It’s a sunny Sunday at Brussels’ Gare du Midi, home to one of the largest open-air markets in the city. This is where the locals come to stock up on the best selection of fresh produce, seafood, and meat. Beside the tempting bowls of Moroccan spices and heaps of ripe fruit and vegetables, you’ll find racks full of lightweight summer clothing, household supplies, and even bicycle parts. Come early for the best choice and you’ll beat the crowds as well as the heat. Once you’ve done your shopping, be sure and make time to try one of the popular Moroccan flatbread sandwiches, made to order with your choice of roasted vegetables, herbs, fresh feta and a drizzle of honey. Or, just grab a spot in the shade and cool off with a refreshing glass of sweet mint tea.
If you’re planning a visit, the Brussels city website has prepared a list of all the open-air markets, complete with hours of operation and printable maps. Since each neighborhood has a different variety of goods on display, it pays to make it a day and visit more than one. On a recent trip, I was able to browse five markets in one day, broken up by enjoyable walks between the neighborhoods. At the upscale Sablon market there’s fine art, antiques and jewelry. You’ll see more tourists here and you might end up paying more than you need to. If you’re a bargain hunter, and you like rummaging through rows of boxes to find a hidden treasure, visit the Marolles market at Place du Jeu de Balle, where Brussels empties its attics. Remember to carry cash, be ready to haggle and you’re sure to have fun and bring some special mementos back home!