Ghent Belgium is Europe’s Vegetarian Capital Of The World

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Ghent The Vegetarian Capital Of The World – 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

Ghent The Vegetarian Capital Of The World
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.

Ghent Specialties 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 in Ghent

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 3 favorite places in Ghent:

Avalon

An organic restaurant with huge servings and tasty food.

Tasty

A menu with over 11 vegetarian and vegan hamburgers, and lots of smoothies!

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).

Ghent is a very authentic town
Ghent is a very authentic town

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 man powered 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.

Chocolate Tasting In Brussels Guide

If there is one thing that Belgium is famous for – it’s Belgian chocolate.

Walking along the streets of Brussels you see hundreds of chocolate shops, all luring you in with shopping windows of chocolate fountains and amazing chocolate-art.

I’m a sucker for chocolate, so you can imagine how excited I was to be taking a chocolate tasting workshop to one of the most famous chocolatiers in the country: Laurent Gerbaud.

Chocolate Tasting In Brussels Guide
Chocolate Tasting In Brussels Guide

While talking to Laurent, I quickly realize that although I love chocolate more than anyone I know (until I met Laurent, that is), I know absolutely nothing about it.

Apparently, I’m not alone: “Most people have no idea about chocolate – they think the only difference is cocoa percentage, whether it’s dark, white or milk chocolate – but that’s far from the truth”, says Laurent, while explaining that chocolate is even more elusive than wine.

“Once you’ve tasted really good chocolate, you’ll never go back”, he says with a wink in the eye, but I know he means it.

Laurent took us “behind the scenes” of the chocolate boutique, to the kitchen where they make it all happen.

What fascinates me the most is the passion Laurent shows when he talks about chocolate and his business, and his excitement when describing different flavors he has experimented with.

Chocolate Tasting In Brussels Guide
Chocolate Tasting In Brussels Guide

It was fun to see how it all worked, but the best part was of course the chocolate tasting.

We sit down at a table with a glass of water (the best drink to really taste the different flavors), and Laurent brings us a plate each with chocolate pralines.

We begin with a small piece of chocolate, and slowly move clockwise, taking our time to taste every praline on the plate.

The first chocolate piece was nice, but nothing special – I was actually slightly disappointed, but then Laurent explained that the chocolate I just had was the “bad” one, put there to give us an idea of what the average chocolate you normally eat tastes like compared to good chocolate.

As we tasted the pralines one by one, we tried some of the most amazing combinations, and got a whole new perspective on chocolate.

Laurent Gerbaud chocolate
Laurent Gerbaud chocolate

I never knew just how many variables are in play to create chocolate, and to have it all there in front of you and be able to compare each type of chocolate, from South American to African cacao, special combinations and so on – was eye-opening.

I had secretly been wishing that Laurent would be wrong with his promise that I would no longer enjoy normal chocolate after the tasting, because before the tasting I was happy with the chocolate I used to eat – and it was cheaper.

But in a way, sadly, he was right. It doesn’t have to be the best chocolate in the world, but there is a clear difference between “better” chocolate and stuff like Toblerone, which just doesn’t taste the same anymore.

Luckily, I had this epiphany in a country which was full of the best chocolate in the world, and could indulge (almost) guiltless in chocolate for the next 8 days, so I didn’t feel too bad about it 😉

For chocolate addicts like me, I would definitely recommend a chocolate tasting workshop next time you’re in Belgium, you’ll eat so much chocolate that you will skip dinner!

Belgium Travel Guide – What You Need To Know

No one can deny that Belgium is one of the smallest countries in Europe, but this doesn’t mean that there is nothing to see or do there, on the contrary!

Every city in Belgium preserves a longstanding history, preserved and cherished within numerous monuments, cathedrals and castles.

Being located on the crossroad of many European pathways, this country has experienced an impact of its closest neighbors, which created and shaped the Belgian culture.

Belgium has many Gothic cathedrals, castles and citadels erected in the Middle Ages period, marvelous beach resorts, abundant holdings of fine arts museums and amazing city festivals.

Brussels

Brussels is the capital of Belgium and simultaneously its major historic center – it is a mix of royal touch and momentous architecture.

Every excursion around Brussels won’t be accomplished without visiting places such as Grand Place and City Hall (rectangular square honored to be one of the most beautiful in the world, rounded by houses of the 17th century); Manneken Pis or Little Man Pee (a true symbol of the city, created in 1619); Royal Palace and Royal Greenhouse and Gothic St. Michael Cathedral (constructed in the 13-16th centuries), Atomium (modern symbol of Brussels).

Antwerp

Antwerp is a city of art and jewelry, besides magnificent architecture of different historic periods – in particular, it is a native home for numerous world-known Flemish painters, among which Peter Paul Rubens has taken leadership.

Rubens House is one of the most visited places in the city; the artist has designed its style and facade being inspired with Italian culture, and to date it is transformed into a city museum.

It introduces both Rubens living and the studio, where he worked.

The other Antwerp attraction is the Diamond District, where these luxury gems are manufactured, traded and evaluated.

Bruges

Bruges or Northern Venice might be characterized with miraculous city landscapes, comprised of lovely facades and crossing channels.

It is a real chocolate paradise, where there are lots of manufacturing facilities, fountains gushing this exquisite sweet stuff and regular chocolate contests all year round.

Additionally, Bruges is a city where the number of monuments and museums can out range the number of residents.

Museum of Chocolate and Groeningemuseum have the biggest popularity.

This medieval town, specifically its historic part, was even added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Ghent

Ghent received a nickname of the “city of flowers” due to being surrounded with vast flower fields and gardens.

While paying a visit to this city, it is of must-see character to attend Gravensteen or “castles of the count” performed in the 12th century, St.

Bavo Cathedral founded in 942 and improved in the Gothic age (decorated with Ghent chancel made by Jan van Eyck) and of course lots of fine arts and archaeological museums.

Ghent is also famous for Gentse Feesten – the biggest European festival of music and theatrical performances.

Travel Question – How To Travel As A Vegetarian

This week we received a question from Mark:

“Hi there!

I’m a vegetarian about to leave on my first RTW trip, and I came upon your post top 6 countries for vegetarian food lovers.

So I’m wondering: what is it like traveling as a vegetarian?

I’ve heard it’s very hard finding vegetarian meals in Asian countries”

Hey Mark.

traveling as a vegetarian isn’t actually as hard as you may think, here are a three ideas to make finding vegetarian meals and traveling the world on a vegetarian diet.

First, checkout our Round The World Travel Guide and our Round The World Gear List

Make Yourself Understood:

We often found that the most difficult task was to make them understand what a vegetarian diet really was.

Often they thought it was something much more complicated, not realizing that a vegetarian salad can be the same as a shrimp salad just without the shrimp.

Sometimes it’s easier to say “no meat please” rather than ask “is it vegetarian?”, also knowing how to say this in the local language is often helpful.

In Asia a very common vegetarian meal is fried rice/noodles with mixed veggies.

If you ask for a vegetarian version of fried rice and they can’t make it, then they either didn’t understand you or they only have pre-cooked food and can’t change it

(It’s common to make a big fry up in the morning and have the food sitting there for the whole day, which is something I wouldn’t recommend you eat anyway).

Look For Alternatives – Be Creative:

If there are no vegetarian meals on the main course, just put together some appetizers and make them into your own meal.

One of the downsides when traveling was that we couldn’t always try the local specialties as they often included meat.

We made sure to try all their local desserts instead ;), which turned out to be a lot of fun – it’s amazing what people eat for dessert..!

Be Prepared:

There might be times when you really can’t find anything vegetarian to eat, so bringing a snack bar or some other snack along with you can be a good idea.

If you’re a vegetarian because of ethical reasons, then be prepared for the animal cruelty you may have to face.

It can be difficult at some times, but being prepared for it will make it easier to deal with so it doesn’t come as a shock.

How To Be Vegetarian On Your Travels

Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk to you about ethics or morals in this post, all I’m going to say is that if you want to stay safe from food poisoning, it’s a wise choice to eat mainly vegetarian food.

Often during my travels I get the question if I’m a ‘Travel-vegetarian’, which I found out means that I avoid meat when I travel.

A lot of people do this, and it’s a good idea.

Why is vegetarian often a better choice when travelling?

When eating meat in foreign countries it can be under-cooked. Eating under-cooked meat is very dangerous, and can cause serious food poisoning.

Many diseases and parasites are often found in undercoated meat, such as campy lobacter, salmonella and most seriously, e.coli.

Many times, especially in interior areas, the meat isn’t fresh, but kept in freezers and fridges that are not dependable.

So it’s better to be safe than sorry, and it’s safer being a vegetarian on your trips – as long as you stick to 3 simple, basic but very important rules, and these rule goes for everyone, both vegetarians and meat eaters:

Stick to cooked food, don’t eat anything raw like salad.

You should only eat raw vegetables and fruit if their peeled (preferably by you).

Don’t have ice in any of your drinks (you never know whether the ice is from tap water or bottled water

Avoid eating cold things like ice cream and dairy products

How Do I Stay Vegetarian When I Travel?

A good thing to do is always to research a little about the country you’re visiting.

What’s their traditional cuisine, what kind of vegetables and fruit do they grow/are available in the country?

Bringing a pocket dictionary is also a good idea.

They always have short phrases and interpretations of the normal food they serve in their country.

Ask if they can swap or take away something in the dish.

For example take away the ham on the pizza or the bacon from the breakfast plate and add something else.

Be creative.

If there’s nothing vegetarian on the main dishes, order some side dishes and make your own ‘Tapas’.

Often the best way to find vegetarian restaurants is just to ask somebody, either on the street or at your accommodation. Bring some snacks with you.

These can be life savers when nothing else is available, like on long train/bus/boat rides or sightseeing.

A good snack is bread with banana and peanut butter.

It sounds stranger than it tastes, but it’s a great energy booster!

Bring some fruit and snack bars along, and you’re ready to go.

Below is a list of great websites that can help you finding vegetarian restaurants all over the world:

VegDining.com– Guide to vegetarian restaurants around the world.

Happy Cow– Global Guide to Vegetarian Restaurants & Health Food Stores.

Vegetarian-Restaurants.net- USA & Canada vegetarian restaurants, natural food stores, vegetarian recipes, and info on vegetarian and vegan subjects.

Veggie Places– UK vegetarian restaurant and hotel guide. Find places by postcode, town or county.

budaveg- Everything about Budapest for veggies! Restaurants, health food stores, sights, calendar of events and a vegan apartment.

How do you feel about travelling vegetarian?

Is this something you do, or do you like to explore a bit and test out the local meat dishes?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk to you about ethics or morals in this post, all I’m going to say is that if you want to stay safe from food poisoning, it’s a wise choice to eat mainly vegetarian food.

Often during my travels I get the question if I’m a ‘Travel-vegetarian’, which I found out means that I avoid meat when I travel.

A lot of people do this, and it’s a good idea.

Cities Where Being A Vegetarian Doesn’t Suck

Sometimes, being a vegetarian traveler sucks.

You can spend hours looking for a place to eat without any luck, and then when you finally think you’ve found a place, you still end up with chicken feet in your soup.

For some reason, people still seem to believe that just because you don’t eat meat, you might as well be eating grass – but vegetarian food doesn’t have to be boring, and there are a few places around the world that would get any meat-lover to consider tasting a veggie dish.

Ghent – Belgium

How to Travel as A Vegetarian
How to Travel as A Vegetarian

Being a vegetarian in Europe is not necessarily difficult, but often it’s very boring.

So, it was a huge surprise to see how out of all the places we’ve been to, the small Belgian town of Ghent turned out to be the most vegetarian-friendly city we’ve been to in Europe.

With all the vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants marked on a city map, it is super easy to find a place to eat, and every Thursday is a “meat-less” day where all the restaurants offer vegetarian meals and lunch deals, and schools serve vegetarian food.

We even stayed in an amazing vegetarian B&B called Aanaajaanaa.

Ghent is actually said to be the city where the vegetarian movement in Europe began, some 40 years ago (apparently starting with a Japanese guy healing a sick man with a vegetarian diet).

Place to check out: Avalon, Geldmunt 32
Mon – Sat: 11.30am – 2.30 pm
(+32) 9 224 37 24

Chiang Mai – Thailand

“No can do” is a common response in Asia when asking if you can have a meal made vegetarian, but in Chiang Mai, a city in northern Thailand – this is never a problem.

Pretty much every restaurant serves vegetarian food, and the food is just amazing!

From hawker stalls to restaurants, you’ll find vegetarian versions of all the best dishes (trying Khao Soi is a must!).

Place to check out: Brown Rice Organic Bistro, 103 Phrapokklao Soi 8, Phrasingh
Mon – Sat:11am – 9pm
(+66) 87 324 9728

Singapore

With its huge diversity of culture and people, Singapore has a lot of different cuisine to offer any traveler.

From Chinese to Indian fare, there are a lot of vegetarian friendly restaurants in the city, no matter what type of food you like – there are even Satvic restaurants, where they are very strict with what they cook.

Place to check out: Komala Vilas, No. 76-78 Serangoon Road (one of several locations)
Tel: (+65) 6293 6980

New York – USA

New York are often first with the hottest trends, not only in fashion but also in food trends, and they’re not afraid to play with new ideas and concepts.

This means that there are tons of really cool vegetarian diners and restaurants, with a huge diversity and everything from cheap eats to fine dining.

According to “The Bay Back Hotel”, however, Boston is trying to catch up, especially with their popular vegetarian food festival that’s held there every year.

Place to check out: Red Bamboo, 140 West 4th Street
(between 6th ave & macdougal)
Mon-Thur 12:30pm-12 midnight, Fri-Sun 12pm-12 midnight.
(+1) 212 – 260 7049

Mumbai – India

Mumbai has the largest vegetarian population in the world, so travelers are spoilt for choice.

This is thanks to the large number of Hindus living in Mumbai, and most restaurants will follow their religious beliefs, serving dairy but no egg, meat or fish.

So whether it’s a food stall or restaurant, you can be guaranteed that they will whip up some spicy delicious meal for you.

Place to check out: Rajdhani, Level – 1, Nirmal Lifestyle, LBS Marg, Mulund (West)
(+91) 022 – 65888088

Top 6 Countries For Vegetarian Food Lovers:

Being a vegetarian traveler is an advantage as well as a disadvantage.

The good part is that we’re less likely to get food poisoned, as meat is often badly cooked and tend to have a lot of bacteria and bugs on it.

The downside however, is that there often isn’t much to choose between on the menu, your choice stands between a salad, a Margarita pizza or French Fries.

That’s why I have made a list of the top 6 countries to visit for vegetarian food lovers.

India

India is a vegetarian heaven.

I remember having dinner with a group westerners in India.

They were all meat eaters, and wouldn’t stop complaining of the lack of food choice; Lamb, or lamb?

I was surprised and said that I thought there were heaps of choices of food.

”Yes, for you who are vegetarian maybe, but not for us!”, as if meat eaters couldn’t eat vegetables…

However, being a vegetarian in India doesn’t raise any eyebrows.

In fact, instead of having vegetarian choices on the menu, they have a section for Non-vegetarian…

Malaysia

One of my strongest memories from Kuala Lumpur was when we went to a vegetarian restaurant that only had duck and ham on the menu, but I found out later that it was all vegetarian.

It was kind of like the western people’s Quorn, it reminds you of duck but it’s made of something else.

Malaysia is known for the best cuisine in South East Asia, their food is inspired from China, India and Europe – a pretty cool mix.

United Kingdom

They’re known for having the most advanced vegetarian cultures in the world.

I would guess it’s because of two reasons; They have a widely mixed population with people from all over the world, and they are ahead of other countries in the food thinking and have caught on the latest trends.

More and more westerners are realizing how much healthier it is to eat vegetarian based food, so there are heaps of Health food- and Raw food restaurants to choose from.

I wouldn’t call their ‘native’ food vegetarian, but as good as every restaurant and fast food place have vegetarian options.

Israel

Israeli restaurants abide by the ‘Kosher’ laws, meaning they don’t serve pork or shellfish.

Plus my favorites falafel and hummus are available everywhere!

Thailand

Even if chicken seems to be the most common food, you can easily get around being a vegetarian.

Many of the dishes are prepared with fish sauce, but for those who don’t like that, you can most often ask to have it made with another sauce.

Canada

Apparently, Toronto is said to be the most diverse city in the world, and there are heaps of vegetarian choices from all kinds of cultures.

A bit like London I guess.

(photo credit: 1)

17 thoughts on “Ghent Belgium is Europe’s Vegetarian Capital Of The World”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

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

  10. 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!

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