The joy of giving: 10 great places to get the rest of your shopping done
There are nine shopping days left until Christmas. If that thought strikes fear into your heart, you’ve still got a few gifts to buy. But be of good cheer! This go-to list of awesome shops in Brussels, online and off, should provide you with all the inspiration you need to make everyone’s holidays merry and bright.
Who wouldn’t like a product called Beerfood? The name says it all: This line of crackers is made with leftover grains that were used to make beer, infusing them with tastes of malt, barley and wheat. They can be found at a number of foodie shops around Brussels or ordered from the local producer online. The website also features gift packs with beer and dip pairings.
At Manneke, conveniently located steps away from Grand Place, you will be buying not only from a local retailer but locally made products. Choose from a carefully chosen selection of hand-made jewellery and other accessories, as well as bags, T-shirts, books and delicacies like beer, biscuits and mustard. Rue de la Madeleine 31
People who love plants never have enough, so this is a safe bet for gift-giving. But even people who think they will kill any living thing that enters their home are often wrong – and just need a little push in the right direction. Gruun gives you that direction with loads of healthy houseplants to choose from and cute pots, watering cans and other accessories to get any recipient excited about their new, green friend. Place de la Vieille Halle aux Blés 36
You can’t go wrong with biscuits by Maison Dandoy, and this year there is a special box of three flavours that doubles as a game of sorts. The biscuits in the We Are Family assortment come with dozens of designs – all of them heads, bodies or feet. You put them together – correctly as intended, or crazily, which is more fun. There are Dandoy locations across Brussels, but we recommend the one in the Saint-Hubert Gallery downtown because the historical shopping arcade is a lovely place to visit this time of year.
Bel’Arte is a Belgian design showcase of jewellery, accessories and pretty household objects like candles and dinnerware. It’s all made in Belgium, and there’s a generous range in prices. The diverse stock allows you to buy something personal for one of your favourite people or something more general for, say, an employee or neighbour. There is an online shop as well with fast, free delivery. Rue de Flandre 53
Books are of course a very popular holiday gift, especially for someone with a few days off. Look no further than Sterling Books, Brussels’ only independent shop dedicated to books in English. Don’t have a title in mind? Consider best-selling Italian author Elena Ferrante's latest, The Lying Life of Adults, about a teenager who is intrigued by the way in which adults lie to her, or Humankind: A Hopeful History, Dutch historian Rutger Bregman’s take on whether people are, by their nature, good. Other shops with solid English-language sections are Cook & Book, Passa Porta and Filigranes (a real Brussels institution).
Buying vintage means you won’t be giving your loved-one something that many other people (still) have. And you don’t have to know anything about the history of design to know a cool whiskey serving set or a fabulous mirror when you see it. Two of the best addresses in Brussels are Atelier Belvédère in Ixelles, known for offering some very good deals, and Via Antica in the city centre, which is so huge it’s impossible to not find something that will appeal.
If there are kids on your list, surprise them with a toy or game they have not seen in Ikea or can buy on Bol.com. Brussels is home to several fantastic toy shops. Fox & Cie has outlets scattered around Brussels offering wooden toys (remember those?), books, games, stuffed toys, puzzles and creative activities. Will it be a wooden pinball game? Dodgeball in which you throw burritos at each other? Or just a simple spinning top?
Want to browse before you go, or simply order online? The Brussels region has launched MyMarket.brussels, a website that brings together dozens of independent shops in the capital. Shoppers can browse the site by municipality or goods, such as women’s gloves, men’s sweaters or kids’ toys. You’re shopping online, but you’re shopping local and supporting the capital’s small businesses.
And should you want a similar experience while supporting the arts, the new National Store brings together works by Belgian artists, musicians, designers and publishers. The arts and culture sector has taken a beating this year, so this is a way to support them while getting unique gifts. There’s a lot of great stuff here, from original prints to hand-glazed cups to gorgeous travel bags.