Every time we travel to a new place, we like to find a food tour to help us learn about its culture and history. The Brussels All-In Discovery Tour is exactly what it sounds like: a full, complete, comprehensive Brussels walking tour that covers its food, history, culture, and more.
During our tour – hosted by Global Enterprises – we explored Brussels by foot, discovering tiny back alleys dotted with local hot-spots that we never would have found on our own (mainly because they were all built to be purposefully hidden from the naked eye).
We ate so much food that a couple of our fellow tour group members actually attempted to turn down a fluffy Belgian waffle (I know, right?! Don’t worry – she made a full recovery and was able to eat the entire waffle. Phew).
We learned fascinating facts about the history of Brussels, from the constant shuffling of ruling monarchies (resulting in 3 languages being spoken in Belgium and about 18 different architectural styles just in the main square alone) to some alleged Illuminati/Freemason ties (more on that later)… and an odd fascination with peeing statues (those last 2 may or may not be related...*).
Led by our fearless expert guide Avo, we discovered Brussels step by step and mouthful by mouthful.
Psst: Want to plan a longer trip through Europe? Check out these two super detailed winter Europe itineraries.
Table of Contents
Finding the Brussels All-In Discovery tour
Our first challenge was in finding our Brussels food tour in a sea of tourists and other Brussels walking tours. We were tasked with meeting in the stunning UNESCO Heritage Site Grand Place. Grand Place has been voted the most beautiful plaza in all of Europe, according to our tour guide and, we assume, some other reputable source. The aptly named Grand Place also happens to be the favorite hang-out spot and meeting place of literally every other tourist and food tour in Brussels. Fighting through the throngs of selfie sticks and tour groups gawking at gold-studded palaces was really difficult because we kept having to stop to take selfies of ourselves in front of gold-studded palaces. Seriously, this square is jaw-dropping. Everywhere you turn, there’s yet another stunning architectural wonder to frantically photograph.
We eventually made our way across the square to Godiva, which served as our meeting spot – we assume because the brand name is easily recognizable to foreigners. (Our guide hastily let us know that Godiva is the worst chocolate brand you’ll find in Belgium. Generally, we agree. If you go all the way to Belgium and then buy your chocolate at Godiva, you might as well have stayed home.) We managed to arrive on time for our tour, which is a feat worthy of congratulation for us. One other family wasn’t so lucky, and they spent the first hour of the tour cranky and stressed as a result.
- Brussels Food Tour Tip: Arrive 5-10 minutes early so as not to stress out your metabolism, which you’ll need functioning at full capacity for all of the food you’re about to consume.
Brussels History on the Brussels All-In Discovery Tour
After meeting our guide, Avo, and doing a few general introductions (15/17 of the other tour-goers were American, making this the largest number of Americans we’ve encountered since leaving America!) our guide dove into the complex and fascinating history of Brussels. Not only is Avo a local, but he has a degree in history and 19 years of experience as a tour guide. You won’t find that kind of expertise on Wikipedia! (Seriously- I’ve been trying to fact-check my notes and some of his casual off-hand remarks require sifting through deep academic literature and shit. Which is why I want you to know that I tried but you’re going to have to trust me on some of this… or just take the tour yourself).
In a tiny nutshell, Belgium has always been at the mercy of Europe’s larger monarchies, passed back and forth like a plaything that nobody wanted to share. The Netherlands, France, Spain, Austria, and the Illuminati* somehow even Luxembourg all had a turn. Tired of being kicked around like an old soccer ball, Belgium won its independence in the 1830’s and has since given everyone the finger by making Brussels the capital of both NATO and the EU. (Which has interesting ramifications if you think about it. The Illuminati … the capital of EU … NATO … just how deep does this thing go!?*) This explains why there are approximately 53 different kinds of buildings all fighting for the “most fabulous building” award in the Grand Place. It also explains why everything in Brussels has 2 names: the fancy hoity-toity French name (example: The King’s Maison) and the sassy literal Dutch name (“Breadhouse.” Because no king never even lived there, but some guy did use to sell bread out of a cart in like 1600. Sassy, right?)
Exploring Brussel’s Back Alleys and Historic Bars
After our brief history lesson, we headed away from Grand Place to discover one of the more interesting Brussels relics: an ancient Puppet Theatre! Well, these days it’s mostly a bar. According to Avo, at one point Brussels was under the control of a King who felt that theatre was a dangerous forum for revolution-starters: actors, theatre-goers and their ilk, he decreed, were all outlawed. That lasted for about 8 hours before Puppet Theatres were erected – under the guise of “think of the children! They’re so BORED!” – and were promptly used to spread the very revolutionary, anti-King messages that the King was so afraid of in the first place, all in the guise of kid-friendly puppet shows. (If the King had a Twitter account to vent his paranoia, one can only imagine how entertaining THAT feed would have been.) Down a tiny, hidden alley into the dimly lit old Puppet Theatre, we glimpsed a relic of Brussels’ past. And then, as is customary when in Belgium, we all drank a delicious cherry Lambic in its honor.
Filled with sour cherry Lambic, we made our way out of the bar to explore several more hidden alleyways, built to hide from various other Kings and ruling parties at various times, all making various threats to socializing and drinking and generally enjoying oneself. According to Avo, down each one is an ancient local bar, tucked away quietly and perfectly preserved. Honestly, given a map and some neon signage I still don’t think I could have found these tiny alleyways. No wonder the locals love them so much. They’re tourist-proof!
So Much Belgian Food on the Brussels All-In Discovery Tour
After exploring for a bit, we were all ready to warm up from the cold and get to the real reason we all booked this tour: the food. We tramped back to the Grand Place to enjoy a typical Belgian meal at one of its best establishments (squeezed tightly into a corner, like American sardines). Here is what we expected: some yummy Belgian food. Here is what we did not expect: ALL OF THE YUMMY BELGIAN FOOD. It started with Moules Frites. When our server put a pot of steaming mussels on the table, we thought, oh, that’s plenty for all of us to share. But then the pots kept coming. And the fries. And each of us got a beer. And bread. It was never-ending. We gorged ourselves on Moules Frites and beers, and then, once we were all stuffed and happy, Avo asked us what we wanted to drink with our second course.
Um… second course? I slowly reversed the fry that was en route to my mouth and stared. Seriously?!
For what it’s worth, we all managed to find room. The classic Flemish stew (beef carbonnade brewed in a delicious dark brown beer sauce) was the perfect hearty blend of sweet and savoury, and perfectly paired with our beer. There was also a tasty chicken stew, called Waterzooi, which had vegetables in it, so I assume was a modest health offering to help us all apologize to our bodies for the french fries, beer, and waffles. 2 glasses of beer, 1 glass of wine, and am embarrassing amount of delicious hot Belgian food later, we were ready to brave the cold again.
Brussels Has a Unique Sense of Humor & Other Things We Learned
As we let our food settle, Avo led us through some other historical parts of the city, accompanied by increasingly fascinating historical tidbits. We saw a remnant of the destroyed wall of Brussels, complete with the very last cannonball thrown during the bombardment. “Don’t touch it,” warned Avo. We all laughed, but he was serious. Apparently there is a group who protects the cannonball and, I assume, appears with waving fingers to shoo away anyone who gets too close.
We then saw an enormous obelisk sitting inside a beautiful indoor lounge area, with a lively piano played by a talented youth and a lot of super-cool Belgian hipsters hanging around casually lounging on things. The thing about the obelisk – and I assume the draw for the Belgian hipsters – is that it’s supposed to be an Illuminati symbol. Only I can’t find anything online about it, which brings me to the obvious conclusion that our intrepid guide is either an Illuminati himself, OR the reigning expert on Freemasonry and Illuminati (which seems more likely when you consider that he also leads a tour on Freemasonry and other Brussels legends & mysteries – find out more here). Expect Brussels to be the setting of the next Dan Brown novel.*
During the course of our tour, we saw not just one peeing statue, but 3. Did you know that there are 3 statues of things peeing in Brussels? I didn’t. I thought the one was bad enough. But no. There are 3. (3 peeing statues … a triangle has 3 sides … triangles are an Illuminati symbol. COINCIDENCE?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!*) There is the Mannekin Pis, which – as you’re aware, I’m sure – is a little boy peeing. Like that’s what he does, he pees. 24 hours a day, constantly. Then, apparently in a gesture of sexual equality, there is a statue of a woman peeing outside of the Delirium cafe. Then, as if to undo all of that gender equality goodwill, someone decided to make a statue of a dog peeing, too. So now there is a boy, a woman, and a dog. Peeing. I just want to say what we’re all thinking here.
BRUSSELS, WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH ALL THE THINGS PEEING?!
Our fearless guide explained that there is no actual story behind Mannekin Pis. There are myths and legends, stories that Brussels residents like to pass around the dinner table over a few beers. He shared a few of the more ridiculous ones with us (most of which involve a battle of some kind, and a toddler running around peeing on the enemy which somehow rallied the troops Braveheart-style and led to victory) as well as some interesting historical ones (like that the neighborhood used to produce leather and the local kids were invited to pee on it to help the tanning process). Regardless of its background, Brussels loves their little statue, and dresses it up regularly in tiny little pee-friendly costumes, which is cute if you don’t think about it super hard. They also commemorate him in local art, like the Hip Hop Mannekin Pis mural, which is Mannekin Pis meets Notorius BIG meets a very large wall. The Mannekin Pis also has an interesting history of being stolen and tossed into rivers and things, Carmen San Diego style, so that the tiny version you see on the street isn’t actually worth much at all: the real thing, which is completely identical only made out of more expensive material, is in a museum nearby.
Regardless of the legends and the cute outfits, I still say that anything emitting a constant stream of pee is gross.
We paid a visit to the old waters of the Senne, the river around which Brussels was originally founded. I say “originally” because it doesn’t really exist anymore: the water was diverted and the river itself was paved over. It’s now a very nice street in the center of town. Why? Apparently it was a health hazard. The rumors about beer being cheaper than water were all true – the water in Brussels was unsafe to drink for years. Apparently, even kids at school would drink light beer instead of water. I have to wonder if that made them easier or more difficult to teach…
Just When I Thought There Wasn’t More Belgian Food, There Was More Belgian Food
After a while of walking and shivering off our moules frites and carbonnade bellies, we were ready to stuff ourselves again. (Side note: this is exactly why I LOVE food and walking tours!) On the menu for dessert were the two best contributions to the world that Belgium has ever made: chocolate and waffles. And oh man, were they amazing. The Belgian waffle alone is the stuff that dreams are made of: it was fluffy, light, not too sweet, and piled high with Belgian sour cherries, fresh whipped cream, and the most delicious chocolate syrup I’ve ever had.
Somehow we managed to find room for 2 delicious chocolate pralines as well. One of these chocolates, a champagne truffle from the Royal Chocolatier herself, was the most amazing truffle I’ve ever had in my life. Belgium, you’re just the best.
5 hours, 2 chocolates, 1 waffle, 3 beers, 1 hot chocolate, 1 Flemish stew, 63 mussels, and 813 fries later, we had learned more about Brussels in an afternoon than most people learn from their high school history class. We were stuffed, happy, and absolutely thrilled with the tour we had taken – and the included coupons we all received to use during the rest of our stay! The Brussels All-In Discovery tour is a great way to learn all about Brussels while exploring the city on foot, uncovering its hidden local treasures, and eating the most delicious food that Belgium has to offer. If you’re looking for a Brussels food tour, this is a fantastic all-inclusive introduction to Belgian food as well as Brussels history.
*In case it wasn’t obvious, let me make it abundantly clear that any and all insinuation that Brussels is being run by the Illuminati are completely inaccurate things that I made up to entertain myself. OR ARE THEY??!!?! #staywoke
About Global Enterprises Brussels All-In Discovery Tour
The Brussels All-In Discovery Tour is a wonderfully inclusive Brussels food tour. We highly recommend this tour to anyone who has a passing curiosity in Brussels, is interested in walking and exploring for the better part of 5 hours, and is up for the challenge of stuffing themselves with a huge variety of tasty Belgian food.
We felt the tour was well structured between eating and learning things – we never felt too stuffed or too bored! Our local tour guide was professional and entertaining, as well as an expert in all aspects of Brussels.
Global Enterprises also offers several other tours showcasing the best the Brussels has to offer, including a Chocolate tour & workshop, a Beer Tasting tour, and the aforementioned Mysteries & Legends tour.
- Book via GetYourGuide
- What the Tour Includes: History, walking, sightseeing, an absolutely enormous amount of moules frites and carbonnade, several beers, a Belgian waffle, 3 statues of various things peeing, and 2 chocolate pralines.
How to Get to Brussels & Where to Stay in Brussels
So obviously you’ve decided to go to Brussels, right? If not, please scroll back up and just stare at the picture of that waffle. Just stare at it. Are you planning to visit Brussels now??
We had a blast in Brussels and the rest of Belgium. Here are some tips for your upcoming trip!
- Flight: We booked with Brussels Airlines to fly in and out of Brussels. They have incredibly cheap flights from nearby European destinations and the United States! It’s a budget airline, but we didn’t feel cramped and deprived of basic necessities like some other budget airlines we’ve taken. In fact, we were able to book an exit row seat (with extra knee space!!!) for NO extra charge at all. Crazy, right? Take a look at their current promotions here.
- Hostel: We stayed at Meininger Brussels City Center. It’s a BIG hostel with tons of rooms and feels more like a hotel that happens to have dorm rooms. The rooms are regularly cleaned, there’s a helpful 24-hour staff desk, a bar, and a vending machine with Liege waffles in it for when you’re craving a waffle and it’s the middle of the night (just us?). It’s right behind an art museum and across from a canal, about 10 minutes walking to Grand Place and the rest of the tourist highlights. Book on Hostelworld.
- What to Do in Brussels: Other than food tours & a lot of eating, we also recommend beer tours and a lot of drinking. Here’s our guide to Drinking Beer in Belgium. Also top on the list? Visiting Brussels many quirky museums. Here’s 25 weird museums in Brussels that we love. We’d also recommend picking up a Brussels Card to sight-see with: it’ll save you a bunch of money and you’ll get a lot of handy little maps, too! Check out prices for the Brussels Card.
- What Else to Do in Belgium: Visit Bruges, the cutest little medieval town that we’re totally obsessed with. Check out our Romantic Guide to Bruges.
- Coffee: As you know, we’re coffee snobs, so nearby third wave coffee shops are a huge plus for us. If you stay at Meininger Hostel and walk into the main square, you’ll pass both MOK Specialty Coffee Roastery and OR Coffee, and both are excellent.
- Packing: If you’re looking for details on what to pack for Brussels, we’ve got a full Europe in winter packing list guide.
If your check-in and check-out times don’t sync up with your need to roam the streets and you need a place to store your bags check out LuggageHero, a service that helps you find a safe place to keep your luggage while you’re running around! Use the code PRACTICALW for 2 hours of free luggage storage on us.
Disclaimer: You might have noticed that some of the above links are affiliate links! Affiliate links help pay for the costs of running our site and we really appreciate you using them for your booking if you found our posts useful.
We attended this tour as guests of Global Enterprises and received Brussels Cards from Visit Brussels. All opinions, mistakes, inaccuracies, bad jokes, and inappropriate suggestions that Brussels is being run by the Illuminati are our own.
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