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✈ Keeping Kosher in Brussels, Belgium

Things To Do on raveable
Contributed by: Michelle Szpilzinger | Last Visited: January 2009

Kosher Info: This site has a good list of the kosher resources in Brussels. There is not much to find in the old historic center, but there are currently two kosher restaurants in the EU area, which is not a major tourist destination but is fairly simple to get to by metro. Brussels I would check to see if they are open on evenings and weekends as I know for a fact that the EU area is deserted at night. I can not vouch for them as I did not eat at either one. Unfortunately, it seems that the one kosher place in Brussels I actually visited (Pilpel) is now closed, which is a shame as it was a nice little restaurant with an adjacent kosher shop that was open in the evenings. We bought our food for Shabbos there.

For Shabbat Hospitality, contact Chabad. They offered to host us for meals and accommodation, but we opted instead to stay in the city center. They were really nice and I had good communication with them by e-mail.

If you’re staying in the city center, the kosher shops are not terribly convenient by public transportation. We opted to stay in an apartment-hotel with a kitchen rather than a regular hotel and brought a small pot and pan and some food from home so we could save money and time by making our own food. We also figured it would mean avoiding the annoying key-card issue, and we almost did — the only problem was that our flat was above a shop and when the shop was closed you had to use the key from the outside or a button on the inside to open the electric door shutter. This meant we were stuck inside Friday night (though we didn’t mind, as it was cold) and on Shabbos day had to make sure the shop was open. It was annoying but I’d still highly recommend the company, Apartments Apart, as the flat was really comfortable and nice, cheaper than most hotels, and even provided free wifi. You also get to feel more like a local for your stay.

brusselsAnother option is to head over to Antwerp where kosher food abounds. It’s only 45 minutes or so from Brussels by train, and many kosher shops and restaurants are right near the Antwerp train station.  If you’re staying in Brussels for more than a day or two, Antwerp is a must-visit whether you need the food or not.

Chocolate is, of course, a Belgian specialty; but the only brand we were told is definitely kosher is Guylian, which you can also buy internationally. We did manage to find some obscure kosher chocolate in a tiny store in Bruges that happened to have an Israeli hechsher on it, but we never saw it in Brussels.

Another Belgian specialty is beer, including many types of flavored beers. We were never given a definitive answer on the kashruth of these beers, so we stuck to regular, plain beer.

As for the ubiquitous Belgian waffles (sold in stands on nearly every street)…good luck finding kosher ones. Let me know if you do. They smelled incredible — it was torture.

Tourist Info: Once a major medieval city, now the de facto capital of Europe, Brussels has a great mix of old and new with some amazing Art Nouveau thrown into the mix. A first stop for any visitor would be the Grand Place, a stunning square surrounded by the city hall and the glittering former guild houses of medieval merchants, where you can also find the tourist office. Every other summer the square is filled with a giant Carpet of Flowers. If I ever go to Brussels again, it’ll be a summer when I can see it. Nearby is the famous “Mannekin Pis,” a hilarious symbol of Brussels as it’s a fountain with a center sculpture of a tiny boy putting out a fire by rather unusual methods. (The title is a hint.)

Up a hill is Place Royal, home of the King’s Palace (open only in summer) and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, which houses both the Museum of Ancient Art and a Modern Art museum.

For Elegant Shopping you can visit the Sablon Squares and Avenue Louise. If you have children with you, you might want to visit Mini-Europe.

One unique museum is the Center for Comic-Strip Art. Belgium is the home of the famous Tintin, and it’s a fun museum housed in a gorgeous Art Nouveau building. Art Nouveau lovers will also love the Museum of Musical Instruments and the Musee Horta.

Jewish Info: The Jewish community of Brussels is much smaller than the one in nearby Antwerp, much of it outside the historic center. We did not encounter a lot of it, but there are a few sites in the city center. The Great Synagogue is a lovely Neo-Romanesque structure on Rue de la Regence between the Palais de Justice and the Place Royal. There are also a couple of memorials to the Holocaust and Jewish martyrs. For more information on Jewish life in Brussels, check out the Jewish Virtual History Tour.

About the author

Michelle

  • Interesting. We visited Brussels in 2006 and we had a really rough time with kosher food. We arrived Friday morning with an international kosher travel guide and (long story very short) ended up in two Arab neighborhoods trying to find kosher stores that had been closed for years. Some Israeli groceries saved us, and later, a list of kosher items for next-door Netherlands helped us navigate the supermarket.

    The beers, as far as I know (and obviously based on your own level of kashrut), are fine as long as they do not have any flavor additives. So we had a good selection of beers to try and they were mag-ni-fi-cent. We passed on some of the fruity beers since they were obviously brewed with other ingredients and had no local halachic authority to fall back on. We had some chocolate but I can’t recall from where (I wanna know what the name of this store in Brugge is!).

    The waffles. Oh the waffles. Please someone make a kosher one. I plead this to the entire Belgian Jewish community. It was a crime being in Belgium and not being able to have one of those waffles. Or the frites for that matter. Waffles and frites. Please.

    I got to pray with the local minyan on a Sunday morning at the Great Synagogue, but we had minyan because I was there. It was summer, so who knows, maybe people were out, but I got the feeling that the community was just that small, at least in the city center. We never found any of the local kosher restaurants (without a car, we stuck to the old center), though we did find the enclosed, heavily protected, tucked-away JCC that had an attached restaurant, except they were closed on Sundays. Sigh.

    It’s been a few years, and based on the above it seems there’s been a bit more organization geared towards Jewish tourists. Which is good, cause otherwise I would stay in Antwerp and daytrip into Brussels.

  • Michelle

    Well, Pilpel (which was not that easy to get to either, only because no one could give us decent directions — once we found it we realized it was really simple!) but now it’s closed and we never attempted to try any of the other shops because, as you said, not easy to get to. I’m wondering if I should get a friend of mine who works for the EU in Brussels to just check and see that the kosher places in that area are really there.

    I wish I knew the name of the chocolate place in Bruges! We went on an organized day tour and that’s where the guide took us, saying it was an older place with good prices (which from what we could tell was true.)

    As for the beer — yeah, I meant that we didn’t know about the kashruth of the *flavored* beers so we stuck to regular, non-flavored beer, which to us was…beer.

  • I kept a journal when we went but alas, it was stolen a couple days after our return, so I don’t have the names. I’ll check if my wife wrote them down, because we did find kosher chocolates in Brussels for sure. I wanna say Leonidas?

  • Pingback: Only Kosher Restaurant in Luxembourg, Opened This Year | Kosher & Jewish Travel Guide | Kosher Restaurants • YeahThatsKosher.com()

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