With giant comic-book murals all over the buildings downtown, a 400-feet tall model of an iron atom, and a famous statue of a tiny peeing boy, it’s an understatement to say that Brussels is a unique city.
While most study abroad students just visit Brussels for a day or two so they can eat a waffle in Grand Place and take a selfie with the Mannekin Pis, there are plenty of reasons to stay a bit longer. One of them is the local cuisine. Belgium is known for its beer, fries, chocolate, and cookie butter (a.k.a. every college kid’s four essential food groups) so it’s an ideal city for a foodie studying abroad for a semester.
Not convinced? Check out these ten mouth-watering Belgian specialties—you’ll want to become a Bruxellois in no time.
There is nothing more Belgian than a dinner of moules frites—or, mussels and fries—al fresco. Mussels are always served 1 kilo at a time in a huge pot, but you decide what broth flavors them. For a traditional meal, request moules marinere, or mussels with vegetables and white wine. For a more indulgent meal, try the moules à la crème, which features a thick and rich sauce made with lots of heavy cream.
In Brussels, it’s totally acceptable for a fully-grown adult to order a giant ice cream sundae as a dessert or mid-afternoon snack. A dame blanche is really just huge scoops of vanilla ice cream covered in melted, Belgian dark chocolate, but when you order using its classy French name, you’ll feel like you’re requesting something much more sophisticated than your favorite childhood dessert.
Leave your cans of Natty Lite and Keystone behind in the States and try sipping on one of Belgium’s 1150 original beers. For an authentic Belgian beer experience, request Kriek, a pinkish-red lambic beer made with sour cherries. Feeling a little more daring? Try Bush, one of the strongest Belgian beers at 12% ABV.
Next time you’re digging deep into a jar of Trader Joe’s cookie butter with a spoon, take a second to thank the Belgians for inventing the cookies behind it all. From Speculoos lattes to Speculoos tiramisu to white chocolate and Speculoos mousse, these little gingerbready cookies are everywhere in Brussels—and since they come alongside nearly every coffee you order, you don’t need to pay a thing to get a taste.
As much as the French like to believe that they invented the king of all drunk foods, the glory should really go to the Belgians. You can watch the masters at work at any of the 4000+ frites stands around Belgium: the potatoes go into the fryer twice, making them piping hot and extra crispy. To be truly #euro, skip the ketchup and dip your frites in mayo, spicy samurai sauce, or aioli.
Belgian Hot Chocolate
No chocolate powder packets here: when you order a hot chocolate in Belgium, you’ll receive a tall glass of hot milk, a couple of sugar cubes, and a little cup full of Belgian chocolate morsels. While it’s always tempting to just dump the chocolate chips directly into your mouth, melting it into the hot milk makes for one delicious drink on a cold day.
Waffles play a huge role in Belgian identity, and it’s impossible to avoid their sugary scent as you stroll around the center of Brussels. To find your favorite flavor combo, you’ll definitely have to indulge more than once—but that’s okay, waffles aren’t just for breakfast here. Munch on a sugary waffle topped with Nutella, whipped cream, strawberry, or melted Belgian chocolate for a midday snack or an after dinner dessert.
Because of the cold and rainy weather, Belgian cuisine consists of a lot of hearty stews and creamy soup. It’s easy to see why carbonnade flamande is one of Belgium’s most famous dishes: tender beef simmering in a rich Belgian beer sauce is the epitome of comfort food.
They’re deep-fried and crispy on the outside, they’re creamy on the inside, and they’re a reliable friend in any intimidating seafood restaurant. Ideal as an appetizer or small lunch, Belgium’s signature shrimp croquettes are served in many of the local eateries—perfect for those days when you just don’t feel like Google translating a whole menu.
Chocolate is nothing short of an art form for the Belgians. The storefronts of the most prestigious chocolatiers look a lot like jewelry stores, with assortments of treats arranged and displayed in lighted glass cases.
There are thousands of different kinds of chocolates to satisfy any sweet tooth—but whether you opt for a rosé champagne truffle from Mary, a creamy hazelnut praline from Neuhaus, or a tiny Madagascar chocolate tablet from Pierre Marcolini, you’ll be left craving more.