Gift shopping is serious business in Belgium. Choosing the perfect gift is an art and even the most modest gift deserves elaborate wrapping, which can make it quite a lengthy process. I learned this firsthand Lâ€™Olifant on a recent trip to Liege, where I was in line behind a woman who was purchasing eleven items, to be wrapped individually.
For my younger kids, we always skip the usual souvenirs in Belgium (Mannekenpis corkscrew anyone?) and opt instead for a visit to a toy store so they can choose something theyâ€™ll actually play withâ€”a novel idea.
Iâ€™ve also hit up toy stores for last-minute family memberâ€”I mean invitations. Sometimes, if you havenâ€™t seen your extended family for a while, you might suddenly remember the day before your visit that thereâ€™s a new baby in the family (hem, hem). In Belgium, you would never dream of showing up to a social event empty-handed. While flowers, a good bottle of wine or a great box of chocolates will pass muster for adults, if youâ€™re visiting a family with kids, skip the adult gifts and bring a little something for the kids instead.
Hereâ€™s a round-up of three of our favorite Belgian toy stores:
This enchanting store specializes in high-quality wooden toys, educational games, and colorful room accessories. I loved the hot air balloon and other mobiles, the huge geography section, and the wooden trains. A truly magical old-school shop rambling over four levels.
Antwerpâ€™s modern style and trendy vibe shine through in this fabulous shop. Their logo, â€śFor Kids and Cool Parents,â€? is spot-on and youâ€™ll find all sorts of cool toys and gadgets with a modern twist. The attached BabyLab is a great place to outfit your (or your cousinâ€™s) baby in the latest trends in clothing, accessories, and toys.
Le Wolf is only a few steps from the Brusselsâ€™ Grand Place but feels a million miles away. Stepping into the shop feels like youâ€™re stumbling into a fairy tale forest, with large trees looming above and a little wooden house (a story jukebox) reminiscent of The Three Little Bears. Although itâ€™s primarily a bookstore, they also carry select high-end toys and coloring books. And feel free to snuggle up and read your favorite shopping partner a story in their large and airy library.Â (Read about other children’s bookstores in Brussels)
Iâ€™m happy to say that I found the perfect stuffed owl at Lâ€™Olifant for my adorable new cousin. And it was wrapped to perfection.