With its café culture, charming squares and international vibe, Ixelles is always worth a wander. Its shops are equally diverse, spanning arty bookshops, chic homeware stores and boutiques stocked with local labels. Retail therapy complete, wander over to the leafy, peaceful Ixelles ponds, or drop by cultural hub Flagey, with its impressive art-deco HQ. Alternatively, if you need a post-shopping pick-me-up, head to the Forcado Pastelaria, whose speculoos-spiked pastéis de nata are nothing short of sublime.
This bright, cosy boutique is a magnet for homesick Scandis, and locals craving a dose of Nordic style. Dane Thomas Petersen’s stock hits the sweet spot for simple but chic homeware and affordable accessories and fashion. Shop for notoriously salty Nordic liquorice, fluffy blankets for all your hygge needs and sturdy Tretorn raincoats, perfect for a Brussels winter.
Only the coolest kids (and their stylish parents) shop at this children’s wonderland. Spread over two floors, distinctive and unusual toys and games rub shoulders with bright, beautiful fashion you wish they made in bigger sizes. The odd piece of vintage nursery furniture and a baby corner, perfect for presents, complete the line-up. The creative window displays are always fabulous, too.
Alternative concept store Effet Mérité champions quirky Belgian style and young, homegrown designers. With frite-motif beanies, mussel sweatshirts and droll slogan Ts from Negentish, you can wear your love for the flat land on your sleeve. Less obvious local design picks include cool wooden bow-ties and cufflinks, one-off artworks and some sleek belts made from recycled tyres.
There are plenty of reasons to linger at this colourful art and design bookstore, not least its gallery space. The double-fronted art-nouveau block is a dreamy spot for browsing beautiful art tomes, picking up niche magazines or finding gifts for your fussiest friends. If you’re looking for something specific or just overwhelmed by choice, consult the friendly, expert staff.
A spacious new sibling to the stylish city-centre boutique Blender 01, 02 combines curated fashion and accessories with fun stuff for your home. Look out for kitsch-but-cool porcelain jewellery by Nach, Maison Labiche’s typography T-shirts and Marie Sixtine’s knitwear. Men aren’t left out, with picks from indie labels such as Olow and La Paz, plus Antoine Lessive beauty buys.
When in Brussels you must try carbonade flamande, a deliciously rich beef stew. Then, tick off two favourites in one and order a glass of chocolate beer. Trust us – it’s exquisite.
Boasting everything from music and flowers to art and craft, food and (naturally) beer, Brussels has a packed festival calendar. There’s something to entertain just about everyone.
No trip to Brussels is complete without a visit to the Manneken Pis, who from time to time has his modesty restored with anything from judo kit to a full Father Christmas outfit.
Image credits: © Shutterstock; © Shutterstock; © Cphagen; © Boucle d’Or; © Effet Mérité; © Peinture Fraîche; © Blender