Welcome to Antwerp – the second largest city of Belgium which happens to be pure, delicate and vibrant, all at the same time. This charming city is located in the region of Flanders and proudly owns one of the biggest ports in the world. Antwerp is rich in architecture (which dates back from the 16th century to nowadays), culture and especially art, thanks to the Antwerp School which provided a proper education for well-known artists such as Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens or Antoon van Dyck. Antwerp always proudly welcomes both newcomers and visitors alike, who immediately merge together in a homely atmosphere. Today our local Spotters will take you on a 48 hour trip around Antwerp. And they know some on-point hotspots that are off the beaten path. And locals simply love them.
Day 1: 09:00 – 13:00
Since it’s your very first day in Antwerp, we want to jazz up your journey from the very first minute. So, our local Lyn recommends to start your morning (and trip) at Eethuis De Laet. It is the cafe which you can find at Koningin Astridplein 39 street, just 100 metres from Antwerp Central Station. You will probably find Eethuis De Laet not through its location, but by the scent of roasted chicken… Yes, the cafe will offer you a perfectly good sandwich with chicken. If you want to try some local dishes at the very beginning of your trip (and if you are ready for a REALLY stodgy breakfast) then you can choose from cervela, berepoot or sitostick. If those words don’t ring a bell for you, our local Lyn reassures you that all those snacks are displayed visually. Or you can always ask for advice from locals!
You have probably just rushed out from Central Station since your only one wish was to grab some proper breakfast. We are pretty sure that after Eethuis De Laet that wish is fulfilled, so now let’s get back to Antwerp Central Station. Why? Because you have to take an appropriate look at the station which is considered the most memorable central station in Europe. And the loveliest, as our Spotter Kevin asserts. It was built between the years 1899-1905 and still attracts people with its omnipresent beauty and majesty. Kevin says that “Our GRAND central train station still impresses me each time I walk by, and I have been living in this city for quite some time now.” By the way, if you decided to explore the city by train and it’s running late, Kevin assures you not to worry – punctuality is not the strongest side of the Belgian railway operators!
So, did you enjoy the beauty of Antwerp Central Station? Our morning has just begun, so let’s head to Offerandestraat – one of the most colourful streets of Antwerp. Name one thing you need now (anything!), go to Offerandestraat and there is a huge chance that you will find it. The shops that are located in this street sell nearly everything: lots of fake Armani, Versace and Gucci goods, wigs, wedding dresses, fruits, kebabs and so on… Our local Lyn says that the street is always crowded, but she personally chooses to go there on Sunday afternoon. If you still feel that Offerandestraat isn’t enough, then head to Handelstraat where you will find some bakeries and even more shops (especially Turkish, Moroccan and African!).
Day 1: 13:00 – 19:00
Here, in Antwerp, our locals want to make you feel at home, so for your lunch our Spotter Marcia suggests an absolutely homey spot – La Popote. It’s a French style bistrot with well-prepared food (which is cooked by the owner who is a super nice lady!). Marcia mentions that this cozy restaurant reminds her of the movie Amélie… Furthermore, the owner makes her own preserves, smokes salmon herself and bakes cakes… We’re telling you, it seems like a dream come true! The key words for La Popote are home-made, fresh and honest. Here you will have a delicious lunch for a reasonable price (approximately € 10) which will make you come back for more, eventually.
While visiting Antwerp you should remember that the city is quite small, so renting bike at Velo Antwerpen is a perfect and really handy choice for the rest of your trip. The rental stations are scattered all over the city in order to save time and make your trip easier. You can purchase a Day pass which will cost you € 3.80 (you will need to register before buying it). After all those casual formalities, you are free to go! Don’t forget that you can check the map with the velo stations on your smartphone.
Now it’s up to you which destination you will choose, but we will try to help you make up your mind. First of all, you can hit the road to Stadspark, which is Antwerp’s central park. Our local Kevin just perfectly describes the whole vibe that this park has: “Kids are going buck wild on a playground. Daredevils are performing gutsy shows in the skate park and geeks like me are laying in the grass with a good book; just like a good little anarchist should.” This is the place where local people and different cultures gather together, enjoying nature at its best, with no rush. Furthermore, a World War I memorial and a nineteenth-century bridge (designed by the architect Keylig) will catch your eye as well!
Well, we have already started visiting the green areas of Antwerp, so let’s move on. After relaxing at Stadspark, you can head to Botanical Garden, which is located at Leopoldstraat. There you will find almost 2,000 species of different plants, which will make your promenade more entertaining and eye-catching. Just grab a coffee from a nearby cafe and enjoy the peacefulness of the city!
Day 1: 19:00 – 23:00
It seems that you have had a quite vigorous afternoon while biking/taking a walk around Stadspark and Botanical Garden, so you definitely need to recharge your batteries. Let’s have dinner at Lunchbox! It is one of our local Lyn’s favorites, who usually chooses to have breakfast, lunch or dinner here. She warns you: be ready to fill your stomach! Lyn recommends to grab her top choice: a burger (which is the bomb!) and chocolate cake. You will definitely enjoy the cosiness of the colourful and staff-friendly Lunchbox. So, embrace yourself, the food is coming!
It’s still an early evening, so there is no need to rush, let’s catch up at Dansing Chocola! It’s a vintage bar which has this special vibe which you will feel the moment you enter it: decorated in a retro style, filled-up with antiques, books and wine! Our local Era mentions that Dansing Chocola is a perfect place for red wine lovers. Of course, you can choose from a wide range of beers as well. Locals love this place and it is usually filled up with their laughter and positiveness. Era says that the bar is located in a very artistic street, full of lovely vintage shops and art galleries as well.
Day 1: 23:00 – …
You will need to head a little bit further in order to reach the next spot, but believe us, it’s absolutely worth it! Café au Lait, the cocktail bar, is located at Oude Beurs 8, very close to the historical/central square of Antwerp. Our local Era says that “this place was intended to bring together people independently of their race, color, nationality or culture.” The bar has an absolutely welcoming and homely atmosphere, so here you can meet lots of open-hearted, as well as exceptional people. Furthermore, the cocktails are spot-on! Professional bartenders will mix your favorite cocktail or suggest something different to try out. During the weekends, Café au Lait organizes various parties, for instance, 90s, R&B or reggae. Just merge together with this magical vibe and enjoy your night in Antwerp, Café au Lait stays awake till 04:00 (in the morning, of course)!
Day 2: 09:00 – 13:00
Morning! Still feeling a bit dizzy? The scent of a fresh coffee will give you a sudden rush of energy, so let’s head to Vascobelo! This coffee bar/brasserie was opened in 2015, but has already caught the locals’ attention because of its high-quality coffee, inviting décor and atmosphere (with art photography and jazz music in the background!) and the wide range of dishes that are worth every penny. Our Spotter Era says that Vascobelo “serves the exclusive Luwak coffee, for a very good price and it tastes like ‘god in a cup’- as a friend of mine put it.” Of course, your cup of coffee can be complemented with a proper breakfast which you can order on the second floor, or the V-bar. By the way, Vascobelo owns the boutique where you can purchase clipboards, notebooks or a vintage cork needles!
There are a plenty of places to visit and explore in Antwerp, so don’t waste your time, let’s head out! As you know, the city is situated near the river Scheldt, which divides Antwerp into two parts: the right bank and the left bank. Do you want to briefly run away from city life and enjoy a more peaceful part of the city on the left bank (from where you can admire a spectacular skyline of Antwerp)? No worries, you can get there on foot, by using a pedestrian tunnel called Sint Annatunnel. Our local Kevin writes, “Don’t be fooled, this isn’t just a regular underpass <…>. The tunnel is a time capsule that dates back to 1931 – 1933.” And he is absolutely right: as soon as you enter the tunnel, it seems like you were immediately transferred to the Belle Époque era! By the way, every Sunday you can visit a flea market, which is located in front of the Sint Annatunnel.
After experiencing this back-to-the-past moment (and returning to the right bank), you should visit Kloosterstraat, a so-called antique and vintage paradise! If you are a devoted fan of old-school and you could sell your soul for another sweater with golden buttons or high waisted mom jeans, Kloosterstraat is the place to be. The street is filled with charming antique and vintage shops where you will definitely find some unique pieces. If you feel the need to grab a snack while shopping, there are plenty of cozy venues where you can find something delicious!
Day 2: 13:00 – 19:00
Ok, we guess that the snacks you bought at Kloosterstraat weren’t enough. Our Spotter Lyn will take you to Paul’s Boutique for some mind-blowing burgers. However, don’t expect full-service: you will have to order at the bar and the food is served on plastic plates. BUT that’s not the main factor for delicious food, right? And the food at Paul’s Boutique is super-delicious! You can choose from beef, chicken, fish and vegetarian burgers (and don’t forget to order some fries!). A special recommendation from Lyn: the Mexican Burger or the Bhoom Burger (both of them are really spicy, so you should carefully consider if you are really ready for this!).
On your way to the next spot – which is Antwerp’s City Hall – you should not miss a great piece of urban art. For this you will have to reach Lange Riddersstraat street where you will find a gigantic mural painting (twelve meters high and eight meters wide), dedicated to the “Sint Andries MCs” (local artists who contributed a lot to the quarter). Of course, you can find more street art scattered all around the city, for instance, near the Sint Annatunnel or Kloosterstraat and even one of the largest graffiti walls at Minkelersstraat.
Antwerp City Hall (or The Stadhuis), included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, is one of the must-see spots while you are visiting Antwerp. The impressive Renaissance building was built in the 16th century and is located on the western side of the city’s Market Square. The interior dates back to the 19th century when it was renovated into more modern manner. The whole building, inside and outside, leaves a huge impression and a feeling of immensity. You definitely can’t miss it!
After spending some quality time at City Hall, you can drop by Mirial de la Paz. It’s a lovely vintage shop located near the cathedral and Hendrik Conscienceplein. Miriam de la Paz, the owner of the shop and the creator, moved from Barcelona to Antwerp 5 years ago. Her pieces of art – jewellery, hand-painted clothes, paintings and picture collages with quotes – will catch your attention the moment you enter the store. Our local Era mentions that Mirial creates jewellery that is mostly inspired by her icons: Frida Khalo, Sofia Lauren and Audrey Hepburn.
Day 2: 19:00 – 23:00
Since it’s your last day in beautiful Antwerp, we think that it’s a perfect time to try out some local cuisine. For this reason, you need to head to Lange Koepoortstraat 61, where you will find De Taloorkes. It’s a local restaurant that serves some traditional Belgian food. Kevin says that it is the place which awakes his memories and hits him with pure nostalgia. Why? De Taloorkes offers high-quality local homey dishes – just like Belgian mommies and grandmas make. Kevin’s personal favourites: stoofvlees, witloof in de oven and videe. So, if you are more than ready to try more than traditional fries, chocolate and waffles – De Taloorkes is bliss!
Who could resist a perfectly mixed cocktail while relaxing in a fancy-looking lounge? We know you couldn’t, so our local Era strongly recommends Dogma. The moment you enter Dogma, you will feel this special atmosphere which is supplemented with candle lights, vintage/retro furniture and paintings. The bar was opened 2 years ago and since then it’s earned well-deserved attention from the locals, especially those who are devoted to high-quality cocktails. Era says that “Not only will you be delighted by some excellent preparations, but you’ll also discover mixtures you won’t easily find anywhere else.” Of course, you can choose from a wide cocktail menu, which also includes some traditional flavours, but we highly recommend you challenge yourself and taste something completely different. No regrets!
Day 2: 23:00 – …
“A venue where you can come alive while visiting Antwerp.” That’s how our local Kevin introduces your final destination – Kid’s Rhythm ‘n’ Blues Kaffee. It’s an open-minded and free spirit bar where you can enjoy live jam sessions. You can always check out the list of events on their Facebook page! Kid’s Rhythm ‘n’ Blues Kaffee shelters everyone, so you will find new friends in a minute. So, grab some proper Belgian beer and enjoy the pure vibrancy of this place, the night and Antwerp!