This flea market has been in operation since 1640, and it's been open daily since 1919. The working-class district of Marolles is a pleasant morning destination. Grab a cup of coffee and a waffle, and watch the locals rushing off to work. Then, stroll among the stalls, perusing a wide variety of antiques, old postcards, retro clothing, and household items.
It makes sense that the fashionable enclave of Ixelles is home to shopping hotspot Avenue Louise. Inno, the city's most well-rounded department store, offers everything from clothing to housewares and has a branch here; however, upscale boutiques are more common. Bonpoint is a local favorite for children's clothes, while Natan provides duds for their mommies. Though a toy store, Serneel's often captivates adults as well as children. To sample Belgian fashion, try Oliver Strelli, a local talent many compare to Armani, or the Shine department store, which exclusively stocks Belgian designers. The area is also home to several excellent bookstores and galleries, not to mention numerous cafes. Hours and credit card acceptance vary by store.
This Italian Neo-Renaissance arcade is considered one of Europe's oldest "malls." Charged by King Leopold I with its construction in 1837, young architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaars converted the entire Rue Saint-Hubert into the airy arcade that visitors see today. Three levels – King's gallery, Queen's gallery, and the Prince's gallery – are home to boutiques, cafes, newsstands, and even a cinema. Musicians stroll the arcade, hoping for an appreciative Euro or two. Shop and restaurant hours vary, as do accepted credit cards, but the gallery itself is open daily around the clock, so you can appreciate the architecture any time of day or night.
To maintain its stellar reputation, Belgian chocolate is strictly monitored for quality by the government. Consequently, it's impossible to find "bad" Belgian chocolate. But how do you decide where to shop for it? Try Leonidas, which offers high-quality Belgian pralines (their term for chocolates) at reasonable prices. Leonidas has more than 2000 locations world-wide, including several shops within Brussels. They're most famous for the "Manon Café," a delicate, roasted hazelnut filling surrounded by white chocolate. In all, Leonidas offers 80 different confections, including perfectly-formed marzipan fruit, liqueur-filled truffles, and pralines featuring butter cream or caramel surrounded by dark or milk chocolate.
This pastry shop is one of Brussels' most famous, and rightly so. Wittamer has been building a reputation since 1910, and locals show up to grab a light breakfast, to indulge in a fabulous dessert, or to find a gift for someone special. Wittamer's specialties include candied chestnuts (marrons glaces) and marzipan biscuits, but their handmade pralines (Belgian for "chocolates"), breads, cakes and pastries are also sensory delights. Wittamer has five shops in Brussels, but only at the Grand Sablon can you buy a croissant or an ice cream, sit at an outside table, and watch the parade of chic city residents.
A comic memento is a unique, fitting way to remember a trip to Brussels, and no character is more closely associated with Belgium than Tintin. Luckily, this shop offers plenty of merchandise, including Tintin clothes, rugs, toys, prints and school supplies. You can even purchase Tintin comics translated into 50 languages.
This popular Belgian designer has become a household name since debuting in 1985. Thanks to an affinity for light silks and chiffon, her fashions for women are described as "floaty" and "fairy-like." In addition to a ready-to-wear collection and daytime knits, Kaat Tilley offers bridal wear and evening wear. Her newest line is designed for children. Although garments are available at boutiques around the world, the largest selection of Kaat Tilley is found at this headquarters shop in Brussels.
How can you visit Belgium without bringing home authentic Belgian lace? Brussels' largest lace-maker offers excellent, reasonably-priced handmade goods, which are of higher quality and greater durability than machine-manufactured products. Both antique and contemporary lace designs are available on placemats, tablecloths, blouses, nightgowns, linens, and other clothing. Doilies suitable for framing, along with bookmarks and handkerchiefs, also make excellent souvenirs.
This shop is a destination for beer connoisseurs traveling in Brussels. Visitors award consistently high marks for the broad selection – over 400 Belgian beers – and the helpful husband-wife owners. Beer Mania is the small "pub" counter in the back of the store where you can sample many in-stock brews before you buy. The owners are also happy to provide guidance on the proper type of glass to serve beer in, especially since more than 100 officially sanctioned shapes and sizes are available.
This square takes its name from "sable," the French word for "sand." Years ago, the area was a nondescript, sandy lowland on the way to Brussels proper. Today, the square is filled with art galleries, boutiques and upscale cafes; it's also the epicenter of Brussels' antiques trade. In fact, historic homes surrounding the square have been converted into high-end antique shops, and a well-known antiques market is held on the square each weekend.