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This Month's Hot Deals

One Euro Goes Far in Brussels

Journeywoman Karen Henrich spends her time between Paris and Vancouver, running a female-friendly tour company and constantly scouting shopping values that she passes onto her visitors. She shares this great Paris to Brussels day trip shopping find. Karen writes:

Best breakfast buffet...

Want a fast, easy and fun shopping experience outside of Paris? I recently went on a great weekend excursion to Brussels with a friend, and we discovered a magnificent shopping treasure: the department store HEMA (pronounced Hey-Ma). Travelers could also do this trip in a day. I promise 'fun finds' for just one and two euro. Honest!

First of all, our weekend started out with a super cheap rail ticket to Brussels. We chose a two nights stay at a lovely and centrally located hotel called Comfort Art Hotel Siru at 1 Place Rogier Two buffet breakfasts were included -- their hot and cold selection was the best we’ve ever had in Europe. Although we only chose that hotel because it was part of the SNCF train deal (SNCF is the National Railway of France providing high speed train travel to Europe), it turns out it was excellent.

On their website the Comfort Art Hotel Siru describes itself as 'a unique, first-class hotel located near Brussels longest pedestrian shopping street. This hotel itself is a beautiful art-deco building with 101 unique pieces of art. The interior includes the work of 130 Belgium artists. As a result, no two guestrooms are alike. The Comfort Art Hotel Siru is only two minutes walk from the central train station, ten minutes from the Grand'Place and a twenty-minute cab ride from the Airport'.

One euro heaven...

On our first day we set out for the main pedestrian shopping street, Rue Neuve. This street has mainly European and international chain stores but we decided to poke our heads into a store we’d never heard of before, HEMA. And are we ever glad we found this gem! Shelves of cosmetics, hair, body and skin products boasted prices averaging around 1,00 euro each. At first, we thought we were seeing the pricing wrong, how could this be? The products were mostly private label, smelled great and were simply but wonderfully packaged. We loaded up on shampoo, conditioner, hair spray, body and skin creams, face masks, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bath products and a myriad of other products. There were even Miss Helen and Paris Chic products for less than half the price than I have seen at Monoprix and other stores in Paris.

Wonderful hand cream...

We forced ourselves to leave this department and scour the rest of the store where we met with amazement rows of Belgium chocolate, biscuits and other gourmet delights for mostly under two euros. On the second floor, we discovered that the clothing sections can largely be skipped because the fashions are quite conservative in nature, but worth checking out for basics like socks and underwear. On this floor, however, we found great candles, towels, sheets, curtains and all manner of dishes and other housewares. We did a quick pit stop in the HEMA cafe where tasty drinks, sandwiches, soups and baking could be had. I figured out that this chain is a smaller, more manageable IKEA-clone, with the addition of the beauty products. If it opened in Paris, people would go absolutely nuts. Oh, and how do the 'pas cher' (inexpensive) products rate in terms of quality, you ask? The best, we’ve tried them and love them all, especially the hand cream!

Stock up, ladies...

For those Journeywomen living in Europe, our advise is to scout out cheap tics to Brussels, take your largest shopping cart on wheels (or two) and head directly to HEMA to bulk-buy a few months worth of all your necessary everyday products. It will be worth it, even with the cost of the train tickets. This trip can even be done in a day and it is not necessary to change currency as all prices are in euros in Brussels. HEMA presently has stores in Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany. Visit the HEMA site for more information.

If you are a Journeywoman heading for Brussels from much farther away, we think this is a great place to pick up little gifts for all the folks back home.

P.S. Want to know what a euro is worth in your country's currency? Just click here and convert.

Travelling by train from Paris...

Also known as the red train, Thalys links Paris to Amsterdam, Brussels, Cologne and Dusseldorf. There are 18 Thalys trains per day that take you from Paris to Brussels in under 90 minutes. You can buy tickets online through RailEurope. They have interesting hotel deals ( as well.
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