#HilaryRowland

A Foodie’s Tour of Belgium

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Years ago, I spent a few days at a friend’s apartment in Paris, and –luckily for me– they’d just returned from a weekend in Belgium. They’d brought back a selection of chocolates, and offered me a few pieces. That chocolate was the best I’d ever tasted, and I never forgot it. As the saying goes, in Paris the pastime is shopping. In Belgium the pastime is eating and drinking — gourmet, of course. They have a culture of enjoying good food, and it shows.

A Foodie’s Tour of Belgium

A Foodie’s Tour of Belgium

Checking out all the gourmet offerings in Namur

Belgium is a sophisticated country with an abundance of history and a deep appreciation for beauty and the finer things in life. Diane Von Furstenberg and Audrey Hepburn are both Belgian exports, as are The Smurfs (yes, really), my favorite international restaurant chain – Le Pain Quotidien, many brands of artisanal beer and –of course– the best chocolate in the world. But much to many Belgian’s dismay, many famous Belgian brands are assumed to be American or originating in other European countries. I mean, who didn’t assume that The Smurfs was American, and Le Pain Quotidien was from France?

A Foodie’s Tour of Belgium

From natural wonders, to historic buildings and sculptures, to gourmet and luxury shopping, Belgium has it all…

While on a tour in Brussels, I learned that those weren’t the only famous misconceptions about Belgian exports. Did you know that french fries were invented in Belgium?? Apparently, potatoes were deep-fried prior to 1680 in the Meuse valley, in what was then the Spanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium): “The inhabitants of Namur, Andenne, and Dinant had the custom of fishing in the Meuse for small fish and frying, especially among the poor, but when the river was frozen and fishing became hazardous, they cut potatoes in the form of small fish and put them in a fryer,” said Belgian journalist Jo Gérard. They garnered the nomenclature “french fries” when an American came to Brussels during WWI and named them as such because they speak French in that part of Belgium.

A Foodie’s Tour of Belgium

The Galeries — the first mall in history, which is still standing in Brussels

Another incredible fact about Belgium is that the very first shopping mall was created in Brussels, in 1846. It the first time that any shop had a window storefront. Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert –a stunning pedestrian walkway with high-end boutiques in the center of Brussels– was the place where the transition from in-home shopping (yes, people used to sell items out of their home), to what we now know as regular shops with street-side window displays, happened. And yes, this happened even before America was settled.

A Foodie’s Tour of Belgium

A Smurfs and chocolate window display in a Neuhaus store in The Galeries

A Foodie’s Tour of Belgium

You can’t walk a block in any Belgian city without passing a shop selling chocolates or desserts

But enough with the history lessons! Modern-day Belgium is filled with foodie treasures and gourmet delicacies, and we’ve explored them thoroughly. So get ready for all the yummy details of our mouthwatering adventure!

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A writer, artist and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary spends most of her time in France, but still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC and has traveled extensively around the world, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.

21 Comments

  1. Cody Pierce

    Nice photos! Makes me wish I was there right now…

  2. Naomi Linsei

    Wow!! That hotel is super luxurious. I just can’t wait till I get there as well. Thanks Hilary for sharing it.

  3. Hannah S

    OMG OMG OMG that hotel looks aaaamaaazingggg! I’m totally going to visit Namur with by boyfriend this summer. It looks sooooo super cute and romantic! I’m so excited. 🙂 I always find the best tips here!

  4. Meghan Cole

    GORGEOUS photos, Hilary! NEST looks super luxurious. I wish I could make my apartment look like that. Stunning. I’m going to book a trip there ASAP. Too pretty (and the food looks too good) not to.

  5. Absolutely breathtaking! I love the photos you took! I’m going to book this hotel with the guy I’m seeing — looks so super romantic… I also love all the detail you gave about not only Belgium, but the places you went. Like many others, I’m sure, I had no idea that Belgium was so gorgeous and interesting…

  6. Delit L'Angelier

    I had no idea Belgium was so incredible. I’ll add it to my bucket list!

  7. Henry Williams

    Wow!! What an amazing places!!!! I am going crazy to be there 😉

  8. Francis Woods

    Amazing trip, Hilary!!! 😀 And as always, I learn so many things just from reading your articles.

  9. Linda

    Hilary, an amazing informative and enticing article with very professional photos.
    If the reader hadn’t planned on visiting Belgium after reading your experience they certainly would put it on their list. All the Best to You in Your World Traveling!

  10. Chloe Miller

    This is exactly what I’m looking for in a travel article! I really felt like I just had an exciting and fascinating trip to Belgium! Keep them coming 🙂

    • Francis Woods

      I like how Hilary shares her experiences as they are, no sugarcoating! And also, I like how she always gives us additional information. Amazing, as always.

  11. Trish Potter

    Absolutely FABULOUS travel article on Belgium! I had no idea that Smurfs and “french fries” or the world’s first shopping mall originated in Belgium! I love that Hilary includes so many photos, it really gives the reader a sense of what it’s like there, especially all the photos of the NE5T Hotel where she stayed, it looks beyond cool and luxurious, I’d love to stay there. And to have a Michelin-starred chef at a tiny luxe hotel, wow!

    • Francis Woods

      That hotel is FAAAAAB. I just can’t wait til I get there as well!!!

  12. Ansley Barrington

    Hilarious photos! Belgium is and will always be “chocoholics” dream destination 🙂

  13. Wow, I had no idea Belgium was so dynamic. Would have never thought to travel there. Might have to check it out next summer : )

  14. Sarah Woodstock

    I definitely will try NE5T Hotel and Spa on my next visit to Belgium! I just got excited on trying out “warm” spa water while drinking champagne…

  15. Hilary — those photos are absolutely gorgeous. I love that you included yourself in them too. Really spectacular trip. I had no idea Belgium was so interesting and luxurious. I’m going to book a trip there ASAP. I can’t wait to experience Nest in person. That spa – wow!

  16. OMG that looks like an INSANELY AMAZING trip! Holy jealous!!! Wow. I just added NE5T to my hotel Bucket List.

  17. Courtney Watson

    Thanks for the history lessons 🙂 This article is really informative and I love it! I really didn’t know “french fries” was invented in Belgium! LOL

    • Francis Woods

      I’ve always thought french fries was an American invention. Thanks really for this informative article, Hilary 😀

  18. Sandra Brown

    Wonderful photos! I have a feeling that you enjoyed yourself 🙂 I would love to try homegrown Belgian artisanal beers!

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