Shopping in Brussels
Shopping in Brussels runs the whole gamut from high-end boutiques to markets.
A classic Brussels souvenir is chocolate. Fresh creamy pralines are for sale at Wittamer, Place du Grand Sablon. Another name to look out for is the top-quality Neuhaus, with several branches including one at Grand-Place 27.
Belgian biscuits are another gift guaranteed to bring a guilty smile to the receiver. Dandoy, Rue Charles Buis 14, produce melt-in-your-mouth macaroons and the Brussels speciality speculoos - a gingerbread biscuit with a crunch. Beermania, Chaussée de Wavre 174-176, stocks over 400 types of Belgian beer and glasses to suit.
Designer clothes shops and upmarket high-street stores are clustered around the smart avenue Louise and avenue de la Toison d'Or. Key shopping stops on avenue Louise include Caroline Biss, one of several fashion boutiques at number 21, for down-to-earth daywear in muted tones, and Les Enfants d'Edouard, at number 175, for vintage finds.
Children and adults' tastes alike are met at the many comic book shops in Brussels. Among these is centrally located La Boutique Tintin, Rue de la Colline 13. Brussels lace is for sale at Rubbrecht, Grand-Place 23, or at the city's largest lace maker, Manufacture Belge de Dentelle, Galerie de la Reine 6. Most of the souvenir lace shops around Grand-Place are less authentic.
Every day is market day in Brussels. Among the best is the flower market, Tuesday to Sunday at Grand-Place, also the site of the Sunday morning bird market. Antiques are sold at the market on Place du Grand Sablon, Saturday and Sunday morning, while the flea market at Place du Jeu de Balle, in the Marolles district, is open every morning.
Chain stores dominate along the Rue Neuve, but more interesting fare can be found in the area between the Rue de Midi and the Grand-Place. A highlight is Les Galeries Royales St Hubert, a cool and elegant arcade dating from the 1840s, which is now home to many designer shops.
Standard shopping hours in Brussels are 1000-1800/1900 but the Grand-Place area stays open until approximately 2000. Most shops are closed on Sundays, except for a handful of markets and those stores around Grand-Place.
Souvenirs to look out for include chocolate (pralines and truffles are the most popular), biscuits, beer (look out for Leffe, Chimay, all brands of kriek, and Duvel), lacework and Tintin memorabilia.
Sales tax in Brussels is 21% and can be refunded to non-EU citizens by any of the shops affiliated to Global Refund. Participating shops will issue a global refund cheque, which should be stamped at customs.