Looking for something in Belgium? From paint to pet food, find out where to go with our guide to household shopping in Belgium.
One of the everyday challenges of expat life in Belgium can be knowing where to pick up those essentials. Whether you’re looking for a football or a frying pan, getting your head around a brand new retail landscape can be a learning curve. If you’re looking for groceries, check out our guide to Belgian supermarkets and grocery stores. For everything else, this complete expat guide to shopping in Belgium covers the following:
- Introduction to shopping in Belgium
- Department stores
- Clothes and accessories
- Sports and leisure
- DIY, home, and garden
- Books, magazines, and stationery
- Electrical and technology
- Health and beauty
- Children’s clothes and toys
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Introduction to shopping in Belgium
Like in many European countries, shopping in Belgian towns and cities traditionally centered around the main thoroughfares and market squares. Here, shops and cafés opened to support the growing needs of the population. Today, these areas are still the main shopping areas across Belgium and are served by good public transport links and cycling infrastructure. You’ll find many of the larger retailers (furniture, electronics, and DIY goods) in out-of-town locations, but these are still easily accessible for many.
For a relatively small country, modern Belgium definitely punches above its weight when it comes to shopping. From Brussel’s famously ornate shopping arcades to the world-famous Diamond District in Antwerp, there are surprises around every corner. To whet your appetite, our ultimate shopping guide for Belgium tells you everything you need to know if you want to shop until you drop in Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, or Liege.
Shops in Belgium will generally open at either 09:00 or 10:00 in the morning. They will then close around 18:00 or 18:30 in the evening, although in larger cities you’ll likely find that they stay open later. Most shops will be closed on Sundays; this includes larger retailers you may expect to be open. However, as you’ll soon discover, store opening times in Belgium can be confusing, so it’s often best to check ahead to avoid disappointment.
Belgian department stores
Department stores in Belgium might not be as indulgent as you’re used to, but they stock a wide range of goods, from clothes and accessories to household gadgets and more. However, remember that even these stores will be closed on Sundays, so you may want to plan your weekend around that.
The largest department store chain in Belgium is Galleria INNO, which has over 10 branches dotted around the country. You’ll find these stores in prominent central areas, with the chain having four locations in Brussels. The stores can be underwhelming when compared to their grandiose rivals in Paris or London, but don’t let that put you off. Some stores also have restaurants, so you can finish off your shopping with a bite to eat.
Clothes, shoes, and accessories
In the shopping areas of Belgian towns and cities, you’ll find all sorts of options for men’s, women’s, and children’s fashion. In larger cities, such as Brussels, Ghent, and Antwerp, these will include plenty of international retailers, like H&M, Zara, Bershka, Clarks, and Primark. You’ll also find more upmarket designer outlets, should you wish to push the boat out.
Alongside these international retailers, there are a whole host of more local names to get to grips with. These include Dutch retailer HEMA, which stocks clothing alongside homeware goods, and discount clothing and textile stores like Wibra and Zeeman. Local shoe chains are relatively scarce, but there are independent retailers in many towns and cities. It’s a good idea to search online or wander around the town center to see what’s on offer.
Sports and leisure
Whether you’re planning to cycle around the beautiful Ardennes region or play some five-a-side football with your local neighborhood club, Belgium has all sorts of athletic options. And if you feel like treating yourself or your family to some of the latest equipment, you’ll need to find your nearest sports and leisure store.
While many of these sports stores were once independently-owned, nowadays there are a few big players in the sports store scene. The largest of these include Decathlon and Sports Direct. Both offer plenty of choice at reasonable prices and can be found in city centers and edge-of-town retail parks. Many independent sports shops remain in the country, so check online for your nearest store.
Cycling is a big deal in Belgium, so it should come as little surprise that the country is well-stocked with bike shops of all shapes and sizes. The vast majority of these are independently-owned, however, Van Eyck Sport has several outlets. These stores stock new and used bikes and offer repairs and advice on cycling in the local area.
DIY, home, and garden
Do you want to spruce up your new bathroom in Bruges? Or maybe you have attic space in Antwerp that needs some love and attention? Whatever your DIY plans are, Belgium has you covered. The largest DIY chain is Brico, with over 100 stores spread across the country. Other names to watch out for include Meno and Hubo. Stores are generally out-of-town, although you’ll find some city center locations.
If you’re after some furniture, the Swedish retailer IKEA has eight stores across the country. Weba is a Belgian furniture retailer that stocks a range of reasonably-priced options for the home. There are also a number of independent and locally-based furniture stores. For carpets, Carpet Right is a market leader, with locations across Belgium.
If you’re the green-fingered type, Belgium has its fair share of local garden centers to give you all the leafy inspiration you might need. While stores like Brico stock a decent supply of gardening apparatus, plants, and more, you’ll probably find a local independent garden center near you. Check online to ensure you’re not missing out.
Books, magazines, and stationery
If you’re an expat living in Belgium, chances are you’ll be looking for your local stockist of foreign books, whether in English, Spanish, or other languages. Luckily, Belgium has a decent selection of international bookstores. This includes Waterstones in Brussels and The Other Shop, which has branches in Antwerp and Ghent. For more information, read our Guide to bookstores in Belgium.
The Belgian bookseller Standaard Boekhandel also sells stationery and magazines alongside its book collections. French retailer Fnac also operates stores in Belgium, selling books, comics, and stationery alongside plenty of other home entertainment and electronics. Stores like HEMA and discount variety stores such as Action also sell a range of stationery and other household goods.
Electrical and technology
Looking for the latest games console for your kids? Or maybe you feel like treating yourself to that fancy kitchen appliance you’ve had your eye on for a while? Whatever you’re after, you’ll find it in Belgium. French retail chain Fnac stocks a range of household electronics, from TVs and speakers to toasters and coffee machines. For larger goods, check out MediaMarkt and Coolblue, which often have larger stores in out-of-town locations.
For smaller household appliances as well as cookware, Blokker can be found in many towns in Belgium. Alternatively, supermarkets like Lidl often have a small selection of household goods and appliances to choose from. For mobile phones, you’ll find that the largest manufacturers and operators have stores in most large towns and cities.
Health and beauty
When it comes to the expat lifestyle, it’s important you keep yourself and your family fit and healthy in your new home. Thankfully, that’s easy in Belgium as there are plenty of health and beauty stores to visit. The biggest chains in the country are Kruidvat and Di. Supermarkets also stock a decent selection of health and beauty products, while international names like The Body Shop and Lush can also be found in Belgium.
To stay healthy both inside and out, you’ll want to check out the local health food options, too. International health food retailer Holland & Barrett has stores in Belgium, while local supermarket chain BIO-planet stocks organic produce. However, the vast majority of health food stores are locally-run, so look online to find your nearest store.
Children’s clothes and toys
Moving to Belgium with the little ones? Then you’ll need to know where to buy children’s clothes and toys in your new home. Thankfully, there are plenty of choices for kids’ clothes, including HEMA and discount clothing retailers Wibra, and Zeeman. Dedicated stores like Orchestra stock all manner of baby and children’s clothing, alongside toys, maternity wear, and other baby must-haves.
If you’re shopping for toys, make it a day to remember by checking out the traditional toy shops like Serneels and Oliwoods. Little ones will also enjoy visiting the large toy retailer, Maxitoys, which has stores across Belgium. For more information on everything to do with starting or extending your family in your new home, read our guide to having a baby in Belgium.