Any of the above things are delicious on their own but when you find a city who’s claim to fame is the trifecta of yumminess, you are bound to have a bit of love at first bite. Oh, and don’t forget about the fries. The snacks, meals and beverages of Belgium are a food lovers paradise.
Home of the European Union and NATO, Brussels is the ‘de facto’ capital of Europe and consequently almost 30% of Brussels inhabitants are foreigners, so along with 1/3 of the population not being from Belgium, you’ll feel right at home! Consequently they are a bilingual country so you can brush up on your Dutch, German or use French without being looked down upon by Parisians. Not a polyglot? No worries, English is widely used which makes it an easy foreign country to navigate through.
“A Waffle is a pancake with a syrup trap” ~ Mitch Hedberg
A town where you can eat delicious breakfast food any time of day is a town where I’m sticking around. When Americans traditionally think of waffles they think of dense, buttery battered goodness smothered in syrup, but the pancakes dented cousin is served here by street vendors in a slightly different fashion. Traditionally in Brussels you would order your waffle sprinkled with confectioners sugar, however, they will load it up for you if you prefer. Some form of waffles have been around since the Middle Ages, so much like George Clooney, these sweet treats only are getting better with age.
Tourists often get the works, complete with whipped cream, chocolate and fruit. They are served hot and are so delicious I found myself on the verge of shouting “Leggo my Eggo” to any lingering potential taste tester nearby. There are about a dozen different variations of the waffle all over the world so everyone’s a fan. It’s so popular it’s presidential.
“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” ~ Ben Franklin
Belgians do not mess around with their beers. They are complex, strong and plentiful. Just like waffles this tradition goes way back and Belgium beer brewing dates back to the Crusades when drinking a low alcohol content beer was more safe than the drinking water. With a dizzying selection of beers there are charming bars and brasseries on every corner leaving you with infinite possibilities for exploring and tasting each and every brew. At a loss? Try a Lambic beer, it’s made from a wild yeast that’s grown locally in the Senne Valley near Brussels.
Are you thinking, “Did you just say check out a statue of a little man peeing?” That’s right, one of the iconic images of Brussels is the Manneken Pis, a statue in a square with a small man atop peeing into a fountain. “Little Man Pee” has been relieving himself for over 400 years and the best part about this tiny pisser is that he can be found dressed in different costumes every week. Didn’t catch his last trend? His previous wardrobes can be viewed at the City Museum in the Grand Place.
Replicas of the peeing man can be found all over Brussels, in windows and souvenir shops and you can also find several other urinating figurines. Create your own walking tour by trying to find the lesser known tinklers, Jeanneke-Pis and Zinneke-Pis. Be sure to head down the alley from Jeanneke-Pis and stop in Delirium Cafe, home to the famous pink elephant that has the Guinness Book of World Records for most beer selection (over 2,000 choices).
“Life is like a box of….”
Mmmmm, Chocolate. If you thought this city could not get any more delectable and interesting they’ve added one of life’s universal guilty pleasures into the mix. Belgium is known for it’s chocolates and it seems like if there isn’t a bar on the corner of the street, it’s a chocolatier with an eye popping window display that will make your mouth water.
So when in a city so well known for it’s cocoa the logical place to go is the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate for some history and fingers crossed, free samples.
The museum gives you a history of where chocolate originates from, how it is made and yes, there were samples!!! Every Thursday the museums of Brussels are offering evening hours in a series called Nocturnes where six featured museums will be open late and offer special tours and events. The chocolate museum is close to the famous Grand Place so it’s conveniently located near several other museums and tourist destinations.
I was lucky enough to go on a Thursday evening when they had a chocolatier demonstrating how to make truffles which also came with, yep you guessed it, more samples.
Who is the genius that can claim the invention of the French Fry? The French would be your first guess, but the origin of the crispy chips may link back to Belgium. Whichever country created them, Belgium is perfecting them. Readily available from street vendors throughout the city it is a satisfying snack option that will keep you fueled throughout your day of sightseeing. What makes the “frites” in Brussels so great it the array of sauces you can add to spice up your spuds. Ketchup and Mayonnaise are still the most popular and the best part is getting to eat them with the teeny tiny forks they stab in at the top of the heap.
Don’t forget to pair those fries with some mussels & order up a Belgian specialty, Moules-frites!