There are five things you HAVE to try when traveling to Belgium. We’ll keep it short and sweet.
Okay, if you’re like me, when you think of Belgium, you think of chocolate. After three years of living here, I may never be able to eat American chocolate again. And that’s not a bad thing. There’s great Swiss chocolate and German chocolate, too, but I think it’s not possible to find chocolate more delectable than Belgian chocolate. There are more than 320 chocolate shops here. Want to know some of the top brands? Click here.
We’ve stumbled across chocolate factories and warehouses, too, like Corne Port Royal in Wavre, the Neuhaus factory outlet, and the Godiva Outlet store. You can sample chocolates in the stores or order online. They often have great prices on chocolate, especially around the holidays.
But my personal favorite is Centho. It’s a small, mom and pop shop with stores in Duisburg, Brussels and Kampenhout. Their chocolates are exquisite. They’ve even won a world chocolate award! Pralines, truffles, chocolate bars and rich hot chocolate will make you abandon any diet. Visit the Duisburg shop on Saturday, and you may get treated to a complimentary cup of hot chocolate and praline.
Don’t worry about the calories. It’s easy to walk off them off with a nice long sightseeing tour.
Belgium may be a tiny nation, but it brews more than 800 varieties of beers. From trendy craft beers to world-renowned Trappist ales, discover the favored beverage of Belgium. You can even hop off to see active breweries and learn the secrets of beer production.
I love Bourgogne des Flandres in Bruges. Take a tour of the canalside brewery. Then, chat with the master brewer and learn more about Belgian beer. Your tour includes a glass of their award-winning Flemish beer. It’s an enticing blend of brown ale and lambic that is matured in old oak barrels.
If you’re visiting the historic university town of Leuven, visit the Stella Artois brewery. Tours for groups of at least 15 people are offered on Saturdays and Sundays.
We may call them French fries, but they are NOT French. Belgians call them frites. And to say they are popular is an understatement. These twice-cooked potatoes are a national obsession. Visit Flanders says there are more than 4,600 fries stands, and it seems as if there are constantly new additions. Buy your frites at a food stall. They’ll arrive in a paper cone with mayonnaise for dipping.
“For the Flemish, fries are anything but a side dish,” says Visit Flanders. “That’s also the reason we’re so good at making them. As well as having the best potatoes, we also have the pride and the skills to make the best fries in the world. Taking the time to prepare them as they should be, from the correct chopping technique to the second cooking: there’s a real art to the creation of fries.”
So many outlets claim their frites are the best, but Big 7 Travel has declared the winner. The global travel site just released its “50 Best Places for Fries in Europe in 2019.” And the winner is Frites Atelier in Antwerp! Of course, the winner HAD to come from Belgium where frites were invented! Fritland in Brussels ranked 8th. Check out the complete list here, and pass the mayonnaise, please.
So, do you think all Belgian waffles are the same? Nope, there are actually two main types of waffles in Belgium. And they aren’t just for breakfast! In fact, you might have a hard time finding a local who nibbles on waffles in the morning. Belgians usually eat them as a snack or dessert.
The Brussels waffle is what Americans generally think of when they think of Belgian waffles. They are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. To get the texture, bakers use leavened butter. Large, deep squares hold lots of syrup or fruit. Liège waffles are quite different. They are made with brioche batter and coated with caramelized sugar. Instead of a square shape, they have rounded corners.
Bordering on the North Sea, it’s no surprise that mussels are an iconic Belgian dish. And they are really healthy for you! That’s a great idea after all those waffles, chocolates and beer, eh?
Did you know mussels are only 25 calories for 100 grams? And they have more iron than meat. You can find mussels in just about every restaurant and brasserie in town, but “Chez Léon” (Petite rue des Bouchers, 18) is the best-known outlet. They have been serving their “moules spéciales” for more than 160 years!
Check out some of Brussels best mussels spots, and get Chez Léon’s recipe for mussels and mussel soup here.
So, did we whet your appetite for a trip to Belgium? See Visit Belgium for more ideas.