Travel Story See Belgium's funny side at comic centre

Photo of Annelies Gartner

Belgian cartoonists have been entertaining families for generations with Smurfs and Tintin.

The historic city of Brussels is the capital of Belgium and well-known for its Royal Palace, Grand Place, shopping and large variety of beers — which are celebrated at the Museum of Belgian Brewers — but there are also a lot of fun family destinations.

Belgian cartoonists have been entertaining families for generations. One of the most popular creations are Smurfs, the small, blue human-like creatures who live in mushroom-shaped houses who are celebrating their 60th birthday this year. 

Then there is reporter Tintin and his dog Snowy who are always on hazardous adventures and have been popular for almost 90 years.

At the Belgian Comic Strip Centre there are Tintin and Smurf-themed rooms and a lot more. Children won’t even realise they are learning when they walk through the permanent exhibition explaining the invention of the comic strip. The history of cartoons in newspapers, politics and its use as a propaganda tool are also on display. 

Tired feet can take a rest and view the animated classic cartoons of Dickie in a small theatre. Budding illustrators will be informed by the Art of the Comic Strip exhibition that explores the comics in all its forms. This art nouveau building also houses temporary exhibitions and a bookstore on the ground floor is a must-see destination for collectors of the ninth art.

A short walk from the Grand Place or Grote Markt in the historic centre is MOOF — Museum of Original Figurines featuring more than 1000 figurines, original comic strips and chill-out zones screening cartoons. Tintin and the Smurfs are alongside Asterix and Obelix, Lucky Luke, Manga, DC and Marvel characters and much more. This all-ages exhibition only opened five years ago and lets visitors explore comics, their creators and characters from all around the world in 2-D and 3-D. The display also includes informative videos explaining the history of some of the artists and on display is equipment used to bring the concepts to life.

Younger children will have fun playing at the Toy Museum. This old town house is packed from floor to ceiling over several levels with an array of collectables. The best news for youngsters is they get to road test some of the toys and games. From electric train sets to old teddy bears and pedal cars, there really is something to delight in every nook and cranny. In this digital age it’s likely for some kids it will be their first contact with toys from the era of their grandparent’s childhood. 

About a 40-minute metro ride from the city centre is the fantastical Atomium, which alongside the Smurfs also celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. The 80m-long cantilevered structure was created for the 1958 World’s Fair. A 52.8m elevator ride takes visitors to the top where the 360-degree panoramic views of the city are breathtaking. 

The history of the building and the Expo can be explored throughout the building’s tubes and spheres. Animated futuristic TV family the Jetsons would be right at home in this feat of engineering, with lighting on the escalators giving the impression of being transported in outer space.

A 150m walk from the Atomium is the Brussels Design Museum (ADAM) where everything plastic is fantastic. Take your children on a retro trip back to an age where polymeric material was all the rage. The Plasticarium collection gives insight into plastic design from the 50s to today through a permanent exhibition. Austin Powers comes to mind when you see  some of the extraordinary furnishings on display. The people, fashion and graphic art of the 1958 Expo are also on show in temporary exhibitions to coincide with the Atomium’s year of celebrations.

At the foot of the Atomium is Mini-Europe. where children can discover 350 miniature monuments. Walk the width and length of Europe in a few hours taking in the gondolas of Venice, London’s Big Ben and other treasured landmarks.

If you fancy getting your feet wet, also close by is  Oceada water park. It boasts six closed and 10 open water slides, indoor and outdoor pools, a wave pool, spas and saunas. Slides named Anaconda, the Cameleon and bala de Canon  provide hours of wet and wild fun.

If the kids aren’t exhausted yet, or if you are and they aren’t, let them run around in the beautiful green grass of the nearby Parc de Laeken. Weather permitting, there are plenty of areas to throw down a picnic rug or enjoy a snack — the region is famous for its chocolates and potato frites and after all that activity you deserve a treat or two.

Disclaimer

Annelies Gartner travelled as a guest of Visit Flanders. They have not seen or approved this story.

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