Hello everyone! I went to Belgium, Amsterdam, and Paris recently, so I want to discuss my experience traveling with my peanut allergy in each place to serve as a resource for others with food allergies. As you know, I am allergic to peanuts only, and I am airborne and cross-reactive to trace amounts. I’ll go over restaurants I vetted, various products in stores, and more, and am excited to share more travel itineraries and guides to help others with peanut allergies, and food allergies, who are navigating traveling.
We stayed in Brussels, Belgium as our “home base” the entire trip and traveled by train to other towns and cities from there since it’s so centrally located. We absolutely loved the historic beauty across Belgium, especially in Brussels. One thing we learned when planning our trip was that Belgium speaks Dutch, French, and/or Flemish depending on where you go. This made discussing my peanut allergy a bit trickier when writing restaurants beforehand and while there, so it took some extra legwork and print-outs, but was still very doable!
Before traveling I recommend:
- I always, always, always write places beforehand to discuss my peanut allergy and if they use peanuts or peanut ingredients in their kitchen. This doesn’t ensure I won’t have a reaction, unless it is allergen-free certified, I wouldn’t be able to expect that guarantee, but it does reduce the chance of a reaction. This is especially so in the EU where they enforce more food labeling laws and practices than in the U.S.! I talk about this in some of my other peanut-free travel guides, and in my blog post on product recalls. I love that in the EU they’re more aware of allergies, allergens, and cross-contamination, it helps raise awareness of cross-contact and I’ve found that people overall seem to be more knowledgeable and aware of food allergies. Even so, writing restaurants and product brands I want to try beforehand helps me out so that we aren’t having to jump from restaurant to restaurant trying to find a menu and kitchen that doesn’t use peanuts. Especially when we are someplace like Belgium where English isn’t the first language. Brussels is known for being French/Dutch bi-lingual, with English as their 3rd most-commonly spoken language. I also personally would rather have my food allergy discussion in writing, rather than trust someone at their word when they’re in a hurry to answer a question I sprung on them while juggling other things, so I always reach out ahead of time.
- Book a hotel with a kitchen if you can! This takes a lot of the pressure off of needing to eat out. We do normally pay a bit more per night, but we try to stay in a place with a kitchenette so we can cook for ourselves whenever we want to! I truthfully believe it saves us money in the end because we aren’t having to eat out as often. One tip, bring a couple of Tupperware containers and plastic ziplock bags or plastic wrap with you when traveling so you can take meals to-go and save leftovers for reheating! We have stayed in plenty of hotel rooms without a kitchen, and it is more limiting, but can totally be done if that is your only option! I talk about this in my blog post on peanuts & hotels. There are tons of cooking hack tips online you can read about, but I’ve found if you have access to a microwave either in your room or main hotel breakfast area and some type of mini fridge, it’s not necessary to get into turning-your-coffeemaker-into-a-griddle territory if it’s not your thing (especially because you’d want to wipe the coffee maker down REALLY REALLY well).
- A new thing I’ve started experimenting with is printing out papers that say different things about my peanut allergy. I make two messages for my flights to pass out, one goes to the flight attendants requesting if they can make an announcement for others to refrain from eating any peanut products they brought on, and a separate one to pass around to the seats of the rows around me so people *hopefully* don’t eat peanuts next to me. I request to pre-board when flying anyway, so I can wipe my seat and let them know about my allergy, and that’s when I can quickly place them in the seats nearby without having to hand them directly to a bunch of people on my flights. I’ve gotten overall a really positive response to the ones I have passed out to other passengers, only a few minor complaints or not-so-nice comments. I print a 3rd print-out for traveling abroad and that’s the message I bring to the restaurants to give to my server for the kitchen. For the airplane, I made my little requests in French, Dutch, and English all in one, but for the restaurants I printed them in each language separately and brought the correct one with me depending on the location & language spoken there.
Alright, now into the fun Belgian specifics! We went to Brussels, Ghent, and Bruges. I planned iteneraries for Antwerp and Mechelen as well ahead of time, but we wanted to not completely kill our feet, so we didn’t make it to the last two.
Shout-out to Delhaize Grocery! I loved shopping there and tried some great peanut-free Delhaize brand fresh pasta (made in Italy or France, I believe), fresh yummy produce, and Lotus brand packaged waffles to take around everywhere with me as a snack! I highly recommend stocking up on those- there are tons of packaged waffle flavors and types! Since the EU is required to label for more allergens, and for ‘may contain’, you’ll notice on my pictures below that ‘sulphites’ are something they label for, and often you’ll see the ‘may contain’ statement.
Here is the package of Delhaize cheese & arugula refrigerated pasta we got that was delicious:
You can see it says it “contains: gluten, egg, and milk and made in a workshop using crustaceans, fish, celery, mustard and sulphites.” Here are some other products we enjoyed:
Restaurants/Breweries I contacted with no peanuts on the menu or out for snacking (these should always be checked to make sure it’s still up-to-date):
- Brasserie Cantillon Brewery
- Moeder Lambic (Place Fontainas location)
- Brasserie da le Senne
- Maison Dandoy
- Valentino Chocolatier
- Lindeman’s Brewery
- Peck 20 (not Peck 47)
- Chana Falafel
- Ai 6 Angoli
Since we had a kitchenette, we did not go to all the above places! We had a beyond-great experience with Cantillon Brewery, Moeder Lambic, Peck 20 and Maison Dandoy, and those would be the main places I recommend! For the restaurants, both of the owners were very responsive and knowledgeable, and made me feel comfortable. Here are photos of my savory waffles from Peck 20 and sweet waffles from Maison Dandoy (which I got one almost every day!!!) To my delight, Maison Dandoy has multiple locations and SO many lovely treats. I would be wary of going to breweries and bars without checking before, I found a lot of more casual places did have peanuts out for snacking.
Here are a few photos from my trip to show what Brussels looks like- it was gorgeous and affordable! The city is huge, FYI, we could’ve spent weeks there without seeing every neighborhood!
Known as the vegetarian capital of Belgium (heck yeah!) with a ton of vegan and vegetarian options, the place we chose and were absolutely obsessed with the veggie burger and fries from was De Frietketel. The aesthetic and vibe in there was really hip and fun, too. They fry in sunflower oil and had no peanut products in the building and were very aware of allergens, it’s run by a young couple!
Known as ‘the most beautiful city in Belgium’, and the ‘fairy-tale of the North’, which it totally was, we had a lovely time in Bruges! Again, make sure to check these places yourself but I felt comfortable with the below:
- Choco-Story Museum
- B by B Chocolate Shop
- Kottee Kaffee
- We got snacks from Smatch Grocery
Known as the diamond hub, I actually did not find any places in Antwerp I trusted or that did not use peanuts, but we also didn’t end up going and had a feeling during our trip we may not, so I didn’t reach out to as many restaurants as the other cities!
Surprisingly, a milkshake bar called Eiskreem Milkshakebar said they didn’t use peanuts, so we didn’t make it to this city but I was a little sad due to that! And then I contacted a place called Kingslize-Nekkerspoelstraat which seemed really neat and didn’t have peanuts in use at the time (this was back in late 2018).
OK- That’s a wrap! Check out my other allergy-friendly travel guides!