Starting this Saturday, Therese, her mother Eileen and I will be visiting three of Belgium’s most popular destinations: Bruges, Gent and Antwerp. In the course of planning, I considered a culinary walking tour in one or more of the cities. Below is a summary of what I found out.
There are three websites that offer culinary walking tours, with some overlap between the three: Q-rius, Perfect Plus Event Productions and Vizit. They seem to favor group tours (10 or more people) over individual ones, although there are a couple tours that accommodate individuals. The tours may be grouped into three categories: ones that offer lunch or dinner, beer tours, and snack/delicacy tours.
Lunch/dinner: In Bruges, you can do a 3 course lunch where you travel from course to course, either on foot, by bike or by horse tram. The tours last from 3 to 4-1/2 hours, and cost from € 40 to € 80 per person, assuming a minimum of 10 participants. If you have less than 10 people in your group, you have to pay extra. There is also a 3-course dinner tour, but only on foot.
Gent also has both a lunch and dinner tour on foot. For a twist, there is a dinner tour by boat. They run from three to four hours in length and cost € 45 to € 75/person on foot, € 65 to € 80 by boat (minimum of 10 people in both cases).
Antwerp’s lunch and dinner tours are only on foot. Lunch is 3-1/2 to four hours long and costs € 40, and dinner is 3 or 4 hours and costs from € 45 to € 75/person (minimum of 10).
Again, in all cases, if you have a group smaller than 10 people, you will pay to make up the difference, from 15 to 20 Euros for each person less than 10. So for us, if we were to book any of these meals, we would pay at least an additional 15 or 20 Euros for each of us, possibly much more, making the whole venture prohibitively expensive. Therefore, none of these options work for us, unfortunately.
Beer. Q-rius has a tour in Bruges called “Typical Bars and Tough Tales” for just € 15/person where you visit two pubs and get a drink at each, but again it is for groups (in this case, a minimum of 12).
In Gent, there are culinary beer walks with Vizit where the € 45 to € 60 cost per person covers a beer tasting at the start and a full beer at the end, but you have to pay for whatever other beer you drink. It also includes a main course and a drink at lunch. You can make the beer walk competitive if you have a large group, where the guide will break the group into smaller groups and quiz the various groups. The competitive walk includes more food – appetizers to start and dessert at the end – rather than the beer tasting, and costs € 55/person.
Antwerp doesn’t have beer walks per se, but Vizit does have competitive culinary walks there that may include a pub. These are similar in price to the competitive walk in Gent.
Once again, since all these walks are for a group of a minimum of 10 people, they won’t work for us.
Snacks/delicacies. Q-rius has a tour called “Sweet Bruges” where for € 12 to € 18 per person you can spend 2 to 3 hours exploring the city’s chocolate shops. There is also a more extensive walk that includes a visit to the chocolate museum and a chocolate-themed lunch as well as the chocolate shop visits for € 60/person (minimum of 12 people for both).
Vizit has tours in both Gent and Antwerp that take you to 3 or 4 local shops where you taste delicacies like chocolate, cheese and meats. You pay € 80 to € 120 for a guide and then € 5 or € 6/person for the delicacies. These tours are offered every day of the week.
These snacks tours are also offered to individuals on Saturdays from 3:30 to 5:30 in both Gent and Antwerp, for just € 12/person. Since we are going to be in Antwerp on a Saturday, this is the one walking tour option that seemed like it might work for us.
As a result, I inquired further. Specifically, I was wondering if, among the snacks offered, there would be anything for me to eat. So I emailed Vizit and asked. Here is their response:
“There are 4 stops in 4 shops:
1) A bakery, for rye bread with raisins. I’m afraid it contains butter, though not very much
2) A sweet shop, for a butter cookie and a praline. Both of them contain butter. Maybe we could ask for a praline made of nothing but dark chocolate, if that’s okay with you?
3) A butcher, for charcuterie (a kind of ham)
4) A café for a kind of beer or a kind of gin (‘elixir d’Anvers’)”
So, it looks like if we booked this tour, all I might get out of it is a bit of ham and a beer. Nevertheless, if it is something Therese and Eileen would enjoy, I would do it. I considered further.
We are just going to be in Antwerp for 2 days, and I’ve never been there before. Therese was there a long time ago, and Eileen may have been there before – but again, that would have been a long time ago. So in effect, our time in Antwerp is something fresh for all of us. Would it serve us to take at least 2 hours out of our limited time to visit a few specialty food shops, or would we rather spend it in churches and museums we’ve never seen? My judgment, confirmed in consultation with Therese, was the latter.
So, there will be no culinary walking tour for us in Belgium. Not that I have any regrets about that – we are going to have a blast, I have no doubt. And drinking good Belgian beer, eating frites and mussels, and maybe sampling some rich Belgian desserts – in short, enjoying Belgium’s culinary excellence – will contribute greatly to our enjoyment of our trip, I am sure.