Forcado Pastelaria

Everytime I take tram 92 to the city centre from our house, it goes past Forcado. It’s one of the few café-like places that looks cozy from the outside looking in. It’s a Portuguese pastelaria that has specialised in pasteis de nata, the national pastry. The places has been there since 1982 and still, it’s extremely popular. And with reason! One bite of the pastry took me straight back to Lisbon; if heaven were a pastry, it’d definitely be this! For those that like experimenting with flavours, they have different variations of the traditional pastry, ranging from speculoos, chocolate, praliné to lemon and coffee.

Where? Charleroise Steenweg 196, Brussels (close to tram stop Janson)

When? Every day from 10am till 6pm, except for Mondays

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Rotterdam – a shopping guide

Between Christmas and New Years, my boyfriend and I took a little getaway to Rotterdam. We took things slow and explored some of the great architectural constructions like the Markthal, saw some art at the Kunsthal and wandered the city’s streets. There were definitely too many nice looking shops and cozy cafés, but we managed to squeeze in quite a few! I’m giving you an overview below so you can enjoy some of the best ones. The shopping must go on!

PLEK – concept store

Where? 

What? This concept store is a design lover’s dream. From clothes to homeware, this place has everything in its own style, from Scandi chic to German retro. They also have a great selection of fragrances. My favourite – the Bon Parfumeur in the scent 301 – a woody scent with sandalwood, amber and cardamom. It was love at first smell.

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STEK – de stadstuinwinkel

Where? Nieuwe Binnenweg 195B

What? It’s the urban jungle lover’s dream. You walk into the shop and immediately get that jungle vibe: there’s literally plants everywhere! If your love of plants exceeds the plants itself, like me, you  will also like the botanical greeting cards and lovely ceramic pots as decoration. The shop owner is also really helpful! Basically, I could live in this store and be perfectly happy.

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HAY

Where? Haagseveer 99

What?  Anyone that knows me, knows I absolutely love this brand. It’s a Danish design brand that distinguishes itself from others by using unique shapes and colours. Regular scissors, clothing hooks and towels become objects of marvel. Time and time again, I end up buying nothing at all because I want everything and my budget just doesn’t allow for that to happen.

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VOORLOPIG

Where? Nieuwe Binnenweg 165

What? Everything you didn’t know you needed. There’s not really anything you couldn’t live without at this store, but there’s A LOT of things that you don’t feel like you want to live without. It’s got a wide selection of greeting cards, children’s books and posters. And I mean, who doesn’t love a store that makes a Christmas tree out of books! Out of books! Right.

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Hutspot

Where? Karel Doormanstraat 317

What? Really cool and edgy clothes and accessories that are comparably very affordable. From basic items to some pieces to stand out with.  I especially liked their jewellery collection, which as on point. You can kind of get the vibe of the store by looking at their website.

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Markthal

Where? Dominee Jan Scharpstraat 298

What? Only the most amazing architectural construction in Rotterdam, with a combination of apartments and a huge glass market hall. This really is the place to be for food lovers. If you’re not already hungry by the thought of the market hall, you will definitely get some cravings when you see al the glorious food stands. A must if you’re ever in Rotterdam!

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GROOS

Where? Achterklooster 13

What? A really basic but artsy store that is enjoyable by the way it’s been set up alone. It’s kind of like a mix between a warehouse and an art or design gallery. We bought some local beer (with lime) there and socks with an unbearably cute print. It’s a great place to get a gift for the ungiftable person.

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KEET

Where? Oppert 2a

What? A gift store that doubles up as a café. The perfect place to go snoop around when the weather isn’t that great. They have a great selection of ceramics and jewellery. Again, you’ll need nothing but end up wanting everything.

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Coffeelicious

Where? Nieuwe Binnenweg 174

What? After all the shopping, it’s nice to bop in somewhere to grab a cup of coffee or tea. This place’s interior looks like Alice in Wonderland had a baby with a Scandinavian designer (not my favourite combo) but the cake here was the bomb.com and all was forgiven quickly. Try the carrot cake!

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This is only a grasp of the many, many more shops and cool places in Rotterdam and I’m pretty sure I’ll have to go back in summer one day, but I feel like these are a solid list to get your started. If you’re into one of a kind shops and laid back wandering around the city, Rotterdam is definitely the place for you.

Please be sure to let me know if you have any questions or comments! I’d love to tell you more about it.

Until the next shopping spree! :-)

Lilith

If you’re ever in Rotterdam and just like me, you are a huge fan of going out for breakfast, Lilith might just be the place for you. It’s an old bar with lots of hipster elements but a bit of a rockery vibe. I mean, the water we asked for came in a skull-shaped bottle and the music they play is mostly hard rock (in a non-disturbing kind of way!). Not to mention the food is delicious: there’s lots of options for everyone, from the bacon and eggs indulging lover (Gillian) to the vegan fruit and yoghurt bowl favourite (Me). One tip: go early! Right after we got there, the place was full and there’s a waiting line. I can understand why… :-)

When? Monday-Wednesday from 8am till 7pm, Thursdays from 8am till 9pm, Friday-Saturday from 8am till 10pm and Sundays from 8am till 9pm.

Where? Nieuwe Binnenweg 125H, Rotterdam

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ZOET

Zoet calls itself the tastiest candy shop in Mechelen, and I have to agree! My girlfriend and I stumble across this too cute for words sweets shop on the hunt for cool clothing shops. What we found was better! Zoet is a bright and colourful candy shop that wants to go back to the roots of the little corner candy shop with glass jars and unique products. The sweets they sell are authentic and original. What’s even cooler is that they also have an online shop so you can spoil someone you love or miss or even yourself if you are craving something sweet, without having to venture out to Mechelen. (Would recommend though!) Seriously, I get happy just looking at their website.

Where? In Mechelen, at the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat 108 or online

When? Mondays-Tuesdays from 11am till 5pm, Wednesdays – Saturdays from 11am till 6pm. Closed on Sundays. Online: always open!

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Brussels from A to Z

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If there’s one place I had to pick when it comes to music, it’d definitely be the Ancienne Belgique. They constantly host some of my favourite bands and singers but are also not afraid to invite newcomers. Its location, right next-door to the famous and impressive Stock Exchange called De Beurs or La Bourse, is right in the city centre and on sunny days, this traffic free area is the place to see or be seen.

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As the palace for fine arts, Bozar is one of my favourite museums when it comes to modern art. They constantly switch up their collection and always have some temporary exhibitions going on. It’s where art is life and life is art.

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C  – Place Saint Catherine is the place to be on a sunny day when people flock to the restaurants and bars on the cozy square with the impressive church. This lively area also has lots of seafood restaurants.

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The so called hipster neighbourhood is the Dansaertstraat, where you can spot Dansaertvlamingen (Flemish speaking people that live in Brussels but don’t see themselves as Flemish but rather as from Brussels – let’s say it’s complicated). In any case, it’s where all the cool kids shop till they need a latte.

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In 1935 Brussels hosted the World Expo and for that, our infamous balls of steel, aka the Atomium were built. Now the Heizel still has some gigantic halls left over and to date this is still the place to be for huge events and enormous shows or exhibitions.

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Place Flagey is just one of those places that everyone knows: this oasis of space contains a mixture of cultures and architectural styles and is therefore an unexpected discovery where creative spirits meet. Yet another great place to people watch and soak up the sun.

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If you’re looking for the #1 attraction for tourists, it’s definitely the Grote Markt or Grand Place. This place is the most central in Brussels and it’s where all the historic guild houses as well as the Town hall are located. Try some chocolate on your way there in one of the many praline shops.

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H is definitely for Horta, one of the most famous art nouveau architects ever.  Lots of houses and buildings in Brussels still carry his signature and his style is what makes me look up in awe from time to time. If you’re looking for another gem of an architectural creation, check out the Sint-Hubertusgalerijen, not by Horta, but nonetheless magnificent. Especially around Christmas time, with the lights covering the ceiling.

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Brussels is basically one big international food market. You can try anything here: from Italian to Moroccan, from Lebanese to Chinese, from Japanese to Indian, from French to Scandinavian, from Turkish to Mexican: it’s all here!

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We all know Manneke Pis, right? The peeing statue that is disappointingly small (“That’s it ?!”). If you’re looking for a different approach, check out Jeanneke Pis, the lesser known female version.

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The Kruidtuin, also known as the Botanique, is one of the gardens worth a visit in the city. The garden is located right next to the famous concert hall with the same name.

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If you’re looking for a place to spoil yourself with some expensive shopping, the Louizalaan is the place to be. This super duper fancy shopping streets leads to the Gulden Vlieslaan, where some of the big shops like Prada, Louis Vuitton, Furstenberg, Gucci – to name a few – are located. A girl can dream (and window-shop), right?

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One of my favourite places is definitely the Mont des Arts or Kunstberg. Besides being the hotspot for all the cool museums, this hill offers a unique viewpoint over Brussels. The perfect place to sit on the stairs and watch the world go by until the sun sets.

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The Museum of Natural Sciences or Natuurwetenschappen Museum is just one of those museums that are cool to see. Have a browse through the stuffed animals or pretend to be a dinosaur. So many options.

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For the opera lovers out there, the place to be is the Munt or La Monnaie. Besides the opera, the Muntplein is a lively place with more often than not, lots of activities going on.

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I love a good cityscape view, which is exactly what the Poelaertplein or Place Poelaert offers. It’s located right next to the Justitiepaleis. If you look closely, you might be able to spot the word “Hollywood”. Let me know if you find it!

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As the capital of Europe, it speaks for itself that there is a Quartier Européen. It’s where the big buildings are with all the European organisations. There’s some nice places to eat or have a coffee there too!

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The main shopping street is called the Rue Neuve or Nieuwstraat. It’s where the mainstream shops are. It’s located between the Munt and Rogier.

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Another one of my favourite area is Sint Gillis, which I like to think of as Hipster Central. It’s where you can find edgy beer shops, second hand stores, cool coffee bars. It’s a nice place to hang around on a sunny day and just discover.

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My favourite green area is definitely Ter Kamerenbos or Bois de la Chambre. We drive through it often, but more enjoyable is the walking and biking. It’s quite big, but that’s what makes it so nice to venture out there: there’s always a quiet spot somewhere to soak up the green. Whether it be summer, winter, autumn or spring – it always draws me in.

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As most big cities, Brussels is also a university city, with the ULB and VUB on the edge of the city. It’s pretty cool to see how the students just blend in with the inhabitants.

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If you take the elevator at Place Poelaert, it will lead you to the Marollen, a place for strolling past the second hand shops or browse the brocante market at the Vossenplein or Place du Jeu de balle, after which you can have a beer in the sun. An afternoon well spent.

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Another day, another park – The Warandepark, or more often called plainly, the Park, is the park across the Royal Palace. It makes for a nice place for a stroll and perhaps a Liege waffle?

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It seemed impossible to find something with an X until I realised what was right in front of me (e)Xpats – okay I cheated a little bit. One of the reasons I love it here so much is hearing the different languages from all over the world and hearing about people’s experiences with Belgium as a country.

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Yzer is located in the northern part of Brussels. It’s the area with Tour& Taxis, one of the biggest sites and buildings that regularly hosts events or festivals. Besides that, there is also the Kaaitheater with innovative and surprising performances. Near the water, the Kaai, in the summer there is Brussel bad – a makeshift beach with cocktail bars and Latin-American music.

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The Zavel or Sablon is located in the heart of Brussels. It’s got a market on weekends and houses COCO donuts – the best donut place in Brussels (so far). Park Egmont offers another green oasis in the busy centre.

JAT

JAT forms the ideal hub for a sunday catch-up with a friend or a break from sightseeing the museums at the Mont des Arts (Kunstberg). They serve really good coffee and delicious iced teas paired with gorgeous looking sweets. For those that are not as sweet toothed, they also serve soup and sandwiches. There’s definitely something for everybody. And the cozy and colourful seating with the wooden interior complete the feel of a cozy sunday afternoon. Sit back and relax.

Where? Rue de Namur 28, 1000 Brussels – close to the Magritte Museum and Museum of Fine Arts as well as tram stop Koning and Metro stop Naamsepoort/Porte Namur

When? Open everyday – weekdays from 8am till 7pm, weekends from 9am till 7pm

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