We asked three of our favorite independent businesses in Brussels to let us in on their preferred haunts and hang-outs for a truly local experience. Read on to discover the best places they suggest for your visit to the Belgian capital, including these unique businesses themselves!
Founded in 2010 by industrial designer Nina Bodenhorst and executive producer Jonathan Wieme, Niyona is an independent studio in Brussels, creating high-quality leather goods. Both Nina and Jonathan are master craftspeople and share a passion for fabricating incredible pieces that push the boundaries of leather production. Niyona approach their work in a refreshing way, often taking on innovative and exciting projects. With a focus on quality, originality and functionality and an enthusiasm for experimentation, Niyona products are truly unique. Nina and Jonathan focus on the pieces from start to finish, from the design stage throughout the hand-made manufacturing process, ensuring the utmost quality. The small independent studio also has an eco-friendly side, sourcing sustainable and traceable leather skins from well-respected local tanneries who produce exclusive hides specifically for them. Niyona have created customised and exclusive leather goods for a number of designers and local businesses including Maison Vervloet, Jean-Francois d’Or, Ludovic Lunetier, and LaPaix. For unique, luxury gifts, Niyona is well worth a visit when in Brussels.
Niyona’s Top Tips for Brussels
- As we come from the canal, we usually start the day off with a coffee at MOK café (Rue A.Dansaert). At the end of the week, café Walvis is great for dinner and a drink with friends.
- Another of our favorites is the Bozar Brasserie Restaurant with chef Karen Torosyan. This restaurant serves up traditional gastronomy in a great location. Here, you will also find some leather goods and table accessories we created exclusively for them!
- For a real slice of Brussels, we like Café de Monk or le Laboureur. Definitely worth visiting to experience the city’s atmosphere.
- Want to have some fun? Go to place Flagey every Friday to witness the meeting of many old and iconic motorbikes. For the past 7 years, bikers have gathered here for the “Belgaz” reunion.
- Our main suggestions to visitors is to walk… walk… and walk! Start at Place du Sablon (pay a visit to bespoke eyewear artisan Ludovic Lunetier), drink a coffee, then go downtown through la Rue Haute/Rue Blaes for the famous flea market at Place du jeu de balle. Continue through Rue du Marché au Charbon and then finally come to visit us at Rue de Laeken. Get lost in the streets on Brussels!
NIYONA, Rue de Laeken 86, 1000 Bruxelles.
Loudovic Elens is a highly trained Belgian optician-optometrist who crafts beautiful and distinctive eyeglasses from his elegant studio on Sablon Square in Brussels. With over a decade experience in creating personalised hand-crafted eyewear, including a spell working with the ‘Meilleurs Ouvriers de France’, a highly respected group of the best craftsman in France. Ludovic takes his customers through the whole process to create bespoke glasses suited to their individual needs, tastes and style. Artisan materials are personally sourced from across the world including domestic buffalo horn from India and Vietnam, and Zebu horn from Madagascar. Even the atelier itself has been considered very thoroughly – whilst perusing the store, visitors can see down to the workshop below where they can observe the man himself at work. We highly recommend a visit when in Brussels just to witness Ludovic’s amazing talent, which is somewhat of a dying art in the age of fast fashion.
Ludovic’s Top Tips for Brussels:
- Walk around in the parks, starting in the Egmond. Be sure to drink tea in the Orangerie. Continue on to Le petit Sablon and admire all the old craftsman statues, before finishing in the small art-parc alongside to the Royal Fine Art Museum.
- Every Saturday and Sunday you can walk around on the open air antique market on the Sablon. Be amazed by the fantastic objects you see and discover interesting historical items and products.
- To eat I would recommend Pistolet original for lunch, and for diner, Les petits Oignons.
- For a refreshing drink, there is a nice terrace under a tree at L’arrière pays. Or you should go too Le Vieux Saint-Martin – this is somewhere everybody should experience once in a lifetime.
- I love listening to jazz at the Archiduc, an art-deco bar where time has stood still. I would recommend asking for a Whisky Old Fashioned!
Lunetier Ludovic, 14, Ernest Allard, 1000 Brussels.
Jean-Louis Motte, founder of Bel’Arte, came up with the idea for the store from the desire to showcase some of Belgium’s lesser known design talents. From pieces for your home, to hand-crafted handbags, Bel’Arte is the best place to shop for unique gifts. Jean-Louis selects products by his natural instinct although he is attracted to the distinctive and hand-made. He is always on the look-out for the next big thing in design and Bel’Arte now stocks the creations of around one hundred different designers. The store is situated on the Rue de Flandre in the Sainte-Catherine district, an area known for it’s designer boutiques and great restaurants. With the recent addition of some new, innovative shops settling in the stylish and dynamic area, it’s the perfect place for Bel’Arte to display the work of some great independent artists and creators. The place truly is a design treasure trove!
Jean-Louis’s Top Tips to Brussels
- My favorite restaurant in Brussels is Selecto – Rue de Flandre 95 – 1000 Bruxelles
- In my opinion, the best place to grab a coffee is Settebello – Rue de Flandre 59 – 1000 Bruxelles
- When it’s warm, grab an ice cream from Gaston – Quai aux Briques 86, 1000 Bruxelles
- The park I most like to spend time in is Josaphat Parc 1030 Schaerbeek
- When the sun is out, I relax with a beer at Madame Moustache – Quai au Bois à Brûler 5-7, 1000 Bruxelles
Be’Arte, Rue de Flandre 53, 1000 Bruxelles.