If there is one retreat in Brussels for parents with small children, it is definitely Planckendael Zoo. We immediately got a season pass after our first visit after we initially arrived here. The animals are in large habitats as compared to American zoos.
Address: leuvensesteenweg 582, 2812 Mechelen
Hours: Open 7 days a week starting at 10am, closing hours depend on season. View website for information.
Cost: Cards accepted. Under 3 free. Children over 3, 17.50 euro. Adults 24.00 Euro. Parking 7.00 Euro. Wowzers.
Season Pass: Family Pass is 179 Euro. This is the way to go. Free parking, discounts on food and drinks, and if you add it all up, it is well worth the initial investment because you will be back! They do have a discount for single parents and although many of us expats have to live in the world of acting like a single parent, it doesn’t count.
Know before you go
There are tons of playgrounds within the zoo. If you see one that is just FULL of children and looks crazy, keep going, you may find a different one to tide your kids over until the other one calms down. My favorite one is a hidden one behind the gazebo.
The petting zoo at the back does not have any hand sanitizers or wash station. There is a restroom next to the petting part but it seems to always have a line. Bring your own hand sanitizer for the kids for before and after they touch the animals. It’s for the animals safety as well as the kids.
The food is quite reasonably priced and available everywhere so save yourself the hassle of packing lunches and drinks, unless saving money is a priority at the moment.
If you are going to lunch there, do it early, as in 11:30. When lunch time rolls around it is amazing how long the lines get in the cafeterias. Hungry kids and long lines do not mix.
Don’t try to do it all in a day. It is a huge place and there is no sense in exhausting yourself. Since you’ve bought the season pass like I advised you can come back! We normally will pick one or two “lands” of the zoo and just stay there. Next visit, I’ll let the kids pick somewhere different.
For younger children, bring small sand toys. There is plenty of sand to play in at the large playgrounds.
Don’t bother with socks. The playgrounds are full of sand, as mentioned and having them wear croc/flip flop type shoes is the best way to go.
Remember it’s a public place and “the public” here on busy days can be a little nuts. You will see children running all over the place while mom and dad are getting drunk in the shade. You may have to step in a parent other kids from time to time so your kid doesn’t end up getting thrown down a slide or peed on.
Don’t go on holidays or the weekend. Just don’t.