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I am considering visiting Belgium on a Sunday, but if it's like the Netherlands, many shops and museums are either closed or have a reduced schedule. How is it in Belgium?

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    OK how is there a vote to close for "opinion based"?? Surely there's a law or general rule about the shops being opened/closed on Sundays. – Mark Mayo Feb 13 '14 at 23:15
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    Most museums are open on Sundays in the Netherlands. More and more shops are open as well, certainly in big cities, as are supermarkets. – Relaxed Feb 14 '14 at 9:33
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    Belgium is a big place (okay, not THAT big, but still). If it's like most other big places, the answer will vary greatly depending on locality. Many small US towns will not be open at all on a Sunday, while other larger cities practically never close. My limited experience in Belgium would suggest the same is true there, that some places will be open on Sundays and others maybe not so much. – Flimzy Feb 14 '14 at 12:42
  • @Flimzy yes, some will be - because of the wording of the law, see my answer below. It's a bit of a different system to the US (and indeed any country I've lived in) – Mark Mayo Feb 14 '14 at 13:29
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    Why not check the hours of the museums/attractions you're planning to visit ? – blackbird Feb 14 '14 at 16:28
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I'll speak for Brussels where I live :

  • Most museums are open on Sundays, as are they in every place I've been to in the EU (including the Netherlands). Most countries strive to make culture and arts accessible to people. You don't do that by opening only on working days.
  • As a result, most tourist shops and businesses selling food and beverages around landmarks, museums and monuments will be open.
  • People like their Sunday family lunchs, so small stores selling fresh products (bakery, grocery, butcher's) are often open in the morning. Sunday is a big day for many restaurants and bistrots as well.
  • Some supermakets (not all of them) are open in the morning.
  • Some shopping malls are open at special times of the year : Christmas season, January sales, etc.

So Sundays are definitely not dead days, especially if you're planning to do tourist oriented stuff. I wouldn't claim it's the case in every small Belgian village, but certainly so in big cities and touristic ones.

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There's an excellent summary of the hours available, which also links to the official regulation (in Dutch/Flemish if you can read that).

The basic summary is:

  • You can be open any day during 'shopping hours' - between 0500 and 2100.
  • a shop owner is required to have a 24 hour 'day of rest' every week. Most choose to do it on Sundays.
  • However, you can't employ personnel on Sundays, so generally smaller businesses might be open.
  • There are exceptions - bakeries, tourist shops...

There have been several attempts at further legislation, all described on that same page.

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For Flanders you can more or less compare it the Netherlands. There are some small differences though.

  1. Bakeries. Where in the Netherlands you will not be able to find a bakery on a Sunday, in Belgium they are all open on Sunday.
  2. some DIY shops are usually also open on Sunday in Flanders.
  3. The Netherlands has more so-called buying sundays ("koop-zondag", then Belgium. Things are changing for the better where more and more shopping centers are opening on sunday as well. There is a political discussion going on to open up touristic city centers on every sunday, resembling the policy in the Netherlands.
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    (+1) But I know at least one bakery open on Sunday in the Netherlands (but it's a French bakery ;-)! Meanwhile in large-to-medium-sized towns in South Holland every Sunday is a “koop-zondag”, I am not sure if it even makes sense to make a distinction anymore. – Relaxed Mar 27 '14 at 20:36
  • @Relaxed In our town in the Netherlands, some shops are open on all Sundays, some shops are always closed on Sunday, and some shops are open on "koop-zondag" -- which is the first Sunday of the month, except on months when it's a different Sunday. – Abigail yesterday

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