One of my favorite things about staying in a luxe boutique hotel is having access to an in-the-know concierge. No matter how much research I put into my destinations, a great concierge will always tip me off to something unexpected, map out my itinerary for me, and patiently answer all of my questions.
After confirming my stay in Brussels at the fantastic Stanhope Hotel (read my full review of here), I immediately whipped off an email to the hotel concierge and asked for some shopping tips. But I didn’t make it easy for the concierge, as I had a very important requirement– all of the shopping ideas had to be for things a tourist wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else (in this world of globalization, this is much harder than it sounds).
I was thrilled when the Stanhope concierge responded to my request with carefully considered, on point shopping suggestions. Instead of keeping these Brussels shopping secrets to myself, I am sharing them here (with minimal edits) straight from the notes of the Stanhope concierge.
Brussels Shopping Tips from the Stanhope Hotel Concierge
1. Finding the Most Unique Belgian Chocolate in Brussels and Beyond
Brussels has a lot of chocolate shops. But for the most unique Belgian chocolate, the kind that you are unlikely to find anywhere outside the borders of Belgium, our Stanhope concierge recommends the following Belgian chocolate shops:
Belgian Chocolate in Brussels:
For chocolate shopping in Brussels, don’t miss Laurent Gerbaud, This chocolate shop specializes in creating hand-made chocolates that combine chocolate with fruit and spices.
Belgian Chocolate in Roisin (close to the border of France):
Yves Pralin ‘Chocolaterie artisanale du bicentenaire.’ Founded in 1984, Yves Pralin is a small, traditional artisan chocolate factory, using only the highest quality ingredients, and making all of their products by hand.
Belgian Chocolate in Brugge and Antwerp:
BbyB: is a new concept of chocolate– think chocolate meets haute couture. Bbyb specializes in creating unique chocolate flavor combinations, from the traditional (nougat and raspberry) to the unusual (basil and sesame).
2. Shopping for Belgian Comics in Brussels
Belgium is famous for all its comics books. Pick out your own favorite, or look for some of the most popular Belgian comics, like:
- Tintin (by Herge)
- Schroumpfs (by Peyo)
- Asterix and Obelix (by Goscinny & Uderzo)
Other popular comics to look out for include Gaston Lagaff, Lucky Luke, Michel Vaillant and le Chat.
To learn more about the Belgian comic tradition, check out the Comic Strip Museum in Brussels, where visitors can discover a range of permanent and temporary exhibitions, illustrated with original artwork and other unique objects. [Ed. Note: Don’t miss the museum’s fantastic gift shop!] True comic fans might want to head over to the town of Louvain La Neuve to visit the Herge Museum, dedicated solely to writer Herge and his famous creation, Tintin.
3. Shopping Brussels for Unique Belgian Beer
Belgium is well-known for its incredible selection of outstanding beers.
While most Belgian beers are available worldwide, there are still some local breweries who only sell within Belgian’s borders.
Some of these only-in-Belgium beers include:
- Cuvee ST Antoine blond beer (Brasserie du Flo)
- De Graal Tripel, triple beer (Brasserie De graal)
- Diole, blond beer (Brasserie des Carrieres)
- La Boterresse Blonde
4. Shopping Brussels for Belgian Cheese
To accompany a nice Belgian beer, what could be better than a good Belgian cheese. While there are many cheeses that are unique to Belgium, the most popular include:
- Vieux Bruges (Flemish cheese)
- La Maquee (white cheese from Wallonie)
- Cheeses based of beer taste are really famous as well like Abbaye de Chimay (Wallonie) or Abbaye de Maredsous [Ed. note– tried and tested, these are delicious]
Gouda, while commonly found outside of Belgium, is also popular (look for specialty artisan varieties).
5. Belgian Speculos Cookies
Speculos are the most popular cookie in all of Belgium. Originating in Flanders, speculos was traditionally a children’s cookie, but is enjoyed today by both children and adults (especially with cup of coffee). Dandoy, a Belgian biscuit factory, makes the best speculos in all of Belgium.
6. Belgian Cuberdons
Cuberdons are a Belgium specialty– you won’t find these treats anywhere else. Cuberdons are a purple, conical-shaped candy, made with sugar paste and filled with fruit syrup.
7. Belgian Fashion
For a taste of Belgian fashion that you won’t find outside the country, check out these local designers:
- Stephanie Le Grelle (stephanielegrelle.be) specializes in wedding dresses.
- Audrey Gerald (O-drey.be) is a stylist for men, women and children.
If you are really interested in fashion, plan a day trip to Antwerp, one of the world’s most fashion-forward cities (complete with their own fashion week).
8. Antique Shopping in Brussels
Brussels has several antique and vintage shopping districts, including:
- The Sablon. The best known quarter for antiques and art in Brussels. Also nearby: look for these two streets featuring lots of vintage and design shops– Rue Haute and Rue Basse.
- The Marolles quarter, perhaps best known for its daily market, also has many vintage and and antiques shops.
- For other Brussels vintage shopping, check out streets Rue du Marche au Charbon and St. Gery.
9. Brussels Markets
Our concierge also recommended favorites markets in Brussels:
Market Place du Chatelain is very popular market in an upscale area of Brussels, held every Wednesday from 1 pm to 7:30 pm. There are many nice bars and restaurants in the area to enjoy a post-market drink or meal. [Ed. note– so glad I took the concierge’s advice! Read more about my visit to Chatelain market here and the storybook Chatelain neighborhood here].
Jeu de Balles has a famous market “marche aux puces” every morning, from 6 am to 2pm.
Market at Gare du Midi. The most famous market in Brussels is the market held at Gare du Midi every Sunday morning. It is a huge market, often called “le Grand souk.” At this market, you are certain to find whatever you are looking for.
Christmas Market at Brussels’ Grand Place If you’re in Brussels during the Christmas season (end of November to early January) the Christmas market at the Grand Place is definitely worth a visit. Over 250 cottages line the square, creating a festive atmosphere.
10. Belgian Waffles
While not quite a shopping tip, our Stanhope concierge couldn’t help but recommend our readers sample a Belgian waffle during their Brussels stay.
To finish with a sweet touch, you could not leave Belgium without tasting our Belgian waffles. You can find delicious waffles everywhere in Brussels as well as in every corner of Belgium.
There are two types of famous waffles in Belgium to try:
- The delicate Liège waffle is typically topped with delicious, crunchy pearl sugar and is best enjoyed warm.
- The Brussels waffle it often eaten sprinkled with powdered sugar or covered with fresh cream and strawberries.
[Ed. note– I tried both versions and can’t decide which is my favorite. I think another visit to Brussels is in order for further research…]
Thanks to Visit Brussels and the Stanhope Hotel for providing these great shopping tips and hosting me during my visit.
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Have you been to Brussels? What are your favorite shopping tips?
Monday 25th of January 2016
I'm from Belgium and this list is pretty impressive and accurate, the only thing I would add is handbags, we have two very famous handbagmakers called Nathan (http://www.nathan-baume.com/) and Delvaux (https://www.delvaux.com/en/) , and the clothing shops in Antwerp by the "famous six of Antwerp".( your concierge most have been a Walloon :-), he forgets the dutch part Flanders) .http://www.fashioninantwerp.be/contemporary-fashion/antwerp-6
Ow and the Theo eyewear :-), loved by artists everywhere..http://www.theo.be/en
And yes Diana, we have even a Comic museum ( art deco., build by Victor Horta, called the stripmuseum: http://www.stripmuseum.be/nl/home)
Thursday 22nd of January 2015
Great list, Kristin! Those cuberdons look so unique. And I did not know Belgians had a big love for Comics!