Date Posted: 11/06/2015
Pictured: The Grote Markt in Antwerp.
Antwerp may be only the second largest city in Belgium, but it’s certainly not content to play second fiddle. Indeed Antwerp is deeply proud of its role as the largest metropolis in the culturally vibrant Flanders region. Here are a few of the best things to do in Antwerp...
Grote Markt: Antwerp’s epicentre is this lavish pedestrianised square laden with historic guild houses and the grand 16th century renaissance drama of the Unesco World Heritage listed Stadhuis. The 19th century statue of Silvius Brabo, the symbol of Antwerp (a Roman who is said to have slain a giant and given the city its name), stands at the heart of the square. You can book walking tours of the old town that start in the square.
Museum aan de Stroom (MAS): Opened in 2011 MAS very much represents the new architectural face of Antwerp. This strikingly bold tower museum houses almost 500,000 exhibits, which tell the story of the surrounding docks and by implication the city that has grown up around them. It also houses the 't Zilte restaurant, with its two Michelin stars.
De Koninck Brewery: Beer is integral to Flemish culture. De Koninck Brewery has just opened a new interactive and innovative beer experience centre. This expansive multifunctional space (see Food and Drink) delves into the history of Antwerp as a beer city and the brewing process of the typical De Koninck beer (Bolleke), with interactive tourist info too.
Food and drink
Antwerp boasts an alluring food and drink scene fuelled by Flemish tradition and the availability of fresh seafood. Suikerui is the street to head to if you’re a fan of mussels, while Grote Pieter Potstraat has more chic cafes and restaurants.
Beer and food are inexorably bound into the very fabric of Antwerp. The revamped De Koninck Brewery development also houses the renowned family cheese business, Van Tricht, and the famous Antwerp café-restaurant De Pelgrim.
Shopping for foodie goodies is a local obsession. Around Antwerp you will be tempted by a seemingly infinite array of chocolatiers, cheesemongers and more. Beware!
Pictured: The Chocolate Line in Antwerp.
Where to stay
Der Witte Lelie is a luxurious bolthole spread across three white 18th-century houses near the cathedral. This Small Luxury Hotels of the World member is ideal for smaller groups with only ten bedrooms and suites.
The Radisson Blu Astrid Hotel enjoys a central location and boasts 247 newly refurbished rooms and suites. This stylish option is certainly distinctive as it features an on-site aquarium, Aquatopia, home to over 10,000 fish and reptiles.
The Ibis Budget Antwerpen City Central Station offers budget prices, clean rooms and a superb location at the city’s elegant historic railway station.
Best for group trips to Antwerp
The Antwerp City Card offers significant savings for groups with three options (24 hours, 48 hours and 72 hours). This year public transport has been included along with free admission to 16 museums, the city’s monumental churches, a discount of at least 25% on attractions, sightseeing trips and bike rentals, plus the free Visit Antwerp Guide.
Until December 2016 visitors to the Royal Museum at the Rockox House are able to enjoy the ‘Golden Cabinet’ exhibition. The elegant residence of art collector Nicolaas Rockox (1560–1640) has been transformed to house works by Hans Memling, Jan Van Eyck, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck.
A boat trip is the ideal way to get a feel for the docks that are still so important to the city and also to learn about Antwerp’s history. A number of operators can book exclusive group trips, with longer options available too that push on beyond the centre.
Live like a local
Antwerp is a city of festivals and big events, which the locals are passionate about so to really get a feel for the city join in. Highlights include Beer Passion in June and a trio of festivals in August. Jazz Middelheim kicks things off, followed by Rubensmarkt on August 15, celebrating the seminal painter around the Grote Markt, and Laus Polyphoniae, which this year is devoted to the works of composer Peter Alamire.
Journey Time: 1 hour London-Antwerp
Best time to go: Autumn and spring are the best times to visit without the chills of winter and the heat of summe