12 Best Museums to Walk Among Dinosaurs

If you ever had the inkling to come face to face with a dinosaur, now is your chance. Although there are not any Jurassic Park theme parks as of yet; there are plenty of museums where you can get a more realistic idea of where dinosaurs came from and how they evolved. From China to New York to the land down under these 12 awesome museums give you the chance to walk among the dinosaurs, each offering their own unique spin on exhibits and displays.

12. Jurassic Land, Istanbul, Turkey

Part education and part entertainment, this is the closest you will come to living out your Jurassic World fantasies. Your journey here starts at the museum which features bones and eggs from millions of years ago and takes visitors through the history of dinosaurs with incredible exhibits. The science center is among the favorites and informative guides take visitors through, talking about the incubation units and introducing them to the moving realistic looking dinosaurs.

There is a great digging workshop for kids and after excavating they will receive a certificate. The 4-D theatre is suitable for all ages, although if you have really young kids it may be scary. This interactive film takes visitors a ride to Dinosaur Island and be prepared as you may just want to watch it again and again. Part museum, part amusement park, this is best suited for families with kids.

Via istanbulkesfi.com

11. Iziko Museum, Cape Town, South Africa

You won’t be heading here to see dinosaurs such as the famous T-Rex or Stegosaurus; instead, you will find prehistoric beats from the Karoo Region. This museum caters to visitors who want to learn more about the less known dinosaurs and their cousins that inhabited the continent. The dinosaur hall is where you’ll find a permanent exhibition called Stone Bones of the Ancient Karoo.

Here visitors will find ancient lizards, huge crocodiles and a cast of the most complete skeleton of Heterodontosaurus found to date. Make sure to check out Kirky the dinosaur, arguably the cutest dinosaur in the history of South Africa. The Museum houses more than one and a half million specimens of scientific importance and you will want to explore more than just the dinosaur hall here.

Via fireflyafrica.blogspot.com

10. Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, Colorado

Although this museum is quite small, it delivers an awesome experience for those looking to learn more about dinosaurs. The center features an awe-inspiring display of dinosaurs, prehistoric marine reptiles, pterosaurs, and fish of North America’s late Cretaceous period. Graphics and life-restoration sculptures are used to help visitors imagine these animals in real life.

What is so cool about this museum is the fact that you can see right inside the working fossil laboratory through the glass windows. This is a great museum for kids as it is not so big they will get tired and there are plenty of activities for them such as a fossil dig box, activity stations, and two short movies. Visitors will definitely want to take advantage of the tour that is included with admission as they run about an hour long and are highly informative.

Via The Dinosaur Stop

9. Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany

Besides housing an extremely large collection of bones excavated from Tanzania, 250 tones to be exact, this museum is also home to the tallest dinosaur on display in the world. The Brachiosaurus dominates the first gallery, standing at 41 feet, 5 inches tall. Also on display at this museum visitors will find the impressive Kentrosaurus, a spiky lizard that lived in the Upper Jurassic period.

What might be the most impressive here though is the Archaeopteryx fossil, thought to be the best-known fossil in the world and provides the link between birds and dinosaurs. One of the most interesting things this museum has done is install Jurascopes that allow visitors to bring the dinosaurs to life.

Via YouTube

8. Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta

This museum is home to the permanent exhibition “Giants of the Mesozoic”, where a battle between giants is taking place. The world’s largest dinosaurs are shown here in a predator vs. prey situation and replicate the badlands of Patagonia, Argentina, where the largest dinosaurs in the world were unearthed. This exhibit features the Giganotosaurus, a dinosaur that is comparable in size to the T-Rex, as well as the Argentinosaurus, who scientists claim is the largest dinosaur ever classified.

Visitors will want to look up as more than 20 pterosaurs are shown overhead. Other notable features in this museum are the pterosaur and dinosaur tracks, remnants from an Araucaria tree, a fossilized crocodile, and additional fossil casts. It should be noted that all the fossils are cast replicas of the original specimens as the actual fossilized bones remain in Argentina, where they are considered a national treasure.

Via Expedia

7. Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Science, Brussels, Belgium

The most important pieces in the museum are definitely the 30 fossilized Iguanodon skeletons, discovered in 1878 and helping to make the dinosaur hall Europe’s largest museum hall completely dedicated to dinosaurs. This museum is not just fascinating to walk through though, it actually offers an incredible amount of education through the interactive exhibits including the details of the fossilization process and dinosaur digs.

Parents will love watching the eight interviews with paleontology experts around the world while kids will have a blast in the paleo lab where they can touch and explore real fossils, along with putting together a life-sized stegosaurus and walking in dinosaur footprints. This museum does an excellent job linking dinosaurs to modern-day animals, making it even easier to understand how evolution works. A win-win in our books.

Via Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

6. Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, Alberta, Canada

This museum holds more than 130,000 fossils and is the only one of its kind dedicated to the science of paleontology. This museum focuses on education, creativity, and fun while opening visitor’s eyes to the fascinating world of dinosaurs. Visitors will want to make sure to head over to the Albertosaurus exhibit where this close relative of the T-Rex is displayed moving across a dry river channel.

This exhibit was the result of scientific evidence collected from a mass grave. The Dinosaur Hall features one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaur remains that have been reconstructed and a favorite of many visitors. A rotating fossil display will enthuse visitors who are looking to see more of the tens of thousands of fossils this museum has. Make sure to make your way over to the Cretaceous Garden and experience what that environment was like and see Canada’s largest collection of prehistoric plant relatives.

Via fortwoplz.com

5. Zigong Dinosaur Museum, Zigong, China

This museum attracts over seven million visitors a year, in part because of its awesome location atop a fossil site. The excellent reputation it holds comes from the life-like exhibits, unique architecture, magnificent burial sites and incredible environment. Visitors here will experience two floors of displays and exhibits. The first floor features the favorite of many, Dinosaur world where 18 dinosaurs of different species and size are displayed.

The first floor is also home to the burial site, the largest burial site for watching spot-on protected dinosaur fossils so far known in the world. The second floor features a treasure hall, a display of all the flora and fauna from that period and displays on the evolution of dinosaurs and species. This huge roc cave-like museum was the first museum in Asia dedicated to dinosaurs and will surely not disappoint visitors.

Via CNN.com

4. American Museum of Natural History, New York

This museum has one of the greatest dinosaur fossil collections in the world and houses two famed dinosaur halls in the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing. The Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs is where visitors will find one of the major groups of dinosaurs, the ones with grasping hands. It is here where you will find the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex and the Apatosaurus. Along with the fossils, there is a slew of video footage and photography exploring the history of paleontology at the museum.

The Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs features the group of dinosaurs defined by a backward-pointing extension of the pubis bone and include such dinosaurs as the Stegosaurus and Triceratops. The museum has actually developed a dinosaur map to go along with the exhibit and visitors can use the app to help plan their way through the exhibits. For kids ages 6-13 there is a special overnight experience that takes place in the dinosaur hall where they can explore the exhibits by flashlight.

Via Citi Bike

3. National Dinosaur Museum, Canberra, Australia

Home to the largest permanent display of dinosaur and prehistoric fossils in Australia, this is where you should head if you want to know anything about dinosaurs down under. The museum actually follows the evolution of life and just happens to put the emphasis on dinosaurs. The favorite part of this museum has to be the dinosaur garden, with its imposing dinosaur sculptures made out of fiberglass and animatronics.

The museum has only been in operation since 1993 and with 23 complete skeletons, and over 300 displays of individual fossils, it is growing and expanding its collection as each year passes. Special experiences here include guided tours, children’s learning events, and fossil digs.

Via ABC

2. Wyoming Dinosaur Center, Thermopolis, Wyoming

It is one of the few dinosaur museums that have its own excavation site within driving distance and the standout attraction is the 106 foot Supersaurus on display, although their claim to fame here is the Archaeopteryx.  Only 12 specimens exist in the world and “The Thermopolis Specimen” is second only to the “Berlin” specimen in terms of completeness, including a well-preserved skull.

Also, there are over 30 mounted dinosaurs including two Velociraptors and a 41 foot T-Rex that is attacking a Triceratops horridus. Walking through the museums means following the time displays which go from earliest life forms to dinosaurs and finally mammals. The dig site can be toured in nice weather and it’s a rare opportunity for visitors to see dinosaur bones in the ground and the actual excavation of them. The real draw here is the chance to speak with actual paleontologists or to join one of the “dig days”.

Via Pitchengine

1. The Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago

It has the most famous of all museum dinosaurs, Sue, the largest, most complete, and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in the world. The original skull weighs over 600 lbs and flashes 58 teeth and she is over 42 feet long and 67 million years old. That is just the beginning of this awesome dinosaur experience here at the Field Museum of Natural History.

The permanent Evolving Planet exhibition takes visitors on a journey through an expanded dinosaur hall where you learn about every major group of dinosaurs, where they lived, and what scientists have learned from Sue. Kids will love the fossil play lab located in the dinosaur hall. Don’t miss the 3-D movie where visitors are taken on a ride through Sue’s life, from hatchling to a 7-ton ferocious beast.

Via Chicago Tribune

The 10 Best Cities in the World 2015

More than 128,000 readers of Condé Nast Traveler voted for their favorite cities in the world outside of the U.S. and the votes have been tallied. It should come as no surprise that the major cities such as Rome, London and Paris made the list, thanks to their iconic landmarks, fantastic cuisine and abundance of things to see and do. There are a couple of sneaky cities that made this list, ones that are not obvious at first but once you dig deeper it becomes abundantly clear why they are favorites. Discover the top 10 best cities in the world as of 2015 according to the readers of Condé Nast Traveler:

10. London, England

It is one of the world’s most visited cities and offers an abundance of things to see and do for people of any age. London is a mash of wide-open spaces and chaotic cityscape, a combination that seemingly works for this city. Central London is where you will find the awesome galleries and museums, and the most iconic of sites, the double decked buses and the famous phone booths. The landmarks such as Big Ben, Tower Bridge and the London Eye enthrall visitors as does Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Hampton Court Palace with their beautiful green spaces. There are a ton of restaurants, bars and clubs to choose from when the sun goes down, along with friendly locals. Arts, culture, history- you will find it all here in this city that rates as one of the best 10 cities in the world in 2015.

elenaburn / Shutterstock.com
elenaburn / Shutterstock.com

9. Kyoto, Japan

Step back into time when you visit Japan’s ancient city of Kyoto where quiet temples, sublime gardens and colorful shrines make up the landscape. There are said to be over 1000 Buddhist temples found in this city and it is here where visitors can appreciate the masterpieces of religious architecture. The city is surrounded by mountains on three sides which offer incredible hiking. Don’t be surprised when wandering the streets to find a secret temple or unique shop that you may have passed by and not noticed, as it seems secrets lie throughout this city. A large range of excellent restaurants are located throughout the city, most housed in traditional wooden buildings where you can gaze over incredible gardens while you eat. Experience the ancient times of Japan as you wander the streets, stopping to chat with friendly locals, visit the ancient specialty shops such as pickle vendors or tea merchants and ending your day with a soak in the local public bathhouse. It will be clear why this is one of the best cities in the world.

TungCheung / Shutterstock.com
TungCheung / Shutterstock.com

8. Bruges, Belgium

Entering this city is to be transported into the middle of a fairy-tale that is based in a medieval town. Cobblestone streets, market squares with soaring towers and historic churches at every turn help make this one of the most picturesque cities in the world. Built between the 12th and 15th century, it remains one of the best preserved medieval cities. Dreamy canals link the market squares, nighttime brings evening floodlighting and in the spring the daffodils cover the courtyards. It is one of the most visited cities as well, due to its overwhelming beauty. Visiting in the winter is the best away to avoid the throngs of tourists, and although cold and icy, there is something magical about this medieval city when it’s covered in snow. Make sure you spend at least a couple of days exploring here.

Emi Cristea / Shutterstock.com
Emi Cristea / Shutterstock.com

7. Prague, Czech Republic

This beautiful historic town is worth visiting for the beer alone- kidding, sort of. Arguably, it does boast the best beer in Europe but there are so many other reasons that this city was voted number 7 as the best in the world. It’s maze of cobbled streets and hidden courtyards are a paradise for those who love to wander throughout the city, exploring ancient chapels, awe-inspiring gardens and hidden pubs with no tourists in site. The landmarks are truly spectacular here, from the 14th century stone bridge to the hilltop castle to the lovely lazy river that inspired one of the most beautiful pieces of 19th century classical music, Smetana’s Moldau. Quirky doesn’t even begin to describe this city, with its nuclear hidden bunkers, cubist lampposts and interesting fountains. Marvel at the Bohemian art, discover the stunning architecture and order a beer by simply placing a beer mat on the table.

Prague, Czech Republic

6. Rome, Italy

Italy’s eternal city continues to enthrall visitors from all over the globe. Rome is known for its history, fine art and incredible food. There are endless sights to take in including The Colosseum, Pantheon and St. Peter’s Basilica. There are extraordinary restaurants to eat at, cafés to drink at and tiny local shops down alley ways that serve up the best pizza and pasta you have ever had in your life. Masterpieces by Michelangelo and fountains by Bernini are strewn throughout the city as well as towering ancient churches overflowing with beautiful stained glass and ornate decorations. Whether you are a history buff that can spend weeks wandering through this city, or a foodie who wants to enjoy local wine and fine dining, or someone who just wants to experience an incredible city, full of locals with a gruff sense of humor, Rome should be at the top of your list.

Vatican Museums Rome

5. Paris, France

It has established itself as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, boasting iconic landmarks, cobblestone streets, historic buildings and charming sidewalk cafes. There would be no point in visiting this city if you are planning on skipping the most iconic landmark, the Eiffel Tower. Make sure not to miss the other “big” sights though, such as the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre Dame cathedral, and the impressive Louvre. Finding a place to grab a bite to eat here is almost overwhelming as it’s reputation for cuisine is outstanding. Whether you are looking for a neighborhood bistro or an epic fine dining experience, every single establishment here prides itself on it’s food and wine. Paris also happens to be one of the great art repertoires of the world, with scores of museums throughout the city, from the famous Louvre to the smaller ones boasting contemporary and modern art. There is no shortage of places to discover in this incredible city.

cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com
cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com

4. Sydney, Australia

It is Australia’s biggest city and even after spending a month here it can feel as though you have barely scratched the surface of what it has to offer. The city can be loud, in your face and chaotic offering crazy firework displays, drag queen clubs, hip bars, live music and no shortage of parties to attend. Sydney can also be wild in terms of nature, with National Parks bordering the city and working their way into it. Native critters show up in unsuspecting places and parks compete with skyscrapers and suburbs. Spend endless hours at the beach, specifically Bondi Beach, one of the world’s greatest beaches. Dine at lively restaurants, visit the Sydney Tower for spectacular views from the glass platform or spend hours’ people watching from one of the outdoor cafes.

Bondi Beach Sydney Australia

3. Vienna, Austria

Packed with history, host to great nightlife, full of incredible restaurants and home to quiet tucked away corners, Vienna is a city that begs to be explored. It is one of the most musical cities in the world in part due to the great number of composers and musicians that were born here, lived here and worked here. Visitors to the city should count on taking in the incredible music at one of the famous music venues such as the Staatsoper and Musikverein. Dining in the city is always a treat with its bistro pubs serving up delicious brews and wine, or in creative restaurants where chefs are taking things to a new culinary level. An incredible transportation system makes it easy to get around, the city is known for being incredible safe and the locals are both welcoming and friendly.

volkova natalia / Shutterstock.com
volkova natalia / Shutterstock.com

2. Budapest, Hungary

This city is rich in history, natural cites and unique cuisine, drawing visitors from all over the world. A famous hallmark of Budapest is their hot springs that surround the city, making bathhouses one of the most popular activities in the city. Soak your troubles away in one of the many that are located within the city. Budapest is often called “The Paris of the East” due to its stunning architecture including Roman ruins and the Buda Castle which was built in 1265. Don’t count on just indulging in goulash, there is actually a lot more to Hungarian food and Budapest has the reputation of being a food capital, offering incredible dining options along with excellent wine. Discover a city whose history is almost too complex to understand, a city that is rebuilding with hope and reconciliation, a city that will leave you feeling in awe of it.

pavel dudek / Shutterstock.com
pavel dudek / Shutterstock.com

1. Florence, Italy

Despite Rome and its incredible architecture, and Milan- fashion capital of the world; the best city in Italy and the world in 2015 is actually Florence. Some say you can visit time and time again and not see it all. This city is romantic, magnetic and busy, home to incredible world-class art, food and wine. Don’t miss the iconic Uffizi Gallery or the modern-art museum- Museo Novecento, as well as the Palazzo Vecchio, the stunning fortress palace. Head to the maze of streets in San Lorenzo for a food lover’s paradise or to the 400-year-old pharmacy that still sells traditional elixirs in the central square of Piazza di Santa Maria Novella. The narrow streets of this city tell a thousand tales, through its historic buildings, through the food and wine, and it’s no wonder why it’s number one on this list.

Florence Italy

10 Tiny Towns Around the World

Get ready to channel your inner King Kong in these tiny replicas of major metropolises from around the world. People might be easily amused, but who can resist the fascinating perspective that comes from a microcosmic view of the most famous cities in the world? From the Madurodam in The Netherlands to the impressive Mini Europe in Belgium, discover the miniature towns built by model aficionados in a labor of love.

10. Madurodam, Netherlands

For a miniature sized tour of the highlights of Holland, head to Madurodam, a tiny Dutch style replica of the country’s most notable historical landmarks. Located in the Scheveningen district of The Hague, the tiny city opened in 1952 as a model replica at a scale of 1:25. Discover the cherished relics of Holland, all within steps of each other. At the City Centre, visitors can see on a small scale how the major cities of The Netherlands have evolved over the centuries, particularly during the Renaissance of the 16th century and the dramatic changes following the Second World War. They also have interactive exhibitions where you’ll have the chance to enter the tiny world of a lock keep or dyke guard. Some even let you operate a traditional watermill in Water World, a fascinating model of Holland’s canal and dyke systems.

miropink / Shutterstock.com
miropink / Shutterstock.com

9. Bekonscot Model Village, England

In a remarkable preservation of rural England in the 1930s, get ready to enter the mini wonderland of Bekonscot Model Village in Beaconsfield, England. Built by Roland Callingham in his backyard, the tiny town has been open to visitors since 1929. For 80 years, people have been getting wonderfully lost in this little world filled with lakes, harbors, and working trains. Over the years, Bekonscot has been expanded and restored, making it a real-life depiction of the English countryside, complete with well-manicured garden hedges and blossoming flowers. Its most recent addition is 10 scale miles of railroad that connects the mini people to all corners of the town. Get ready to channel your inner child for a unique afternoon of tiny delights.

Photo by: Bekonscot Model Village & Railway
Photo by: Bekonscot Model Village & Railway

8. Miniatur Wunderland, Germany

Head to Hamburg, Germany to witness the world’s largest railway exhibition in the world, a tiny airport with simulation of take off and landing, and Europe’s top destinations. At Miniature Wunderland, visitors can get lost in a tiny dream world depicting the most beautiful areas on the continent, including the German villages of Knuffingen and Harz, a model of the Swiss Alps, the city center of Austria, and exhibitions of Scandinavia and Hamburg. The mini theme park is also expanding, so you’ll get a chance to see the open workshops filled with craftsman hard at work building the next tiny city. Next on the list of projects are Italy, France, and modern updates to the airport in the middle of the Swiss Alps. When it comes to the best of Europe, you’ll get to witness the mini version of the most beloved regions.

Photo by: Miniatur Wunderland
Photo by: Miniatur Wunderland

7. Wimborne Model Town, England

One the edge of Wimborne in Dorset, England, you’ll find a tiny world depicting the historic market town of Wimborne Minster exactly as it was during the 1950s. Built at a 1:10 scale, get ready to witness mini baker shops, old churches, and a model railway based on the popular Thomas the Tank Engine. One of the oldest and largest miniature towns in England, the mini world of Wimborne is a fascinating wonderland that preserves a piece of history in each concrete-made replica. The tiny-themed park includes 120 buildings, including 108 shop windows filled with post-war goods that were being sold at the time. In the 1980s, the park fell into disrepair, but luckily it was saved by a group of volunteers who restored it, turning it back into a major tourist attraction.

Photo by: Wimborne Model Town
Photo by: Wimborne Model Town

6. Tiny Town, United States

Tucked away in the foothills west of Denver is Tiny Town, a historic model village depicting a typical old-fashioned mountain town. What began as a project for his daughter in 1915 evolved into George Turner’s masterpiece that would eventually be known as Tiny Town. Since then it has expanded into a magical mini wonderland filled with kid-sized buildings, including a grocery store, barbershop, and bank. Over the years, the owners have added lakes and their impressive replica of Rio Grande F7 train, an engineering masterpiece that runs on diesel. People travel from all over for a chance to ride the tiny train, a favorite afternoon activities for kids. But even if you’re too big to ride the little train, you can easily channel your inner child and explore the intricate models and details of one of America’s tiniest and most historic model towns.

Photo by: Tiny Town & Railroad
Photo by: Tiny Town & Railroad

5. Mini Mundi, Netherlands

For Dutch charm of the tiny variety, head to Mini Mundi in Middleburg, The Netherlands, a mini replica of the historical landmarks of the Old World village of Walcheren. With your giant strides, get ready to witness the 16th century windmills, little cottages, and medieval churches of Holland’s ancient town. When the Queen commissioned it in the 1950s, it was only meant to be open for a few months, but because of its popularity, Walcheren is now a major tourist destination, especially among model architecture enthusiasts. The tiny harbor is also a delight with its 30 boats floating in the harbor and populated with little fisherman in a mini, Dutch-style fantasyland. It might be kid-sized, but people of all ages can marvel at the strikingly accurate buildings modeled at a scale of 1:20, including the Town Hall, Lange Jan abbey tower, and Vlissingen Boulevard.

Photo by: Mini Mundi
Photo by: Mini Mundi

4. Mini Siam, Thailand

In the tiny world of Mini Siam in Pattaya, Thailand, visitors can relish in the realistic replicas of the country’s most cherished landmarks. Built at a 1:25 scale, the theme park features Wat Phra Kaeo, a stunning model of the historic 18th century palace that houses the Emerald Buddha in its Royal Chapel, the most sacred Buddhist symbol. You’ll also get an up close look at a tiny version of the Panomrang Stone Temple, which is a real-life ancient relic built on an extinct volcano. You’ll also get to witness the miniature Anantasmakom Hall in the Dusit Palace of Bankok, which was built in 1915 under the rule of King Rama VI. Mini Siam also has modern replicas like the Rama IX cable-stayed bridge that spans the Chao Phraya River. It might be tiny, but it will also be marvelous.

sarayuth3390 / Shutterstock.com
sarayuth3390 / Shutterstock.com

3. Miniaturk, Turkey

Although it has only been in the tiny world scene since 2003, Miniaturk in Istanbul, Turkey is a must-see on any mini city tour. With 160,000 square feet of tiny marvels, it’s one of the biggest tiny towns in the world, including over 100 historical landmarks and notable ancient ruins. In one afternoon, visitors will have the chance to discover the mini version of Turkey’s rich historical and cultural tapestry that is literally within arms reach. Located on the coast of Golden Horn, explore the replicas of Hagia Sophia, Mount Nemrud, and the ancient ruins of Ephesus, among the other notable structures. The newest addition to the mini world is Bosphorus Bridge, the 1970s suspension bridge connecting Europe and Asia. The park also contains hundreds of replicas from the Ottoman, Anatolia, and Istanbul territories that have survived over the centuries.

Serg Zastavkin / Shutterstock.com
Serg Zastavkin / Shutterstock.com

2. Le Petit-Paris, France

The mini town of Le Petit-Paris is a remarkable one-man feat and a two-decade labor of love for model aficionado and craftsman Gerard Brion. Built in his backyard, the miniature model of Paris is quite impressive. It might take weeks to explore the real Paris, but here you can see all the highlights of the City of Lights within a few steps of each other. Amazingly, the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, and grand boulevards look almost like the real thing but are made from repurposed materials and random junk. At night the city lights up with hundreds of little lights, just like the real Paris in this magical mini land depicting France’s beloved metropolis. It even has a scaled down model of Notre Dame in all its miniature Gothic splendor.

Photo by: Le Petit-Paris
Photo by: Le Petit-Paris

1. Mini Europe, Belgium

Of all the mini replicas of Europe, the most impressive is Mini Europe in Belgium. What started out as a research and education project in 1985 has evolved into a miniature world filled with the best of Europe. At a scale of 1:25, the theme park contains over 80 cities and 350 buildings that span the far reaches of Europe, including the Palace of Versailles, the clock tower of Big Ben, and the ancient churches of Venice. In one afternoon, visitors can also witness the miniature versions of major historical events like the fall of the Berlin Wall, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and traditional bullfights in Seville. When it comes to famous landmarks of Europe, this tiny-themed park covers all the hotspots of the continent. On such a small scale, you’ll be able to see all the important landmarks just outside of Brussels.

Lisa A / Shutterstock.com
Lisa A / Shutterstock.com

10 European Attractions Every Kid Should Experience

Taking your kids on vacation is always a gamble, will you be able to find enough fun, engaging activities to keep them satisfied and tired out at the end of the day? While on the surface, Europe may seem like it’s more stuffy museums and ‘please don’t touch signs’ than anything else but that’s simply not true. For fun and educational experiences, these 10 family-friendly destinations are sure to be the highlight of any European vacation, and will create life-long memories for your children. Here are 10 European attractions every kid should get to experience:

10. Legoland Billund Resort, Denmark

It’s not the only Legoland theme park in the world but it is the original. Legoland Denmark opened in June of 1968 on a piece of land right next to the original Lego factory. This 45-acre park devoted to all things ‘blocks’ is divided into 9 theme areas: Duplo Land, Imagination Zone, LEGOREDO Town, Adventure Land, Lego City, Knight´s Kingdom, Mini Land, Pirate Land and Polar Land. Treat your kids to a visit to the original Legoland for an experience they won’t forget!

Olena Bloshchynska / Shutterstock.com
Olena Bloshchynska / Shutterstock.com

9. Plopsaland De Panne, Belgium

First opened in 2000, Plopsaland De Panne is a colorful theme park on Belgium’s coast near the French border. The park is divided into several zones, each with a different theme and in the zones you’ll find popular characters from Belgium children’s TV shows like Big & Betsy and Mega Mindy. With 6 roller coasters, playgrounds, gardens, a theater, boats and a farm with real live animals, this park is a fun filled experience for children of all ages.

"Ingang Plopsaland De Panne 4" by Druyts.t - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Ingang Plopsaland De Panne 4” by Druyts.tOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

8. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

If you’re looking to provide your children with a glimpse of nature at its finest, a trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia is a must do. This UNESCO World Heritage park is one of the oldest in Southeast Europe and is famous for its beautiful cascading lakes, separated by naturally formed travertine. Children will love running through the open spaces of this beautiful park and reportedly colorful dragonflies are in abundance, sometimes even landing right on you.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

7.  Natura Artis Magistra, Amsterdam

Any family with little animal lovers must make a trip to Natura Artis Magistra (or just Artis for short). This spectacular zoo is located in the heart of Amsterdam and provides a natural oasis in the bustling city. Enjoy the manicured gardens, over 200 species of plants and of course the animals (there’s over 900 species of them to be seen here!) With an aquarium, planetarium, playgrounds and Zoological Museum, it’s safe to say that Artis is much more than the average zoo.

hans engbers / Shutterstock.com
hans engbers / Shutterstock.com

6. Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, England

Whoever said museums are boring has obviously never visited Eureka! This interactive children’s museum in Halifax, England provides education along with fun, through hands-on exhibits. The museum is geared for children ages 0-11 years and encourages that parents get in on the fun with their little ones as well. In Eureka’s four main galleries, children can enjoy a miniature town square, gardens from around the world and the science and sounds of music.

Photo by: Fairytale Town
Photo by: Fairytale Town

5. Efteling, Netherlands

This beautiful, old school theme park in Netherland’s south end will appeal to kids with an imagination and love of fairy tales. The fantasy themed park focuses on myth, legend, fairy tales and folk lore in its numerous attractions. Opened in 1952, Efteling is the largest theme park in the Netherlands and one of the oldest in the world. Children of all ages will enjoy this park which offers a wide range of rides and attractions, plus there’s lots going on for parents too.

"Efteling Entrance" by Stefan Scheer - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons.
Efteling Entrance” by Stefan ScheerOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons.

4. Discover Children’s Story Centre, London

If your kids are big into books and the kind who never want story time to end, they’ll love Discover. This London institution is the “UK’s first hands-on creative literacy centre for children aged 0-11 years and their families, carers and teachers.” At Discover, children and their families can play, learn and enjoy making up stories as they go. Discover secret caves on the Story Trail, climb on a space ship in the Story Garden, or step inside a giant chocolate cake in the new Michael Rosen Exhibition.

Photo by: The Independant
Photo by: The Independant

3. Italia in Miniatura, Italy

Even kids can feel like giants in this tiny town and leisure park in Viserba, Italy. This park features 273 miniature scale versions of famous Italian and European buildings and landmarks which you can walk through. The landscape is completed by a monorail, 10,000 miniature plants and 5,000 miniature trees. But that’s not all there is to enjoy here, either; the park also offers several attractions like a log ride, playground, cinema and merry-go-round.

oneinchpunch / Shutterstock.com
oneinchpunch / Shutterstock.com

2. Natural History Museum, London

The London Natural History Museum has a lot to offer anyone interested in our natural world, but makes sure kids can get in on all the fun and education with many kid friendly exhibits and hands-on learning experiences. Discover dinosaurs and even have a sleep over under the skeleton of a Diplodocus, or explore the solar system in the Otherworlds exhibit. Winter brings the added treat of the Swarovski outdoor ice rink; a seasonal activity for the whole family.

Daniel Gale / Shutterstock.com
Daniel Gale / Shutterstock.com

1. Disneyland, Paris

No children’s attractions list is complete without the addition of a Disney park. Disneyland Paris is not only the most visited theme park in France but also in all of Europe. At Disneyland Paris you’ll find some of the same rides and attractions that made the North American Disney parks so famous like It’s a Small World, Space Mountain: Mission 2, Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast. 

Photo by: The Guardian
Photo by: The Guardian

7 Best European Cities to Cycle

Cycling throughout a new destination elicits a perspective entirely different than taking local transit or driving in a car. There’s a chance to get a closer look at what’s around you and the ability to stop at any point you see something that piques your interest. Cruising the avenues and streets at any pace you like, you might spy an intriguing café or restaurant, spot a must-have souvenir in a shopfront, or notice a scene perfect to capture in a photograph. Generally inexpensive, cycling in these 7 cities beats any other mode of transportation.

7. London

London’s new public bike loan plan has transformed skepticism into safe cycling reality. Called Boris Bikes after Mayor Boris Johnson, anyone can rent one out at anytime, 365 days a year and 24/7. With 700 docking stations and more than 10,000 bikes available, picking up your ride is as easy as touching a screen and following the instructions using your bank card–and the first half an hour is free. From Canary Wharf to Shepherd’s Bush and Camden to Wandsworth, getting around London by bike is a great experience. Once you’re done your ride, you can return the bike to any of the docking stations across the city hassle-free. The first 24-hours is less than $5–anything over costs more but is still quite inexpensive. Cycle to the Saturday markets, quirky areas, squares, parks and gardens, and become immersed in a captivating capital.

Cycling London

6. Antwerp

The city of Antwerp in Belgium is significantly influenced by bike culture across The Netherlands and has, in more recent years, been characterized as the best big city in Belgium for bicycling. Another successful European bike-share system is in place in Antwerp as is firmly set cycling infrastructure that has seen major improvements in bicycle parking at train stations, car-friendly parking facilities, and other spots around the city. As a visitor, one of the best available bike tours is the Antwerp castles tour, a trip beginning in Antwerp’s Grote Markt and winding in and around the best historic attractions, following an easy route with plenty of stops ideal for refueling or having a rest. Plan any cycling route by connecting a string of numbered junctions (comprehensive signs posted showing the best car-free routes) and cycle within Antwerp or venture out farther to explore some Europe’s best bike routes.

Cycling Antwerp

5. Strasbourg

Take a bicycle around the city of Strasbourg, revel in one of the most pleasant transportation options, and enjoy one of the most interesting experiences available as a tourist. Cycling is the quickest point A to point B scenario in most cases, especially with almost 540 kilometers of cycling routes and a bike-share program ensuring bike-less people can still access a set of wheels. If you plan to use the bike-share program, you can pick up a bike at one of the many docking stations around the city or plan out a long-term bike share–not to worry if you have kids: many bicycles are customized with baskets and child seats. Cycle the mostly car-free historic city center, tour the Franco-German forts trail bicycle course and enjoy nature mixed with French heritage, or hop on the EuroVélo 5, a 570-kilometer bicycle route crossing Strasbourg and connecting London to Italy.

Solodovnikova Elena / Shutterstock.com
Solodovnikova Elena / Shutterstock.com

4. Berlin

Berlin is an inherently excellent city to explore by bicycle and with the lack of an strenuously steep hills, it’s a rather leisurely place to discover by pedaling, and one with plenty of Radewege (bike lanes or paths). One of six cities in Germany providing the Call-a-Bike option, Berlin’s system operates easily by cell phone where the rider calls a listed number and receives a code to unlock bike at one fo the city’s stations. There’s also a planner available for marking out your bike route to travel between the city’s sites-how convenient! As with most bike-friendly cities there are plenty of options when it comes to guided ours, which is about the best of both worlds. Cyclists can tour the Berlin Wall, enjoy a cycle under city lights at night, bike the Gatow Route the more remote West End, or take a thorough tour of Berlin’s east end.

Boris-B / Shutterstock.com
Boris-B / Shutterstock.com

3. Amsterdam

Cycling Amsterdam is pretty much a no-brainer–the bike-friendly city has enjoyed a positive cycling reputation for years and is recognized as a classic cycling destination. It seems as if the entire city cycles, with bike lanes planned into most roadways and it’s obvious most people take advantage of the modern mobility method. Just as in London, anyone can rent a bike and tour through town alongside gleaming canals, through peaceful greenspace, and from one attraction to the next. The types of bikes available to rent are pretty mind-blowing–there are all kinds to choose from! Tandem bikes, family bikes with front-end trailers for kid to sit in (bakfiets), classically styled Dutch bikes, and more. As a first-time Amsterdam cyclist, avoiding the main roads is a good bet until you get your bearings so stick to places like Vondelpark and Westerpark, the multicultural beat of Nieuwmarkt, and along the scenic waterfront.

Cycling Amsterdam, Netherlands

2. Malmo

Malmo is Sweden’s third biggest city set in the region of Skane, the country’s most peddle-friendly destination. Southwest of Stockholm and a canal-hop from Copenhagen (there’s talk of connecting super bike-friendly Copenhagen with Malmo via bike lanes over the highway), Malmo isn’t only ideal for cycling, it’s also quite safe, with officials endlessly promoting the use of bike helmets and demoting unnecessary car trips” “No ridiculous car trips in Malmo.” is their motto. Almost 500 kilometers of cycling paths–more than any other city in Sweden–connects different districts of Malmo and cycling is still getting more popular. Today, around a quarter of Malmo’s transportation usage is by bicycle. Bicycle rental counters, tire pumps, and baskets are available along Malmo’s bike paths, offering plenty of convenience. Ride through beautiful Kungsparken, across Oresund Bridge, and through Little Square or book a guide and forgo scouring a map to see the best attractions.

Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

1. Copenhagen

Copenhagen, like Amsterdam, enjoys a worldwide reputation for their popular bike culture. The bike loan plan in Copenhagen is a non-profit organization running since the mid 1990s–the plan includes loans to visitors for as long as they need with the only restriction being bicycles can only be used during daytime hours. Besides all that, cycling is indeed the very best way to explore Copenhagen–it must be true since about half of Copenhagen’s residents ride bikes daily. It’s difficult to turn a corner and not see a bike lane; they’re implemented all over the city. From one company called CPH, bike rental profits go to villages in Africa where used bikes are recycled into bikes for school, bikes for hauling water, and bikes for medical emergencies. Despite the consistent success of Copenhagens’s bike lanes, the city pushes forward, continuously modernizing cycling infrastructure with plans like cycling bridges of major roads.

Copenhagen Cycling

5 Tips For Easy European Train Travel

Taking the train in Europe is nowhere near as daunting as it once was, yet for some who have never done it, it can still be an overwhelming experience. The truth is, traveling by train is the best mode of transportation in most of Europe; it is easy, fast, and with a train in nearly every city, it is the most convenient (and scenic) mode of transportation. Plus, traveling by train gives you the chance to meet and hang out with the locals- augmenting your already cultural experience!

5. Use the German Railways Website

There is really only one website needed to check train schedules for all journeys in Europe, www.bahn.de. There is an option at the top of the page to peruse in English, if your German isn’t up to snuff, and everything is very simple yet comprehensive. For train travel anywhere in Europe, this is where you want to check times and schedules for every route across the continent. (although if you are booking a head of time and using a rail pass, you will have to book through local companies!) It won’t give you fares (except for German trips), but it will show you even the most complex, international voyages, all in one place.

computer research

4. Buy and Go Tickets

Most tickets for local and regional trips can be bought at the station. The prices are always the same, so it is no advantage to you to book early- often it is impossible to reserve in advance! In Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, domestic trains operate in the same fashion. Buying online merely saves a few seconds; however, if you crave spontaneity, this is the way to do it!

Sergey Dzyuba / Shutterstock.com
Sergey Dzyuba / Shutterstock.com

3. Compulsory Reservation Tickets

Trains in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Sweden, as well as most high-speed international trains to and from France, require a reservation in advance. It is not uncommon for these voyages to sell out, especially if you are traveling during peak hours. Prices for these trains are cheaper the earlier you books, sometimes by over 100$! Even if traveling with a Euro-Rail pass, reservations on these trains are compulsory. Be warned though, traveling strictly and frequently to and from these countries with a rail pass can be expensive as reservations for popular international routes (like Paris to Milan) are high, so depending on your plans, it is often better to travel without a pass.

Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.com
Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.com

2. Advanced Pre-Booking

Traveling to Europe is an exciting time, and most cannot wait to begin planning and mapping out all destinations and mandatory tourist spots. However, travelers can get confused when they are looking fotrr ain routes and nothing is available! Booking for trains in Europe only open 90 days ahead (for some countries in Eastern Europe it is 60). So if you are panicked because there is nothing available, be patient, as it is almost guaranteed more will pop up at a later date.

Train ticket

1. What About Rail Passes?

Rail passes offer the user unlimited flexibility to travel around one or several countries. If you want a spontaneous, by-the-seat-of-your-pants experience, than a pass is the way to go. There are different kinds, some offering a punch-pass type style, others offering a limited number of days of unlimited travel. However, if traveling in Western Europe and across countries, reservations are still mandatory; if you are traveling on the train with frequency, be aware that costs can add up! But for those looking for complete freedom, a rail pass is the only way to go.

Train Eiffel Tower

The 11 Most Beautiful and Underrated Destinations in Western Europe

The upwards trend in European tourism shows a definitive increase in Western European tourism—the less visited half of the continent. Throughout the west, particularly the UK, France, Germany, and Spain, there have been more visitors over the last five years than ever before. It’s no wonder really, with the many amazing historical towns and villages, ancient castles, palaces, and forts, thriving backcountry, natural wonders, and so many other attractions. From Scotland’s islands to Portugal’s architecture and Italy’s renowned Riviera, Western Europe is rich with things to do and see.

11. Jungfrau Region, Switzerland

Switzerland’s Jungfrau Region is calculated by magnificent mountains, endless outdoor pursuits, and some of the most interesting resort towns on this side of Liechtenstein. Just an hour and a half south of Zurich and 45 minutes from Bern, Jungfrau is where intrepid travelers head for enterprising vacations. Area attractions include the Kleine Scheidegg watershed at the Eiger North Face foothills. It offers an out-of-this-world cable ride soaring from Grindelwald-First, spanning more than 2,600 feet to Schynige Platte, an area reached by 19th century cog wheel train from Interlaken, the starting point for hiking along the mountain pass. This isn’t a destination for idleness, or even half-hearted exploration. Jungfrau demands a lot from visitors who can move at a relatively quick pace—it’s not a place to stay still. It begs to be explored with enthusiasm and key attractions require some ambition, but it all pays off in spades.

Jungfrau Region, Switzerland

10. Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland

The ebony-hued, interlocking basalt columns spanning the Causeway Coast in Ireland gave credence to legendary tales of a centuries-old route trekked by giants between Scotland and Ireland. Though the tales still run rampant between Irish generations, we can all acknowledge it’s one intensely cool natural marvel. More than 40,000 columns are located in this rich, seafront Northern Irish area which most agree was caused by a volcanic eruption centuries ago. Arriving to the coast is pretty exciting in itself, with a long, curving drive along the highway dotted with residential homes, shops, pubs, and striking natural sights—if you can take your eyes off the water and the road ahead. The vivid drives, cozy, small-town feel, extra friendly locals, and incredible hikes along the extensive cliff-top paths are endearing traits that make this area of Northern Ireland one-of-a-kind.

Giant's Causeway, Ireland

9. Cordoba, Spain

Travel styles vary from person to person but most get on board with marveling at architectural wonders, relishing savory food, delving into old bodegas, and enjoying easy tours of interesting places. Cordoba is magnified by Mezquita, an example of seasoned and worldly Islamic culture, and a site overlooking the city’s heart and drawing onlookers into its fabulously embowed interior. Arteries running throughout the Jewish Quarter (Juderia) reach away from the Mosque like central nerves but with finales upon extremely pleasant plazas. The center of town is the heart and soul of Cordoba, and where almost everyone will wander around, whether for a few hours or every day. Restaurants, bars, and shops are the center of social life here, where the strident vibe is magnetic. In fascinating contrast, west of town is Medinat al-Zahra, an Islamic ruin that piques the imagination with its gravity.

Cordoba, Spain

8. Bruges, Belgium

The medieval city of Bruges is a nostalgic reminder of Venice with long, narrow canals, awarding it the moniker “Venice of the North.” Exploring is akin to life in a fairytale—not only are the canals lovely but the buildings that compliment waterways are just as sublime, creating a picture-perfect scene you won’t want to step out of. Paint in some cobblestone lanes, historic churches, buzzing market squares, and whitewashed houses and you might never want to venture out of town. This loveliness doesn’t come without a price; the floodgates open for tourists each year—word  has been out for some time about the beauty of Bruges. With that in mind, most trek in during daylight hours and leave by sundown. To get your piece of Bruges, stay overnight and you’re privy to the emptiness and beautiful floodlights at dusk, giving an unequivocal air to the area.

Botond Horvath / Shutterstock.com
Botond Horvath / Shutterstock.com

7. Sintra, Portugal

Perfectly tucked between the sea and mountains, Sintra is one of Portugal’s most naturally blessed cities and a destination most deserving of its UNESCO World Heritage site designation. Gleaming palaces, alluring gardens, and misty woodlands are each part of the appeal of Sintra, which is historically rich and filled with natural beauty. No wonder the Celts chose Sintra to exalt their god; the Moors constructed a dizzying castle, and the royals of 18th century Portugal luxuriated in its verdant hills and dreamy backdrop. Cultural attractions dot Sintra and the culinary landscape is beyond compare. The number of ancient fortifications and magnificent residences draw tourists in droves during the summer months. It’s worth contending with crowds in the thick of things, but there’s plenty of merit in seeing it outside of peak tourist season too.

Sintra, Portugal

6. Porto Santo, Portugal

While most island-lovers head to Portugal’s Madeira Island, there’s a little island northwest of it deserving of a lot of attention. Porto Santo is a small, Portuguese island—an ideal place to get your fill of blue skies, white sand beaches, and crystal water. In simple terms, Porto Santo is a slice of land hugged by 40+ kilometers of sand and flanked by a few resorts and hotels. There aren’t as many beautiful island destinations with so few visitors with such incredible scenery. There’s not too much in the way of attractions, which is music to an island-lovers’ ears. The small town square has some shops and a smattering of bars and restaurants. Along the beach, there are eateries and outdoor areas ideal for meals and cocktails. Otherwise, put your feet up, close your eyes, and prepare to daydream your time away.

Porto Santo, Portugal

5. Marsaxlokk, Malta

Marsaxlokk is a busy trading port established by Phoenicians in 900 BC, when they first arrived on Malta. It’s a tiny dot in the Mediterranean Sea, below Italy’s “boot,” seemingly kicked out into the vast ocean. Fish drives the economy so of course the port is the most important aspect of life where the daily grind is arduous and busy with fishermen supplying the entire island with fresh seafood. Whether you’re a seafood aficionado or just love fresh fish, visit the port when a huge market spills out each week, presenting an incredible variety of fresh food. This seaside town exemplifies a rare side of Malta, devoid of contemporary buildings to deter from its original appeal. The boat designs are said to be based on Phoenician blueprints, adding a captivating charm to their unique look. Stay awhile and enjoy life in the middle of the Mediterranean.

In Green / Shutterstock.com
In Green / Shutterstock.com

4. Portree, Scotland

Within the Isle of Skye in Scotland is Portree, the biggest island town and a thriving cultural hub and port with a small population. As with any port town, the harbor is the central point of activity, presenting a tight knit network of seafood restaurants and numerous pubs all with incredible waterfront views. The region is wild and unruly and best explored from Portree, a base where unwinding from adventurous excursions is easy and extra pleasant. Portree is near many of the island’s best outdoor attractions including the incredible Quiraing pinnacles, famous Kilt Rock, and northern Trotternish Ridge. Films, theater shows, and concerts are put on at Aros Center while the water plays host to boat cruises, swimming, and fishing. Take in some salty air and bed down at any of the town’s higher end hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs, private apartment rentals, or even the nearby campground.

Portree, Scotland

3. Loire Valley, France

Historical tales of the Loire Valley in France paint a picture of opulence and indulgence. The royals, along with their large courts, used the valley as a stronghold, constructed magnificent fortifications, and built their grand residences throughout the wide, outstretched valley that today is strewn with some of the most impressive and lavish fortresses and castles in the country. Loire Valley is ripe with rural, dramatic, and architectural wealth. Skyscraping turrets, lush vineyards, and time-honored towns are all a part of a massive UNESCO World Heritage Site exemplifying 10 centuries of France’s history throughout a storybook landscape. If you’re looking for the finest example of history and architecture in the Loire Valley, look no farther than the mammoth and beautiful Chateau de Chambord, the valley’s most distinct attraction. The best modern highlights, besides award-winning wines, are the historical landmarks left behind by centuries of hedonistic aristocracies.

Loire Valley, France

2. Ronda, Spain

Within the Malaga region and set inside a tapering gorge is Ronda, once inhabited by some of history’s greatest people; the Arabs, Celts, Romans, and Phoenicians were taken with Ronda, pioneering the region with progressive philosophies and architecture. The historic district exemplifies the age of Arabs, with a fascinating medieval design dotting the southern reaches of Guadalevin river. More contemporary Ronda rose to its peak during the 16th century. The city is sprawled across Guadelevin’s north point, joined to the south by several magnificent bridges. Ronda will make you feel small (everything seems to vault skyward) but this Andalusian city is also empowering, a reminder of humankind’s powerful capabilities. Revel in incredible panoramas of El Tajo gorge from Puente Nuevo, explore maintained Arab bathhouses, and enjoy a meal while exploring Duquesa de Parcent Square, a modern center filled with ancient indications.

Ronda, Spain

1. Manarola, Italy

Across the bay from Monaco is Manarola, Italy, a little seaside town and the stuff of Old World dreams. Set between Nice and Genoa, there’s plenty around to get your fill of city life, but when looking for downtime, and a backdrop of vibrant architecture on the waterfront, Manarola is the place to be. From the water is a resplendent scene: a cluster of tall stone buildings in a rainbow of colors, set high across grassy cliffs and flanked by rugged shoreline. Manarola is part of the Italian Riviera called Cinque Terre where a series of five small coastal towns are connected via rustic hiking trails with ample vistas. Manarola is second in size within the streak of towns, it is also the oldest, and is marked by 14th century San Lorenzo church. Social centers include the town square and the busy little harbor and vineyards dot the entire area.

Manarola, Italy

UNESCO’s Top 9 Musical Cities In The World

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is well known for its designations of World Heritage Sites. For the music and travel lovers it also has a Cities of Music list that is completely fascinating and full of surprises. Fame and size are not on the list of criteria, hence New York and Berlin, two great musical centers who didn’t make the cut. The list rather, focuses on cities with a distinguished musical history endemic to local, national and world culture which have music in the DNA. The qualifying cities also make music an important sector of the economy in terms of concerts, technology and tourism. They also share a serious, comprehensive musical educational component and actively promote their specialties to ensure their music thrives going forward and remains an important part of the culture and economy. For the traveler, these are meccas of live music, most of which have stunning venues from the medieval to the postmodern. It is a thought-provoking list without an obvious name. By the end of it, you might find yourself looking at flights to places you may never have heard of or even just imagining the scenes and settings is time well wasted.

9. Seville, Spain

What better place to start than the city that is the setting of the two greatest operas of all time, Rossini’s Barber of Seville and Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. These are the stuff of musical legends, but the heart and soul of musical culture and a touchstone of the Spanish identity is flamenco and it bears musical influences from all the cultures that have been part of the region’s history. For example, Spanish folk music, Arabic Byzantine and Christian and Jewish religious music. Seville’s most famous and hugely popular music festival, the Bienal de Flamenco, is world renowned. The greatest flamenco interpreters stage traditional and original works in the sublime beauty of the city’s architectural masterpieces making a feast for all the senses; Real Alcazar the 9th century palace. And the ancient Roman ruins, like watching great works of art in great works of art, but the most critically acclaimed takes place in the city’s nightclub district called Tablao El Arenal with award-winning artists performing a wide variety of flamenco’s different palos or styles.

Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com
Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com

8. Mannheim, Germany

Mannheim is a dynamic multicultural center of creativity. The aging rock group Mannheim Steam roller is American, but their name derives from one of many musical innovations of the Mannheim school of Composers of the 18th century. The Mannheim Roller is a kind of crescendo development by the large orchestra at the court of Charles III Philip. Mannheim influences can be found in the works of Beethoven and Mozart. The musical pedigree here runs deep. UNESCO notes the city has been “a long-standing leader and innovator, with an extraordinary infrastructure for music”. It is a deliberate policy initiative that sees music having economic benefits not just within its own business, but for tourism and technology sectors. However, don’t think it’s all about classical music. Mannheim is still widely regarded as one of Germany’s musical centers. The Mannheim Pop Academy offers a Bachelor’s Degree in pop music while the Time Warp festival has the biggest names in techno music.

Photo by: Germany Travel
Photo by: Germany Travel

7. Hannover, Germany

It is a city of festivals and cabaret. The heavy metal band Scorpion, one of Europe’s most famous is from Hannover. The people of Hannover say there at the center of the Land of Music and it’s not a far-fetched claim. The hugely influential Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media attracts gifted students from around the world who on their own perform 500 public concerts a year. The faculty includes Departments of Chamber Music, Contemporary Music, Ancient Music, Jazz|Rock|Pop and Musicology. They teach every orchestral instruments except, for some reason, the harp. MUSIC is an institution of graduate study for research and development in emerging musical technologies. Also, Hannover is where the first music cassette was produced, first CD was pressed and the first vinyl was invented.

Hannover, Germany

6. Hamamatsu, Japan

Hamamatsu is a city of less than a million people and is located about 100 miles south of Tokyo along the Pacific coast. The makers of some of the world’s finest musical instruments, from grand pianos to synthesizers were founded here. Music is a huge part of the city’s cultural and business community – Roland, Yamaha and Kawai still have their corporate headquarters in Hamamatsu. In fact no other place on earth may be this musical. The multiple stage Concert Hall is opulent and state of the art. There are 10 music festivals that occur here each year, two of the biggest are the internationally sanctioned Hamamatsu International Piano Competition and the Shizuoka International Opera Competition, both attracting major talent worldwide. The Hamamatsu Academy of Music and Shizuoka University of Art and Culture train students in everything from playing instruments to concert hall management. The Museum of Musical Instruments has an amazing collection from different eras and cultures. Part of its mandate is “fostering cross-cultural understanding and cultural diversity through music”.  As a last tribute to its musical pedigree, it is likely the only Asian city with a statue of a Polish composer, but it’s a copy of the famous art Nouveau depiction of Frederic Chopin in Warsaw, the sister city of Hamamatsu.

Photo by: Shizuoka Tourism
Photo by: Shizuoka Tourism

5. Ghent, Belgium

Most of Ghent’s North American reputation is based on it being the city in which England and the United States concluded the treaty that ended the War of 1812. It’s a city full of culture and art events offering a unique combination of a celebrated past and a lively present. Now it is an educational and artistic center, especially in the musical realm. There are two graduate schools that teach opera and musicianship. Ghent also has elegant avenues and canals and is called the City of Festivals (although come to think of it, so is Montreal). But Ghent’s go back at least to 1843 when the Gentse Feesten (the “Festivities of Ghent”) began. The whole city becomes a series of concert stages for all kinds of music and entertainment. Each year you can find some of the world’s biggest jazz names here, as well as upcoming acts that are both Belgian and international. Last year 30,000 people visited as Ghent becomes a music-lover’s Mecca. Hundreds of performers provide a varied mixture of classical, jazz and world music. For the Festival of Flanders “The streets alongside Ghent’s waterways overflow with music, animation, art and spectacle”. The Jazz Festival attracts the biggest name performers. Even the Film Festival is about music in film. It’s not just the variety it’s also the venues, along the city’s canals some of which date back to medieval days. Plus Belgians really do make the best fries in the world.

Sergey Dzyuba / Shutterstock.com
Sergey Dzyuba / Shutterstock.com

4. Glasgow, Scotland

Of course Glasgow would be home to the World Pipe (as in bagpipe) Band competition and the highly coveted winner’s trophy. But Glasgow is far more than that – it is an Old World city with a rich history filled with creative arts. Music is one of its most notable. For almost a century, St. Andrew’s Hall was one of the most celebrated musical venues in Europe. It was burned to the ground in 1962 by a careless smoker at a boxing match, but its reputation for musical excellence sustains to this day. With UNESCO as partner, Scottish musical enthusiasts have written a book, Dear Green Sounds that tells the musical history of Glasgow through its historic venues as a walking tour. From the classical offerings at St. Andrew, to perhaps less refined though no less memorable concerts from Frank Sinatra to Freddie Mercury. It is one of those places in which music is ingrained. Classical fans still lament the loss of St. Andrew’s, but it has kept up with time and fashion.

Glasgow at Night

3. Brazzaville, Congo

In Africa it seems like music is not just for listening, it’s a cause for celebration. It’s an escape perhaps from the poverty in which too many of them live. The capital of Congo was there at the birth of soukous (from the French verb to shake) or Congolese rumba, a genre of mesmerizing high-speed dance and music that is an African cultural bedrock, ubiquitous across the continent and popular around the world. Music in Brazzaville is an aspect of their culture to conserve, teach and promote. It’s home to the African Music Council and the 2015 Pan-African Music Festival whose theme in 2015 was “dynamics of music in the diversity of cultural expressions”. Other major events include the FEUX DE BRAZZA (Festival of Lights), which is a blast as you would expect any African music event would be, especially amidst the charm of Brazzaville. But it has its serious side as well…its mission statement reads, in part, the safeguarding of African cultural traditions will ensure that through this festival, future generations will be the link that will perpetuate that culture”.

Photo by: Congo-Site/Portail National Du Congo
Photo by: Congo-Site/Portail National Du Congo

2. Bologna, Italy

On its opera alone, Italy is world musical superpower, but in term musical centers, fans usually think of Milan’s legendary opera house, La Scala, or perhaps the Venice of Antonio Vivaldi. UNESCO has chosen the ancient educational and culinary center of Bologna for its list, citing its “widespread promotion of the music sector” La Dota (The Learned) home to the oldest university in the world, dating from 1088. The University of Bologna was the first in the country to offer degrees music and performing arts. Not to mention the music festivals! It seems the only festival missing from this city is a Congolese rumba festival. Classical, chamber, devotional, opera, ballet, blues jazz, even Jewish jazz. The target audiences start at the age of one. For music lovers there is the additional attraction of events set in the glorious ancient city. Bologna has four major orchestras including one run by Claudio Abbado, one of the greatest conductors of his generation. But it’s not just the artistic history and culture, it’s the educational and community outreach that UNESCO favors with Abbado’s Orchestra Mozart works as music therapists in the health and social services field. Also, dress rehearsals are open free of charge to dozens of schools and cultural associations.

Bologna, Italy

1. Bogotá, Colombia

Columbia is undergoing a remarkable transition socially, economically and architecturally as it is a creative city renowned for its rich music scene. The traditional and emerging forms of music are playing an intrinsic part of the change. The country holds 60 festivals every year, the biggest of which is “Festivales Al Parque” an eclectic display of everything from jazz, opera, hip hop and salsa that over half a million people flock to see. In addition to hosting the “Festivales Al Parque”, Bogota has 500 live music venues where festivals occur annually. UNESCO says the city is an important center for the performance and cultivation of the following music forms: salsa, fusion, rock, opera, classic, chamber, electronic, pop, tropical, ranchera, hip hop, experimental, bolero, gospel and Colombia’s own rich musical traditions can be heard. It has taken on the task as a regional cultural center to promote artists across Latin America and the Caribbean. Bogota is at the edge of the evolving public policy of using music as a cultural touchstone and lucrative engine of economic growth. The Bogota Music Market, created in 2012, has also become a notable platform for local and regional music agents. Additionally, the Chamber of Commerce is developing a Music Cluster in order to strengthen the city’s dynamic music sector.

Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com
Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com

9 Amazing Music Festivals to Check Out in Europe

With so much of the world’s most acclaimed music originating from these parts, it really is no wonder that the Europeans do music festivals slightly more intensely than anywhere else in the world. With annual events regularly attracting hundreds of thousands of people and tickets often selling out in a matter of minutes, it is no surprise that these festivals are among the most highly anticipated and economically impactful events (both music and otherwise) that happen around the world. So whether your tastes lie in metal, rock, pop or EDM, or some kind of mix of them all, check out the following 10 of Europe’s most epic annual music festivals:

9. Arenal Sound -Burriana, Spain

A newbie in the festival world with the inaugural event held in 2010, Spain’s Arenal Sound is poised to become one of the country’s biggest music events. Held annually on the beach of El Arenal de Burriana, in the Valencia region, this giant beach bash consists of sun, camping, water sports and a 24-hour stream of music during all 6 festival days. Ticket costs also remain relatively low (actually they’re practically free compared to Glastonbury and Tomorrowland) averaging around 50 euros for various packages. The event’s lineup has also greatly expanded from its inaugural year, with the 2015 event featuring over 100 local and international artist and big-name performers such as La Roux, Zedd, Mika and The Ting Tings.

Photo by: Arenal Sound
Photo by: Arenal Sound

8. Lucca Summer Festival -Lucca, Italy

As one of the largest music festivals in Italy, this month long extravaganza in July provides attendees with a hefty dose of history alongside their musical patronage—event performances are held at the historic Piazza Napoleone (Lucca’s main city square) surrounded by 16th century buildings. This unique setting provides a truly one of a kind experience for the thousands of attendees who crowd to hear headliners such as Elton John, Robbie Williams, Snoop Dogg, John Legend and Billy Idol. Currently in its 18th run, the Lucca Summer Festival continues to attract growing numbers to Italy’s Tuscany region, and is a must-attend for anyone visiting the area.

Photo by: Lucca Summer Festival/Trani
Photo by: Lucca Summer Festival/Trani

7. Download Festival –Leicestershire, England

Britain’s premier heavy metal, rock, punk and alternative music festival has graced Leicestershire’s Donington Park since 2003. The event, which happens yearly in early June, was originally conceived of as a follow up the renowned Monsters of Rock festival that was held at the same location for over 20 years. After a stellar, much publicized inaugural show, Download Festival soon grew into a must attend event in its own right, featuring the likes of Metallica, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Iron Maiden and Marilyn Manson. The site now includes 11 campgrounds, 4 stages, fairgrounds, as well as numerous activity centers and food and drink vendors.

Photo by: Download Festival/Danny North
Photo by: Download Festival/Danny North

6. Open’er Festival -Gdynia, Poland

Boasting one of the best festival energies in the world, the Heineken Open’er Festival held at Kosakowo Airport in Gdynia, Poland takes places yearly during the first week of July. Established in 2002, the event features acts representing a mix of musical genres, with past headliners ranging from the legendary sounds of Pearl Jam to the emerging influence of Haim and Banks. Though much smaller in size compared to other notable European music festivals, the Open’er has a history of attracting an incredibly enthusiastic (and sometimes famous) crowd—2013 saw not only Rihanna dancing the days away in the pit, but also Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme ditch his security and party with the fans. The festival also continued to live up to its trademark appeal as an event that combines music with art, hosting several cultural events such as exhibitions form the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, numerous theatrical performances and meet and greets with notable Polish authors.

Photo by: Open'er Festival
Photo by: Open’er Festival

5. Mysteryland Festival -Haarlemmermeer, Netherlands

Arguably the world’s best dance music festival, this event was established in 1993 making it the Netherlands’ oldest festival of its kind. Traditionally held on the last weekend in August, Mysteryland brings “an explosion of electronic styles” featuring only the best international artists showcasing everything from dubstep to house, techno and electro. In fact, the festival has garnered such high demand that organizers have been forced to create international versions in recent years; the first ever event outside of the Netherlands occurred in Chile in 2011 and the first US chapter was held at the historic Woodstock site during Memorial weekend in 2014. It should be noted that this giant international dance party is much more than just an 18+ music event, it is an organization that contributes to artistic and environmental development, holding awards for emerging talent and building the idea of sustainability into its very philosophy. The festival has been the recipient of several “green” awards, and remains committed to promoting volunteerism, local businesses and the reduction of its ecological footprint.

Photo by: Mysteryland
Photo by: Mysteryland

4. T in the Park -Perthshire, Scotland

Started in 1994 with a crowd of 17,000, it took just 11 short years for T in the Park to start rivaling some of the biggest musical events on the continent, with 2005 seeing the festival beat out Glastonbury for the UK’s Best Festival Award. It’s not hard to understand why, with past lineups consisting of a diverse range of global superstars such as Rihanna (2013), Sam Smith and Avicii (2015), drawing crowds upwards of 250,000. These days the festival continues to expand, now featuring over 150 acts performing across 10 venues, a larger and safer festival site at Strathallan Castle and a growing selection of festival and camping activities, attractions and entertainment.

Photo by: T in the Park
Photo by: T in the Park

3. Roskilde Festival -Roskilde, Denmark

One of the world’s biggest music events, Roskilde is a week-long celebration of music, people and community. 4 years in the making, the 2015 event (held June 27 – July 4) brought in over 100,000 people and featured 175 acts across 8 stages. The musical diversity displayed yearly is unparalleled, with lineups that represent everything from classical avant-garde  to African desert blues to rap-electronic fusion, and showcase both new and well-established acts (as a point of reference, this year’s event was headlined by both Kendrick Lamar and Paul McCartney). The festival also holds a vast variety of events alongside the main-stage lineups, including Street City (skateboarding, DMX and rollerblading competitions and shows), Art Zone (exhibitions by Danish and international artists created exclusively for the festival), and More Than Eating (a food program packed with everything from dinner in the mud to a historical cake buffet).

Photo by: Roskilde Festival
Photo by: Roskilde Festival

2. Tomorrowland -Boom, Belgium

Taking place in the town of Boom (how fitting) in Belgium, Tomorrowland celebrated its 11th successful run this year, once again reaffirming its current status as one of the biggest and best electronic music festivals in the world. Occurring annually on the last weekend of July, the festival has become one of the most notable and highly anticipated music events ever, winning numerous awards, selling out in days and drawing upwards of 300,000 music lovers (2014). In fact, the event has grown so enormous that Brussels Airlines adds over 100 additional flights from cities all over the world to accommodate the influx of festival goers every year on the last weekend of July. For those aching to participate but unable to make it to Belgium for next year’s event, organizers have created a spin-off event Stateside, known as TomorrowWorld and held at the Chattanhoochee Hills in Georgia.

Photo by: Tomorrowland
Photo by: Tomorrowland

1. Glastonbury Festival -Somerset, England

Established in 1970, the inaugural version of this epic event opened the day after Jimi Hendrix died, cost £1 (which included milk from the farm and was attended by 1500 people. Fast forward 44 years and Glastonbury Festival has become legendary, breaking records from fastest ticket sell out (past events have sold out in minutes) to largest national and international BBC viewership and radio tune-ins. The festival also has a knack for attracting the very best acts from around the world, including the Rolling Stones (2013), Dolly Parton (2015) and Yoko Ono (2014). Taking place on a 900-acre property in the Vale of Avalon, the 5 day festival resembles an enormous tented city, and features hundreds of acts across 13 stages (and numerous smaller venues) with past headliners including Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Kings of Leon and Jay-Z.

Photo by: Glastonbury Festival
Photo by: Glastonbury Festival

12 Things to See and Do in Brussels

Although it’s a city with a rich history and a multicultural, multilingual bent, Brussels isn’t exactly high on a lot of people’s bucket lists. In fact, this Belgian town (and indeed, Belgium as a whole) tend to get passed over for more glamorous European destinations. That hasn’t stopped Brussels, Belgium’s capital city, from blooming into a cultural powerhouse. With many museums, a long and turbulent history and a lot of beautiful scenery, both man-made and natural -Brussels has a lot to offer up. If you want to take in a lot of Europe in just a little bit of time or don’t have the funds to do a grand tour of Europe, make Brussels your number one stop. From the medieval to the modern, from fine art to pop art and everything in between, here are just 12 ideas to add to your itinerary as you plan your trip to the de facto capital of the European Union.

12. Tour Mini-Europe Park

Located at the foot of the Atomium in Brussels, Mini-Europe is a park that boasts 1:25 scale maquettes of famous European buildings. If you’ve ever wanted to take a European tour, but don’t have the funds, do it on a smaller scale by visiting Mini-Europe Park!

There are several live action models, including trains, mills, cable cars and an erupting Mount Vesuvius. Approximately 30 European countries are represented in the park, including Italy, Greece, France and England. The park encompasses 2.4 square kilometers and attracts around 350,000 visitors per year, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Brussels. The project represents collaboration between Brussels and most of the European countries or regions with replicas, as many of miniatures were financed by their country of origin. The Eiffle Tower, the leaning tower of Pisa and the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela are just a few of the famous landmarks recreated in this park.

Lisa A / Shutterstock.com
Lisa A / Shutterstock.com

11. Visit Manneken-Pis

Chances are you’ve heard of, or even seen, Manneken-Pis. This famous sculpture is one of Brussels’s most well-known landmarks and has inspired copycats around the world. Manneken-Pis was first cast in 1388, although the current design of the statue dates to 1619. The current casting dates to 1965, as the statue keeps getting stolen. Manneken-Pis is dressed up in costumes several times a week, according to a schedule, and his wardrobe consists of several hundred outfits.

Not bad for a sculpture of a little boy taking a leak! Yes, the inspiration for all of those “peeing cherub” garden fountain statues you see is Manneken-Pis. There are many legends around this figure, including a popular version that recounts the tale of a visiting merchant who loses his son, only to later find him peeing in a fountain. Other tales include a young lord urinating on an invading army and a boy who, waking up in the night to relieve himself, helps to put out a fire in the king’s castle. Whatever the inspiration, go see Manneken-Pis—before he gets stolen again.

S-F / Shutterstock.com
S-F / Shutterstock.com

10. Cinquantenaire Park

One of the most famous landmarks in Brussels, Cinquantenaire Park, or Jubelpark, was commissioned by King Leopold II for the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence in 1880. The U-shaped complex, including its triumphal arch, dominate the easternmost part of the city’s European Quarter. Today, the area is a public park and a pedestrian square. Once home to a military exercise ground, the area hosts a number of museums and several parades each summer.

Museums in the area include the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History, as well as AutoWorld, a museum dedicated to vintage cars; and an art and history museum. There is also a mosque in the area. AutoWorld hosts drive-in movie events in the summer months. Currently, plans to “Europeanize” the park are underway. These plans include the installation of a new metro station and a major socio-cultural center for families. It is hoped that, in the future, the park may host European Congresses and other major European events and exhibitions.

Cinquantenaire Park

9. Make a Pilgrimage to the Cathedral and the Basilica

Brussels is home to a variety of impressive architecture, including medieval buildings such as the St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral. This church, given cathedral status in 1962, may have been begun as early as the 9th century. Over the centuries, various structures and features were added, such as the 2 round towers. Overall, it took about 3 centuries to build the church, which was completed just before the reign of Emperor Charles V began in 1519.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a much more modern church. Construction began in 1905, when the first stone was laid. Construction was interrupted by both World Wars, and the church was finally completed in 1969. Although the project was originally envisioned as a neo-Gothic church, the project soon incorporated the art deco movement. Today, these 2 churches form prominent parts of the Brussels skyline and are popular destinations for tourists and pilgrims alike.

St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral

8. Learn About Beer at Cantillon Brewery

The Cantillon Brewery is an institution among the craft industries of Brussels. This company, founded over a century ago in 1900, brews traditional Belgian lambic beer. Located in Anderlecht, the brewery still makes its beers in a traditional way, with the only shift being the introduction of organic ingredients in 1999. One of over 100 brewers in 1900, Cantillon remains the only brewer founded in the early 20th century operational in the 21st century.

About half of the brewery’s production is gueze beer, although they also make a number of fruit-flavored beers, such as Rose de Gambrinus and Fou’ Foune. Once a year, the brewery makes kriek and bilberry beer for a shop in Denmark. In 1999 and 2013, Cantillon brewed Soleil de Minuit, made from cloudberries. The brewery is home to the Gueze Museum, which shows the history of Cantillon and gueze production. Sample some beer and learn about how it’s made!

Cantillon Brewery

7. Catch a Football Match

Brussels was home to 3 major football (soccer) clubs: R.S.C. Anderlecht, F.C. Molenbeek Brussels Strombeek (which was rebranded RWDM Brussels FC, just before folding in the 2013-14 season) and Union Saint-Gilloise.

Anderlecht is the most successful Belgian football club, with 33 championship titles in the Belgian league and 5 trophies in major European tournaments. RWDM played in the Second Division, but finished 8th in its final season and folded. Union currently plays in the Third Division; prior to World War II, Union was the most successful Belgian football club. Even with only 2 teams now in the city, Brussels has a long and proud history in football, and catching an Anderlecht or Union match is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening. If you can’t get tickets, no worries – head to a local pub and grab a pint of one of several varieties of Belgian beer as you cheer on the local team surrounded by fans. You won’t regret it!

 (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
(AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

6. Explore a Museum

With more than 80 museums to explore in the city of Brussels, you can discover art, music, history and more! For those who are interested in food and drink, a visit to the Belgian Brewers Museum or the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate provide great experiences and an opportunity to learn about 2 of humanity’s favorite foods: chocolate and beer. The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History will delight army buffs and war historians, and the National Museum of the Resistance documents the Belgian Resistance during World War II.

If you want to go back a little further, you can check out the city’s Archives or the Archives and Museum of Flemish Life in Brussels. Cinematek documents the history of film and has daily showings from the archives, and the Clockarium is devoted to the faience mantelclock, the first widely affordable timepiece for most Belgian households. The art museums run the gamut, from the fine arts to the Museum of Fantastic Art, which specializes in bizarre sculptures. No matter your interests, there’s a museum to explore!

Royal Museum of the Armed Forces

5. Sample Some Waffles

We know all about Belgian waffles, but to get authenticity for this treat, there’s no better place than Brussels. The waffle is a well-known entry in Brussels fare, which is characterized by a combination of French cuisine and hearty Flemish dishes. The familiar Americanized version known as Belgian waffles are, in fact, a simplified version of the Brussels waffle.

Brussels waffles in particular are prepared with an egg-white or yeast-leavened batter, which makes them lighter and crispier than other European varieties. They are traditionally dusted with confectioner’s sugar and served warm, although toppings in tourist areas include whipped cream, soft fruit or chocolate spreads. Variations on the recipe for Brussels waffles exist, including a whole egg being folded into the batter. Wash down with some beer and enjoy some Belgian chocolate on the side. You won’t have any trouble finding them either; in a city with around 1,800 restaurants and many street vendors, waffles hot off the iron abound!

Belgium waffles

4. Appreciate the Art Nouveau Architecture

While the city center of Brussels is noted for its traditional Flemish townhouses, there are other districts in the city that are renowned for their Art Nouveau architecture. Prominent at the tail end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, this style was a reaction to some of the academic art genres of the 19th century. Particularly striking are the buildings that were designed by architect Victor Horta, a native of Brussels. Horta’s Hotel Tassel was one of the first buildings to apply the ideals of Art Nouveau to architecture.

Examples of Art Noveau architecture can be seen across the city of Brussels, with examples including the districts of Schaerbeek, Etterbeek, Ixelles and Saint-Gilles. The Stoclet Palace, which is in the Vienna Secession style, also represents the art nouveau movement. It was designed by the Viennese architect Josef Hoffman and completed in 1911 for Aldophe Stoclet. It has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.com
Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.com

3. Go on an Adventure at the Comic Museum

Raise your hand if you’ve heard of the Belgian comic artist Herge. No? Surely The Adventures of Tintin will ring a bell. What about The Smurfs? Both of these internationally beloved comics are Belgian in origin, and they’re celebrated in the comic museum in Brussels. Formally known as the Belgian Comic Strip Center, the museum features several exhibits devoted to Tintin, including life-sized replicas of the characters and sets from Tintin’s adventures. Other genres of comics, including science fiction, wild west, crime, and political comics are also represented. Comics are presented in French, English and Dutch.

The museum also has a shop and a restaurant for visitors, as well as a research library for comic scholars (yes, there is such a thing). The museum, which opened in 1989, is located in a 1906 building that once housed the department store Magasins Waucquez. The store was designed in the art nouveau style by Victor Horta and is located in the business district of Brussels.

elenaburn / Shutterstock.com
elenaburn / Shutterstock.com

2. Hike Through the Sonian Forest

This Flemish forest lies at the southeastern edge of Brussels. Some of the tracts in the forest belong to the Royal Trust and some tracts are privately held. Overall, the forest comprises over 10,000 acres. The forest is part of the ancient Charcoal Forest. It once extended 7 leagues, but today is about 45 square kilometers.

The forest played a significant role in the Battle of Waterloo, and it has also influenced art and literature, particularly some of the works of Auguste Rodin and Sir Walter Scott. It was also home to several medieval and early modern monasteries. Once exclusively the realm of the nobility of Belgium, the forest is open to the public today. Although its flora and fauna have been reduced, it is home to many species, including European beech and oak, some specimens of which are more than 200 years old. There’s a small chapel near the site of the monastery of John of Ruysbroeck at Groenendaal that serves as a popular visitor site in the woods.

Sonian Forest

1. Take a Tour Through the Royal Palace

The Royal Palace of Brussels is the seat of the Belgian monarchy. The façade was built after 1900 and completed in 1904, although the nucleus of the buildings date to the late 1700s. The site has long been a popular one for palaces; Coudenberg Palace, which dates back to the medieval period, once included the grounds the modern Royal Palace stands on today. The Palace is situated in front of Brussels Park and faces the Palace of the Nation, which houses the Belgian parliament.

The Palace is not a royal residence and instead serves only as a ceremonial headquarters for state functions. Some parts of the palace are open to the public and can be toured, as can some of the grounds. Portions of the old Coudenberg Palace complex are still extant and can be visited. Since 1965, visitors can tour the State Rooms and their impressive art collections, between July 21 and the beginning of September. Other rooms that can be visited include the Mirror Room, the Grand Hall and the famous Large White Room, which is part of the oldest section of the palace.

Royal Palace Brussels