I would be lying if I didn’t admit that at the very top of my excitement list when considering a holiday in Belgium (or even in general!) are the culinary experiences the country has to offer. So much so, in fact, that research is done, reservations are made, restaurants are booked (sometimes even 6 months in advance!) just to be 100% certain that all measures have been taken to cross out hot-spots one by one on the sacred ‘list.’
If you are anything like me, then satisfying your taste-buds is one of your favourite pastimes… and you also have an uncommonly large sweet tooth! Let me pose this question: have you ever wished that dessert came before the meal? If the answer to that question is yes, you know where your heart lies. Now just for a moment, imagine yourself travelling through exquisite Belgium, sampling along the way the best and finest desserts in the word. Would you do it?
This is one trip you don’t want to miss!
If you think you know what waffles should taste like, you are mistaken. Belgian waffles are in another league of waffles. This makes it difficult to pick the #1 location because waffles in Belgium are sold everywhere and those that come from street vendors are probably the tastiest you’ll ever try! So if that’s your vibe, take a wander down Rue de l’Etuve and pick up a waffle at any hole-in-the-wall cafe! In saying that, if you have time to spoil yourself, you simply can’t forego a trip to Maison Dandoy for a luxurious waffley afternoon.
While every town had its own type of famous cookie, the handje from Antwerp is famous for its shape. The legend goes that a giant troll by the name of Druon Antigoontrolls demanded a heavy toll from every sailor who wished to cross the river Scheldt. If the sailor was unwilling to comply, the giant would cut off his hand as payment. Take a stroll over to Philip’s Biscuits to sample some of these delicious goodies.
Oliebollen or ‘oil balls’ are typically eaten around New Years Eve or at funfairs. If on your holiday in Belgium, you find yourself there over Christmas, why not check out the Christmas Market and Ice festival in Bruges. You’ll be sure to come across a stall (or three!)
Snoep is candy that has sugar as its principle ingredient. As unexciting as it sounds, you won’t believe the efforts some of the Flemish storeowners go to in order to showcase their goods. And let’s be honest here- who doesn’t love walking through a candy shop? Feel like a 5-year old again and visit Confiserie Zucchero for some wonderful nostalgia. You’ll also learn how it’s all made!
No dessert-inspired holiday would be complete without an ‘oldie-but-a-goodie’ addition. The basic steps to making an appelbol: Fill an apple with cinnamon, raisins and sugar, wrap with puff pastry, bake until golden brown. Perfectly mastered appelbolle can be found at Himschoot, the oldest bakery in Ghent. (They also make unbelievable bread, so maybe save some room!)
Just a short drive from Brussels is the city is where you will find yourself a genuine mattentart. Geraardsbergen is famous for this micro-regional dessert speciality: a sweet puff pastry created from buttermilk , sugar, almond essence and curd cheese. They say that the reason it is so good is because of the quality of the milk. Apparently the lush green Flemish pastures are home to some particularly happy cows! Check out Olavs Mattentaartenhuis for one of these beauties, before enjoying a serene walk through the Flemish countryside.
La Dame Blanche
City: Nimy (short drive from Mons)
Yes, this is a fancy name for a sundae. Translated directly as ‘white lady,’ this seemingly standard dessert can be created with the highest level of quality. This perfection is made with home-made vanilla ice-cream, freshly whipped cream, topped with warm chocolate sauce made from real Belgian chocolate, and the cherry on top is the… cherry on top! Don’t give up the chance to sample one from Georges Doutrelepont Chocolatier Glacier – it will be the best few euros you will ever spend on your holiday in Belgium!
Couque de Dinant
There’s definitely something to say for tasting one of these in the town that it was named. It just wouldn’t make sense to have it any other way! A coque de Dinant is a hard, sweet biscuit that was popular in the Middle Ages due to its keeping properties. Some people even used to keep them as souvenirs or Christmas ornaments! Patisserie Jacobs is know for its authenticity, but be careful: use your hands to break the biscuit into little pieces first – you don’t want to break your teeth!
It’s no shock that Belgium produces the word’s finest chocolate – and whether you consider chocolate as a dessert or as its own food group, this certainly wouldn’t be much of a dream holiday in Belgium without sampling some of the best chocolate in the country. Jean Galler began his illustrious career in Liege making sweets for the royal family, and nowadays Galler Chocolatier is one of the top-rated chocolatiers in Belgium. And you have the chance to visit the original store!
On the way back to Brussels, make sure you stop by Le Pain Quotidien in Wavre to sample this sweet cheesecake. It’s made from cottage cheese, meringue, apples and sweet almonds. Again – you simply can’t beat the original!