Aalst, which is a city in East-Flanders, is probably best known for its carnival tradition, but the city is also worth a city trip outside this festivity. Aalst has evolved from a gray factory city to a center city with numerous trendy hotspots. In this article, you can read my tips for your visit to Aalst and you can learn some words in the local dialect (“Oilstjers”).
City walk – learn to know the city
A nice way to get to know the city is a city walk. You can find all information about the possibilities on the website of Visit Aalst. The walking route I recently did started at the central Market Square, which is dominated by an ancient Belfry and the ‘Borse Van Amsterdam’. Amsterdam? The name “Borse van Amsterdam” refers to the trade route between Lille and Amsterdam, of which Aalst was part. Today, there is situated a restaurant and banquet hall in this historic building.
The route took me across the Dender river to the Carnival working halls. In these working halls, decorated with graffiti, the floats of dozens of carnival groups are built. Back in the city center, I’ve strolled through the colorful Peperstraat and walked past the birth house of Adolf Daens. Daens was a priest who fought for the rights of the workers in the factories of Aalst in the 19th century. If you want to dig further into the rich history of Aalst, you should definitely visit the city museum. Admission to the museum is free.
The city museum will open again from Tuesday 9 June. It is necessary to book your visit in advance via the website.
Bon vivants – eating and drinking in Aalst
Multiple coffee bars are part of the cityscape and there’s also a big choice of restaurants. It would be an impossible job to list up all the nice addresses in Aalst, but I would like to give you my 2 personal favorites.
ZERO53. My favorite breakfast spot in Aalst! In ZERO53 [Molenstraat 44, Aalst], you can brunch in a unique interior. The most original (second-hand) gadgets are displayed in the etablishement, which are most likely for sale. Choose between the various breakfast formulas, or enjoy an extensive brunch on Sunday. Since the start of the corona measures, ZERO53 has started with a take-away service.
Bistrot D’Licious. Bistrot D’Licious [Gentsestraat 4, Aalst] is all about a good value for money. You can enjoy a nice lunch or dinner. Owner and chef Dimitri Polaster always cooks with fresh products. Even the french fries with mayonnaise, which of course can’t be missed on a Belgian trip, are freshly prepared.
The local dialect – a language of its own
When you listen closely to the citizens of Aalst, you will notice that they are speaking some kind of own language. There is even a dictionary about their local dialect, ‘Oilsjters’. You want to learn some words of Oilsjters? Ok, here’s a brief introduction. An important word to know about is ‘vastelauved’, a word which is used by locals for the Aalst Carnival. Every year during Carnival, thousands of sweet onions are thrown into the crowds from the balcony of the town hall. The main price of this event is a golden onion. The citizens of Aalst are called ‘onions’ (“ajoin”), due to the onion cultivation in the 19th century. The best way to learn a language/dialect is to go to the place yourself. So, what are you waiting for? 😉