Brussels is the capital city of Belgium, and is a great destination for a weekend getaway. With picturesque cobbled streets and gothic European architecture (Art Nouveau, for any history/architecture lovers out there), you could easily spend a few days wandering the streets and admiring the beauty that the city has to offer.
Belgium is well-known for delicious food and drink, so make sure you have these five things on your list to make the most of Brussels.
Fair warning – it’s an indulgent place, so any preconceptions of eating healthy or dieting that you have will go out the window. But you can walk most places, so it kind of balances out, right?
1. Belgian Beer
In England, it’s pretty commonplace to go for a drink in the middle of a sunny (or rainy) afternoon. Since turning 18, the pub was the meeting place of choice, no matter the occasion.
This attitude seems pretty commonplace across Europe, and Belgium is no exception. No more watered down pints of Fosters in the local Wetherspoons, though; in Brussels there is an abundance of cafes and pubs on every street offering delicious, flavourful beer.
Some of our favourite places to drink included:
It may be a little touristy, but Delirium Café is known for its world-record beer list. With over 2,000 beers to choose from, you’re sure to find something you like. (Unless you’re Kayla who doesn’t like beer – but they have a small selection of wine available too.)
La Porte Noire
A medieval cellar bar with a great atmosphere, La Porte Noire is slightly further out from the tourist hotspots in the city centre which gives it a more ‘local’ feel. Only 100 beers here, which can feel disappointing after picking from 2,000 at Delirium Café, but the staff are friendly and more than happy to give recommendations.
A novelty-themed bar that translates as The Coffin, it’s worth coming in here just for the decor. As well as plenty of Belgian beer, the menu contains drinks such as ‘Le Sperme du démon’ and ‘L’urine de cadavre’. We’ll let you guess what that translates to. Kayla opted for an absinthe cocktail and had a great night. What more can we say?
Top tip: Most places will sell beer in various sizes. Go for the smallest size so that you can try as many different varieties as possible. Fruit-flavoured beers are popular too (cherry, or ‘kriek’, was a personal favourite of mine), but they are best saved for the end of your session due to how sweet they are.
Belgians seem to be very fond of waffles, and there are plenty of places to try one. Restaurants, stands, and food trucks all over Brussels sell them, and toppings can vary from powdered sugar to a mountain of whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and fruit.
Decadent and fluffy, these will be some of the most delicious waffles you will ever eat. We made it our mission to have at least one a day during our visit to Brussels. Our favourite place to get them was Le Funamble, which has a spectacular display of all the different topping options in the window. The whipped cream in particular was unbelievably good. Just watch out for the flimsy plastic forks they are served with.
Waffle Factory is a chain that we would recommend avoiding. We found that the waffles just weren’t as good there.
Fries actually originated in Belgium and not France, as is widely believed. I read that it was American soldiers who erroneously coined the term ‘French Fries’ during WW1, believing they were in France when they were actually in Belgium.
Belgian frites, cut thick and fluffy, are served in a paper cone and smothered in the sauce of your choosing. Be adventurous and try spicy mayo or curry ketchup. Our favourite place to get them was Fritland, as it was centrally located and open late – the perfect stop for a midnight snack on the way back to the hotel after a night out drinking Belgian beer. One cone was plenty for two people to share and was good value for money.
If you wanted something more familiar, there are several McDonald’s in Brussels. It’s not quite the same authentic Belgian experience (or maybe it is), but Kayla did have the best McDouble of her life there one night. And yes, it was the same night that started with the absinthe cocktail so maybe that had something to do with it.
4. Brunch at Peck 47
A cute little cafe near the city centre, Peck 47 could be the best brunch spot in Brussels. A sign asks that you wait outside until a server has a free table prepared for you. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long before we were welcomed into the warm, cosy atmosphere.
The food is international with a Belgian twist. Try the Peck Special, a chorizo waffle topped with goats cheese, poached eggs, bacon, and their own psycho sauce. The psycho sauce was delicious; a spicy hollandaise sauce that we will definitely try to recreate at home. They have a tasty vegetarian option too. It’s an excellent way to sneak another waffle into your day.
We also ordered some brunch cocktails to go with our food. Kayla went for the classic mimosa, and I had ‘The Dude’ – a scrumptious creation with vodka, homemade coffee liqueur, and milk. If anyone has a good recipe for homemade coffee liqueur, hit me up.
5. Cheese sandwich at Tonton Garby
Voted #2 of over 3000 places to eat in Brussels on TripAdvisor, this place is hardly a well-kept secret. We must have queued in the cold for at least an hour to get served at this simple sandwich shop, with the line extending out the door and down the street.
It’s an unassuming place from the outside, and not much prettier on the inside either. The menu isn’t in English, and the vast display of cheeses can be a little overwhelming.
Once you reach the front and it’s your turn to be served, however, all your doubts are washed away. The man behind the counter is charming and really takes his time to talk to each customer about what they want, encouraging them to sample different cheeses before he begins to make their order.
He truly is a master of his craft. I have never seen someone pay so much care and attention to a cheese sandwich. I’d never even considered that making a cheese sandwich could be a ‘craft’ up until this point.
I went for goats cheese, chorizo, and apple with a drizzle of honey, and it was hands down the best cheese sandwich I have ever had. We decided to take ours away and eat in the nearby park, and he wouldn’t let us pay for it and leave until we had tried the sandwich to make sure we were satisfied with it. With prices starting at €3, the sandwiches are excellent value for money.
There are only a handful of tables, and handwritten signs sprawled on the walls that will definitely make you smile. Our favourite read: ‘Don’t forget… Happy wife, happy life. Tonton Garby shows you the way. Eat cheese, love cheese, and love your wife. It’s so easy to be positive!’ That one really resonated, and is a message we would all do well to remember.
We would definitely recommend going here once, even if it’s only for the experience of talking to a man so passionate about cheese sandwiches. It will be the best cheese sandwich of your life. Even so, we probably won’t go back unless there is a shorter line next time. It is, after all, just a cheese sandwich.
I know what you’re thinking.
No Belgian chocolate on this list? Are you crazy?!
Controversial, I know. It can be fun to go into all the different chocolate shops, taste some samples, and look at the unusual sculptures. A chocolate orgy selection in particular received a lot of attention. But we mostly found the chocolate shops overpriced, and let’s be honest, you can get good quality chocolate in almost any supermarket. Save your money for more waffles!
That said, we’re more than happy for you to prove us wrong. Send boxes of Belgian chocolates for us to try and perhaps we’ll change our minds.
Let us know if there’s anything we’ve missed off the list. We had a great time in Brussels, and can’t wait to go to Belgium again!