#HilaryRowland

A Foodie’s Tour of Belgium

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Belgian Beer Tastings

Belgium is known for its hundreds of varieties of homegrown artisanal beers. There are about 180 breweries in the country — and remember, Florida is about six times larger than Belgium!

A Foodie’s Tour of Belgium

Sampling the local beer in Bruges, Belgium

On average, Belgians drink 84 litres of beer each year, down from around 200 each year in 1900. In Belgium, beer is a serious beverage, and brewing is an art form. Most beers are bought or served in bottles, rather than cans, and –like wine– almost every style of beer has its own particular, uniquely shaped glass.

A Foodie’s Tour of Belgium

Belgian framboise (raspberry) beer – my favorite!

A Foodie’s Tour of Belgium

Grab one of Belgium’s 180 brands of artisanal beer to try with your meal

Beer in Belgium dates back to the age of the first crusades in the 1100s, long before Belgium became an independent country. Under Catholic church permission, local French and Flemish abbeys brewed and distributed beer as a fund raising method for the church. People drank it as a sanitary alternative to drinking water. What are now traditional, artisanal brewing methods evolved, under church supervision, during the next seven centuries.

A Foodie’s Tour of Belgium

A delicious and light organic Belgian beer from the Hainaut province

But where are the best places to try these artisanal beer varieties? Well, just about anywhere will do — as almost all restaurants serve them. However, for a special experience, here are the three best locations in Brussels:

A Foodie’s Tour of Belgium

I could hang out all day in Le Cercle des Voyageurs, in Brussels

Le Cercle des Voyageurs is a must-see spot, with vintage suitcases stacked up to the ceiling, covering an entire wall. It has a smoking-room feel, and a well-curated selection of beer, tea, cocktails, and even a small selection of European wines.

A Foodie’s Tour of Belgium

La Becasse, down an alleyway

La Becasse is one of the original estaminets. Hidden at the end of an alley, this pub has multiple hidden exits, and looks pretty much the same as it did at the end of the 19th century. Long ago it was used as a speakeasy of sorts, where hidden meetings over beer spawned revolutions. La Becasse remains one of the oldest pubs in downtown Brussels.

A Foodie’s Tour of Belgium

Moeder Lambic’s owner is a true aficionado

Moeder Lambic is a well-known local spot with a curated selection of the best artisanal beers. Owner Jean Hummler has close ties with many of the local craft and small brewers, and hosts special tastings in the brick and reclaimed wood-lined basement. There is a large oaken table and bench style chairs in the center of this dimly lit cave. The walls around you are lined with hundreds of well organized bottles of mostly Belgian beers. No Stella here, my friends!

A Foodie’s Tour of Belgium

Sipping a Half-and-Half with our knowledgeable tour guide, Paquita from Bus Bavard

Le Cirio was established in 1886 and was the first cafe in Belgium to serve coffee and Italian food. It has a very authentically Belgian feel, with the facade dating from 1909, gilded columns, emerald-colored glass and curved mirrors. Slightly off the beaten path, near the Bourse (Brussels Stock Exchange), the plush red fabric seats, ‘distressed’ wood tables, dark wood carvings, stale yellowish lighting and good drinks, make Le Cirio a favorite of both tourists and locals. This is the place to have the famous ‘Half-and-Half’ drink. Wondering what a Half-and-Half is? Well, Brussels is half Flemish and half French speaking, and so this drink celebrates that by being half wine and half champagne. The waiter fills the flute glasses in front of you, to the very brim, and in order to drink it you must lean over the glass and sip it without moving the glass. Oh, and yes — they also have a great selection of beer. So, if you’re looking for a spot that you won’t be able to replicate in another part of Europe, check out Le Cirio.

Wondering what beer to order? Check out the reviews of over 100 beers on A Taste of Brussels. Now, for the food…

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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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