Locals liken Antwerp to a village. But don’t mistake that for humility: Flanders’ de facto capital has been punching above its weight because it changed into a medieval trading hub. Intriguingly, the north Belgian port’s rich beyond is matched with the aid of a sharply revolutionary facet – taking in the avant-garde style, maximum famously, but also stellar food and design.
Visit now and also you’ll find top exports in the highlight. Opening on 7 May, museum DIVA will probe Antwerp’s world diamond-capital popularity even as, from 1 June, competition Antwerp Baroque will honor nearby mild Peter-Paul Rubens with a bunch of performances and exhibitions throughout town.
What to do
Go for a walk
Scope old town classics – Gothic icon Onze-Lieve-Vrouw cathedral (entry €6), and extravagant square the Grote Markt – and then stroll south to the chi-chi neighborhood ‘t Zuid, with its highly Parisian air. In the north of metropolis, once-seedy marina Het Eilandje now hums with dockside cafes and eating places, and houses cultural showpieces: MAS (Museum Aan de Stroom, €five-€10), exploring Antwerp’s maritime background, and the emigration-themed Red Star Line Museum (€8).
The exterior of Rubenshuis, where Rubens lived till his death (Getty Images)
Get a museum fix
Golden Age icon Rubens’ palazzo-grew to become-museum the Rubenshuis (€eight) is a have to for its Renaissance-style garden, monumental portico and artwork horde – such as a Tintoretto formerly owned by way of David Bowie. Also starring in a baroque season is cutting-edge art hub M HKA (€10) and amazing sculpture park the Middelheim Museum (unfastened), in which works by way of Calder, Rodin, and co. Embellish tidy lawns and cascade over the water.
Do an architour
The soaring, cathedral-like Antwerpen-Centraal often tops “international’s most lovely teach station” polls – but it’s not even the city’s grandest architectural declaration. That honor falls to Zurenborg axis Cogels-Osylei, a fin de siècle road whose houses offer a schizophrenic sampler of styles from Belle Époque to Art Nouveau. Another overachiever: the KBC Tower, Europe’s tallest skyscraper while it opened in 1931.
Antwerpen-Centraal, one of the global’s maximum beautiful stations (Getty Images/iStock)
Cross the river
As Europe’s 2nd largest port, the river Scheldt is Antwerp’s lifeblood. Connecting left and right banks, the Art Deco Sint-Anna tunnel defines “hidden gem”. Take the beautiful original wood escalators thirty meters underground, and also you’ll quickly emerge on Linkeroever (the Left Bank), with its summer season pop-united states of America and epic metropolis perspectives.
Tour a brewery
The De Koninck brewery, which has been generating beer in Antwerp seeing that 1833, has a brand new interactive visitor “enjoy” that’s certainly exciting – 10 interactive rooms feature films, taking pix and a VR ride in a van. The tour winds up in the bar, in which site visitors can try a flight of 3 signature beers. There also are bistros and boutiques on the web page, selling the whole lot from artisanal baked goods to nearby cheeses. Open 10am-6pm day by day, closed Mondays; entry €12.
Where to live
Hotels play 2d fiddle to interiors mag-worth B&Bs in Antwerp – now not least the only-off De Witte Nijl, right by using the al fresco watering holes of hip ‘t Zuid square Marnixplaats. Its suites occupy a ground apiece, with freestanding roll-pinnacle tubs and a colonial Africa theme. Breakfasts providing self-made crêpes may be taken within the garden or atmospheric conservatory, adorned with framed butterflies and vintage maps. Doubles from €a hundred thirty, B&B.
The first Belgian department of IHG’s millennial-pleasant boutique spin-off, Hotel Indigo’s charms consist of a guest document player and neighborhood library. Rooms nail antique-sublime with terrariums and hammered-copper lighting fixtures. Skip the house responsibilities and also you get a €five bar voucher to redeem in on-website online café QA’s Kitchen, which additionally does small plates and a breakfast buffet with DIY waffles. Doubles from €115, room most effective.
Hotel Indigo is Antwerp’s chicest new motel (IHG)
Commanding a trio of 17th-century gabled houses, idiosyncratic four-superstar bolthole De Witte Lelie is Antwerp’s wealthy architectural blend in microcosm. Eleven rooms, each with its very own character style, encompass understated, high-ceilinged options, and eye-popping suites with clashing floral prints. There’s also a decadent, monochromatic Bronze Bar, and arty lounges with leopard-print and beaten-velvet sofas. Doubles from €280, room only.
If you may cope with the slightly somber decor, Hotel Postiljon is an unprecedented nearby good buy in the shadow of the cathedral, and stumbling distance from several fantastic bars. Doubles from €65, B&B.
Where to consume
Breakfast isn’t Antwerp’s distinctiveness, but there’s a primary exception: foodie-pleasant hotel U Eat & Sleep, which opened closing yr. Its 3-tiered breakfasts (served 7.30-10.30am day by day) include artisanal charcuterie, salted inexperienced tomatoes, and farm-clean eggs – plus beautiful decor and serene views of the jetty’s bobbing yachts.
An informal metropolis-center gem, Fish gogos daily converting seize (around €5-€7 a dish, get four or five to percentage) is irreproachably fresh. Wash it down with a crisp, cheap Chardonnay while propping up a barrel outside. Open 12-10pm, Thursday to Monday.
U Eat & Sleep Antwerp.Jpg
U Eat & Sleep is considered one of Antwerp’s few extraordinary breakfast spots (U Eat and Sleep Antwerp)
Bourla is a crowd-fascinating brasserie with a fantastic terrace and theatrical interiors – a nod to its location just around the corner from the Bourla theatre. The menu sticks to Flemish staples like stoofvlees (beer and pork stew). Open 11am-11.30pm day by day except for Sundays.
A trip to a frites joint is vital: Frituur No. 1, as in step with its name, is the pinnacle dog, and right at the Grote Markt. There are cubicles inner, but it’s better to get rid of to the raised riverside promenade close by. Open 11am-4am each day.
Where to drink
Moody brown bar Café De Kat is a place out of time – its mahogany fixtures, chequered tiles and neon De Koninck signal a symptom of Belgium’s chain-resistant ethos. Tucked away on atmospheric Wolstraat, it attracts neighborhood artists and inveterate boozers and has a refreshingly minimum liquids list (specify which you want the “right red”). Open Monday to Saturday, 12pm-2am (open from 5 pm on Sundays).
On Sint-Paulusplaats, hugging the metropolis’s Red Light District (a striptease pole pierces the communal desk) multitasking novice Table Dance is administered via a young couple energetic in the neighborhood underground scene. Besides Filipino lunches and small plates, it offers natural beer and wine, and live song on Saturdays. It will host several activities for May’s Antwerp Art Weekend. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 12pm-12am.
Normal is part of Antwerp’s vibrant third-wave coffee scene (Normal)
Mixologists abound in Flanders, and the top spot proper now’s the rock ‘n’ roll Dogma Cocktails, where even the water is laced with absinthe. Order a deconstructed old school and crumble onto a Chesterfield. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 5pm-12am (Friday and Saturday until 1 is).
Third-wave espresso bars that roast on-site aren’t tough to discover: top spots are pioneering Caffènation (open Monday to Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday 9am-6pm, Sunday 11am-6pm) and the hip Normal (open 8.30am-6pm each day besides Sundays) for drip coffee or a cooling affogato.
Where to keep
The city’s best fashion buying is to be had inside the Sint-Andries quarter, in particular, the streets radiating off Nationalestraat. Here you’ll locate the state-of-the-art, desirable prints of Dries Van Noten, the maximum enduring of the “Antwerp Six” designers who placed the town at the map within the 1980s, and boutiques by means of later abilities like Christian Wijnants. For the Belgian look minus the feed tag, 2nd-hand label haunt Rosier 41, no longer a long way away, has racks full of bargain Raf, Margiela and extra.
The metropolis is famed for its hand biscuits (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Elegant concept store Granmaarkt 13 juggles a gallery, edgy style and layout (a good deal of it neighborhood) and a vegetable-led restaurant. On Saturday subsequent-door rectangular Theaterplein hosts a vibrant food market – be part of the locals for prosecco and oysters.
Cobbled quarter De Wilde Zee is the city’s larder: a must-try are the neighborhood biscuits, Antwerpse Hands, from Philip’s Biscuits, and chic fusion goodies at Pierre Marcolini. Old-school bakery Goossens (+32 three 226 07 91) always draws crowds for its nut bread and bokkenpootje (an almond-cookie and cream sandwich dipped in darkish chocolate).
A converted fire station with a faceted-glass “diamond” floating above it, -yr-antique icon the Port House is as stunning as you’d expect from Zaha Hadid’s office.