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.
Ghent The Vegetarian Capital Of The World
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.
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 😉
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.