Concertgebouw – Culture for families in Bruges


Ah Bruges! Cute cobbled streets, picturesque canals, a fascinating history, cosy restaurants, gargantuan churches, chic chocolate shops and, well, basically, staggering beauty everywhere you look.

The problem is… absolutely none of this matters to kids.

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Bruges – very pretty, but what to DO with kids there?


Bruges may be gorgeous, but boy can it be a hard slog when travelling with children. Those cosy restaurants? Ha! Try getting a table for a family of six in there. That chocolate? Delicious, but honestly our adorable little treasure brats are just as happy with a Kinder Bueno. Those cute gabled buildings and ancient churches? Frankly, they don’t care. 

Don’t believe me? Well, consider this: even the official website for Bruges Tourism doesn’t have a specific section or ideas for families / visitors with children. As wonderful as it may be, the “Venice of the North” is clearly not a city that markets itself as a family travel destination…

… which is a pity, because Bruges is home to one of the best cultural attractions for kids that we have visited in recent years – the Concertgebouw.
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Concertgebouw, Bruges (Photo credit: Toerisme Brugge / Jan Darthet)

Listed as one of the 1001 buildings to see before you die, it may be somewhat of an understatement to say that architecturally-speaking, the Concertgebouw divides opinion… An enormous cubist-influenced polygon clad with almost 70,000 red terracotta tiles, this is a structure that emphatically dares to be different. It’s easy to understand why the contrast between this imposing building and the quaint, medieval beauty of its surroundings arouses emotions and is cause for debate. But whatever you think about its outward appearance, here’s the thing:

When you go inside, it all makes sense.

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The Concertgebouw is, first and foremost, a concert hall for classical and high-end world music. But it is also much, much more than that. Its voluminous, light-filled foyers and public spaces are filled with visual and sonic art installations, and this is where it becomes interesting for kids.

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The Lyrebird kids’ tour of the Concertgebouw

Grab the Lyrebird activity pack from reception and watch your little ones fly off on a self-guided kids’ tour all the way to the very top of this remarkable building. Their route is clearly marked by a series of orbs hanging from the lofty ceilings and dotted with fascinating contemporary art. Along the way, kids can gaze and listen to some giant bells buzzing like bees(?!?), marvel at a “sound poem” showcasing this unique architecture (seriously, don’t miss this – it is wonderful), watch the visiting orchestra rehearse in the main auditorium, and create all sorts of weird sounds in a series of engaging hands-on activities.

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However, by far and away the greatest exhibit in the Concertgebouw tour is Bruges itself. Remember that controversial architecture? Well, whilst it may look like an alien mothership from the outside, the inside is cleverly designed to remind you that this cutting-edge celebration of music and art is firmly embedded in the very centre of this historic city, at the heart of this ancient community. At almost every turn, clear and coloured glass windows not only let the visitor see out over Bruges, but frame these images quite wonderfully. These are giant, real-time portraits of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, and the effect is spectacular.

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Onwards, upwards the Lyrebird flies to the very rooftops of the building where, of course, the views are at their very best. But even up here, music and sound are at the heart of the exhibition: an installation of twenty-one bells originally cast for the Bruges Belfry are just begging to be played. By now overflowing with inspiration and brimming with creativity, let your kids’ musical inventions soar like the Lyrebird up, up, up over the rooftops of Bruges. (Fair warning: this is probably not the greatest musical performance that the Concertgebouw has ever hosted. :o) )

Once you’re safely back down at ground level, don’t miss out on an enormous hot chocolate in the centre’s trendy café and pluck up the courage to perform on the grand piano in the foyer (a Fazioli!). Depending on how well they did during the tour, your kids may even receive one of the Lyrebird’s feathers to take home with them as a souvenir (don’t worry – he’ll grow another one).

Afterwards, I regretted not making a full video of our visit, but anyway this one from the Concertgebouw website does a far better job of recreating the inspirational ambience of the experience than I ever would have. Weirdly, at the time of writing this article, this video has been watched only 550 times despite being published nine months previously; this seems to be a remarkably poor return for an attraction of this sort of quality in a major tourism destination such as Bruges.

Which only re-confirms my initial suspicion: the Concertgebouw Tour is a family-friendly hidden gem of an attraction just waiting to be discovered by cultured kids.

Go see it, experience it, immerse yourself in it… before the world finds out.

Other (more mainstream) ideas for kids’ activities in Bruges:

  • Horse and carriage rides. Expensive and tacky, but kids will enjoy it.
  • Canal boat rides. Busy and cramped, but a fun way to see what makes Bruges unique.
  • The Chocolate Story. We unexpectedly enjoyed this somewhat old-fashioned tourist-oriented museum on the history of chocolate. Not a bad way to spend an hour.

 

Practical information on visiting the Concertgebouw, Bruges.

(As of May 2019)

  • Website: here.
  • You’ll find it at ‘t Zand 34, 8000 Brugge, Belgium. Only ten minutes walk from the main train station and five from the Grote Markt (main square).
  • Opening hours are surprisingly limited: Wednesday to Saturday afternoons from 2pm to 6pm and Sundays from 10am to 2pm. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
  • Tickets cost €8 (€4 for young people aged between 6 and 26, free under 6).
  • Guided explanations are available in English, Dutch and French.
  • We’d recommend the tour for any ages, but it is perhaps optimally suited for kids aged between 5 and 14.
  • Expect to linger for around 1.5 hours; we loved it so much we stayed longer.
Fifi and Hop
CulturedKids

Daisy the bus visited Bruges on a Home Exchange in January 2019. 

(c) 2019 Jonathan Orr

Categories: belgium, city trip, culture, family travel, museumTags: , , , , , ,

20 comments

  1. It’s been so long since I have visited Bruges, I really want to go back to see Concertgebouw now, it looks absolutely amazing! Thanks so much for joining in with #CulturedKids

  2. I haven’t been to Bruges in many years, I had forgotten what a wonderful city it is. I know for a fact my entire family would love this. #culturedkids

  3. You had me nodding along from the beginning! Absolutely hated Bruges when we went with our two kids about six years back. The place was beautiful but so child unfriendly I couldn’t believe it. We had an old man literally push us off the pavement with our buggy. It was so bad we’ve never wanted to return, despite having been to Belgium a few times since… until this post that is! I love this concert hall tour, and I will even overcome my anti-Bruges sentiment to visit! Thanks so much for this great post #CulturedKids

  4. Such a great post, I’ve never been to Bruges with the kids, would love to go with them soon! #culturedkids

  5. I’ve been to Bruges with the kids, would love to go with them soon and experience the concert.

  6. Absolutely great post. I’ve not been to Bruges and wanted to go for years but always wandered if it was kid-friendly, especially having an only child. Concertgebouw sounds like a really well thought out venue/attraction for all ages, as well as being architecturally significant. Love the Lyrebird too, getting a feather would be too of our girl’s list! Thanks for this excellent travelog, I’ll be referring to it in future #CulturedKids

  7. Love the Lyrebird motif in this post. My kids would love exploring the Concertgebouw and relish making lots of noise (though perhaps not music fit for the setting) when allowed! I would love to see a concert here. Experiencing a world-class orchestra in a building designed with the best acoustics in mind is always a treat. #CulturedKids

  8. I would absolutely love to hear a concert in the Concertgebouw one day. I spent 2 days there a couple of years ago and never even saw this. Feel like I missed out #CULTUREDKIDS

    • Considering its size and, um, different appearance, I totally understand that you could spend two days wandering around Bruges without stumbling across this. And indeed, a concert by a world-renowned orchestra in that wonderful hall must be amazing, certainly on my to-do list! Thanks for reading.

  9. I absolutely loved the Concertgebouw in Bruges an incredible building and not just for concert goers. I would love to hear a concert there though! #CulturedKids

  10. I really love this post! I was chuckling at the beginning about how much Bruges is not a family-oriented destination, and appreciated your honesty. A lot of bloggers can glorify a place with their kids, when, simply, kids are kids! But the Concertgebouw sounds like a stunning building, with its incorporation of Bruges, and as an architecture lover myself I’m curious to see it. Very interesting about the video..glad you got to see if before the secret is out! Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

    • Thanks 🙂 I guess the point I wanted to make is that even though Bruges is not “family oriented”, it still is an interesting place to visit as a family, particularly if you make the Concertgebouw tour part of your itinerary. And, as you pointed out, I personally absolutely loved the way that it incorporated the ancient city into its ultra-modern architecture. I’m a fan!

  11. Always love a hidden gem. It did make me chuckle about what kids do and don’t care about, mine are the same!
    #farwawayfiles

  12. What a great article. I love Bruges but had never heard of the concertgebouw. Definitely on my list for next time I visit. I absolutely LOVED the video – what better tune to play on the bells! My three year old was captivated! #farawayfiles

    • Ha ha – glad you appreciate our musical “talent”! Maybe we’ll get an invitation to the main concert hall someday (but I’m not holding my breath…) :o) Greetings from Luxembourg!

  13. Feeling inspired as always after reading your blog. Thanks Daisy the Bus. X

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