Steven and I have been to Belgium quite a few times. It is a great city for a stop-over and has great rail and air connections to most European countries being the capital of the European Union. Not necessarily known for its food, Belgium has a high standard for both the quality of its product, and the service to provide you with the good eats.
Some of the best food in the city can be found around Grand Place (locally called Grote Markt), whether you are looking for some famous Belgian chocolate, fresh waffles and other snacks, something more filling, or just take of your bag and grab a beer, this area has it.
On the streets on the outside of the square it is easy to find a nice patio to sit on and enjoy some pub fare, but due to the large after-work cocktail crowd it can be a bit difficult to find a table for more than 2. You can definitely stop in at the bar to chat up some locals, and enjoy a pint of one of the 140 delicious Belgian beers, which for some reason goes down so much easier than an American beer.
On your way to Brussels most famous fountains, the Peeing Boy, be sure to pass Everard ‘t Serclaes. Touch his golden body for good luck and to have your wishes come true. You will be surprised at the crowds reaching Manneken Pis, also given its fame, it is surprisingly small.
Right across the street is a Godiva Chocolatier, walk up to the window and order some chocolate covered strawberries, or a steaming hot waffle covering in rich and creamy melted chocolate. If you have tried a “Belgian-style” waffle elsewhere in the world and not liked it, I implore you to try one from the homeland. Instead of making the waffle with a thin batter, a REAL Belgian waffle is made with a sweet dough, while they seem small with their authentic density just one could satisfy the hardiest of individuals.
No one back home would be satisfied if you came back empty handed, so Steven and I like to stop at probably the most amazing store we have come across anywhere in Europe for some gifts. What is this place? Located just outside of the Galeries Royales St. Hubert is Chocopolis, while the name might sound a little kitschy, but man oh man does this place know how to appeal to a high taste level. The staff in the store will do a great job at greeting you and offering up a sample.
You might want to ask for a familiar favourite, but I really recommend going for the chilli chocolate. I’ve never been a huge chocolate fan, but the spiciness of the chilli offset by the bittersweet dark chocolate is amazing. The heat really gives chocolate what it needs to shine, and if you think that is good, try a hot chocolate with some chilli powder instead of cinnamon. It is quite simply put, heaven in a cup. If you buy enough gift boxes, or make as many recurring visits as Steven and I have on our trips, they will even offer a 10% discount card, effective for making sure you get your full cocoa fix.
At the end of the day, when you are ready to grab a seat, head into the Galeries Royales St. Hubert. The mall has a number of high end stores that are great for window shopping, but most importantly you can grab a seat at one of the restaurants for some authentic Belgian cuisine. We chose the Taverne du Passage as the server encouraged us to dine during our stroll. With a number of chicken, beef, and seafood dishes there is something for everyone. Steven with his black pepper addiction couldn’t resist the massive steak with peppercorn sauce, and I enjoyed a chicken breast with asparagus and a buttery cream sauce so rich I could have eaten just that and passed on the chicken breast. Belgian cuisine is known for its rich sauces and buttery dishes, but after day of walking behind us we had already worked off the calories.
Whether you are in Brussels for part of a day, or longer, Grand Place and the surrounding streets are worth checking out for their great restaurants, pubs, and Belgium chocolate treats.
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