What to Buy in Brussels: 15 Ideas for Travelers

What to Buy in Brussels: 15 Ideas for Travelers

It's no secret that Brussels is not all about JCVD muscles and EU headquarters. Small country as such, Belgium abounds in signature items, such as beer, chocolates and... the peeing boy. All of these have made prime Belgian souvenirs for years. Now you can explore the Brussels gift scene in more detail and see what else you can bring home from a trip to the Belgian capital.
(To visit the venues mentioned in this article, check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Brussels)
Image Courtesy of: Silveira Neto

1. Chocolate

Bringing back chocolate from Belgium is an obvious choice, so if you’re going to pick up a box, you’ll want something rare and unexpected. Chocolatier Pierre Marcolini treats his sweets as modern design, and doesn’t stop at the chocolate itself. His store in the heart of the artsy Sablon-district looks a bit like a decadent ice cream parlor where the chocolates are displayed as if they were luxury cars in a show room.

His top-of-the line product is the macaroon, two brightly colored biscuits separated from each other by a cream paste. If you’re looking for the royal treatment, pick up The Complete Collection (30 euros), a red luxury box with 25 macaroons in every imaginable bright color. Of course, it is always possible to assemble a handpicked selection, or buy one of the less expensive gift packages. Other than macaroons, you’ll find plenty of pralines, truffles and chocolates that have all been treated to the Marcolini touch.
Where to find it:
Pierre Marcolini
1, Rue des Minimes
1000 Bruxelles
+32 (0)2 514 12 06
Open: Mon - Wed, Sun (10:00-19:00), Thu-Fr (10:00-20:00)
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2. Comic Books

Comic Books
Just like in Japan, it’s perfectly normal to see a Belgian adult reading a comic book in public. Comic books are bestsellers here, with a staggering amount of titles catering to all age categories. Since Belgium is bilingual, each language part has developed separate styles, but they all come together in the capital of Brussels. All over the city center you can find gigantic comic book murals, and the city is home to a comic book museum worth visiting. Of course, there are tons of comics for sale in Brussels, up to a point that it gets hard to decide which store to pick. We settled on Brüsel, a centrally located vendor that caters to both the uninitiated and the comic book geek. They also act as publishing house for local talent and offer original art works on the first floor.

Of course, you will find the usual suspects here like TinTin, Asterix or Lucky Luke, but we decided to go for an artist that is extremely popular in the Franco-Belgian world. For almost thirty years, Philippe Geluck, a Brussels comedian, has been using Le Chat (The Cat) to explain the world in witty punch lines. With God Save the Cat (12, 50 euros) his drawings have been translated into English. If you want, you can also pick up at Brüsel the Le Chat merchandise, like mugs and saucers. If you get a chance to, visit a local supermarket for a box of genuine The Cat-cookies.
Where to find it:
100, Boulevard Anspach
1000 Bruxelles
+32 (0)2 511 08 09
Open: Mon - Sat (10:30-18:00), Sun (12:00-18:00)
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Offline reading and travel directions:
With GPSmyCity App you can read this article offline on your mobile device, use the embedded offline city map and GPS navigation, as well as create a self-guided walk to visit the venues featured in the article.

3. Lace

Once upon a time, little old Belgium was the epicenter of the lace trade. Back in those days, the precious material was only used to adorn the gowns of clergymen and royalty, but, over the ages, each country had adopted its own style until it became a commodity. Nowadays, most of the lace production has been entirely Made in China, but in Belgium there is still a small group of workers who continue to uphold the age-old tradition of handmade lace embroidery. It’s highly labor-intensive: a small piece of the spidery fabric will take a worker around 85 hours. Belgium employs around 1.000 lacemakers, all women between their fifties and eighties.

One of the oldest lacemaking families in Belgium can be found in the Galerie de la Reine, where five generations have kept alive the many local styles Belgium has to offer. Of course, there are coasters, breadbaskets and small keepsakes for sale at Manufacture Belge de Dentelles, but their framed original patterns are really works of art: unique, refined and pricey. In between the useful and the artful, there are these beautiful hand fans, available in either black or white. You can pick up the small ones for 49, 50 euros; the bigger ones will set you back 74 euros. Since Manufacture Belge de Dentelles also sells a small number of factory-produced hand fans, you can see the difference in quality for yourself.
Where to find it:
Manufacture Belge de Dentelles S.A.
6-8, Galerie de la Reine
1000 Bruxelles
+32 (0) 2511 44 77
Open: Mon - Sat (10:00-18:00), Sun (12:00-16:00)
Offline reading and travel directions:
With GPSmyCity App you can read this article offline on your mobile device, use the embedded offline city map and GPS navigation, as well as create a self-guided walk to visit the venues featured in the article.

4. Jewelry

If you’re shopping around for that special lady, you can’t go wrong with jewelry. Of course, you can always walk into a random jeweler and pay premium price, but it’s still possible to find something one-of-kind without using up half your holiday spending money. At Dédée K, a small jewelry boutique in the Châtelain district, you're guaranteed to buy something you can’t find anywhere else, for a simple reason - the owner Dédée practically creates everything she sells herself. For her necklaces, bracelets and rings she uses semiprecious stones, like onyx, amethyst and rock crystals. As something gift-worthy, she recommends some affordable arm bracelets (20 euros), that each come with their own color and symbol. If you are staying a bit longer in Brussels, it is also possible to have her create something modeled to your own personal design.
Where to find it:
Dédée K
18, Rue de l'Amazone
1050 Bruxelles
+32 (0)2 539 15 96
Open: Mon - Sat (10:00-18:30)
Closed: Sun

5. Cigars

Yes, we know it's not allowed anymore to smoke in bars and restaurants in most western countries, including Belgium. But we’ll gladly step outside to enjoy a fat, juicy after-dinner cigar. Even though the Cuban is still the king of cigars, Nicaragua has been making a name for itself with its great leaf quality and favorable prices. The Nicarao brand is entirely produced in the South-American country, but the blend is a Belgian invention. Didier Houvenaghel studied to become a tobacco agronomist in Cuba, and spent years researching a book on how the world’s best cigars are produced. The Nicarao is the result of his hands-on knowledge, and is praised for being one of the best non-Cuban cigar brands in the world.

At Le Roi du Cigare (king of cigars), Nicarao is one of the premium brands for sale. For the price of a carton of cigarettes, you will only be able to afford a box of ten Nicarao Minutos (47 euros), but you can easily double that amount for a similar amount of Cubans, which Le Roi Du Cigare sells in great variety. Other than cigars, this well-established house for smokers carries wide range of pipes, cigar cutters, and lighters in its gorgeous monumental building a stone’s throw away from Brussels Central Station.
Where to find it:
Le Roi Du Cigare
25, Rue Royale
1000, Bruxelles
+32 (0)2 218 37 79
Open: Mon - Fri (09:30-18:00), Sat (09:30-13:00)
Closed: Sun

6. Beer

What a shopping list for Brussels can be without a fine Belgian beer? Brewing runs in the Belgians' blood. The country may be best known for its six ancient Trappist brewing monasteries, but these are now reinforced by an ever growing number of microbreweries. The choice is overwhelming, the overall quality high. One of the most popular Brussels breweries is Brasserie de la Senne. The two owners, who started out brewing in their basement, are popular in a growing number of local bars for their Zinnebir and Taras Boulba beer. This Jambe de Bois Triple has a little more punch to it, and is better suited to drink on a special occasion.

You can find Jambe de Bois Triple (2,75 euros per bottle) at the small specialty beer shop Délices et Caprices, close to the Galerie de la Reine. Don’t forget to pick up one of the accompanying glasses (5 euros), and let the owner school you on Belgian’s finest, as he is a walking beer encyclopedia. For special occasions, Délices et Caprices organizes special tasting sessions for groups. If you’re in town a bit longer, don’t pass up the opportunity.
Where to find it:
Délices & Caprices
68, Rue des Bouchers
1000 Bruxelles
0032 (0)25121451
Open: Mo, Thu - Sun (14:00-20:00)
Closed: Tue - Wed

7. Candy

Belgium’s best kept secret is a sugar bomb. The cuberdon, a cone-shaped sweet with a gooey inside and crackly outside, is almost exclusively sold on the Belgian market. It’s not like Belgian pastry houses refuse to sell abroad, but the vicar’s hats, as the French-speakers affectionately call them, simply go bad before they make it to your local candy store. The recipe for cuberdons was almost wiped out during World War II. The shortage of gum Arabic, one of the key ingredients, made the production of cuberdons practically impossible. After the war, several chefs with a sweet tooth and a good memory, made sure the recipe wasn’t lost forever.

A classic cuberdon has a raspberry flavor, but these days you can find over 25 different fragrances and all the colors you can imagine. Real, artisanal cuberdons are a common sight at local markets, but there is not a lot of stores that carry them. In the Brussels center, the tiny tearoom A.M. Sweet has a candy section where you can find the original raspberry cuberdons (2,80 euros a bag). It’s also a great place to catch your breath and have a spot of lunch. It’s best to pass by at the end of your stay, since the thick syrup inside the cuberdons will lose its texture after only three weeks.
Where to find it:
4, Rue des Chartreux
1000 Bruxelles
+32 (0)2 513 51 31
Open: Tue-Sat (09:30-18:30)
Closed: Sun-Mon

8. Art Objects

Art Objects
It’s an odd thing that it took René Magritte so long to get his own museum in the very town he'd lived in for most of his life. Not until 2009 did the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium decide to give the influential surrealist artist a permanent exposition in one of its buildings. In the first six months alone the René Magritte Museum attracted 300.000 visitors and has continued to be a huge crowd pleaser for art-loving tourists.

In its halls, more than 200 of the master surrealist’s works are on permanent display, which makes it the largest collection of Magritte’s works in the world. One of the highlights is L’Empire des Lumières (translated as ‘dominion of lights’ or ‘empire of lights’), commissioned in 1954 by the museum that now exhibits it. Magritte made no less than seventeen versions in oil paint of this work, which can be found in museums all over the world, including the MoMA in New York. L’Empire des Lumières also made quite an impact outside of the art world, as it was supposedly used as an inspiration for the iconic movie poster of The Exorcist. Not surprising, as his paintings are notorious for their eerie and unreal atmosphere. If you can’t get enough of Magritte, take him home with you! The nearby Magritte Gallery sells a good selection of reproductions of his most famous works, including high-quality prints of L’Empire des Lumières (200 euros). The small gallery also has an assortment of books and postcards on display.
Where to find it:
Magritte Gallery :
76-78, Coudenberg
1000 Bruxelles
+32 (0)2 503 31 10
www. magritte-gallery.com
Open: Tue - Sun (10:00-18:00)
Closed: Mon
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9. Interior Decoration

Interior Decoration
Good interior design isn’t easy to find. Once a gorgeous lamp is sold out, you’ll pay a fortune at luxury design stores to get your hands on it, if you can find it at all. The Belgian company Materialise found a solution for this problem with their 3D-printing technologies. They allow designers to create an intricate object on a computer, after which they’ll use liquefied polymer to reproduce the right shape.

MGX started using this ‘rapid prototyping technique’ for the medical and automotive industry in the early nineties, but recently expanded their business to industrial design. At first, their creations were only available online, but last year they decided to open the world’s first 3D-printing store for consumers in Brussels. Their main collection features some truly notable items, like LILY.MGX (410 euros) from Janne Kyttanen, a small table lamp that has expandable leaves to adjust light strength. In 2005, it won a Red Dot Design Award and has already been added to the collection of several design museums. Materialise even lets you upload and print your own designs in a special part of their online store. This also explains the .MGX acronym, representing the file type of the propriety software used to create the objects. And if you happen to break your lamp, you’ll at least know where to find it again!
Where to find it:
.MGX by Materialise
31, Rue Joseph Stevens
1000 Bruxelles
+32 (0)2 512 29 55
Open: Tue (14:00-18:30), Wed - Sun (10:00-18:30)
Closed: Sun

10. Liquor

Belgium is a beer country. Belgium is a wine country. Belgium certainly isn’t a whiskey country, but that didn’t stop the owner of Belgian Owl Whiskey from creating one of the finest single malt whiskies in the world. Eleven years ago, Etienne Bouillon set himself on a mission to compete with the world’s foremost whiskey brands, together with a local farmer that could supply him with high quality barley. In 2014, the reference guide Whiskey Bible awarded Belgian Owl a 95,5 percent score, which puts him firmly on the map for whiskey lovers. Over time, while his stock ripens, Bouillon wants to start competing in other, more prestigious categories.

Only 25.000 bottles are produced each year, which makes the small distillery highly sought-after. At Mig’s World Wine, not far from Avenue Louise, if lucky, you can find a few bottles in stock or else wait until a fresh batch comes in. If you find yourself shorthanded, explore the wide range of unusual liquors from local distillery Distillerie de Biercée. Not only do they make a genuine chocolate liquor, Noire d’Ivoire (70 cl for 17,80 euros), but also carry an actual beer-flavored eau de vie, called B de Biercée (70 cl for 24 euros).
Where to find it:
Mig’s World Wine
43, Chaussée de Charleroi
1050 Bruxelles
+32 (0)2 534 77 03
Open: Mon-Sat (11:00-19:00)

11. Glassware

Instead of buying a present that says ‘I went to Brussels and all I got was this lousy t-shirt’, how about getting something the Belgian royal family might have on their coffee table? Handmade crystal ornaments from the small Wallonian village Val Saint Lambert have been a Belgian calling card since the eighteenth century, but in the last decades the small factory faced near crippling economic hardship. In 2008, a rich wine family took over and restored the brand to its former glory with heavy marketing campaigns and collaborations with respected industrial designers. Val Saint Lambert has produced pieces for European Council president Herman van Rompuy, and is the official glassware supplier of King Albert II.

You can find Val Saint Lambert vases, bowls and decorative items in over forty countries, but the Brussels flagship store really focuses on its Belgian heritage. Among such items is a beautiful bowl (195 euros) from the Kaleido-collection, crafted by Brussels designer Charles Kaisin. This bowl makes a perfect gift from Brussels also because it fits snugly into a suitcase. There are plenty other of frail beauties to be found over at the Galeries Royal Saint-Hubert, close to the Grand Place. Make sure to ask to triple-wrap your purchase, for this is not the kind of glassware you would want to break on your way back home.
Where to find it:
Val Saint Lambert
Galerie du Roi
1000 Bruxelles
+32 (0)2 502 02 62
Open: Mon – Sat (10:00-13:00 – 14:00-18:30)
Closed: Sun

12. Toys

Toys have gone virtual in the new millennium. Console games and Japanese cartoon heroes succeed each other at neck-breaking speed, while toddlers learn how to use an iPad before they can spell the word. In Brussels, a number of toy stores resisted the modern trends, and stuck to the old-fashioned idea of what a children’s toy should be like. Wooden puzzles, board games and toy trains dominate the shelves there.

At Serneels Jeux et Jouets, one of the more high-profile toy stores of this kind, you can find a big fluffy rattler, who goes by the name of Roméo (39,50 euros). The little ball in its mouth is a removable rattle on a string and the soft frog makes an excellent baby pillow. Besides Roméo, produced by the Belgian company Liliputiens, you can find a large number of their other products, including human-sized stuffed animals. Serneels also carries an impressive amount of doll houses, chess sets, board games and dolls, lots of dolls. So if you feel like taking a trip down memory lane, or want to give your kids something more tangible for once, pay a visit to this store.
Where to find it:
Serneels Jeux & Jouets
69, Avenue Louise
1000 Bruxelles
+32 (0) 2 538 30 66
Open: Mo - Sat (09:30-18:30)
Closed: Sun

13. Wellness Products

Wellness Products
Celebrities like Sting and Moby have been raving lately over a special ginger tea called Ginger Love. The hype around this hot drink reached a new peak when Starbucks briefly considered adding it to its menu. So what’s all the fuss about? Ginger Love, a foamy herbal tea with citrus fruit and ginger, contains neither caffeine nor theine and supposedly does wonders for the immune system and potency. It was created by the chef of Lombardia, a renowned vegan restaurant in the Belgian city of Antwerp.

If you don’t want to make a detour, the only place in Brussels where you can find Ginger Love is L’Herboristerie Moderne, a small and cozy store close to Bourse. In the French-speaking world, an herboristerie is an ancient equivalent to a pharmacy, where herbal medicine is sold instead of chemicals. Besides Ginger Love (10,50 euros a box) you can find a wide range of medicinal or aromatic spices at L’Herboristerie Moderne, including health products, like essential oils, teas and massage oils.
Where to find it:
Herboristerie Moderne
Kolenmarkt 87/Rue du Marché au Charbon 87, 1000 Brussel
Herboristerie Moderne
87, Rue du Marché au Charbon 87
1000 Bruxelles
+32 (0)2 503 55 95
Open: Tue - Sat (10:30-13:30/ 14:30-18:30), Sun (12:30-14:00/ 14:30-18:30)
Closed: Mon

14. Coffee

All things start well with a fresh cup of coffee. Pursuant to this, you will be delighted to find Corica, a family-owned coffee specialist where you can get a taste of every imaginable blend the world has to offer. Whilst in Belgium, check out Moka Royal Bourbon, created by the Brussels chef Pierre Romeyer, who runs a three star Michelin restaurant in the neighboring village of Hoeilaart. If you won’t be visiting his place, Corica is pretty much the only other place where you can pick up a pack of this freshly ground Arabica blend (5,70 euros). For the coffee connoisseur: Corica has a world map on its website where you can see if it stocks the specific flavor you’re looking for. Apart from coffee, you’ll find a wide range of teas, chocolates and biscuits, as well as espresso machines, should you manage to fit it into your suitcase.
Where to find it:
49, Marché aux Poulets
1000 Bruxelles
Tel : (+32) 2 511 88 52
Open: Tue – Sat (10:00-18:00)
Closed: Sun – Mon

15. Clothing

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but some of the most respected clothes designers in the world are Belgian-born. Dries van Nooten, Ann Demeulemeester and Walter van Beirendonck are all regular participants of the Paris Fashion week. Even though most of these designers are from Antwerp, they use the luxurious Rue Antoine Dansaert in the center of Brussels to display their latest creations. However, most of the assembled ateliers and boutiques also carry products by foreign designers, and only Stijl has transformed itself, over the years, into the true hub of Belgian haute couture. Each designer has been assigned a number of square meters in its spacious warehouse-like showroom, where Dries van Nooten and Ann Demeulemeester dominate the floor space. Design doesn’t come cheap at Stijl, with suits from Dirk van Noten priced between 800 and 1000 euros. But if you’re looking for something exclusive, Stijl is the place to go.
Where to find it:
74, Rue Antoine Dansaert
1000 Bruxelles
Open: Mon - Sat (10:30-18:30)
Closed: Sun

Other Interesting Souvenirs from Belgium

If traveling to Belgium is not on your immediate agenda, or you simply can't afford an extra space in your luggage, fortunately, these days, you can find a wide selection of authentic and truly interesting Belgian souvenirs online. Presented here are some of the Belgian products sought by foreign visitors, now available online for your convenience.

1. Books On Belgium - Inspiring books capturing Belgium's most beautiful cities and regions, exploring, among other subjects, the coutnry's rich gastronomic scene, including high-end and lower profile eateries, as well as other places serving delicious local and international food, and so much more.

2. Authentic Belgian Snacks - Authentic, all-butter waffle and other cookies, some coated in chocolate, some not, made in the best tradition of Belgian craftsmanship. Renowned for their unique flavor and delectable crunchiness, these are Europe’s top coffee break favorites. A perfect treat for a well-deserved timeout, especially if coupled with the right drink.

3. Hand Painted Christmas Ball - Hand-blown glass Christmas balls, hand-painted in Belgium, make a wonderful gift for someone special. Each ornament is painted individually, and is thus unique with minor variations to each item. Excellent gift for collectors.

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