Are you visiting Belgium and wondering what would be the best souvenir from Belgium to bring back from your travels? Would you like to know what are the best things to buy in Belgium and where to find them? This post has got you covered to find the perfect Belgium gifts.
Do you also love to browse the small shops in the medieval towns, or to walk in the fancy shopping streets of the bigger cities to find local Belgian products? Whether you are looking for a souvenir for yourself, or a gift from Belgium for someone back home, you will not be disappointed with the shopping possibilities in Belgium.
Gastronomy is very important in Belgian culture. That’s why there are many delicious food products from Belgium that are great as a Belgian souvenir. But it’s not all about the food. Keep reading for the best tips to find your best souvenir from Belgium.
Top 10 Best Souvenirs From Belgium
One of the most popular souvenirs from Belgium are without doubt Belgian chocolates. Did you know that Belgium produces over 600 000 tons of chocolate per year! And without bragging, I can say that Belgian Chocolate is the best chocolate in the world. Now what makes Belgian chocolate taste so special? There are various reasons, but what adds to it is the high content of cocoa as well as the 100% pure cocoa butter that is used. And you will taste this immediately. This means that Belgian chocolates are the best things to buy in Belgium.
Belgium exports a lot of chocolate, but we also keep some for ourselves. We do like a good piece of chocolate. I eat a small piece of 70% chocolate every single day (when I am in Belgium at least). There are around 2000 chocolate factories and shops in Belgium so it will be very easy to find a shop selling pralines or other tasty chocolates. You have the more well known brands like, Neuheus, Godiva and Leonidas, but basically lots of bakeries will make their own chocolates and pralines.
Belgian Beer and their glasses
With Belgium having over 1600 different beers and around 700 different types of flavours, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The craft of brewing beer in Belgium dates back as early as the 12th century and over the centuries has become an integral part of Belgian culture. And Belgians are really proud of it. Each beer has to be served at its own particular temperature and even more importantly, in its own glass. Yes indeed, each different beer comes with its own glass. So when buying beer as a Belgian souvenir I would also recommend to buy the right glass with it to take home. The beer will taste so much better.
Some of the more famous beers are the ‘Trappist’ beers, which are exclusively brewed by Trappist monks. Currently there are fourteen monasteries brewing Trappist beers of which six are in Belgium. These are Orval, Chimay, Rochefort, Westmalle, Achel and Westvleteren. In fact, Westvleteren 12 is considered to be one of the best beers in the world. Moreover, Westvleteren is only produced on a very low scale and not on commercial demand.
Before deciding witch beer is your favourite to bring back as a souvenir from Belgium, go for some beer tasting in some of the many cafes in Belgium serving a wide range of beers. It adds to the fun of choosing the right Belgian souvenir.
One of the most traditional souvenirs to buy in Belgium is lace. Dating back as early as the 16th century, the traditional art of lace making was passed on from generation to generation over the years. Tens of thousands of women have been making a living by the art of making lace over the centuries either by learning from their mother and later in specialised lacemaking schools in monasteries. Cities such as Bruges and Brussels are very renowned for their lace craft which is where one can still find many shops selling lace. The traditional lace work is still hand made and while walking through the streets of Bruges, you can still see women in certain shops performing the art, either making it with needles or with bobbins, often dressed in traditional clothing from the early days.
I used to read lots of comic books when I was younger. My brother and I had a whole collection of comics which we would read over and over again. I still love reading comics, but just not as often anymore. For me, reading comics was part of my childhood. I had no idea at that time that comics have always been an integral part of Belgian culture. In fact, Belgium has more than 700 professional comic creators, making it the country with the most comic artists per square km. Some very famous comics are created by Belgian artists like ‘The Smurfs’, ‘Lucky Luke’ and ‘TinTin’.
What would a visit to Belgium be without buying some comic books or comic book memorabilia? If you are interested in more information, do visit the ‘Belgian Comic Strip Centre’. More practical information can be found on their website. You can get comics in various languages, and not just Dutch and French.
This purple cone-shaped candy with a gooey raspberry-flavoured filling was only discovered by accident by a pharmacist from Ghent in the 19th century. He was trying out a new way to conserve medicinal syrop and discovered that the surface of the syrop had hardened, but the inside was still liquid. Locally, these purple delights are known as Neuzekes, which means Noses, referring to the shape of the candy. The original cuberdons are purple in colour with raspberry flavour but nowadays you can find them in various colours and flavours.
Another interesting fact to know about the cuberdon might be that in 2015 a true ‘little nose war’ (neuzekes oorlog) broke out in the city of Ghent between two cuberdon street vendors claiming to sell traditional curbedons and accusing the other one of selling a ‘chemical’ version. All in all, you can find cuberdons in most candy shops in Belgium, but buying them in Ghent adds to bringing back a traditional Belgian souvenir.
Crystal Val Saint-Lambert
Since 1826, the production of the glasswork of Val Saint-Lambert is located in the abbey of Saint Lambertus in Seraing, on the outskirts of Liege. Over the years, the crystal ornaments from Val Saint-Lambert have become world famous. The refined and coloured crystal is made into chandeliers, vases and glasses sometimes with geometric patterns. Most of the production is being exported to the most wealthy families.
So if you would like to get a beautiful and unique souvenir from Belgium, go and browse the collection of the Cristallerie du Val Saint-Lambert. More information about the manufacturing you can find here and about their museum here.
Jenever (or genever) is a juniper flavoured, malted grain based spirit and is only allowed to be produced in Belgium, the Netherlands and some parts of Germany and France. The introduction of jenever in Britain set the origin of gin. There are mainly 2 types of jenever: a young jenever with a rather bland taste (more like vodka) and an old jenever with a more aromatic taste. In general, it can be said that it is the malt wine that gives jenever its distinct flavour. Jenever has at least 35% alcohol.
The traditional jenever is served in a small tulip shaped glass filled to the top. Apart from the traditional jenever, which is still very much enjoyed, there are the flavoured jenevers, mainly with fruity flavours. They are much more popular drinks in the nightlife. There are so many different flavoured jenevers that it will be difficult not to find one to your liking. The more popular flavours are apple, berry and lemon, but you can find as well, kiwi, banana, cranberry, melon, speculoos, waffle, cherry and even curberdon (remember, the ‘neuzekes’). It is also very common to drink (flavoured) jenevers on Christmas markets in Belgium.
Gourmet wise, Belgium is mainly known for its chocolate, beer and waffles and not really as a cheese country. Belgium has around 300 different types of cheese, however, a lot of these cheeses are only made in small quantities and not meant for export markets. With so many different cheeses it is difficult to name the best ones. Each cheese has its unique flavour. Also, similar with some of the beers, the monasteries in Belgium also make cheese. When you enter a cheese shop you will often recognise the names of the cheese, since they are similar to the beer. Examples are Maredsous, Postel and Affligem.
Keep in mind that some Belgian cheeses are very strong in flavour and taste.
Speculoos is a delicious, crunchy and spicy cookie with a very unique flavour. It’s like a shortbread biscuit made with caramelised sugar and cinnamon. In Belgium you normally find them in rectangular shapes. Speculoos pairs perfectly with coffee. The best way is to dunk the speculoos cookie into the coffee to let it soften and then eat it. When ordering a coffee in a Belgian cafe, you will often find a speculoos with your coffee. For many Belgians, eating speculoos is very nostalgic and brings them back to Wintertime and more specifically the celebration of Sinterklaas, which takes place on the 6th of December and it’s when children who behave nice receive gifts as well as speculoos.
Nowadays, speculoos is eaten all year round. A tasty variation is speculoos pasta, also called cookie butter. Speculoospasta comes in a smooth and a crunchy variation and is meant as a bread spread.
Speculoos can be bought in most supermarkets as well as in specialised bakeries. The most famous brand in Belgium is Lotus Bakeries.
Typical Belgian memorabilia
To bring back a souvenir from Belgium or to buy a gift for someone, you can of course find the typical memorabilia in most souvenir shops. Those can be various items such as Belgiums most famous statues; Manneke Pis and the Atomium. Or what about a miniature statue of the medieval gabled houses of Bruges? Also with the Belgian soccer team doing really well as of writing this post, you might want to buy a t-shirt of the Red Devils, as they are locally called.
What would be your favourite souvenir from Belgium?
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