Travel Tip: If you search local restaurants online ahead of time, or even ask a local where a good place to go is if you’re already out and about, you’ll save yourself a ton of money and experience the best local food while you’re at it! There’s nothing worse than being gouged by a tourist trap for a mediocre meal in a shady, tacky restaurant. Plan ahead and mark out the good restaurants on your map so you know where to go depending on where you are. It will be so worth it rather than wandering aimlessly hoping to stumble onto something good!
Let’s start with my favourite thing about Belgium: the beer. While it would probably be quite difficult for you to come across a bad beer while in Belgium, it’s always good to have a little bit of direction.
1. The Best Beer in the World: If you want to have literally the best beer in the world, be sure to order a Trappist Westvletern 12. It will change the way you see all other beer. A dark beer with a high alcohol content, (10.2), this work of art of a beer has been produced by monks since 1839, and they’ve gotten pretty darn good at it. While they’re not in it for the money, a bottle of this will cost you about 12 euros. Don’t let the price daunt you though – in some states, a bottle will sell for around 85$. Only five monks produce about 4,000 barrels of beer a year, meaning the supply doesn’t nearly equal demand. While the monks themselves sell their beer for 40 euros a case – only 2$/bottle – because of it’s rarity, it’s resold for much higher than that. You can get it at Au Bon Vieux Temps, The Good Old Days, a name fitting a bar that’s been around for over 300 years, and is also number 4 on The Guardian’s Top 10 traditional bars in Brussels.
2. 3000 Bottles of Beer on the Wall: If you’re looking for a party, or, a beer list so overwhelming that it would take you all day and night just to read through it all, you can find both at the Delirium Cafe. Their beer list is basically a long novel, with over 3000 beers to choose from. There’s definitely no shortage of beer here, and the atmosphere might be just what you’re looking for on a Friday night. There’s a good mix of locals and tourists here so lots of friendly people to meet! You might want to try a Delirium Tremens, a popular Belgian beer who’s name literally means alcohol withdrawal.
3. Brewery Tour: If you find yourself in Bruges, for however, long, you should be sure to set some time aside to visit the brewery there. The reason beer is so great in Belgium is because of it’s rich history there. Learn about it at the De Halve Maan brewery – the only true brewery left in the walled city of Bruges. It’s only 8 euros for a tour, and it includes sitting down and enjoying one of the beers you just saw being brewed before your eyes! They brew two types of beer that’s sold across the country: Bruges Zot – which means
drunk idiot, and Straffe Hendrik – which comes in triple and quadruple form, and is a dark beer with a high alcohol content.
4. Local Expertise: Last but certainly not least, you might want to try a bar called Moeder Lambic. Right in Brussels city centre, it’s a local bar through and through, as right at 5 o’clock it will start to fill up. They serve exclusively local beer, and the waiters have incredible knowledge about and every one on their beer list. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about the beer choices in Belgium, this is the place to go!
5. Waffles: While the waffles may be sort of a touristy thing, you can’t go to Belgium and leave without eating one. They’re sold in the tourist-y areas, like the city centre of Brussels and basically all throughout Bruges. I must admit I had several of these while I was there, and I certainly didn’t come across a bad waffle place. Generally the smell of the food
truck or waffle shop will be too alluring for you to walk by. After a long day of walking around shopping in Antwerp, a freshly made waffle will make the perfect afternoon snack. Just make sure to get the plain ones, so you can experience it in all it’s true Belgian waffle glory. The ones with cream and fruit on top really are just gimmicks for the tourists, from what I’ve heard.
6. Frites: Might as well continue with the basic staples. Be sure to get the best Belgian frites by making sure they’ve been double-fried in animal fat. This is indeed what makes them so delicious. And don’t forget your spicy mayo to go along with them!
7. Local Specialties: Looking for a great local meal? Le Fin de Siècle has what you need: Reasonably priced, delicious local food with a nice selection of local beers to go along with it, in a friendly, cheery atmosphere. Try one of their specialties, like the jambon à la moutarde à l’ancienne, (ham knuckle coated in ancient mustard), or lapin à la kriek (rabbit in a cherry beer sauce). This restaurant is featured by many Brussels-based bloggers, and is known for it’s top-notch quality food and high-energy atmosphere. (Be sure to go in hungry and get there early – the plates are huge and it’s always busy!)
8. Street Snails: Yes, you read that right. Brussels is known for it’s “karakollen” – aka escargot. If you’re feeling adventurous, stop at one of the street carts and enjoy some snail soup. Personally, I’ve never had escargot unless it’s been drenched in garlic butter, but the spicy broth that these ones are cooked in was actually really good! I went to Jef & Fils, right in the city centre. Jef, the owner, has been running this escargot truck for 48 years, and I can attest to the fact that he knows what he’s doing!
9. Chocolate: You can’t go to Belgium without experiencing true, fresh Belgian chocolate. While most locals pick up their chocolate at reasonable prices from the local grocery store, if you feel like splurging, (and if you’re going to splurge on chocolate you should probably do it in Belgium), go check out Neuhaus Chocolatier. It’s essentially a designer house for chocolate, and yes, the prices do reflect this. (One box will set you back about 35 euros). However, I was lucky enough to try some for free on the plane ride home, and if you’re feeling extravagant, it might just be the best chocolate you ever eat in your life.
10. Jetlag Cure: You’ve just landed in Brussels. You’ve taken your one-hour nap to help your body adjust to the time change as quickly as possible. Now, it’s time to go in search of food. But, you’re exhausted, and you’re probably craving something comforting yet energetic. You need to go to Peck 47 Café. While the food might not be flemish, it is amazing. A cute little café, conveniently
located in the heart of the city, (with murals on talking bunny rabbits on the walls – too cute), it’s got the most amazing soups, sandwiches, smoothies and teas. When I arrived in Brussels, I was not only jet lagged but also quite sick, and their eggs benedict and a cup of floral tea definitely helped to perk me up a bit.