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7 days in Belgium for a food forward trip?

Hi,
Planning a 7 day trip at the end of Sept in Belgium. Im really looking to make food/drink the cornerstones of the trip, along some some architecture/museums. Likely looking to go to two cities (maybe squeeze in a third?). From what I have read Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp seem to fit the bill but wondering what would be the order of importance or if I am missing one?
Thank you.

Posted by
109 posts

Hello Cnd Guy,
How fun! Sounds like this might be your first time in Belgium, and if that's the case, you certainly have some beautiful things to discover. I have made frequent trips there over the last 20 years, so will share a few ideas for your consideration. I also love the architecture there, so we are on the same wavelength!
1. Don't overlook Brussels! I would stay there for at least a couple of nights at a hotel between the Central train station and the Grand Place. In Brussels, your first sight of the Grand Place will stop you in your tracks. Don't miss the Musee des Instruments designed by Horta, which has a fantastic collection and killer views from the top floor cafe. Stop inside the Falstaff tavern next to the Bourse to see the stained glass. Also be sure to take a stroll through the Galeries St. Hubert. If you are tempted to eat on the Rue di Bouchers, stick with the reputable Tavern du Passage vs. the others with big displays that are ripoffs. You mentioned food...try the In t'Spinnekopke for old style Belgian cuisine. T'Kelderke on the Grand Place is also a solid choice.

2. From Brussels you can easily make day trips to Antwerp or Ghent. I would definitely make Ghent a day trip from somewhere else, not a base because while the Ghent sights are important they can be done in a day. I would personally do that, and then transfer my base to Bruges.
3. In Bruges see the obvious sights of course, but also be sure to go inside the old town hall. The old hospital across from the Onze Lieve Vrouwkerke is also interesting to see how they arranged these institutions at that time.
4. Miscellaneous other places:
*Tournai, for the 5 spires of the Cathedral Notre Dame. They are doing a multi year restoration project, so you can see the foundation layers back to the original building of the 11th century. They also have a small but beautiful fine arts museum designed by Horta.
*
Ypres, for the WW1 history of course, but also for the miraculous restoration of the entire town afterwards. Also the Menen Gate and ramparts. See the Lakenhall and museum inside.
I hope this is helpful and gives you some ideas. Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
5578 posts

I will do some research in old trip files. I want to make sure that you are asking only about the area from Leuven to Bruges, more or less? You should take the Pandemic into account, and make certain that any suggested places are still in business. It's also worth asking whether you will have a car, or if you're mainly aiming for restaurants in cities.

Do you mean to include the highest end places? Prices won't be as high as France, say, but there are some ambitious places. There are quite a lot of interesting restaurants in big cities like Antwerp, and in student-cities like Leuven and Ghent, but they range from ambitious to simply price-driven. Which end is your interest?

Belgium has superb train coverage, but there are places (like abbey breweries) that are simply not easy to get to. You can search (top center) for previous useful discussions of brewery trails. AFAIR, food posts here are less common. I find RIck's search-engine to work quite well.

Keep in mind that there is a Openmonumentsdaag weekend in the middle of September that you may be missing. And the KMSKA, a superb, world-class museum in Antwerp, will re-open early in September after many years of renovation.

Posted by
1236 posts

I would stay a day in Brussels and a night and then move on to Ghent and Antwerp. I wasn't wowed by Brussels and a day was enough for me to see the major sites. A former co-worker from Belgium said that the two best cities to see are Antwerp and Ghent. So I would concentrate on those after arriving in Brussels.

Belgium has a wonderful train system so it's easy enough to get around by train and all cities have public transit.

Enjoy and don't forget to eat the mussels, waffles and the beer.

Posted by
5578 posts

This list is TEN years old. Verify before any special travel to scope out in person:

ANTWERP:
Restaurants: Smoutebollen & Waffels: Desire de Lille, Schoenmarkt 12 & Schrijnwerkstraat 16-18; also are fresh-made at Leon: Melkmarkt 29; Burie Chocolatier 3 Korte Gasthuis Str.(& Lombardenvest); Goosens Bakery (wait in line) Korte Gasthuisstraat, 31; Arte Suikerrui, 24; Ferrier 30 (same owner as Arte) Leopold de Waelplaats 30 (opposite KMSKA). Sombat (Thai) Vleeshuistraat 1 & Burchigracht opposite Steen, Potatoes Kumpir Eethuis Grote Markt 58 (Kaasrui) (closed??), Bella Capri Pizza Oude Kornmarkt, 36, (good barebones Greek gyro place across street...) Verona Pizza Oude Kornmarkt, Tavola Italiana Zirkstraat, 45; De Peerdestal, Wijngaardstraat 8-10; Persepolis (Iranian) T-F 16:00-22:30, SS 12-22:30 9 Hendrik Conscienceplein, Le Zoute Zoen, Zirkstraat 15-17; Medina (moroccan) Bolivarplatz?? Caribbean Inn, Korte Nieuwstraat 22 (St. Anna Godhuis recycled chapel).Het Vermoeide Model Linjnwaadmarkt 2. Sir Anthony Van Dyck Oude Koornmarkt 16 passage. Gin Fish Haarstraat 9 6:30 T-Th, 7 & 9 Sat-Sun. Berlin, Kleine Markt 1-3. Lombardia, Lombardenvest 78; Samoerai (x Tuesday - Japanese grill-table, river view, kimonos) Willem Ogierplaats 2-3 (in office building, facing Steen castle on river) Zoro, Leopoldstraat 5 (Tim & Carrie 2009); Stone steak broiling: Brasserie De Valk Grote Markt 32; Roji Sushi (downstairs) Oude Koornmarkt 26; Het Fondueke, Oude Koornmarkt 38; Quetzal, De Chocoladebar, Lijnwaadmarkt 11, near Hilton. Felix

Restaurants from NY Times April 17, 2011 http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/travel/17antwerp.html
Ra’s fashion might be haute couture, but its cafe serves healthy comfort food like merguez sausage salad and a macrobiotic platter with tempeh and greens. On Thursday evenings the cafe hosts a 10-euro, two-course dinner inspired by the spirit of Pippi Longstocking (Kloosterstraat 13; 32-3-292-3780; ra13.be). Graanmarkt 13’s restaurant is overseen by the young, talented chef Seppe Nobels, who trained at Michelin star establishments (Graanmarkt 13; 23-3-337-7991; www.graanmarkt13.be). By day it serves country club food like caviar and club sandwiches; at night Mr. Nobels offers modern versions of European classics like beef carpaccio with foie gras and pork cheeks cooked sous-vide with spring vegetables.
Renaissance (Nationalestraat 28-32; 32-3-233-9390; renaissance-antwerp.com/ristorante) is big with the local society set, drawing even royals, like Prince Laurent of Belgium. The crowd is perhaps a bit more impressive than the food, which consists of fashion portions of classic Italian fare like vitello tonnato and veal scallopini. Antwerp’s local fashion crowd and academy students tend to hang out and drink coffee at either Biologisch Dynamische Bakkerij (Volkstraat 17; 32-3-216-0042), a cozy organic bakery and cafe, or the Cafe ‘In de Roscam’ (Vrijdagmarkt 12; 32-486-425-606), which hosts a festive Sunday brunch. Almost a year before the anticipated May opening of the Museum aan de Stroom, the museum’s ground-floor Storm cafe (Hanzestedenplaats 5; 32-3-231-4300; cafe-storm.com) started drawing crowds of locals curious to check on the building’s progress. And they keep returning — for the harbor views, tasty sandwiches and, on occasional Saturday nights, live music.

Posted by
5578 posts

The reason for mentioning a less-traffic-ed town like Turnhout may be that it is supported by expense accounts for nearby big-Pharma plants. I'm worried about Pandemic losses, but it used to have a nice restaurant culture, all walkable from the main square. Train station not too far away. Good pancake house on way from train station,

Recommended by Hostellerie Ter Driezen, 2009:
Bistro Boogaers Grote Markt 67 (passage Groenendaal x-Su,M 18:00-22:00). High-end. Tel. 014 41 57 48
Marché 17 (x Sun, Hol) Grote Markt 17 - GPS N 51:19.331, E 4:57.128
Cucina Maragon, Patersstraat 9
Il Vicoletto (Venetian, also Pizza) (Bloemenkensgang - Grote Markt 30 passageway opposite altar end of St. Peter's)
Lorrie (... did he mean Lo Zio, Herentalsstraat 5, Italian)
De oude hesp (Closed permanently)
De Weerelt, Warandestraat 17-19
Bistro Het Meulderke, Cash Only? Steenweg Op Mol 40 lat="51.321438" lon="4.961399" (x Mon dinner and Tues) 0475-87-38-83 French steaks presented for inspection before grilling. This was quite a special, but informal/family, meal.

Cucina Maragon, Patersstraat 9. In Den Spytighen Duvel Otterstraar 99. Renowned pub with 150 beers. The informal restaurant-cafe at the left corner of Grote Markt (Town Hall side) is quite good for the location, and has great photos of old Turnhout on the walls. Toilets way upstairs, not remotely handicapped accessible. Just outside town: Restaurant Savoury, (x Mon, Tue) Steenweg op Antwerpen 106 32 (0) 14 45 12 45 Gourmet estate, on the way to big Pharma, just walkable. Vin perdu - Stwg op Mol 114. Burch Hetocht Jan, 2360 Oud-Turnhout

Lazuli Winebar/Resto Koningin Elisabethlei 11S (18:00-22, x-Tu,We) Lo Zio (Italian) also Bloemkensgang with Il Vicoletto. Janssen/Beerse business entertaining, walkable (towards Turnhout) from plant: De Farmasie, Antwerpsteenweg 223, 2350 Vosselaar. There is a promising-looking old-style cafeteria (lunch only) on a walking-street near Warande, but I need to get the address.

Useful Turnhout Information-Best Western side of town but across train tracks DO NOT STAY AT BEST WESTERN!:
Note RR grade crossings both South ("Grote Reiziger" ["Big Solo", 1999] rock sclupture by Paul Gees) and North (Guldensporenlei)
Carrefour GB Korte Gasthuisstraat 38 (supermarket x-Sun, 9AM-8PM) lat="51.320668" lon="4.944796"
Het Wafelhuis Victoriestraat 47 (excellent-Tim) lat="51.320998" lon="4.943313" The real thing, very good.
Other coffee shops near Wafelhuis-passage to tiny mall on town parking lot "le Bon"

Turnhout Attractions:
Excellent tiny Beguinhof with museum and old-folks home with public coffee and cake shop.
Famous Playing Card Museum
Excellent "town museum."
Look for old milkmaid license cards posted on wall at most prominent restaurant beside Town Hall, to left.
Turnhout TI - Tourist Information: Grote Markt 44
Market day: Saturday mornings in "Parking Stadspark" during Grote Markt construction-20 minute walk South
Flea Market Sunday morning [MUST CHECK!] by the Warande Cultural Center (West of Castle,
St. Peter's Church (Grote Markt) has superb wood carvings: Pulpit and Choir Stalls-each seat is different. Zodiac, Trades, etc.
Multiple-war monument, just off Grote Markt on Zegeplein. Restaurant area too.
Bus ticket (LIJN) office inside Town Hall (great Art Deco lobby). Long, slow lines for ticket counter.
Lovely UNESCO WHS Begijnhof (free 7AM-10PM), with museum (not free, 2-5 T-Sat, 11-5 Sun). Begijnstraat 61.
Castle of Dukes of Brabant (Courthouse-cannot visit inside) "Najade" ("Naiad"1991) by Rik Poot sculpture in moat.
Nearby sculpture for kids, "De Bronzen Ad"

Other posters have suggested that Leuven and Ghent have very affordable restaurants, student budgets keep the prices down. Haven't eaten in those towns, nor in Bruges (daytripped twice from Antwerp.)

Posted by
28128 posts

where's the pancake house Tim? I've "walked" De Merodelei on Street View but don't see anything? That's my sort of place

Posted by
5578 posts

In Turnhout? Sorry, I mis-used the word pancake in my 2022 commentary, on my OLD notes. I really meant:
Het Wafelhuis, which is in the list, with street address and GPS coordinates. That street view seems to show multiple vacancies as of now.

I am sorry if I made Turnhout sound more important than, say, Ghent. But I found it a prosperous local town with many historic remnants, with few tourists. A "Rick Steves Moment" kind of place. I had to look around there because my wife was in Big Pharma. The Cathedral woodwork is world-class, and the Beguinhof charming, with a small museum to boot. I was struck (12 years ago) by the restaurants, although the Great Recession and the Pandemic have to have taken their toll.

Posted by
6021 posts

Several trips that included Belgium, one as recently as last November.

I too fall in the camp of not fully appreciating Brussels. I think it is worth a visit, if you like beer, then more time, but anymore, I might suggest an afternoon and evening on arrival, or your last night. It will make you appreciate the rest of Belgium much more.

I would suggest Ghent and Antwerp (with maybe that night in Brussels), maybe could give a bit more info if you let us know where you are flying in and out of. Bruges is an easy day trip from Ghent, you could even do a night there I suppose, but then things start to get rushed.

Both Ghent and Antwerp have great local food and great beer bars. Ghent is a bit more "quaint" and the student population adds some life to the streets. Antwerp is a well managed larger city, lots of pedestrian areas in central Antwerp and plenty to see. In Brussels and Bruges you will feel the tourist crowds, not so much, but some, in Ghent, much less so in Antwerp. If you narrow it down, I could suggest some restaurants and beer bars for each.

Posted by
519 posts

The pandemic may have culled the numbers, however, Bruges/Brugge had more than 100 Michelin-starred restaurants in 2020. Try to avoid weekends if Bruges is in your plan. Antwerp is a top-tier city for Europeans.

Posted by
264 posts

“ The pandemic may have culled the numbers, however, Bruges/Brugge had more than 100 Michelin-starred restaurants in 2020. ”

Kenko, I’m sorry but this is very far from correct. Could it be you’re thinking of Belgium as a whole?
In 2020 Bruges had the following Michelin starred restaurants;
1 star;
Den Gouden Harynck
Zet’Joe
Sans Cravate
L.E.S.S.

2 and 3 stars; none

In the Michelin 2020 guide for Belgium and Luxembourg 139 restaurants in total are awarded a star. So that’s 139 restaurants for both Belgium and Luxembourg combined, with the vast majority of these restaurants located in Belgium.

Posted by
519 posts

Dutch_traveler, Thank you for the correction. I see there are currently less than 20 Michelin-starred restaurants in Bruges. In recently reading an article, I was surprised when I either misread the piece with the 100+ number, or perhaps it applied to the overall number in the entire country.
Cheers!

Posted by
264 posts

“ I see there are currently less than 20 Michelin-starred restaurants in Bruges.”
@Kenko; Currently the Michelin guide only lists 2 restaurants in Bruges that are awarded a Michelin star; Sans Cravate and Zet’Joe, both with 1 star.

There are indeed a total of 19 restaurants in Bruges featured in the guide, but 17 of those are not considered good enough to be awarded a star. Not every restaurant featured in the Michelin guide is a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Posted by
519 posts

Yes, and Chef’s Pencil reported that it’s actually 127 Belgian restaurants that have a Michelin star.

Posted by
1684 posts

Unfortunetaly OP has not responded till so far.

Living in the Netherlands, but within an hour driving from Bruges and Ghent I have visited both numerous times. When we were much younger we often went drinking or eating in the weekend somewhere in Ghent, nowadays actually no more. Most places of yesterday don’t exist anymore, however a few do.

I think the best thing you can do is staying in B&B’s , run by locals and so a good source of information. Often the keeper makes time for her/his guests, so room for a chat about food is always possible. Ask a Fleming “What is your favorite restaurant?” ,their expression immediately tells you they have a place in mind. That can be a place in the middle of nowhere or you don’t expect, but once inside you will see why it attracts so many people, it will be the food in the first place. So worth checking out, like Café ‘t Werftje in Zeebrugge hidden away between ugly workshops in the harbour area, but famous for their “garnalenkroketten” and other seafood.

We prefered Ghent as it was more lively as Bruges during the evening, there was always something special to discover. ‘t Velootje in the Kalversteeg still exists and has an interior you likely never have seen before and maybe never again. Have heard that the keeper can overcharge as soon as he knows you are a tourist, so be carefull. Dulle Griet (Vrijdagsmarkt) is famous for it’s enormous selection of beers. Pakhuis has a special interior. For fries De Frietketel has a good reputation.

You can’t actually go wrong in Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels too. Each place has so much to offer you can stay in each for a long time and still scratching in fact the surface. Before booking e-mail a number of B&B’s and tell you are looking for good food experiences and you will cetainly get interesting answers. I would not focus too much on Michelin star places, (nevertheless can be ofcourse of interest) many places are new or under the radar for some reason but worth every penny you pay. It’s just how to find them and as already said B&B’s are a good starting point. Again the best places don’t necessarily are located in the town centre, they are spread around town and not to forget overlooking the countryside.

But respond first, before I go further.