One of the first things I remember discovering after moving to Brussels was all the secondhand bookstores. Back then, I was only interested in buying books in English and was surprised that Brussels had so many of them. I found them in so many random places, some that didn’t make it on this list but can be found on the map at the end of the article. Some of these sell only books in French, but most of the time, you’ll find a small bookshelf dedicated to books in English. Without further ado, let’s delve into my favorite bookstores in Brussels!

Het Ivoren Aapje

Place du Béguinage 4, 1000 Brussels

Het Ivoren Aapje (The Ivory Monkey in Dutch) is a charming bookstore tucked away outside of the city center. You’ll find books in Dutch, French, and English too. And you’ll be able to say hello to its fluffy resident, the owner’s dog who usually lounges in his armchair. Interior-wise, this might be my favorite bookstore in Brussels because it looks cozy and inviting. I love to picture how moody and dark it would look on a rainy day, while Billie Holiday plays in the background. You’ll find plenty of newer editions but also beautiful antique ones. Do yourself a favor and drop by here!

Bookstore Het Ivoren Aapje
Bookstore Het Ivoren Aapje
Bookstore Het Ivoren Aapje

Librairie Tropisme

Galerie des Princes 11, 1000 Brussels

A few years ago, as I was walking through Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, I saw a sign that drew my attention. There is a small passage inside the big gallery called Galerie des Princes, on the left side. I only noticed the bookstore sign so I had no idea what was awaiting me. Certainly not such a striking interior with a tall coffered ceiling. To be perfectly honest, this bookstore is an exception. They only sell new books here but I found that the interior made it so unique that I simply had to include it on my list. I think you can understand why now!

Bookstore Librairie Tropismes

Librairie Genicot

Galerie Bortier 6, 1000 Brussels

Hidden away inside a vaulted gallery, Librairie Genicot is overflowing with books. Unfortunately for English natives, only books in French. But it’s such a scenic spot that it’s worth a walk through the lovely interior. Technically, there are three different rooms inside the gallery full of books, with two different owners. The penultimate time I visited, I took plenty of photos during Christmastime. Next time though, I was heavily scolded by one of the owners for trying to take photos. Luckily, the other owner didn’t mind that. So I overcompensated and took many photos of beautiful antique books placed all over the bookstore.

Bookshelves in one of the secondhand bookstores in Brussels, Librairie Genicot
Bookstore Librairie Genicot

Librairie Nijinski

Chaussée d’Ixelles 315, 1050 Ixelles

One of my recent discoveries, I first visited Librairie Nijinski earlier this year. It was love at first sight as soon as I saw those seemingly endless bookshelves! Frankly, I don’t think one full day would be enough to go through all the books. There is even more in the back, a few shelves reserved solely for English books. The shelf from the first photo is aesthetically pleasing because of books from the Gallimard publishing company, which is famous for using minimalistic white covers. All in all, there are three different rooms full of books ranging from every possible subject, fiction or non-fiction. If you only had time for one bookstore when visiting Brussels, this would be my first recommendation. Also, the owner is so friendly he’ll offer you a cup of coffee or tea if he notices you’re glued to the bookshelves, as I usually tend to be.

Bookshelves in one of the secondhand bookstores in Brussels, Librairie Nijinski
Bookshelves in one of the secondhand bookstores in Brussels, Librairie Nijinski

Bouquinerie Sablon

Rue de l’Arbre 10, 1000 Brussels

Another recent find, Bouquinerie Sablon is easy to miss unless you’re wandering through streets of Sablon. You’ll have to spend a while going through all the books because it’s a bit chaotic inside but you won’t find them cheaper anywhere else. This bookstore also offers only French books though I wouldn’t be surprised if you found a few English ones in that creative chaos!

Bookshelves in one of the secondhand bookstores in Brussels, Bouquinerie Sablon

Pêle-Mêle

Boulevard Maurice Lemonnier 55, 1000 Brussels / Chaussée de Waterloo 566, 1050 Ixelles

By far the biggest treasure trove, Pêle-Mêle has two different locations you can explore. The one in Ixelles is a bit outside of the center but has a bigger selection. I have found many books in English here back when I still lived in Brussels. The second bookstore is closer to the center with an equally good selection. The only difference is that it’s a bit smaller and more crowded due to its location. Nonetheless, I would suggest both bookstores because they carry different things. Also, another of its advantages is the fact that it’s open on Sundays. As I mentioned here, what better thing to do on a boring Sunday than to go and roam through rows and rows of books?

Bookshelves in one of the secondhand bookstores in Brussels

I hope this extensive list and map inspire you to visit some of these bookstores. There are plenty of little treasures awaiting you in all of them. And we know time never flies faster than when you’re digging through bookshelves of secondhand bookstores. So head on out there and enjoy discovering new old books!

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