Ghent – The Vegetarian Capital Of The World

A couple of weeks ago we wrote about some of the best cities in the world for vegetarians, and the city of Ghent in Belgium was one of them – we were so impressed with this place that we thought we would expand on it a bit more.

Ghent turned out to be our favorite city in Belgium, not only because of the food, but the town itself was incredibly beautiful, and the people were some of the most charismatic we’ve met.

The Vege Food Tour.

On our second day in Ghent we met up with a guide who was going to take us on a food tour around Ghent.

Usually, food tours and cooking courses are not something that is very easy for vegetarians, but in Ghent, the whole theme of our tour was vegetarian based, and we went from shop to restaurant to cafe to try the local specialties.

Local Specialities To Try:

  •  Neuzeke (tiny nose) – A sweet, home made, traditional, cone shaped cherry candy that melts in your mouth (but sticks to your fingers!)
  • Augustine beer – For every beer you buy, part of the money goes to restoring the Augustine monastery in Ghent – so no need to feel guilty for drinking! ;) Another beer to try is the local Gruut beer, a special beer because it uses spices instead of Hop.
  • Roomer – This drink was my favorite, an alcoholic drink made of Elderflowers, very refreshing on hot days!

Local Tip: While Belgian cuisine in itself is not very veggie friendly, the deserts are amazing – try the Belgian waffles, but don’t buy the square ones with lots of topping on them, instead buy the oval shaped Liege waffles – they have the sugar inside and are best eaten plain – delicious!

Best Places To Eat

While we learned a lot about Ghent’s quirky history taking the food tour, you can do your own veggie tour yourself - Ghent has a “vegetarian food map” where all veggie friendly cafes and restaurants are marked on the map, so you can easily go from place to place.

Our three favorite places were:

  • Avalon: An organic restaurant with huge servings and tasty food. www.restaurantavalon.be
  • Tasty: A menu with over 11 vegetarian and vegan hamburgers, and lots of smoothies! www.tastyworld.be
  • Mosquito Coast: While this travel inspired restaurant isn’t strictly vegetarian, it has one of the thickest and most diverse menus I’ve ever seen (the  only place that really comes close to it was an Irish pub in Australia we went to a few years back). www.mosquitocoast.be.

Alternative Lifestyle

Ghent is a very authentic town with a lot of history and amazing old architecture – unlike Bruges, it is also a very relaxed place, and people never seemed rushed.

But despite all of this authenticity and close traditions, we found that the people were still very forward thinking and open minded.

While they thought the tourism was good for their economy, they wanted to find more eco-friendly solutions to receive them, with tours in manpowered wooden boats rather than noisy motorboats along the canals, and so on.

Tip: If you want to explore the canals in a more quiet, eco-friendly and less touristy way, check out Viadagio – the owner Ipman is also a very interesting man ;)

Vegetarian Thursday

We were told that it was in Ghent where the first vegetarian movement began some 40 years ago, and since then they have been coming up with new and different ideas to inspire the heavy-meat eating Belgian people to try some vegetarian foods.

Now they have a new campaign called “Vegetarian Thursday”, where restaurants all over the city offer vegetarian lunch deals, and schools serve vegetarian food as their main meal.

What we have found in many countries is that vegetarians don’t go about vegetarianism the right way.

The only way to have people becoming curious is to inspire, not to make them feel guilty or anything like that. And that is something Ghent has done very well with…

Note: Special thanks to Visit Flanders for arranging our trip to Belgium.

17 Responses to Ghent – The Vegetarian Capital Of The World

  1. Migration Expert September 21, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    Every beer equals to restoring a monastery? That’s awesome, and great thinking! That way people really won’t hesitate to order another bottle and another and another as they’re drinking for a good cause. ;D And my friend Jen would probably love this place. She’s a vegan and I’m not, although I do understand how frustrating it is for her to find the right place who really serves real vegan food.

    • Sofia September 22, 2012 at 11:39 am #

      Exactly! Good beer for a good cause ;)

      • John Williams October 2, 2012 at 11:50 am #

        Good point. I would advise anyone with the slightest interest in beer to research how it was produced. In the case of the well known brands, you might be in for a shock!

  2. veggieleven September 24, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    Great to read your review.
    We also like Ghent much better than Bruges. We go there quite often, live only half an hour away.
    Ghent has more vegetarian restos (an many vegan) than any other Belgian city (probably even more than all other veg restos in Belgium combined ;-)
    Don’t like the tourist horse carriage trips though (only recently introduced in Ghent). It may offer some nice photographic opportunities ^^, but it’s really no good for the horses.

    • Sofia September 25, 2012 at 9:25 am #

      Must be nice to live so close to it, I absolutely loved the city, not just for the vegetarian openness but the whole atmosphere was so nice and the people so friendly.

      Yeah you’re right, the horse carriages do make for some nice photos, but I would never go on one myself, especially not when they make the horses trot.

  3. Tetramesh September 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    Is a ‘Neuzeke’ suitable for vegetarians? Don’t they contain gelatine and cochineal?

    • Sofia September 24, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

      I think it depends, the most traditional/original Neuzeke shouldn’t contain gelatin but gum Arabic, but I think many people these days make them with gelatin (especially supermarket types), so it’s probably best to ask before buying it if you really want to make sure.

  4. Trudy September 24, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    Once you love Ghent, you always love Ghent. I lived there for 5 years about 25 years ago and I have so much good memories about that city! The cuberdons or neuzekes whe bought in a very tiny shop then at Katrientje. Oh what a time!

    • Sofia September 25, 2012 at 9:30 am #

      I agree, it’s one of those cities that I never thought of visiting, but now that I’ve been there would love to return to.

      We bought our neuzekes from a very charismatic man who has a little stall on a small square in the center, I can’t remember the name of it though.

  5. Gentenaarke September 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    The stall with the ‘Neuzekes’ is on the Groentenmarkt (Vegetable Market) at one of the best bakeries in Ghent.
    Unfortunately, they contain Gelatine… :-(

    • Sofia September 25, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

      Ok, thanks! Good to know that they contain Gelatine – oops… :)

  6. Maddy @ I'm Not Home September 25, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

    I MUST go there. Those pics make me hungry…

  7. Eva September 28, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    love the vege food and I’m so lucky as Armenia is rich of organic vegetables and fruits !!! :)

    • Sofia September 28, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

      That’s wonderful, I would love to visit Armenia some day!

      • Eva November 14, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

        Welcome dear Sofia, I’ll be happy to be your guide :))))

  8. Sabbahjay October 3, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Neuzeke are not vegan neither vegetarian, they are made with animals gelatin ..at least most of the times they are..

  9. Daniel Meloy October 11, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    Yum! These foods look absolutely delicious! I’d never heart of Ghent before, but after reading this I know that I absolutely have to go at some point in my life. Also, you take fantastic photographs. I feel like I got a good sense of the city and its food based solely on your photos. Thanks so much for the fantastic share, I’m very impressed!