From the classics to travel guides to specialty books, Brussels, Belgium has a lot to offer the avid reader. If you’re looking to stock up for the holidays or just fill the space on your shelves with great reads, here are the top 10 worthwhile bookshops for book-lovers in Brussels.
We start with a rather recently opened independent book store. Ptyx opened its doors in 2012 and claims to dust off any book that deserves it. One cannot judge a book by its cover, but we should judge Ptyx a little by its magnificent façade that gives a preview of what is waiting for you inside. It might not be the biggest shop, but has a pertinent and attractive selection of literature, social sciences, children’s books, young adult literature and comics. While browsing, do not hesitate to ask for the owner’s advice, since every book is hand-selected. Here you will not find the best-sellers that everyone is reading, but instead, books with more depth and originality. Ptyx also organizes literary events dedicated to certain authors.
If you are eager to travel or would like to spend a couple of days doing something out of the ordinary, head to the city center and its great travel bookshop, Anticyclone des Açores. Once you enter this wonderland you will find yourself in a whimsical no-man’s-land, and as soon as you leave, certainly not empty-handed, you will be checking the web for last-minute flights. This bookshop is exclusively dedicated to the traveling world, nature trails and outdoors activities. If you’re in need of inspiration for your dream vacation, or want to plan a cycling or hiking route, look no further – you will find all the information you need, from maps to travel guides and practical information.
For all the art-lovers out there, do not panic, here is a little gem for you. Peinture Fraîche contains a vast choice of books from art, design, photography and architecture to fashion and typography. They sell rather rare finds and must-haves, making this shop practically a rite of passage for art aficionados.
Interior of Passa Porta | Courtesy of Passa Porta Bookshop
For those who fancy their tea at 5 o’clock sharp, all the work is done for you, plus, with the bonus of being under the same roof. Waterstones is a landmark English bookshop and a favorite in the international community. It is the kind of shop that you go to even though you don’t need anything, yet makes you realise that you were wrong. This go-to hub of English literature contains all the classics and novels on the ground floor and more specialized topics such as gastronomy, children’s books and academic literature one story above. As if all of this were not enough, they boast a selection of gifts, stationery, British food and seasonal products. The cherry on top: it’s open on Sundays.
Since you are already in the neighborhood, let’s drop by this one. Once you go through this long corridor, you will find a peaceful haven right in the heart of the city called Passa Porta. This bookshop offers a quality selection of novels translated into many languages, essays, art, children’s and young adult literature. Being the international house of literature, there are many literary events organized, often in collaboration with major cultural institutions, such as the opera house La Monnaie or the fine arts center Bozar. In addition, the Passa Porta Festival, Belgium’s most significant literary festival, happens every two years (next time in 2017). If you seek inspiration or just enjoy the cultural milieu, then Passa Porta is an effervescent lab just waiting to be explored.
“Yes, all of this sounds good, but how about a fun bookshop that children will also enjoy visiting?” – you’re asking yourselves. Don’t worry, that’s what Le Wolf is for. A magical place dedicated to children, it is not just a shop, but also an experience. Its selection contains most of the classics and some other unusual but interesting choices. You will be overwhelmed by the panoply of activities they have to offer, including workshops, meetings with the authors, a story jukebox, exhibitions, birthday parties and a coffee corner with spooky product names. It’s a great pit stop for the family after a frantic day in the city center.
In case the end of the month is near or you’re feeling the pinch and the bookworm inside you is having a craving, Pêle-Mêle is the solution. Without a doubt, this is the place to go fish for secondhand books. Their selection is wide, diverse and multilingual, making it the perfect spot to find your next book to read. It is advised to go there with time since you will easily get lost among all the good deals. The branch in Ixelles even has a small corner for you to sit down, relax and have a drink while you browse through bargains. The only snag is the absence of a computerized database, which means that you will have to be thorough in your search if you want a specific item.
Now is the time to bring out the big guns. If you happen to be both a foodie and a book lover, Cook & Book is the ultimate place for you. This huge eccentric bookshop is laid out in themed rooms, each with a dining area surrounded by bookshelves. With its impressive selection, you can easily stay there from breakfast until dinner and not even notice the day go by. From novels to comics, travel guides, art and design to an extensive English section, you will find it very pleasant to go inside for a stroll and, once you have made your purchases, take a seat on the sun kissed terrace while sipping a refreshing drink and digging deeper into your newest finds.
Another top-quality bookshop is Tropismes, not only because of its incredible assortment of books, but because of its charming setting, making it, to many, the most beautiful bookshop in Brussels. Ideally located in the elegant Galeries des Princes, this renowned place abounds with choice, covering categories such as social sciences, fine arts, literature, music, cinema and history. You would not guess from the outside, but it has a rather intricate configuration with its mezzanine, underground floors and half-levels, so make sure you see everything, from the books to the décor.
Lastly, Brussels presents to you the Ikea of the book: Filigranes, or literature idolizers’ bliss. As you might guess, this shop has a myriad selection on all topics, is open all year and until 20:00 on weekdays. It is the perfect place to go in your spare time, but be careful because you might leave with a full caddy. If, by any chance, you do not find what you were looking for, the competent shop assistants give great advice and are very passionate. In case you enter the shop feeling a bit peckish, you can also head to their coffee corner and relax while flipping through the pages of your latest treasures.