Travel around Europe in less than three hours!

Translated by Alison Isherwood — one year ago

Original text by Maika Cano Martínez

General information about Mini-Europe

Would you like to visit the main monuments of Europe in less than three hours and for only 15 euros? Don’t believe it’s possible? Well, thanks to Mini-Europe it is, indeed, possible!

Mini-Europe is a theme park in the capital city of Belgium, Brussels, or more specifically, in Bruparck, right next to the famous Atomium. It is a giant model of Europe, scaled to 1/25. It is a place where, along with Mini-Europe and the Atomium, there is a huge park with immense green zones and there are other attractions such as Océade (an indoor water park) and the Planetarium. It is a little far from the centre of Brussels, which is why you have to take the car or travel by public transport to get there.

Mini-Europe was inaugurated in 1989, after which it receives about 350, 000 visits a year and it has built 350 building or monuments from all over Europe, representing 80 European cities that belong to the European Union. The quality and similarity of the models to reality makes this park a way to visit Europe in a fast and fun way that you will never forget, no matter your age. There is a similar park in The Hague (Amsterdam) – Madurodam – but I have not had the pleasure of visiting, so I could not be sure which one is better, but according to my understanding, Mini-Europe is the largest in terms of models of Europe.

Travel around Europe in less than three hours!

After the visit around the European models, there is an exhibition called the ”Spirit of Europe”, which shows the European Union, its history, institutions and more with interactive activities and games. But we only had a very quick visit, as we only had a day and a half to see the whole of Brussels.

Entrance includes a guide around the park in the language of your choice, talking about the cities that you can see and giving information about the monuments. It is quite useful, but there are some times when you don’t want to be reading a leaflet whilst you visit, so each city or country has a page of information where you can see the number of inhabitants, the currency or when it became a part of the European Union. There were times when it was difficult to know if what you were reading was the truth, unless you knew about the monument beforehand or if it sounded like something you’d heard before. If you weren’t reading the guide then you didn’t know what it was and, of course, the information on the models was in English, which is why I think I didn’t feel very informed.

In regards to whether or not there are places to eat in this area, I would say that there are. In the part just in front of the entrance to Mini-Europe, Océade and the Planetarium, there is a very pleasant area with various restaurants with different kinds of cuisine. And, inside the Mini-Europe park, there is a restaurant that is like a European tavern midway through the tour, but I think that this only opens during the high season because it was not open when I went.

And, like every self-appreciating theme park, there is a souvenir shop in the park at the end. The shop is quite big and it has everything, as the them of “Europe” gives a lot to play with, from flags of the European Union to mini models of the monuments, mugs, pens, key-rings etc.

Monuments

The monuments that they have in Mini-Europe, well, more the models of them, are constructed half-moulded with epoxy resin and polyester, although a few are made from stone, and they are now introducing newer techniques. After the construction of the model, another great effort is required to paint it, as there are lots of nooks and crannies to decorate. Then the lighting system has to be set up.

For each monument, there is a large set of small decorative elements that characterise the place they represent and that also give greater realism to the model, turning it into a tiny city that has life. From people to cars, bicycles, trains, animals, boats, gondolas in Venice and natural elements such as trees, grass, rivers, water sources, etc. Every detail is very carefully used to make each place come alive , so that you really believe that you are visiting cities. Some elements of which I am talking about are even mobile, such as trains, the Airbus and ships. And they have animated scenes, such as the eruption of the Mt. Vesuvius volcano, or the fall of the Berlin Wall. And they aren’t lacking in sound elements either; at some of the monuments you can hit the button and it will produce a sound, anything from a hymn to an "ole" in Spain.

Travel around Europe in less than three hours!

The monuments or cities that you will see in Mini-Europe and that stand out the most are:

  • Paris: the French capital is what represents this country in the park, especially with the Eiffel Tower, which you cannot miss since, I think, it is the best-known symbol of Europe for those who are not European. The Eiffel Tower here measures 13 metres high and is the tallest building in the park. In fact, being so tall it can be seen from almost each end of the park and you can get confused sometimes whilst in Europe when you can always see the Eiffel Tower. Additionally, it also has the Arc de Triomphe and Sacré Coeur that is quite well-crafted and well-made, even with the stairs and the promenade that give access to the basilica.
  • Travel around Europe in less than three hours!

    Travel around Europe in less than three hours!

  • Spain: Spanish as I am, I was intrigued about the monuments that they would have in Mini-Europe. Well, we had a bullring, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and the El Escorial Monastery. You can listen to a hymn from Spain and watch the matador move around the ring whilst you listen to the “ole”.
  • Travel around Europe in less than three hours!

  • London: the representation of Great Britain, with Big Ben (4 metres tall), which is also very well-made.
  • Travel around Europe in less than three hours!

  • Italy: I think this is the country with the most monuments in Mini-Europe, alongside Belgium, with San Marcos Square in Venice, the Leaning Tower or Pisa, the Vatican and much more.
  • Travel around Europe in less than three hours!

    Travel around Europe in less than three hours!

  • The Acropolis of Athens, an ancient European symbol.
  • Berlin represents Germany with the Brandenburg Gate and the famous Berlin Wall.
  • Travel around Europe in less than three hours!

  • The Netherlands with its characteristic windmills, their yellow tulips and other interesting things.
  • Belgium has the Brussels Town Hall, the Brussels Grand-Place, the Atomium and I think something else from Ghent.
  • Travel around Europe in less than three hours!

  • The Scandinavian countries are also there but, because I have never been and because they are not as famous, I am not really sure what I saw.
  • In the part for Ireland, there was a curved fortress, but I don’t know the name.

The most successful monument or model is, in my opinion, the Grand Place in Brussels. I have a photo in which I am sitting next to the model and it seems that I am on a nearby mountain watching the real Grand Place from above; it is impressive. And, I am not surprised that it is one of the ones I like the most, since it cost more than 350, 000 euros and more than 300 statues were sculpted by hand. Crazy. I think that, because the park was in Brussels, one of the best models had to be from some symbolic part of the city. But I congratulate them, because they really achieved that. the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is also one of the most well-made models, since it needed about 24, 000 hours of work. Imagine everything that comes with creating and maintaining Mini-Europe.

Travel around Europe in less than three hours!

The 350 monuments or buildings that are in this theme park have been selected from among all those in Europe according to their greater symbolic character or because of the level of architectural quality they possess. It had to have been difficult to choose just a few monuments that represent a country as a whole, I think in some cases very difficult, because there are certain countries that have more than three symbols, as is the case for Italy. In some cases, the monuments represent the country as a whole, and in other cases the city is specifically spoken because of its tourist importance or because it is more known and relevant in terms of European representation. In the same way, many countries are disappointed by their low representation in the park and believe that some cities get more attention, but the truth is that I think you have to think about the people who want to see a snapshot of Europe, rather than thinking about patriotic pride.

In my case, I am not happy with the Spanish representation there, not because of the number of monuments there nor because Murcia isn’t there, it’s not that, it’s more that I don’t like the association with bull rings and that, I think, the Escorial Monastery and the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela are not the most famous in Spain. But, to each their own, I would have put the Sagrada Familia and the Alhambra.

In addition to all these monuments and decorative elements, throughout the park there were human-sized pictures of people, such as the typical ones where you can put your head through the hole and take a photo. There was the typical English guard at Buckingham Palace, some giant Dutch clogs, etc.

Travel around Europe in less than three hours!

Opinion and experience

I loved my visit to the park, the park is very well cared for and some of the models are impressive, making it seem as though you are actually visiting the city through a window. However, it was bittersweet, I think I’d expected something more, I’m not sure what, I think it was because of the price of the entrance ticket, as 15 euros is quite a lot and we were a large group, so it was difficult for us to make the decision to go in because some of us didn’t want to pay so much. Furthermore, our visit was dulled a little by the rain, and mine especially because I lost a glove. I do not regret having gone in, and my friends also liked it, which was fortunate because I had been the one to pressure the group into going in. But still, keep in mind that it is expensive, but the investment that the park needs also requires a lot of money.

I remember feeling particularly emotion when it came to be Spain’s turn because we were a group of Erasmus from different parts of the world and we wanted to teach them a little about our country. So, we took a photo of the Spaniards in the group and we told everyone else a little about what they were seeing.

Travel around Europe in less than three hours!

If you go in a group, I recommend that you separate into groups of two or three because it can otherwise be quite difficult with each person wanting to go at a different pace. I am somebody who likes to see everything without rushing but without pausing, whilst there were others that preferred to visit everything more slowly and it became a little boring for me. Furthermore, to see every monument well and to be able to take photos, it is better if there are not too many people around you.

I am really happy that, between October 2013, which was when I visited, and now, I have visited in person some of the monuments that I saw in Mini-Europe and that I had never seen before, such as gondolas in Venice, Bruges, Ghent, Amsterdam, Brandenburg Gate, etc.

Opening times and prices

Mini-Europe is open every day of the year, but it has a different timetable for winter and summer. From September until the end of June, the opening times are from nine thirty in the morning until five in the evening, whilst from July until the end of August, the opening times are longer, from nine thirty in the morning until seven in the evening, and there are special passes for during the night.

In regards to the prices, we bought the individual adult entrance ticket for €14. 50, whilst for children it costs €10. 80. If you want, you could also buy combination tickets that include more than one attraction and the price of which is cheaper than buying the tickets separately; for example, the pass for Mini-Europe and the Atomium for €23. 60, or the pass for Mini-Europe and the Planetarium for €18. 20. You might, like me, think that it is somewhat expensive, because it is, but they have to pay off the investment that the park requires. Of course, if you are a group of more than twenty people, the entrance per person is reduced to €11. 10.

Travel around Europe in less than three hours!

How to get there

You have various options for getting to this attraction area. As well as the car, you could also get there by bus, tram or train. To get there by bus, the lines that head towards Bruparck are the lines 84 and 88, and the stop is “Heysel”. By tram, you can get there with line 51 and the stop is again “Heysel”. And by train, which I think is the best way and what we took to get there, you have to take line 6 in the direction of Roi Baudouin and get off at “Heysel”.

I hope that you like your trip around Europe and that you don’t end up feeling too tired! Bon voyage!

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