train.
A city of graceful belfries and Gothic architecture, Mons is famous for pageantry, festivals and artistic connections: Van Gogh lived here for longer than he did in Arles. But the European Capital of Culture 2015 is as playful as it is refined. There’s even a sculpture in the gorgeous Jardin du Mayeur created to remind Mons of its ‘Inner Child’. And if that doesn’t convince, go visit Le Petit Singe on Grand-Place – you’ll find the little medieval monkey up on the magnificent Hôtel de Ville. And you can definitely let kids touch this work of art: egend has it stroking the head brings an entire year’s worth of luck.
Looking down over Liège from the vantage point of the ancient citadel, it’s easy to understand its reputation as one of the greenest cities in Wallonia. It’s also one of the most festive; famous for dazzling Christmas markets and the boisterous Quinze Août folk festival in August.
Ardennes in south east Belgium looks like a fairy tale; all mysterious forests and gently rolling hills, charming villages, clifftop castles, broad rivers and wide open spaces. But despite its romantic appearance, the region’s really just one great big playground. Outdoor adventure’s as natural as breathing here and it’s the ideal place for kids to try everything from kayaking and canoeing to rock climbing and ziplining, mountain biking, wild swimming and serious walking.
The charming capital of Wallonia, Namur’s another of Belgium’s celebrated Art Cities and famous for excellent restaurants, pretty cafés, galleries, museums and independent shopping. An excellent base for exploring the Ardennes region.
Between 2016 and 2017, Belgium reduced its emissions by 17%, more than any other country in Europe. Understandably, it’s keen to keep up the good work and makes travelling around by train very easy and inexpensive. Public transport in cities is excellent and most are small enough to walk around and extensively pedestrianised.
In Wallonia, the RAVeL network covers more than 1350 km of old Walloon railway lines and towpaths converted into routes and trails reserved for cyclists, hikers, horse riders and wheelchair users.