Monday, 11 March 2013

Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (otherwise known as Brussels' Natural History Museum)

For a fabulous family day out I highly recommend the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.   It is a fantastic museum and an absolute must-see for any dinosaur aficionado in your household!   Our budding palaeontologists were in dino heaven walking around the huge hall with a phenomenal collection of dinosaur skeletons and the amazing display of Iguanodons found in a Belgian mine in the 1870s.  They also really enjoyed the mammal exhibits and the evolution displays.  There are lots of interactive elements to the displays as you go around which the kids loved, lots of button pressing and wheel turning for them to enjoy.  There were also several options for hands on activities for the kids but we didn’t actually have enough time to take part in any of them.  
The kids had a fantastic time running from exhibit to exhibit and it is amazing how much information they actually pick up while tearing around looking at things.  We spent 4 hours there and still didn’t manage to see a large chunk of the permanent exhibitions or take part in the kid’s activities so a return trip definitely needs to be planned.   Our in-house dino expert was disappointed not to see an Allosaurus skeleton (he has very specific requirements!)  but generally rated the museum as “really cool”.  The sheer size, scale and huge range of things to see is a bit mind boggling so several visits would be needed to really do it justice.   For a day’s activity on a cold, wet Brussels Sunday I think it would be hard to beat.

Getting there
The museum is located very close to the European Union buildings and can easily be found from Troon or Maalbeek metro stations.  We walked through the Espace Leopold to get to the museum and so took in some of the iconic sights of Brussels’ European Quarter.  It took about ten minutes walking at a 3 year olds pace to get from the metro to the museum.  There were plenty of buses and trams which stopped at Place du Luxembourg too so there are lots of options for transport.

There was a free cloakroom for coats and bags which helped as the weather was bad when we visited.  There is a small café which was pretty chaotic and had a limited selection of food available but there was also a ‘picnic area’ (ie a room with tables and chairs!) where you could eat your own food.  We’ll definitely take a packed lunch next time! There are toilets around every corner and it is very wheelchair/buggy friendly.  The staff were helpful, although in a slightly surly Gallic way!  We found that most people spoke French but understood Dutch or English.  There was a very well stocked shop but it was pretty pricey.  Entrance tickets were under €10 for adults and free for 0 to 5 year olds which is very good value considering the size of the museum and the amount of time you can spend in there.

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