Brussels • a connoisseur’s delight
Belgium often gets a bad press for being boring, but its beer and chocolate are world-renowned • and Brussels airport is one place to get a taste of both***Brussels is a city of bureaucrats. Ever since the European Union set up shop in the Belgian capital, and later swelled its ranks with several of its institutions, trade bodies and other lobby groups have swiftly followed behind. The European Commission and European Parliament together employ more than 30,000 staff.
As the effective capital of the EU, the city is host to a large number of business travellers coming and going on a daily basis and this is reflected at Brussels National airport where one in three passengers is travelling for business rather than leisure, and 7% of passengers are flying business or first class (source: The Brussels Airport Company).
Not surprisingly, this is reflected in the shopping offer, which features an array of high-end stores in two main areas: Pier A and Pier B. Chocolate is a big deal at the airport with sales in excess of 800 tons annually; hence The Chocolate Company’s two units, one in departures and the other in arrivals. Sky Shops, which operates them, guarantees the best prices for Belgium’s Neuhaus, Godiva and Corné Port-Royal chocolates: “Should you find cheaper anywhere in the world, we will pay back the price difference…twice.” Now there’s confidence • and a challenge for any well-travelled chocaholics among you.
Sticking with food, gastronomes will want to head for Gourmet’s delicatessen which stocks fine European delicacies such as variously smoked Scottish salmon, excellent duck or goose foie gras; plus products from brands such as Rougié and Fauchon. Then step into the extremely upscale Epicure for vintage or grand cru wines, champagnes or whiskies to accompany your food purchases, or to buy cigars from the glass humidor.The main duty free shop has an enticing and more regularly-priced choice of liquor including what the airport claims is “probably the biggest assortment of Belgian beers” not to mention a further choice of champagnes and malt whiskies. Tasting sessions are always on, especially for new launches, so don’t be shy to try.If you can’t wait to sample the beers, quaff on the premises at the Belgian Beer Café where dozens of varieties await you. Just remember the alcohol content of those deceptively disarming, sweeter-tasting ales can come in at a whopping alcohol content of more than 8%!
Other attractions in this pier include Gautam’s Diamond and Gold store Armani Jeans and its fashion shop. Diamond cutting is another of Belgium’s established industry’s and this store offers 18kt gold fine jewellery set with Antwerp-cut diamonds, and/or precious stones such as sapphire, ruby and emerald, or semi-precious stones such as blue topaz, citrine, amethyst and lapis lazuli. You can also buy certified Antwerp-cut diamonds as loose stones.
Gautam’s fashion store brings together very high-end leather and shoe labels including Church’s, Daniele Tucci, Fratelli Rossetti, Loake, Moreschi and Pollini. Also offering leather handbags footwear, jewellery and clothing made from fine Italian fabrics under its own brand is Uterqüe as does the Hermès boutique. More accessibly-priced brands such as Bric’s, Delsey, Guess, Kipling, Longchamp, Picard and Tumi can be found in the Leather Shop.
In Pier B, the shopping is less extensive with some necessary overlap for products such as chocolate, gourmet food and fashion. The two main duty free shops there will give you the staples; a large selection of perfumes and cosmetics in one, and liquor and tobacco in the other. But also try the Leaders store if you are looking for electronics. This store (there is also one in the other pier) stocks top brands such as Apple, Canon, Casio, Nikon, Packard Bell, Panasonic and Sony for anything from memory cards to mobile phones. And again, the beer can’ be ignored. A stop at the Leffe Plaza, a bar named after the internationally famed beer, will be hard to pass up.
- Passenger traffic 2011: 18.7 m
- Main international airlines: Brussels Airlines, Jetairfly, Jet Airlways, Easyjet, Royal Air Maroc, Europe Airpost, Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium.
- New developments: An underground rail link between the airport’s train station and the new Schaarbeek – Mechelen railway line has been a long time coming but should be in service by 2012.