From absorbing the hustle bustle of Brussels, stumbling on hipster gems in Antwerp and Gent, to living a fairytale life in Bruges, there were many things to adore about Belgium, as I made my way through the country over 5-6 days.
Here were my top five highlights of the trip:
1. Fries and Tartare sauce at Maison Antoine (Brussels)
As we landed in Brussels, we knew that fries would be a must. So we followed a trusted local’s recommendation to Place Jourdan and found ourselves in a long queue of about 10-15 mins (it was lunch hour though). As we saw all types of people from families to workers in suits holding a huge cone of fries with two hands and a satisfied grin, we were convinced it would be worth the wait…
We were warned by our Belgian friends that ketchup is a NO. So we topped our huge cone of fries (we ordered small to share amongst three, and it was enough) with mayonnaise and tartare sauce. Indeed the fries were crispy, ‘meaty’ and tasty, but the “Tartare Maison” sauce was so good, it definitely deserves even more of the limelight.
P.S. Nearby bars welcome people to bring their Maison Antoine fries to enjoy with a beer!
Address: Place Jourdan 1, 1040 Etterbeek, Belgium
2. Seef beer at Bar Paniek (Antwerp)
We (or our bodies) were pretty tired of consuming fries with every meal we had in Beligum. But we could not get enough of Belgian beer. Every city has their own range of local beers and I urge you to try as many different beers as possible! On Day 2, I started a challenge – between the two of us, we were not allowed to order the same beer or repeat any beers on our trip.
We managed to taste 15 different beers over our trip and Seef Bootje’s Bier won my ultimate vote at the end. It was tasty, flavourful and unsuspectingly super strong. We enjoyed this at Bar Paniek, a cool industrial bar by the port, which I’d highly recommended.
Address: Kattendijkdok-Oostkaai 21B, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
3. Best Shrimp Croquettes at Fiskebar (Antwerp)
When two Belgian foodies separately recommended the same restaurant, we knew this had to be the first stop we made in Antwerp. Though on the pricey side at about EUR50-60 per person, its fresh seafood and immaculately executed dishes make it a must visit.
The shrimp croquettes were hands down the best I’ve had in my life – they were extremely creamy, with the perfectly strong dose of shrimp flavours. They were served on a bed of almost-pungent sauce which must’ve been made from the roe of the shrimp’s head – highly recommended!
Address: Marnixplaats 11, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
Phone: +32 3 257 13 57
Reservations are recommended
4. Normo Coffee Shop (Antwerp)
I’m always on the lookout for good coffee shops whereever I travel (see my coffee posts from London, Taiwan and Hong Kong). Antwerp seemed like it had a hint of hipster-ness to it and indeed it was in this city where I had the best coffee in Belgium.
Normo had an alternative-hipster laid back vibe. It was spacious and would’ve been perfect for a quiet afternoon with a book. I was so impressed with the coffee, I had to buy a bag of beans home. They don’t really have food options, but we had their granola with yogurt which was simple and delicious.
Address: Minderbroedersrui 30, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
5. Healthy Hidden Brunch Gem at Gust (Gent)
With all the fries and beer we consumed, we needed a lighter and healthier option when we reached Gent. Gust looked like the perfect spot, and I was surprised to hear that the restaurant was almost full, with only one available time slot for two people – it wasn’t even a weekend.
We ordered a range of dishes to share. The vegan tofu scramble with sweet potato was a solid choice – full of flavours and very satisfying. But the highlight must’ve been their homemade rhubarb vanilla jam which was interesting and on point. The cafe/restaurant is a little further away from the main city of Gent, but it’s a hidden gem that’s worth venturing off for. Just make sure you call in advance to ensure there’s a table for you.
Address: Annonciadenstraat 4, 9000 Gent, Belgium
Phone: +32 474 41 65 95
Reservations are recommended
Be prepared for a trip of guilty-overloads
With all the restaurants, Belgian beer, chocolatiers and waffle spots you’ll be bombarded with, Belgium is bound to be a trip filled with guilty pleasures. It’s hard not to fall in love with fries and desserts. But to my surprise, my favourite part, or what I was most impressed with, was actually the beer!
Have you been to Belgium recently? Share your favourite things about Belgium in the comments section below.