Recently, I had a fun weekend excursion from Paris to Brussels with a friend, and we discovered a magnificent shopping find: the department store HEMA (pronounced Hey-Ma).
First of all, our weekend started out with a super cheap SNCF bargain from Paris to Brussels that included return train fare on Thalys, two nights stay at a lovely and central hotel, and two breakfasts, all for just 100 euros each. The hot and cold buffet breakfast was the best I’ve ever had in Europe. 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 and simply but wonderfully packaged. We loaded up on shampoo, conditioner, hair spray, body and skin creams, exfoliants, face masks, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bath 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.
We forced ourselves to leave this department and scour the rest of the store where we met with amazement rows of Belgium chocolate, bisquits and other gourmet delights for mostly under 2 euros. On the second floor, the clothing sections can largely be skipped but 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 products rate in terms of quality, you ask? The best, we’ve tried them and love them all, especially the hand cream! My 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. You can even do this trip in a day and don’t have to bother changing currency as all prices are in euros in Brussels. HEMA has stores in Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany, just google to find their site.
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