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Guide to Belgium with kids: cities, country & coast

When you’re considering a family holiday in Western Europe, it’s easy to overlook a visit to Belgium with kids – but from its cities to its chocolate and history, there’s plenty to discover here.

View across the rooftops of Ghent from the medieval castle Gravensteen on a summer day with the Belgian flag flying in the foreground - my guide to Belgium with kids

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The surprise is just how much is packed into this relatively small country: as well as the well-known city breaks, you can find beach escapes by the coast plus countryside to explore, not to mention 19th and 20th century war-time history.

So if you’re wondering where to begin, this guide to Belgium with kids gives you ideas on planning a family holiday in Belgium, including tips for a city break or four, when to go, where to stay and more.

Practical info

Collage image showing essential practical information as part of my guide to Belgium with kids

Getting to Belgium

Being a small country, Belgium currently has just 5 international airports. But thanks to its political importance, these airports are well connected to many destinations across the world. 

The capital city of Brussels is home to two major airports; Brussels International Airport (BRU) and Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL).

Most US and international flights arrive at Brussels International Airport (BRU), aka Zaventem Airport, which is the largest and busiest airport in the country. 

If you’re flying to Brussels from many European destinations, you may also arrive at Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL). Located to the south of the capital, Charleroi Airport is a hub for several low-cost European carriers, including Ryanair, TUI Fly, and Wizz Air.

Some low-cost carriers also fly directly from European destinations to Belgium’s three other airports; Ostend Bruges (OST), Antwerp (ANR), and Liege (LGG).

Aerial view of the cityscape of Brussels at dusk including illuminated ferries wheel and Palais de Justice - my tips on visiting Belgium with kids

From France, Netherlands, and Germany, the high speed train Thalys can get you to Belgium in no time at all. And from the UK, you can jump on the Eurostar from London St Pancras station and reach central Brussels in as little as 2 hours.

If you’re taking a European road trip, you can also drive to Belgium via the neighbouring countries of France, Netherlands, Germany, and Luxembourg for a real family travel adventure.

There are no direct ferry routes from the UK to Belgium, but you can take ferries to the northern French ports or Amsterdam and drive from there.

When to go

The weather and tourist numbers are the two most important factors to consider when deciding when to visit Belgium.

During the winter months, temperatures in Belgium can drop to freezing or below, and rainy days are common. However, this also means there are much smaller crowds and lower prices, so it’s a good time of year to find deals if you’re visiting on a budget. 

The exception is during December when visitors flock to Belgian cities to experience their beautiful Christmas markets. If you enjoy Christmas festivities and don’t mind getting wrapped up in the cold weather, December is a great time to visit.

Decorated and illuminated Market square in Bruges, which is lit up each year for Christmas - one of the best times to visit Belgium with kids

In peak summer, temperatures in Belgium are warm and pleasant. Many festivals and celebrations also take place during the summer months, bringing a lively atmosphere to the country. It’s important to remember that summer is also peak tourist season, so you can expect much larger crowds and higher prices too. 

Like much of Western Europe, spring and autumn are the best times to visit Belgium. Temperatures are still pleasant but there are fewer tourists around and prices are generally cheaper.

In spring you can experience the city parks and flower gardens in full bloom, while autumn sees the Belgian countryside painted in beautiful shades of red and orange.

What to see 

While Brussels and Bruges are certainly the most famous tourist destinations in Belgium, there’s plenty more to see all throughout the country – including plenty of hidden gems.

From charming medieval towns and grand historic castles, to delicious food and fun winter sports, there’s something to do in Belgium for the whole family.

City/RegionHighlights
BrusselsCapital City, Grand Place, Royal Palace, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Manneken Pis, EU HQ, Mini Europe, Comic Strip Museum, Chocolate, Beer
BrugesMedieval Architecture, Picturesque Canals, Grand Place, The Belfry Tower, Chocolate Museum, Horse & Carriage Rides, Lace Making Shops,
GhentGravensteen Castle, Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, Flemish Frites With Andalouse Sauce, Street Art, Nightlife (it’s a big university city)
AntwerpDiamond Capital of the World, Fashion, Rubens, Fine Art, Historic Zoo
LiègeNature, Cultural Heritage Sites, Local Food, Skiing & Winter Sports, Big Christmas Market
OstendBeach, Coast, Cycling, Street Art
ArdennesNature, Mountains, Rivers, Walking and Watersports, History & Saxophones in Dinant
Brabant WallonWaterloo (Site of Napoleon’s defeat in the Battle of Waterloo)
YpresFlanders Fields Battlefield and Cemetery, Second World War Museums and Memorials

Visiting Belgium with kids – my travels and tips

For more tips on visiting Belgium with kids, check out some of my posts:

The best things to do in Brussels with kids

The best things to do in Bruges with kids

View along Graslei in the old town of Ghent, Belgium with some of the waterside restaurants - one of the best cities to visit in Belgium with kids

The best things to do in Ghent with kids

The best things to do in Antwerp with kids

The best snowy city breaks in Europe

Travelling within Belgium 

With its small size, Belgium is a quick, easy, and affordable country to get around, and public transport is often the most convenient method of transport. 

There’s a comprehensive rail network operated by SNCB/NMBS that connects every corner of the country. In fact, you can travel between Brussels and any other destination in Belgium by train in under 2 hours so it’s easy to plan a day trip or three. Fare prices are fixed, so it doesn’t matter when you book. 

It’s also possible to explore Belgium on a road trip. There’s a good road network connecting all major cities and towns, although Belgian roads are somewhat notorious for their uneven surfaces and potholes, so be extra careful when driving on smaller roads.

UK citizens do not need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive here for periods up to 185 days, and US driving licenses are also valid (though some car hire companies may require an IDP to rent a vehicle).

If you’re planning to hire a car to explore Belgium with kids, one of my favourite sites is Zest Car Rental

My daughter walks through Graffiti Street in Ghent, Belgium before starting the street art tour - the cities are all easy to walk around in Belgium with kids

Within the cities, the best way to move around is usually on foot or by public transport in the bigger cities – if you are taking a road trip, be aware that several Belgian cities have low emissions zones in the centre so there may be an added charge to drive in.

While Belgian towns and cities are extremely walkable, trams and buses are also available for getting around most destinations, plus Brussels has its own metro system too. The Delijn app lets you check routes and buy tickets in cities in Flanders, including Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp (Antwerpen).

With canals winding through the cities and countryside, you can also find more than one boat tour to try – while many are short guided boat trips, you can also explore by water with companies like Le Boat.

Cycling is a popular pastime and method of transport in Belgium too. If you’re feeling particularly active, you can use bikes to get around the cities and towns, or make the most of the country’s many scenic cycling routes.

Flight resources

Skyscanner is the website I tend to start with to compare rates for my flights.

Money-saving tip: Don’t input any dates to scan the best available times to go OR simply input ‘Belgium’ instead of a specific airport – you may get a much cheaper flight!

For more ways to save on a city break with children, check out my top tips

Accommodation resources

When I plan a city break in Belgium with kids, I often prefer my own apartment – and along with as well-known family friendly favourites such as AirBNB, I’m a big fan of Plumguide which has a range of accommodation that’s been individually vetted.

The majority of their places to stay in Belgium are in the south and east of the country, as well as on the north coast between Ostend and De Haan, around 30 minutes from Bruges.

You’ll find more self-catering accommodation around the coast too, as well as family-friendly hotels across the country. Booking.com usually offers the best deals, including free cancellation.

Grote Markt square in Antwerp with town hall with flags out frot and the fountain of Brabo throwing the giant's hand - my tips for exploring Belgium with kids

Safety tips

Belgium is a very safe country to visit as a family. Crime rates are low and it’s unlikely that anything will happen to affect you.

As with most European destinations, pickpocketing and petty theft can occur in big cities and around busy tourist attractions. Take basic precautions and look after your belongings when out and about.

Money saving tips

Like most countries in Western Europe, Belgium isn’t the cheapest country to visit. However, if you are visiting on a budget, there are some easy ways to save money in Belgium with kids.

  • Visit during off-season to save on flights and accommodation.
  • Stick to street food such as Belgian frites (fries), mitraillette (filled baguettes), sausage, kebabs, and waffles rather than eating at fancy restaurants.
  • Look out for set menu lunch deals for around €20 per person.
  • Drink local beer (there are over 1,000 breweries in the country) rather than imported wine or spirits.
  • Find a free walking tour, but do leave a small tip if you can.
  • Walk or rent a bike rather than flagging down taxis.
  • Visit on the first Sunday of the month when most museums are free.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle to make the most of free drinking water.

For more tips on ways to save on a city break with kids, including city passes and finding cheap (or free) tours, check out this post.

Packing for Belgium

Whether you’re visiting Belgium during spring, summer, or autumn, it’s best to pack a few light layers and a waterproof jacket or umbrella. 

No matter what time of year you visit, rain is common (did you know it rains more in Belgium than in the UK?), evenings can get chilly, and you never know when the weather’s going to turn.

During the winter months, you’re going to want to be prepared for temperatures dropping close to zero (sometimes even below). Pack plenty of layers and a warm coat, as well as hat, scarf, and gloves if possible.

View along a frozen canal in Bruges with historic buildings by the side - the weather is usually mild but winter can be cold if you're visiting Belgium with kids

Book list

Lonely Planet travel guides are always my favourite starting point – as well as the Lonely Planet Guide to Belgium & Luxembourg, there is also a smaller city guide, Pocket Bruges & Brussels.

Alternatively Rough Guides has a Pocket Rough Guide Bruges & Ghent and there’s a DK Eyewitness Top 10 Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp & Ghent to see you through all the main cities in Belgium with kids.

Belgium has a big history of comics and graphic novels, which are a fun option for kids – even if they don’t necessarily work as an introduction to the country.

The Adventures of Tintin is the most famous (although be aware there’s an uncomfortable amount of casual racism in some of the stories), while The Smurfs are also Belgian.

And Asterix fans will be happy to learn there’s also Asterix in Belgium featuring everyone’s favourite Gauls.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links – any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a small commission

Ghent Graslei/Graffiti Street/Frozen canal images copyright MummyTravels, all other images courtesy of Depositphotos

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