If you're looking for a very cool city that's a little bit off the beaten path, explore Antwerp, one of Belgium's most youthful and energetic places, where history and contemporary culture have a lot to offer.
If you have children yearning to have some fun in a place beyond the borders of the United States, Antwerp, Belgium just may be the place to go.
Antwerp is one of the five Cool Capitals, a group of European cities promoting various cultural attractions. Each of the five cities has a number of attractions and Antwerp is no exception. With activities catering to all ages, Antwerp offers plenty of opportunities for families to have fun.
For example, the Antwerp Zoo is a place where familes can spend time together marvelling at the 950 species and 5,000 different animals. The Antwerp Zoo is one of the oldest (been in operation for 163 years) and most famous zoos in the world. The zoo is also internationally renowned for its work in breeding programs for endangered animals. If you love animals, this is a place you want to be. Those with more aquatic interests should check out Aquatopia, which is a futuristic aquarium that is home to a variety of tropical fish and unique water-dwelling creatures. Sharks, piranhas, stingrays, and octopi are just some of the aquatic animals you’ll find here.
Kids who are 2 to 12 and just want to play around may find Pirates’ Island a fun place to be. Pirateneiland was once an old warehouse but it has since been renovated to be an indoor playground for children. Accompanying adults get free admission.
Antwerp also has several museums. If your kids are already rolling their eyes, remind them that museums can be fun, too! Kids have reacted positively to the Middelheim Open-Air and Sculpture Museum and the Aviation Museum Stampe Vertongen. You can find out more about what museums kids like by clicking here.
Did you know that you could explore Antwerp by boat? Boat trips are offered by Flandria that allow guests to enjoy breathtaking views of the city from the water. Short tours are offered along the River Schedlt but longer tours that take guests to Antwerp’s giant port are also provided.
If you like to walk, make sure to take a walk through the St. Anna Tunnel under the River Scheld. Walk to the other side of the river and you’ll be impressed by the beautiful skyline of Antwerp. It’s recommended to walk to the other side near sunset because the view is unsurpassed by anything else. There is a small beach by the river (take a walk on the left bank of the river) where kids can play in the sand. Swimming is unfortunately not allowed in the river (the river is too polluted) but you can dive in the open-air swimming pool next to the beach!
While you’re walking, look out for the five Comic Walls around Antwerp. The five comic walls (pictured above) are elaborate murals and works of art that can be found throughout the city. With their vibrant colors, they’re hard to miss.
Winter is the coldest and most damp time of year to visit, but prices drop substantially as tourism subsides. If you’re interested in spending most of your days outdoors with the family (and the city’s architecture makes this a fun, free pastime that is endlesslly diverting), book ahead because the many summer festivals bring in the crowds. During summertime (July-August) you can attend several bigger and smaller (music) festivals around Antwerp. The most popular include Jazz Middelheim, the Sfinks festival and Zomer van Antwerpen.
And for those who are interested in shopping … Antwerp is a shopping paradise! In the city center you can find many boutiques specialized in unique children’s clothes, shoes or toys but of course, at European prices.
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