Drink Up with the Perfect Weekend Guide to Brussels
Beer, chocolate and fries are all staples of Belgian cuisine, yet business travelers in Brussels don't always get to experience these delicacies in their natural habitat. All too often, in fact, they see little outside the sterile office buildings of the European Union and NATO headquarters. And for American travelers, the Belgian capital is often regarded as just a stop on the train between Paris and Amsterdam.
But adding an extra day to a business trip or vacation through France, Belgium or the Netherlands offers enough time to experience a quieter European city, one that offers a robust and rewarding cultural and dining scene. Just let this itinerary guide your way.
Head to the vibrant Ixelles neighborhood, just south of the center and adjacent to the European Quarter. Indulge in a dinner of traditional Belgian dishes at Les Brassins, located on a quiet back street. Start with crispy croquettes filled with shrimp or cheese, and then move on to rich Flemish beef stew, gooey endive-and-ham gratin or rabbit in a sauce made of cherry-flavored beer. Don't forget a side of fries—or dessert, for that matter; the tiramisu is made with speculoos, Belgium's signature spiced cookie.
Cab it back to your lodging for the weekend, the Hotel des Galeries, a recently restored design hotel tucked into the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a 19th-century shopping arcade.
The next morning, take bus number 71 back to Ixelles for a croissant and a café au lait at Café Belga, which is located on the first floor of the Art Deco Flagey building. If it's nice out, sit outside—the terrace is one of the largest in the city.
Then, hop on tram number 81 to visit Cantillon, a family-owned brewery that's been in operation since 1900 and offers 45-minute tours. Don't leave without trying at least one of the sour lambic beers.
Now, take tram number 3 or 4 to the area right around Place Sainte-Catherine. Post up at one of the high-tops at Mer du Nord and order a glass of wine and a light lunch of seafood—the steamed mussels, razor clams, fried haddock and fish soup are all wonderful.
After lunch, go on a self-guided food tour: Visit Le Comptoir de Tom butcher shop for ham or salami from the nearby Ardennes forest, La Crèmerie de Linkebeek cheese shop for crumbly Oud Brugge, and Frederic Blondeel chocolatier to load up on gifts and souvenirs.
Then, grab a Tripel Karmeliet at Monk, an atmospheric beer bar, or take a 10-minute walk to the canal and visit Brussels Beer Project, where renegade brewers have turned out unique beers like the Babylone, made with leftover bread.
From there, walk off the buzz by meandering south to Belgium's most famous square, the Grand Place, to gaze at the guildhalls. Just behind the square, Maison Dandoy offers chewy, Liège-style waffles dusted with powdered sugar; take one to go and eat it on the street as the locals do. Then, walk two blocks south to catch a glimpse of the Belgian capital's other famous landmark: the Manneken-Pis, or peeing-boy statue.
At this point, it's just a short walk back to Hotel des Galeries, home to an excellent restaurant, Comptoir des Galeries, which is helmed by famous Antwerp chef Julien Burlat. Retire early so you'll be rested to head home the next day.
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