Great Escapes

European Travel Blog


Top 10 eats in Cologne, Germany

If you’re looking for some culinary inspiration during a trip to Cologne, or want to know some of the best eateries the city has to offer, dive into our top ten eats and discover where you can get a great burger, a traditional bratwurst, a delicious local beer and much, much more…

Bei Oma Kleinmann

With a busy and bustling atmosphere, this restaurant is a great place to visit if you’re looking to dine on traditional German schnitzel – and lots of it!

Zülpicher Str. 9
50674 Köln
Phone:  +49 221 232346


Image credit: Larry Hoffman, Flickr

Image credit: Larry Hoffman, Flickr    


Die Fette Kuh

With many guests claiming they had ‘the best burger they’ve ever had’ here, it’s no wonder it makes our top ten. The pictures you’ll find on their Facebook page are enough to tempt you into making a pit stop.

Bonner Str. 43
Phone: +49 221 37627775


Image credit: designsquad, flickr

Image credit: designsquad, flickr


Zippiri Gourmetwerkstatt & Wein-Bar

A little Italian restaurant with fabulous food and great service, if you fancy a slice of Italian cuisine during your break in Cologne, this is a great place to try.

Riehlerstr. 73
50668 Köln
Phone: +49 221 92299584


Image credit: Cucino di Te, Flickr

Image credit: Cucino di Te, Flickr


Gilden im Zims

For something a little more than just food, visit this beautiful historic gastropub that’s more than 550 years old. Here you’ll experience great, traditional food, refreshing Kölsch and a helping of German history all in one place.

Heumarkt 77
50667 Köln
Phone: +49 221 16866110


Image credit: Raymond - Raimond Spekking, Wikimedia Commons

Image credit: Raymond – Raimond Spekking, Wikimedia Commons 



Located inside Excelsior Hotel Ernst, a 5* hotel in Cologne, its restaurant is just that – 5*. With spectacular gourmet dishes on offer, this is a great place to dine if you’re partial to meat and fish.

Trankgasse 1-5 / Domplatz
50667 Köln
Phone: +49 (0) 221 270 1


Zen Japanese restaurant

For a taste of Japan during your break in Cologne, choose from Zen’s extensive Japanese menu and enjoy the taste of exquisite tempura, ura maki and sashimi dishes.

Bachemer Str. 236
50935 Köln
Phone: +49 (221) 2828 5755


Image credit: kanonn, Flickr

Image credit: kanonn, Flickr

Ristorante Al Solito Posto

Eat pizza and pasta until your heart’s content at this small and rather quaint restaurant. Fresh, homemade sauces compliment their Italian specialities and they’re also very reasonably priced – an ideal place for a quick spot of lunch.

Wattstraße 9
51105 Köln
Phone:  +49 221 16877018


Image credit: Matthew Kenwrick, Flickr

Image credit: Matthew Kenwrick, Flickr

Gast und Weinhaus Brungs

This is a great restaurant to experience authentic German cuisine and sample beautiful wines from their 14th century cellar. Using local ingredients, you can choose traditional dishes such as Bratwurst, or Italian options are also available.

Marsplatz 3-5
50667 Köln
Phone: +49 221 2581666

Website (only in German):

Image credit: Oxfordian Kissuth, Wikimedia Commons

Image credit: Oxfordian Kissuth, Wikimedia Commons 

Gilden Brauhaus

If you’re looking for a traditional German Brauhaus with a cosy and rustic atmosphere, then add Gilden Brauhaus to your itinerary. Enjoy a refreshing glass of fresh local beer (Gilden Kölsch) and choose a dish from the daily menu – Thursdays include Jägerschnitzel, or head down on a Wednesday for traditional Bratwurst.

Clevischer ring 121
51063 Köln
Phone: +49 221 6406339


Image credit: Raimond Spekkin, Wikimedia Commons

Image credit: Raimond Spekkin, Wikimedia Commons 


Described as a ‘hidden gem’, this restaurant is off the tourist track and popular with locals. It’s ideal for lunch or dinner, and the extensive menu has something to suit everyone, why not finish your meal with tasty apple pancakes with cinnamon? It’s also worth noting you might want to make a reservation here, as it does get very busy.

Im Sionstal 2
50678 Köln
Phone: +49 221 99701230


Image credit: Jeffreyw, Flickr

Image credit: Jeffreyw, Flickr


If this has inspired you to explore all the culinary delights that Cologne has to offer, you can book your very own holiday to Cologne through Great Escapes.

best ghent restaurants


5 Favourite Dining Experiences in Ghent, Belgium

Ghent offers some of Belgium’s finest foodie experiences going way above and beyond many an expectation of fries, waffles and beer. You’ll find all these for sure, and very good they are too, but you’ll also find a plethora of talented chefs, producing some exceptional, if sometimes quirky, sophisticated dining experiences. Here’s our choice of favourites from waffles to fine dining in Ghent.

The House of Eliott

Jan Breydelstraat 36
900 Ghent
09 22 52 128
Trip Advisor

Feathers, statues, mannequins and dolls, flowers, hats, dresses and even a handbag under a glass dome – The House of Elliot is crammed full of 1920’s kitsch memorabilia, oozing charm and atmosphere in reputedly the best lobster restaurant in town.  If you opt for the Eliott lobster menu, you’ll get 6  lobster dishes prepared in 6 very different ways. And if one of you party is not a lobster fan, don’t fear, there are plenty of other options to choose from.  A warm welcome awaits you and the service is superb. The memories of your visit to this wonderfully quirky restaurant will stay with you a very long time.

best ghent restaurantstop gent restaurant


Nieuwe Wandeling 2b
9000 Ghent
09 32 40 500
Trip Advisor

Top Ghent restaurants
A ten minute walk from the city centre you’ll find this cool restaurant in a huge converted turbine hall was put on the Ghent foodie map by the chef Olly Ceulenaere one of Belgium’s three “rock n roll chefs” as nicknamed by local press. Olly passed on the baton last year to another talented young Flemish chef  Davy De Pourcq, ensuring that continues to offer a first-rate, if sometimes surprising, dining experience.
Closed Mondays.

De Frietketel

Papegaaistraat 89
9000 Ghent

Trip Advisor

Unlike traditional Belgium fries, which are fried twice in animal fat, at  De Frietketel their renowned fries are freshly cut each day and fried twice in vegetable oil. As the premier fry shop in Ghent it is well worth the ten minute walk from the town’s historic centre and you’ll be rewarded with a huge mound of fries, even if you order a small portion. As is traditional in Belgium, at an extra cost, you may also pick from a wonderful assortment of mainly unpronounceable sauces for dipping including Stoverijsaus, a rich meaty stew and the homemade, spicy mayonnaise, Samurai. They also offer a great variety of veggie burgers as well as several vegan options.
Possibly due to being very popular with locals and students, they only open during the week.

De Vitrine

Brabantdam 134
09 33 62 808
Trip Advisor

best restaurants Gent

Serving Flemish tapas around a marble counter in a former butcher’s shop, this popular restaurant also has a small dining room out the back which gets fully booked well in advance. They offer fresh and surprising fare at a reasonable price in an unpretentious atmosphere.
Closed Mondays


Goudenleeuwplein 3
900 Ghent
09 22 39 731

Establishment Max
Trip Advisor

best waffle ghent

The home of the Belgium waffle – it was invented right here! Yves and his family have been cooking waffles for six generations in this charming art deco establishment. The perfect waffle should be light, translucent, not at all greasy, traditionally with 20 squares and dusted in powdered sugar but they can also come with whipped cream, chocolate fruit and many other delicious combinations!

top waffle gentbest waffle gent


Photos courtesy of Trip Advisor

Le Procope

Leave a comment

5 unique dining experiences in Paris

The cuisine of this beautiful city is legendary but of course as with anywhere not every restaurant lives up to our expectations. However, the dinning experience isn’t just about the food, it is also about a great atmosphere and, if like me, you also enjoy something a little more unusual than your average restaurant, here is my collection of eateries that I think are well worth a visit.

Unusual Paris restaurants

Seafood at one of the oldest restaurants in Paris, Le Procope

Les Provinces Boucherie Restaurant

The Marché d’Aligre is a great market for food lovers and when artisan butcher, Christophe Dru began, transformed part of his shop into a restaurant, just last year, it was an immediate success with Parisian meat-eaters. From juicy pork ribs to over-sized entrecôte, the food is excellent and there’s also a small but good wine list, all at a reasonable price. With limited seating it gets very busy on a Saturday and Sunday so arrive early as you can’t make a reservation.

Marche d'Aligre

Marché d’Aligre

Address: 20 rue d’Aligre Opening hours: Tue-Fri 12mid-2pm; Sat-Sun 12mid-3pm Nearest Metro: Ledru Rollin or Faidherbe – Chaligny Trip Advisor: Les Provinces Boucherie

Le Salon de thé de La Pagode

In 1895, the flamboyant owner of Le Bon Marché, Paris’ equivalent to London’s Harrods, built a palatial pavilion inspired by Japanese pagodas, as a birthday present for his wife. In the ’30s, La Pagode took on a new life as an art house cinema, while its oriental garden became the venue for an enchanting salon de thé. Service can be incredibly slow and the choice of gâteaux are brought in from a local pâtisserie every day, but it’s the choice of teas that everyone comes here for from Earl Grey to Thé du Tigre, a smoked black tea from Taiwan. The delight of which is only added to by the jungle of bamboo and tropical plants and the statues of dragons and tigers that surround you.

La Pagoda, Paris

Le Salon de thé de La Pagode

Address: 57 Rue de Babylone Telephone: 01 45 55 48 48 Opening hours: Tue-Sun 3pm-9pm, closed in Winter or if it rains Website: La Pagode Nearest Metro: Saint-Francois-Xavier Trip Advisor: La Pagode

Un Jour, Un Chef

In a quiet backstreet just off the Place de la Bastille, a unqiue dinning experience, dreampt-up by three friends, has become a great success. If you fancy trying your hand at being chef for the day all you need do is visit their website or call them and you can take over the kitchen to prepare the lunch or evening meal. You create the menu and the restaurant while buy all the produce you will need and there’s no need to panic if it gets too hot in the kitchen, the restaurant’s professional chef is always on hand. Alternatively, just go along to eat and your receive a warm welcome and a great meal, at a reasonable price. The menu changes every day, with an enthusiastic amateur, eager to impress, backed by a team of professionals. You should be in for a real treat!

Address: 4 Rue Biscornet Telephone: 01 43 43 00 08 Opening hours: please check with venue Website: Nearest Metro: Bastille Trip Advisor: Un jour, un chef

Foyer Vietnam

If you were told you were going to a not-for-profit Vietnamese restaurant, run by volunteers in support of Vietnamese culture, humanitarian projects and the local Vietnamese student population, what would you expect? Cheap and cheerful? ✓ Clean and friendly? ✓ Art exhibitions? ✓ Great food? ✓

Foyer Vietnam, unusual paris restaurants

Foyer Vietnam

You’ll actually find really great food in an equally great atmosphere, at affordable prices, in what could be described as a chic canteen. There’s no sign outside to indicate its a restaurant but you’ll find it on Rue Monge in the 5th arrondissement. Try their tasty beef with noodles, or perhaps lemongrass roasted chicken and delicious spring rolls but be sure to leave room for a dessert, such as their homemade ginger ice cream. On the down side there isn’t much for vegetarians and it can get quite crowded, but only because it is so good!

Foyer Vietbnam

Foyer Vietnam

Address: 80 Rue Monget Telephone: 01 45 35 32 54 Opening hours: Mon-Sat 12noon-2pm, 7pm-10pm Website: Foyer Vietnam Nearest Metro: Place Monge Trip Advisor: Foyer Vietnam

Le Procope

Established in1686 by Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, as a coffee house in the rue des Fossés Saint-Germain (present-day rue de l’Ancienne Comédie) Today the decor will take you back in time to ensure a memorable experience and although the service can be a little slow the food is well worth the wait from sumptuous seafood platters to sublime duck dishes and desserts that will make your mouth water on sight!.

Le Procope, Old Parisan Restaurant, Paris, France

Le Procope

FB-Pied de Cochon

Le Procope

Le Procope

Address: 13 rue de l’Ancienne Comédie Telephone: 01 40 46 79 00 Opening hours: Sun-Wed 11.30am-midnight, Thur-Sat 11.30am-1.00am Website: Le Procope Nearest Metro: Odéon Trip Advisor: Le Procope

Photographs for Les Provinces Boucherie Restaurant, Un Jour, Un Chef and Foyer Vietnam courtesy of TripAdvisor

Eat Brussels

Leave a comment


600 EDAN7444

This weekend (from Friday 13th to Sunday 15th September) sees some thirty restaurants come together in the Bois de la Chambre (French) also known as Ter Kamerenbos (Dutch) park in Brussels for the culinary extravaganza, eat! BRUSSELS. 

Sharing their passion for delicious cuisine, both traditional and new, they will also be joined by various culinary partners from around the globe enabling festival goers a chance to sample dishes and products from Europe, Africa, the East as well as neighbouring France and, of course, Belgium. The park, and its lovely lake, make a beautiful setting for this festival held for the first time just last year. Small portions, but plenty of them, is the order of the day!

600 JJD_eat_5258

This year’s participating restaurants include The Tram Experience, featured in a previous post, 5 Unique Dining Experiences in Brussels. Since it was launched in February 2012 it has been a dazzling success and it has definitely earned its place in eat! BRUSSELS. This year, the Tram Experience is showcasing Brussels-based chefs, and the dishes served up for the festival are the creations of the project’s patron, Lionel Rigolet, chef at the legendary Comme Chez Soi.

600 EDAN7911

Cuisines from around the globe

Sichuan is famous for its pandas and gastronomy. Its cuisine is among the eight most important in China. By focusing on the delightful variety and sophistication to be found in the province’s gastronomy, the eat! Brussels Festival is a good opportunity to promote friendly relations between Brussels and Sichuan. Sichuan’s gastronomy will be superbly represented by chefs from Daronghe, an acclaimed restaurant in the city of Chengdu.

Katanga, in southern Democratic Republic of Congo, is known for being multicultural. Katangese cooking is renowned for being warming and spicy, to be enjoyed with friends and family and will be represented in Brussels by the traditional cuisine found at Café Baraka in Ixelles.

Budapest, the Hungarian capital is proud of its roots and has a flourishing social, artistic and scientific life. Both banks of the Danube, the Buda and Pest, are home to thousands of restaurants, bars and cafés. As well as the culinary delights of master chef Áron Barka, a wide range of Hungarian wines will also be presented by the Master Sommelier, Jim Bauters. In addition, Budapest will this year offer its traditional Hungarian goulash originating in the country’s great plains, to be prepared by a genuine shepherd calling on centuries-old traditional techniques. Something not to be missed!

Bratislava is a border region with Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic. Although it is the smallest region in Slovakia, Bratislava is the nation’s economic engine. Geographically, the mountains of Malé Karpaty and the Little Carpathians divide the landscape into two plains: Záhorie plain and the fertile Danube plain. The Little Carpathians are a rich wine-growing area and, from a culinary viewpoint, Bratislava Region also has a great deal to offer. For example it boasts a wide range of vegetables of every colour under the rainbow, not to mention a stew of red and white cabbage, stuffed pike, catfish soup, lokše (a kind of pancake) and pastries with sweet names such as fánky and koblihy.  Young people will be guests of honour this year on the Bratislava stand, which will be represented by hotel school students at the Farského Secondary Vocational School.

Rabat-Salé-Zemmour-Zaer (known in Arabic as ال رب اط س لا زمور زع ير ) is a region in Morocco; its administrative centre, Rabat, is also the nation’s capital, famed for its cooking, notably specialities such as the meat of lamb and sheep cooked on a spit (‘mechoui’) or in a tagine pot. This stew, which is cooked slowly with salted fruits such as dates, prunes or lemons, is traditionally accompanied by couscous. Dates and milk are among the region’s nutritional staple foods. In addition, the region’s gastronomy includes a mix of rich seasoning spices, such as ‘kama’, which comprises nutmeg, black pepper, ginger, turmeric and cumin. The nation’s favourite beverage, mint tea, goes well with Moroccan cakes and biscuits such as ‘ghoriba’ or layered crêpes. The region will be represented by the caterer Samraa from Rabat.

Beijing‘s gastronomy is complex, sophisticated and full of flavour. It has been based on pork and mutton since the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, notably through the influences of Mongolian and Manchurian cuisine. Beijing’s cuisine has also been influenced by culinary traditions to be found throughout China. This year the city will be represented by the Beijing Golden Million restaurant.

In Quebec, the passion for fine food has been passed down through the years and continues to thrive! Influenced by France, Canada’s Aboriginal peoples and Britain, the province’s cuisine is today renowned for the variety of its local produce and by the ingenuity of its chefs and artisans.
During the festival, Kanata, the site selling produce from Quebec, will introduce the province’s culinary side. This includes beers, teas and herbal teas, maple products, and locally produced sweets and liquors. Visitors to eat! BRUSSELS are also invited to a highly typical ‘épluchette de blé d’Inde’ (corn roast) during meal-time tastings.

Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, is the nation’s political, cultural and industrial centre, as well as a major university centre. Sofia’s cuisine is strongly influenced by Slavic and Mediterranean cooking. It is also very healthy, calling chiefly on vegetables, spices and herbs such as garlic, onion, chubritza, parsley, mint and dill. This year, Sofia will be represented by the famous restaurant Shades of Red, located in the Grand Hotel Sofia, and its talented chef Joro Ivanov. A graduate of the well-known French Culinary Institute in New York, he has practised his art in France, Germany and Italy. Ivanov has also twice taken part in the prestigious Le Bocuse d’Or competitions. Moreover, he has a special link with Brussels, since he was chef at La Truffe Noire, a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Belgian capital. Joro Ivanov will be offering a superb form of fusion cuisine, featuring great Bulgarian flavours.

eat brussels

Related article: Why I am not skinny’ reviewed last years event, EAT! Brussels is Brusselicious.

All images copyright : ©VISITBRUSSELS


5 Unique Dining Experiences in Lille, France

I recently spent a wonderful long weekend in Lille and discovered some very interesting eateries. The traditional cuisine of the area is tasty and hearty combing Flemish traditions with a touch of the French ‘art de vivre’. Regional specialties include carbonnade (chunks of beef stewed in beer), waterzoi (poultry or fish in a creamy sauce and potjeveesch (white meat terrine in aspic) usually washed down with a traditional, local beer. And for dessert look out for gaufres fourrées (a type of thin filled waffle).

With around 900 restaurants and cafés in Lille, you are certainly spoiled for choice.  If, however, you are looking for something more than just great food, here are my suggestions for 5 unique dining experiences in and around Lille.

Cook your own

At L’atelier des Chef, on Bouleverde de la Liberté, you can have a hands-on cooking lesson with a highly experienced French chef and then eat your hard work with your classmates. Courses start from just 17€ for a 30 minute lesson preparing a delicious main course, such as French roast chicken with raspberries and mashed potatoes with basil.

french cookery class

French raost chicken

Eat in a second-hand bookshop

On rue des Bouchers in Vieux Lille (the old town) you’ll find Le Café-Livres. Old armchairs and shelves of secondhand books give a very cosy feel to this bar come restaurant come bookshop. Enjoy simple, fresh meals while browsing through the books, either inside or on the small interior terrace.

Eat in a hosier’s shop

This small restaurant on place du Théâtre, was once a hosier’s shop, founded in 1813 by the present owner’s ancestor. Many details have been kept to remind visitors of the café’s past including dummies, fitting rooms and mirrors, resulting in a quirky, welcoming café bar that is popular with the locals.

Eat in a swimming pool

We recently featured this wonderful museum in a beautiful art deco building that was once a swimming pool – La Piscine, on rue de LEspérance in Roubaix, a suburb of Lille. The museum’s Restaurant Meert serves traditional French cuisine and is famous for its Madagascan vanilla waffles. The original decor of the restaurant has been preserved in every detail including the mahogany bar and even the furniture.

Restaurant Meert

A sunny outside terrace over looks the textile plant garden.

Restaurant Meert’s sunny terrace overlooking the textile plant garden at La Piscine

Eat in a Foundry

The Fonderie also in Roubaix on Bvd Montesquieu is a stylish restaurant in what was once a 19th century foundry.  Combining contemporary décor with reminders of its industrial past creates an intimate atmosphere with style.


La Fonderie

Related articles

5 unique dining experiences in Brussels

La Piscine, a beautiful museum in Roubaix, Lille

Secret_Garden Great Brussels restaurants


5 Unique Dining Experiences in Brussels, Belgium

Travel writer and photographer,  Alison Cornford-Matheson, tells us about 5 unique and unusual ways to enjoy great food in Brussels.

Belgians are passionate about food. With more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than France, it’s easy to eat well in this diverse country. However, when travelers talk of dining in Brussels, it’s all about dark cafés and bustling brasseries, with plenty of chips and Belgian beer. While we’re in favour of these sorts of local experiences, there’s so much more to the food scene in Belgium. If you want to break free of the Belgian stereotypes, here are 5 unique dining experiences available in Brussels.

Eat With Locals

Bookalokal_ Great Brussels restaurants

There’s no better way to get insight in to the Brussels food scene than by dining with local foodies. Brussels-based start-up Bookalokal offers the opportunity to do just that. Belgians and expats open their homes to share meals with guests for a fee, much less than you would pay at a restaurant. Offerings range from local Belgian favourites to flavours from around the world. If you’re adventurous, you can go beyond having a simple meal to taking part in a cooking class, a beer pairing evening, even a murder mystery night in full costume! In addition to enjoying a great food experience, you’ll meet fun people and leave with loads of tips on what to do, see and eat in Brussels during your stay.

Eat With a Chef

Secret_Garden Great Brussels restaurants

The popular Brussels catering company, La Britannique, opened a new international themed café, Britxos,  to rave reviews last spring. This summer, while they are undergoing renovations, you have special opportunity to dine chez the head chef, Alex, at a series of pop-up restaurants called The Secret Garden. Like Bookalokal, you’ll have the opportunity to dine with other passionate foodies, both local and from abroad, during these exclusive dinners. You can learn tips and tricks from Chef Alex, as he prepares the meals in front of you, and gain insider foodie knowledge from your fellow diners. The meals are relaxed, convivial and you definitely won’t leave hungry!

Eat in a Prison

Dining in a former prison arsenal may not seem like an elegant experience, but meals at Le Mess are far from a punishment. The menu is seasonal and features traditional Belgian favourites. Local and organic produce is used whenever possible and the dishes are flavourful and sophisticated. The elegant dining room has Philippe Stark designed furniture and a refined yet comfortable atmosphere. However, the tables in the greenhouse are the showstoppers. You can dine amidst the grapevines, whatever the weather.

Eat in a Bank

Like Le Mess, Belgian institution, Belga Queen, repurposes a Brussels 18th century landmark as a hip and elegant restaurant. This time, the building in question is the former Crédit du Nord bank. Belga Queen fuses contemporary design with traditional building elements, like the dramatic stained glass windows on the ceiling and a plush cigar bar inside the former bank vault. The food is just as luxurious and authentically Belgian. Many menu items even feature Belgian beer on the ingredients list. Seafood lovers can enjoy the oyster bar and a variety of other treats from the sea, while carnivores can feast on Belgian beef and poultry. Vegetarians aren’t an afterthought at Belga Queen, with a variety of five delicious main courses featuring local, seasonal produce.

Eat on a Tram

Tram restaurant, Great Brussels restaurants

Imagine the surprised looks of pedestrians while you pass by, on a luxuriously refitted tram, sipping champagne. By far, the most unique way to enjoy a meal in Brussels in on the Tram Experience. Eight times a week, 34 lucky diners enjoy a three-course meal, complete with wine pairings, while riding around Brussels on a converted tram. This is no ordinary meal either. Belgium’s top Michelin-starred chefs have created the menus, featuring innovative and stylish dishes. The tram itself is specially designed for a smooth ride and has coloured mood lighting to set the atmosphere. Don’t forget to save room for dessert by Belgium’s favourite chocolatier, Pierre Marcolini!

AlisonAlison Cornford-Matheson is a freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of, a resource for expats, locals and travellers in Belgium. She landed in Belgium in 2005 and is passionate about this quirky little country. She loves to discover Belgium’s hidden gems – be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. Her passion is travelling the world with her husband, Andrew. She is an AFAR Ambassador and founding member of the PTBA. When not on the road, she loves to spend quiet nights reading travel books and trashy mysteries with her cats and a glass of red wine. You can follow her on Google+, on Twitter as @Acornn, on Pintrest or check out her Facebook Page.