Earlier this year, in May, i travelled around Belgium for a few days with one of my friends. Belgium is a place that i’ve wanted to see for quite some time, and after seeing the stunning architecture and streets whilst researching, it was somewhere i couldn’t pass up seeing.
In four days we visited Bruges and Antwerp whilst staying in the centre of Brussels. Out of all of these places i had been most excited to visit Bruges after hearing so many lovely things about the city. We travelled early on Friday morning, leaving us four full days before heading home on Monday night.
This post is going to be mainly about the bookshops that i found on the trip, but i wanted to talk a little bit about Belgium and how i found the country. Sadly, Brussels and especially Antwerp didn’t connect with me at all. I was quite excited to visit Antwerp, after hearing so many incredible things about it. But it failed to wow me even a little. There’s a lovely square, and the cathedral is stunning, however everything else seemed a little spread out and odd to me. Nothing seemed to connect, none of the streets or walkways were cute and adorable like promised. Everything felt incredibly industrialised, not to mention the amount of actual industrial work going on around us at all times. I even went to see the river and that was crowded with beams and ground work happening around it.
Similarly, i enjoyed my time in Brussels but felt similar ways. The square itself was stunning, so is the palace and the buildings around. I did also have a lot of fun exploring and visiting the Museum of Brussels there. However, it just wasn’t a place i think i’d visit again in a hurry. Bruges was a completely different story. I adored it from the moment i stepped off the train. It’s like stepping in to a city that’s made for relaxation. There are some incredible buildings and every street feels too perfect to walk on. I haven’t been able to contain my love for the city since i got back, and it’s somewhere that i want to go back to very very soon.
I try to visit as many bookshops as i can in other countries. To experience more independent shops than Manchester has to offer, and most likely there’s some great U.S. imports that you can pick up that are particularly hard to find in the U.K. I always research before heading to a new city to see what bookshops there are on offer, and it’s incredibly important when checking abroad that those shops offer English sections if that’s your kind of thing!
I researched bookshops in each city that i visited and chose a few from the lists that i knew i would be able to get around to. Considering i did most of my book shopping in Brussels on my first day, i wanted to talk about some gems that i found! One of the things i was most excited to find was a Waterstones. I have a challenge to myself that i’d really love to visit all of the Waterstones in my life, so to find one in a different country is always exciting for me! It was one of my first stops in Brussels and honestly felt like being home. I found some pretty great YA picks there too, that i was definitely proud to find in Belgium!
The one bookshop that i really wanted to visit in Brussels was Sterling Books. It’s a completely English bookshop, with a wonderful children’s and YA section. It’s a lovely, quaint bookshop in the centre of Brussels, housing tons of English books to enjoy. I could have spent hours in that tiny shop, browsing the shelves. In fact i ended up taking three different trips to that bookshop, buying quite a bit while i was there. The staff were excellent and incredibly helpful, and it turns out they had a pretty great selection of YA. It was a lovely book shopping experience and they even had 20% off Queer voices to celebrate Pride!
There were some other excellent bookshops in Brussels, such as a second hand bookstore that had a really impressive English section upstairs. I didn’t buy anything from there but it was really nice to look around a second hand bookshop in a different country, i feel like i haven’t had much experience with that except for in Amsterdam. I also really appreciated Tropismes bookshop in Brussels which was aesthetically stunning with the mirrors around the shop. It’s a little deceiving because of the mirrors which make it look a whole lot larger in photos than it is in person. However, it has a very adorable kids section upstairs which is separated in to ages. It’s the perfect place for kids to buy books and really inviting. I ended up buying one book from here.
Obviously after visting the bookshops in Brussels, i had to find some in Bruges too. There were only a handful in Bruges centre that i found and visited, which i’m actually quite happy about because it left me plenty of time for exploring. After a morning of museums and exploring, i’d decided that book shopping would take a backseat in Bruges because of how stunning it was to just wander and find new things. I knew i’d end up coming across a few bookshops while i was there anyway. I came across one quite early on in the day that had quite a large English YA section. There were a few books here that i hadn’t come across in the U.K. even though they had already been released, so i decided to pick up a copy of Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett.
I also came across a very cute bookshop which had second hand books downstairs, there was a very small English section but they had some wonderful bookish merchandise that i would have taken one of everything of if i could have gotten it home. (As pictured, i found copies of all of the Kass Morgan books in Dutch and got very over excited about it). I wanted to focus more on the travel side of things and exploring the city more than book shopping (shocker i know).
On our few hours in Antwerp i found the adorable bookshop, ‘t Stad Leest. It was absolutely adorable. I was a really soft and warm shop, with loads of light which sold a lot of kids books, adorable ones, picture books, informative books, and loads of inspirational people. It felt like the bookshop that i wanted as a child as it was so friendly and fun. There was also plenty of exciting things there such as bookmarks, stationary and cute little bits of bookish things that i loved. I didn’t spend a whole bunch of time there, but i loved the atmosphere and the staff were lovely.
The book shopping experience in Belgium was similar to ones i’ve had in other European countries. There was a couple of bookshops that i completely fell in love with, and am already wanting to go back to, and some that were just bookshops to me. It was a really interesting shopping experience, especially the one bookshop i came across at the top of a six-story building of electricals… By far my favourite experiences were in Brussels, as i adored Sterling Books.
You can see my BOOK HAUL from Beligum which i uploaded back in May (you know when i actually went, this post is so late), so check out what i got! I have to admit that i’ve not read any of these books yet, so it would be good to know what i should pick up first!