Brussels Travel Guide
There are a lot of things to do in Brussels, from its landmarks and museums to its shopping districts. Brussels is a fantastic city for shopping, a fact often overshadowed by its presence as the EU capital. Find out for yourself by window-shopping in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, Europe’s first covered shopping gallery, which opened in 1847. Its arched glass ceilings cover 54 upscale shops retailing leather goods, books, clothes, and more.
There’s also the city’s old botanical garden. Now, Botanique is a cultural center, its 19th century glass and wrought iron buildings hosting French language theatre, performance art, and dance, all surrounded by a traditionally manicured formal garden It’s a lovely place for a stroll.
But we still haven’t touched on one of the best-known things to do in Brussels. If your stroll makes you thirsty, it might be time to take advantage of Belgium’s brewing tradition. Look opposite the infamous Manneken Pis, the famous 17th century bronze sculpture of a little boy urinating into a fountain, and you’ll find the Poechenellekelder, a non-tourist tavern whose extensive beer list will introduce you to the best of Belgian ale.
At the Desmet antiques gallery, nearly everything is of majestic scale and almost nothing is Belgian. Sarcophagus-like stone tubs come from France, boldly framed mirrors from the Netherlands and Italy, a pair of Georgian gateleg tables from Britain.
Vincent Colet is a shop that appreciates the industrial, as in the Triplex Pendlar lamp, by Swedish inventor-designer Johan Petter provenance.
This shop has closed.
In Brussels’s main square, 10 master Belgian chocolate makers are showcased at this boutique, where they host daily workshops to teach the secret ingredients of their country’s rich dark and white cocoa.
This year-old cooking school–cum–bookshop also sells esoteric ingredients like Orleans vinegar.
Though they aim to emulate Axel Vervoordt, this design store is a more affordable and polite version of eclectic Belgian style.
These dealers in African art and relics as well as the adjacent Congo Basin Art History Research Center can be found on a charming lane off the Place du Grand Sablon.
Established in 1839, this antiques store is one of the few still holding on to its spot on the Place du Grand Sablon. Its salons are filled with 18th-century furniture and objets - and sometimes with audiences for Baroque concerts - but the courtyard is what sets Costermans apart.
Do yourself a favor and stop by the boutique chocolatier, Pierre Marcolini, in Place du Grand Sablon.
The multitalented Muriel Bardinet (dealer, interior designer, painter, photographer) puts the chic back into shabby.
Haute Antiques houses 40 dealers whose wares span the full range of styles and periods, from a fanciful iron birdcage and a mod trapezoidal fireplace, to a flat-bottomed skiff suspended from the ceiling in the basement.
What to Expect: Brussels' Christmas market has been around only since 2002, but it pulls off its Plaisirs d'Hiver/Winter Pret ("Pleasures of Winter") festival with elegant style.
Treat yourself to a package of speculoos (traditional Belgian spice cookies) to snack on as you descend back toward the Grand Place.
American decorators haunt this place for Michel Lambrecht's clever furnishings.