This quaint, ivy-covered shop in the peaceful St. Anna neighbourhood, around the corner from the Lace Museum and the idiosyncratic Jerusalem Chapel, is where a family of craftswomen offer some of the most authentic lace available in Bruges. Unlike a lot of tourist shops that fill their window displays with lace products, the antique pieces sold at the trusted ’t Apostelientje are one hundred percent handmade. There’s antique doilies and garments, as well as contemporary pieces laboured over by two sisters and their mother. Their enchanting dreamcatchers are enough to inspire getting some lace-making supplies of your own (also available in the shop) and give this delicate craft a try.
Balstraat 11, 8000 Bruges, Belgium, +32 50 33 78 60
A true original, the Diksmuids Botherhuis has been making locals’ mouths water since the mid-30s. Over 200 international cheeses, most of them from small-scale farmers, dried hams and sausages make for quite the spread on the red-and-white gingham flounces of this traditional mom and pop shop. Currently running this Bruges institution is Isabel, licensed cheese master and niece of the family that originally founded the Diksmuids Botherhuis. Her wicker gift baskets overflowing with delicacies should get you in good graces with any bon vivant.
Geldmuntstraat 23, 8000 Bruges, Belgium, +32 50 33 32 43
When in need of anything paper and pretty, Els Brys is your woman. As the owner of specialty shop Alfa Papyrus, Els has been selling hand-bound books and handmade paper, original calligraphy cards and out-of-the-ordinary photo albums for over a quarter of a century.
Eekhoutstraat 25, 8000 Bruges, Belgium, +32 50 33 03 12
Tapestries were a prominent Flemish specialty in the Middle Ages. Handwoven and often depicting religious or mythical scenes, they were considered true pieces of art. Hard at work at recreating the glory is Mille Fleurs (‘A Thousand Flowers’), a shop a stone’s throw from the main market, where tapestries in all styles, shapes and sizes cover the walls. Besides high-quality reproductions of the world’s best-known pieces currently hanging in museums or castles, they offer cozy throws and plaids, detailed doilies and bright cushion covers.
Wollestraat 18, 8000 Bruges, Belgium, +32 50 34 54 54
A bit further down from Mille Fleurs, an artisanal cookie bakery is responsible for an irresistible cinnamon scent wafting down the streets. Every morning at dawn, team Juliette goes to work mixing the dough to be able to offer cookie fans their freshly baked goods. Additives and conservatives have been banned from the establishment, meaning that new batches straight from the oven regularly join the assortment throughout the day. Grandma’s classics such as kletskoppen, bokkepootjes, and gingerbread sell like hot cakes, and the eight different kinds of speculoos do especially well during Belgium’s Sinterklaas celebrations (a kind of second Santa who doles out presents and treats to kids who have been good).
Wollestraat 31A, 8000 Bruges, Belgium, +32 50 34 84 40
Another seasonal favourite is Käthe Wohlfahrt, whose two shops in Bruges look like Christmas has gone and exploded in them. Wood-carved shepherds, ornate glass baubles and other gaudy but great ornaments get visitors looking forward to the warm holiday year round. Ideal for a couple of keepsakes to remind one just how jolly European countries like Belgium and Germany like to get about Christmas, or just for a magnificently carved cuckoo clock.
Walplein 12, 8000 Bruges, Belgium, +32 50 33 06 04
Breidelstraat 8, 8000 Bruges, Belgium, +32 50 34 63 71
Belgium’s fondness for a good comic book is represented in Bruges by De Striep, a jam-packed specialty shop that caters to graphic novel fans young and old. Comics in several languages are spread out over multiple rooms with overflowing cabinets that carry special editions, figurine collectibles and Tintin prints. An exciting addition is the new book Bloedstollend Brugge (Bloodcurdling Bruges), which promises to dig deep into Bruges’ rich past-cum-folklore of witchcraft, torture and other hair-raising tales.
Katelijnestraat 42, 8000 Bruges, Belgium, +32 50 33 71 12
A picturesque window display reflects the nostalgic rummage nook that is Madam Mim. The kind shop owner, Mim herself, is known for her dresses hand-sewn from vintage fabrics, retro jewellery and surprisingly charitable lace. A lovely little cave of treasures.
Hoogstraat 29, 8000 Bruges, Belgium, +32 50 61 55 05
If like so many travellers you find yourself getting lost inside Bruges’ labyrinth of 50 plus chocolate shops, making a beeline for this particular cocoa haven is how you make sure to take home quality Belgian chocolates without losing your mind in the process. The Chocolate Line is the brainchild of Dominique Persoone, a cocoa wizard who has made it a mission to dream up Willy Wonka-esque creations such as matcha pralines, chocolate lipsticks and the ‘chocolate shooter’ – Persoone’s version of a 19th-century snuff machine. Also handmade on the premises (a window gives a glance into a kitchen full of working chocolatiers) are regular chocolate slabs, made with beans grown on The Chocolate Line’s own plantation in Yucatán, Mexico.
Simon Stevinplein 19, 8000 Bruges, Belgium, +32 50 34 10 90