Belgium — Shopping and Leisure
Shopping in Belgium has everything from high-end designer boutiques in malls and department stores to outlet centers, street markets, back street local boutiques and more. Shoppers arrive here from France, the UK, and other northern European countries to bag bargains and unique items in every shopping sector, from home wares and fashion to tobacco products and alcohol.
For years, day-trippers from the UK have converged in the Belgian village of Adinkerke, famous for its cheap tobacco and booze. The country is famous for its hand-made lace and tapestries, and antiques lovers flock to Brussels’ Grand Sablon’s weekend street market, even though bargains are few and far between.
One of the favorite purchases all over the country is Belgian chocolate, considered by most to be the best in the world. Specialist stores such as Leonidas, Nihoul, Wittamer, and Neuhaus are found in every town, as are smaller independent shops offering handmade delights which are impossible to resist. The most popular Belgian souvenir is lace though, ranging from antique hand-made examples to modern, machine-made easily-washable items.
Antwerp’s Orthodox Jewish diamond district is the place for stunning jewelry, as well as a fascinating district for people-watching. For a great choice of general goods at bargain prices, the Brussels Gare du Midi market is the largest in Europe, crammed with spices from North Africa, leather goods, clothes, cheeses, fresh produce, honey, and street food stalls where bartering is standard. For antiques in Antwerp, there’s nowhere quite like the 600-year old Vrijdagmarkt, a flea market in Belgium where everything is auctioned.
For luxury designer shopping, the Maasmechelen Village complex is an hour’s journey from either Brussels or Antwerp and gives an elegant experience at discount prices at over 100 designer stores, including Dolce and Gabanna, Karen Millen, and Hugo Boss. For serious fashion shopping in Belgium, it’s well worth the trip.
In Brussels, Avenue Louise is the hub for department stores, affordable high-street chains, and international designer brands such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton. For bargains, head to the streets around Reu Neuve. Bruges is a great place for designer goodies and quality souvenirs, although prices aren’t cheap.