Whatever you do, don’t ask for a “Belgian waffle.”
There’s no one waffle in Belgium, and in a few cities, the local version is a source of civic pride. So assuming that to taste one waffle is to taste them all might just offend. And don’t go looking for one at breakfast time; it’s more of a midday treat.
The two best-known variants are the Brussels waffle and the Liege waffle, and the two cities, located about an hour apart, maintain a long-standing rivalry. The rectangular Brussels waffle has a crispy, golden coating, while the rough-edged Liege version is sweeter, richer and chewier.
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You can find the Brussels pastry everywhere in the city, where waffle joints alternate with beer shops, chocolatiers and frites stands (an even more sensitive issue than the waffles — never refer to them as “French fries”). They’re especially prominent as you close in on the narrow streets leading to the infamous Manneken Pis, the bronze fountain featuring a urinating boy that has become a cheeky icon for the city.
The Manneken Pis is on one side of the Grand Place, the breathtaking central square; on the other is the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a skylit 19th-century shopping arcade where you can taste most of Brussels’ best-known chocolates, including Godiva, Neuhaus and Leonidas (though venture a little farther afield to find their smaller, artisan counterparts).
For those wanting to feast their eyes rather than their mouths, museums dedicated to art, the history of musical instruments and comic strips are all within walking distance.
Liege is the largest city in Wallonia, Belgium’s French-speaking southern section, but it’s a much quieter, less touristy locale with attractions running more to historic churches and the Sunday La Batte market, the country’s largest and oldest market, where you can find everything from local delicacies to live poultry to knock-off “Gangnam Style” toys (yes, still).
Aside from the waffles, Liege also boasts its trademark meatballs in syrup, made with peket, a local gin variant that can be tried in a host of flavors at “La Maison du Peket.” On a bench outside the restaurant, visitors can sit next to a statue of fedora-clad favorite son Georges Simenon, creator of the fictional detective Jules Maigret.
To walk off the waffles, meatballs and peket, stroll the Coteaux de la Citadelle, a winding walk along the 13th-century defensive walls that provides panoramic views of the Meuse River winding through the city.