An ancient city
The ancient port city of Antwerp has been fought over for centuries, and with good reason. Today it’s a bracing and brisk place to come, with a vast North Sea port that gives the town its living, a largely rebuilt post-war cityscape, and some remarkably ornate public buildings... not to mention steak frites and moules marinieres!
Antwerp is a wonderfully enticing shopping destination for those who delight in unique designer pieces, über-stylish homeware and an endless supply of world-class beer, sticky waffles and delectable Belgian chocolate. Everything feels conveniently close together; wander the main shopping street, the Meir, and dip in and out of the side streets and winding lanes of the historic centre. For some diamond ogling, browse the glittering goodies in the Diamond Quarter. Antwerp is also home to some great markets. Saturdays from April to September are all about the Antiques Market (Lijnwaadmarkt), while less regular markets include Market For Tomorrow, featuring emerging designers.
Food & Drink
Antwerp is home to an astounding array of beautiful restaurants. For delectable, innovative pasta dishes in cosy and stylish surrounds, tuck in at Pasta Hippo (Oude Koornmarkt 32-34, Pelgrimstraat 1-3) – a far more sophisticated eatery than the name might suggest. If price is no object, then Il Gallo Nero (Grote Pieter Potstraat 36) is a lesser-known culinary gem serving up fine Italian food with a Belgian accent. For classic Belgian snacks, pick up divine frites (French fries) at Frituur No 1 (near the Grote Markt), baked goods at Goossens (Korte Gasthuisstraat 31) and arguably the best waffles in town at Désiré de Lille (Schrijnwerkersstraat 16).
Beer Passion Weekend
This three-day beer fest entices a host of revellers to the Groenplaats in Antwerp’s Old Town for a long and jovial weekend. Enjoy a rainbow of Belgian beers – some well-known, some less so – as well as live entertainment and tempting food stalls.
When the summer sun shines, it’s time to hit the beach – Antwerp’s urban beach that is, created for a few months of the year at the Antwerp Docks. From live music to beach games, there’s always a lively and festive atmosphere to be enjoyed.
In celebration of the city’s renowned baroque painter, this vibrant market sees the Grote Market filled with sellers dressed in 16th-century attire, offering a range of interesting purchases. Rubens Market is typically held on Assumption Day.
Mark the close of summer by frolicking to a heady mix of DJ sets, bands and more at this chic music festival in Ledeganckkaai, in the south of Antwerp. Over 100 artists and all manner of musical offerings take to the stage for one jam-packed day.
This indoor funfair defies the winter weather and treats families to a fun and lively mix of rides and entertainment.
Antwerp is relentlessly stylish, and its hotel scene is no exception. A contemporary boutique option epitomising the city’s sartorial pizazz is Hotel ‘T Sandt (Zand 13-19), housed in a 17th-century mansion. For a slick hotel, book a room at Scandic Antwerpen (Luitenant Lippenslaan 66) and enjoy a pool, sauna and steam bath, as well as bike hire and city-centre transport from the front of the hotel. A comfortable, no-frills family stay is Hotel Granducale (Sint-Vincentiusstraat 3), in easy reach of transport links. Near the Central Train Station, find Park Inn by Radisson Antwerpen (Koningin Astridplein 14) – a generic but convenient base for business travellers.