Antwerp is a beautiful port town in Belgium. It is a great place to visit either as a day trip by train from Brussels or to stay for a few days and soak up the great atmosphere.
Antwerp has a very laid back feel to it. There are a lot to see and do and, unlike Bruges, Antwerp doesn’t have hoards of tourist around every corner and at every attraction. This fact alone makes Antwerp much more pleasant to stroll through and enjoy. Add into the mix lovely buildings, proximity of water, great museums and the fact that Antwerp is a centre of the diamond trade in Europe and you can see why I really enjoyed my visit there.
Below are my notes on what to see and do.
Hope you enjoy Antwerp as much as I did.
- After getting off the train, the best thing to do is just to walk from Antwerpen-Centraal to the docks. Or hire a bike if don’t feel like walking
- Central Station (Antwerpen-Centraal) – the most beautiful train station I have ever seen
- Diamant – diamond district (just West of Central Station)
- Zoo – world’s oldest (I was advised by the local friend to skip it. I am also not a fan of animals in cages)
- Meier Street – most important shopping street in Belgium. Also many impressive buildings.
- Cathedral of Our Lady – the biggest gothic building in the Dutch-speaking world and has the tallest bell tower (123 m.) in Belgium. The cathedral is very impressive but what makes it so unique are the seven aisles and the four Ruben masterpieces that you will find inside it, along with other pieces of art.
- Groenplaats – buzzing square full of cafes and restaurants, located near the Cathedral
- Grote Markt – main square with great looking buildings and a lovely feel to it. Also nice for photos
- Stadhuis van Antwerpen (town hall)
- Guild Houses
- Brabomonument – Iconic monument & fountain, constructed in the 18th century, in quaint cobblestone surrounds
- Vlaeykensgang – a small alley near Grote Mark, that still looks how it used to be in the 16th century.
- Het Steen – medieval fortress. There is a large weird status of a man who is exposing his codpiece to passers by. There is nothing to seen inside the castle itself
- Mas Museum – a new musium about Antwerp and it’s connection to the world. Interesting building. I highly recommend to go up on the roof for a great view from the top (take the elevator to the open roof top for the view, it is free) . We spent a about 30 minutes just walking around on the roof and soaking up the 360° panoramic view of Antwerp. Breathtaking.In front of the Museums, you will find 4 pavilions, very interesting to visit, the Diamond Pavilion, the Port Pavilion, the Silver Pavilion and the MASshop (pavilions are free).
- M HKA – Museum of Contemporary Art. Arguably, the best museum in Antwerp located in a former grain silo
- Museum Plantin-Moretus – printing museum and a lovely building and courtyard. Explore the world’s oldest printing press, a 17th Century library and a collection of valuable artwork
- Rockoxhuis – museum of Rubins and others art. Golden cabinet exhibition is different.
- Sint-Andrieskerk (St Andrew’s) – pretty church with the statue of the Virgin Mary dressed by fashion designers
- Kloosterstraat – street with antique shops and independent designer stores
- The Rubens House – museum in his old house. Artworks from Ruben, his pupils and other pieces. 10am-5pm, closed Mondays. 8€
- Red light area – I was surprised to learn that Antwerp also has a street where working girls sit in windows in their underwear trying to entice passersby. I thought that only Amsterdam had that. Here, it is not really a tourist attraction like in Amsterdam but more of a functional red light district for sailors from the merchant ships docked around the corner. If you are interested to have a look, try Schippersstraat street.
- De Sinjoor – my friend took me to this traditional food restaurant. Excellent food, atmosphere and service.
- De Burgerij – burger franchise. But not your typical fast food burger. Locals all recommend it.
- New Ciro’s – traditional Belgian restaurant, 70’s decor, medium prices
- Atelier Mojo – good seafood restaurant
- Mampoko – great traditional place for breakfast/lunch
- De Broers van Julienne – vegetarian restaurant
- Caffènation – best coffee in town
- Barnini – coffee shop with good bagels. great for breaky or lunch.
- Het Gebaar – good restaurant and cocktails
- * Velazquez – great restaurant
- Bia Mara – nice restautant with reasonable prices
- Paters Vaetje – good bar with over 100 different beers
- De Ruien – tours of old underground canals and sewers. http://deruien.be/
- Meier Street – most important shopping street in Belgium. Also many impressive buildings
- Stadsfeestzaal Shopping Centre –
a stunningly beautiful building both outside and inside. The architecture, marble staircase and mosaic floor will keep non-shoppers entertained. Plus there is always the champagne bar to enjoy. This is worth a visit even if you are not into shopping.
- Graanmarkt 13 – clothing store complex with a restaurant
Where to Stay
I was there on a day trip to visit a friend. However, as you might have seen in other posts here, my preference is to stay in an Airbnb apartment. If you have never used this service before, I recommend you give it a try. If fact, if you follow this link, you will get $50 AUD ($39 US dollars) of your first booking.