Brussels may not have the immediate “cool” appeal of Paris or London, but it has its own, irresistible quirky and charming side. From the beautiful architecture of the centre (be it Gothic or Art Nouveau) to comic strip murals (from Tintin to Corto Maltese), Brussels will please many, especially fans of all kinds of art and history (there are close to 100 museums in Brussels alone). Those who are into gourmet food, will also enjoy speciality waffles, Belgian chocolate and the best selection of beer. For literature lovers, there are also things to discover, and below are three of my favourite bookstores in the city.
I. Cook & Book
This place is situated some metro rides away from the city centre, but the travel is worth it. Despite “cook” in the title of this shop, there are all kinds of books available in this store, and not only those on culinary delights. There are plenty of bande dessinees, books on art and travel, as well as fiction books. More importantly, there is a nice section of English-language books. The store is very beautiful (sometimes considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world!), with inventive art design (books hanging from the ceiling, Union Jack decorations) and lit lamps, providing this cosy, literary and unusual atmosphere. The great thing about this atmospheric place (which is also divided into nine thematic zones) is that there is an onsite restaurant too, and one can enjoy the books while eating and drinking; address: Place du Temps Libre 1, 1200 Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, Brussels.
II. Passa Porta
Passa Porta or “an international house of literature” in Brussels has a cosy bookshop with the majority of titles being in Dutch, but also in French and English. The bookshop has a very curious, high quality selection of books and, as you step inside, there is an atmosphere of hospitality and creative collaboration, since the venue also hosts many literary events throughout the year; address: Rue Antoine Dansaert 46, B-1000 Brussels.
Last, but not least – Filigranes. This is the bookshop of Brussels. It is a large store which is open seven days a week, making it very convenient. I like it because it is so big (comparatively), and not only has a great selection of French-language literature (everything from fiction to philosophy), but also possesses a whole section dedicated to English, German, Spanish and Italian-language literature. It has dedicated children, art, and travel sections, and since it is Brussels – a large comics section, which is bound to impress. The shop has a cosy on-site café, as well as a section devoted to beautiful stationary, funky gadgets and other quirky things related to reading. Since the bookstore is near the Parc de Bruxelles, it may be the place to visit for someone touring the park area, and it is definitely the place for a book lover to spend his or her lazy Sunday afternoon; address: Avenue des Arts 39-42, B-1040 Brussels.
I cannot finish this post without mentioning the Spanish-language bookshop in Brussels – Punto y Coma. This is a really delightful find for any reader of the Spanish literature. From Spanish classics to translated literature (anything from Franz Kafka to Agatha Christie), one can find all kinds of books in Spanish here, as well as books for children and Spanish-language magazines.