Family outings in belgium

belgian chocolate

2014 will be a big year for Europe. Though it may seem far off this early in the year we are marking the centenary of the first world war. Belgium and France in particular will have massive displays on later in the year, so before all the tourist areas start getting busy we suggest you take an early trip to Belgium and see the side of it that won’t be dominating the news later in the year.

We’ve drawn up a list of five outings that are sure to be family pleasers. Belgium is a rather small country so if you take your car with you on the P&O ferry you can see a lot of it in just a few days.

Chocolate tourism

Belgium is the spiritual home of the chocolate industry. It was in Brussels where the idea for selling bitesize chocolate in boxes was first dreamed up. The industry is still going from strength to strength and the chocolatiers of Belgium keep on innovating and coming up with more and more tasty treats.

Here’s the main resource for all you really need to know about chocolate tourism.

There are a reported 2,000 chocolate shops in Belgium, so wherever you intend to stay there’s sure to be a chocolate tour near at hand. Most involve an in depth look at how the chocolate is made as well as a bit of history about its evolution. It’s likely your kids will mostly look forward to the tasting but we don’t doubt the chocolatey smell will have your mouth watering too.

Alternatively you could just go to the Museum of cocoa and chocolate for a look around about chocolate heritage.

spa belgium

Spa – the place, not a resort

This is the birthplace of all modern spas. Spa is a small town in the south east province of Lieges. It’s original clientele were royalty, after Henry VIII applauded the natural springs curative powers nobility started flocking there.

Spa is situated in the Ardennes a beautiful forest region stretching from Belgium to Luxembourg and bordering France and Germany. After a hard days treatment in the resorts a walk beneath the canopy will certainly top off your relaxation.

The water in Spa is famed for its waters and if you can’t wait to get there then you can buy bottles of it here in the UK. There are around 200 springs in the area, whilst we can’t assure you of their restorative nature the journey and environment will certainly do wonders for your soul.

The facilities available in Spa vary from the deluxe centres to more wallet friendly packages. They even have a mother-baby institute if you feel able to travel, they take children up to 6 months old for both parents and babies to get some cleansing relaxation in.

Spa is a wonderful place to receive therapy for respiratory and rheumatic problems. If the long winter has crept in to your bones, Thermes de Spa is a top of the line resort that treats around 35,000 people per year with top of the range heated hydromassage jets, baths of carbogaseous water, mud baths and much more. Thermes de Spa commands an incredible view of the town, gloriously framed by the surrounding hills and forest landscape.

Underground tours of Charles V palace

This isn’t your casual tour of a manor house or general amble around a museum. The site of Coudenberg the former palace of Brussels has had a trying history. It has been damaged to the point of complete reconstruction in the 17th century but much of the old building has remained beneath the soil making this a prime archaeological site.

There are guided tours of Coudenberg or you can make your own way with the Stone, mortar and chisel tour. This is a self guided tour in which you can educate yourself in all the archaeological techniques and historical findings that have made Coudenberg a major heritage location in Belgium.

For children there’s a special adventure to be had. They can go on a treasure trail to find the Golden Fleece. This quest is designed for 5-8 year olds and for just €4 your child will be given a back pack with all the adventuring gear they’ll need from treasure map to flashlight. Their goal to uncover the password that’ll unlock the chest containing the Golden Fleece. Should they succeed they’ll win a small prize and you’ll have given your kid up to an hour and half’s worth of archaeological exploration.

comic strip centre

Belgian Comic Strip Centre

If you and the family aren’t willing to spend your holiday looking through the classical galleries to be seen in Belgium then the comic strip centre is an excellent alternative. As the birthplace of creations like Tintin and the Smurfs, Belgium is somewhat of an authority on comic strip art.

The building is a masterpiece of art nouveau, designed by Victor Horta, the founding father of art nouveau architecture, in 1906.

It attracts an estimated 200,000 visitors a year and has a layout that’s like a cross between a funhouse and the Tate Modern in London.

It’s an excellent place to just have a wander around, with many exhibitions to help educate those not familiar with the ninth art (comics). These exhibits include ‘The Invention of the Comic Strip’ and ‘The Museum of the Imagination’. This is an awesome gallery that speaks to the inner psyche improving your understanding of abstract imagery, which will give you a far better appreciation of comic strips.

There’s a reading room if you just can’t peel your kids (or yourself) away from the BCSC as well as a restaurant and shop for you to bring a little bit of the spirit of the centre home with you.

For a family mini-break to Belgium this year take a P&O ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge
Image credit: kaoru, jackfre2, fmpgoh

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