Brussels certainly lives up to its reputation as one of Europe’s leading cities when it comes to food and drink. It isn’t, however, known for being the cheapest place to eat in Europe, with the terrace restaurants of the Rue des Bouchers especially poor value for money.
Additionally, the area around the EU institutions is best avoided as, though buzzing during the day, in the evening there’s not a lot to be had in terms of dining out. But aside from this, if you’re prepared to hunt around, there are still plenty of fantastic budget eating options to be had.
Belgium’s signature dishes are, of course, ‘moules frites’ (mussels and chips) and ‘moules a la marinere’. These are served in satisfyingly generous portions in countless restaurants across town.
If you’re on a strict budget, though, you can always forget the mussels, for in Brussels the mighty ‘frite’ is king. And there’s only one place where locals get their fries – the humble ‘fritkot’.
Local opinion is very much divided as to where the best ‘fritkot’ is: some say the Place Jourdanplein, others near the Barriere de Saint-Gilles, while there are those that push the case of the Place Madou…
The city also has plenty of international options. Ixelles is a particularly good area for African or Thai food and, similarly, inexpensive Middle Eastern food can be bought from the fast-food joints along the Rue du Marché aux Fromages. Alternatively, St-Géry has a number of excellent Vietnamese places that shouldn’t blow your budget.
For the budget traveler, one of the best things about eating in Brussels is its (reassuringly cheap) breakfast routine. Breakfast in the city consists of grabbing a waffle, or ‘gaufre’, from a street vendor and eating it on the move, as you wander around admiring the city.
Of course, you couldn’t bring up Belgium without at least a passing mention of its exquisite chocolates. Chocolatiers can be found across town, and the refinement of a Brussels praline has to be tasted to be believed. Sadly, the prices can reflect this, and for many budget travelers they’ll remain tantalizingl, in the shop window…
This might be just as well, really, given the calorific intake of your average trip to Brussels! In addition to all the greasy fries, waffles and chocolates, there’s also some fantastic beer waiting to be sampled. Local brews include ‘kriek’, a sweet, cherry-flavored beer, and ‘gueuze’ – a tasty but bitter ale.
After dinner, as you sit nursing a couple of these delicious beers, the city begins to splutter into life. The air of excitement is tangible as the streets and attractive squares begin to fill up, and crowds move from the restaurants and cafés to the bars and clubs.