“I think this is my new favourite place!” – Ellie
When we are planning our trips, there are a few ways we like to research what to do. Friends’ recommendations are definitely at the top of my list: it’s great to hear tips from people with young children who have found fun things to do. One of our friends recommended checking out Mini-Europe in Brussels, and I’m really glad she did.
Mini-Europe is an outdoor collection of models of some of Europe’s landmarks, with interesting facts about each country. It’s is right next to the Atomium and you can buy a combined ticket to both attractions, saving on individual entry price.
What we did at Mini-Europe
We arrived with three tired and hungry children after our visit to the Atomium, so we headed straight to the on-site restaurant. The food was mainly fried, to the kids’ delight, and was not too expensive for Brussels: all five of us ate and drank for around 30 euros. The kids picked up free guidebooks on the way in, which they really enjoyed leafing through, pointing out familiar landmarks and flags. Lucas wanted to look for Denmark first, as he has become very interested in it since learning it’s where Lego was invented! He has already requested that we take a trip there, so watch this space!
We told the children that there was a giant shrinking machine at the entrance of Mini-Europe, which they loved. We explained that this was why the landmarks all looked so small. They thought this was hilarious and enjoyed pretending to be giants as we walked around the expansive collection!
It was a very hot and sunny day on our visit, which was lucky as all of the models are outdoors. Each country has its own group of landmarks, and the criteria for selection are quite strict, as we read in the guidebook. Some of the models were surprising and we chatted about why they may have been selected. We also enjoyed guessing what might be in the UK section, and debating what will happen to it after Brexit…
The presentation of the landmark models is really cool. Some are set in water, like part of the Danish section, complete with giant fish. Others are on top of small hills, like Sacre Coeur, like a mini version of Montmartre. Mini train tracks weave in and out of the structures, even tunnelling underneath in places. The boys especially loved following the trains’ progress and trying to find the Eurostar, which we had travelled on!
By far our favourite ‘landmark’ was a Ferris wheel, complete with a button that played a jaunty tune. The kids were laughing hysterically listening to the music and dancing, and we had the tune stuck in our heads all day! We also liked Mount Vesuvius, which had a quake plate (not sure if that is the technical term!) next to it so we could feel what it’s like to be in an earthquake.
It was fun to spot places we’ve been to, which prompted lots of stories and questions about our travels. It is still really hard for the kids to comprehend that we had adventures before they were born, and even that we had our own individual adventures before we met! Of course, we had to stop and see the British landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament, white cliffs of Dover, and Longleat.
What we thought
We had a great visit to Mini-Europe and I particularly enjoyed it! I thought it was very cool and I really enjoyed looking around the collection. I loved the detail of the models, which were a lot bigger than I expected. The children also loved it, especially finding buttons to press to hear the various national anthems, or start off interactive features.
The level of detail on the models is incredible, and it’s clear that a lot of time, effort, and money has gone into making each one. There are tiny people, vehicles, construction equipment, and all sorts of other items decorating each model. A couple of exhibits were removed for restoration, which made me realise that each model will need careful ongoing maintenance. New models are added regularly, particularly as more countries join the EU.
As an attraction, I think it can be overshadowed by the Atomium but is definitely worth a visit. It’s a little unusual but great fun for children and adults. I’m really glad we got this recommendation, and we will definitely pass it on to any friends visiting Brussels.
- Buy combined tickets if you’re planning to visit the Atomium or Planetarium.
- Don’t discard the free guide – it has lots of interesting facts about each of the featured countries.
- Look for the figures that kids can pose as – our three loved sticking their faces through them!