Even if Belgium isn’t far from our home in Germany, we haven’t had Antwerp on our minds for a long time. Last year, when we read something about Antwerp we started thinking about going there for a weekend, as different magazines recommended a trip there. This year we finally found time to do so.
A time out from work and everyday life is sometimes needed, so we booked a ride on the IC-Bus and the Leonardo Hotel (Tripadvisor) right next to the central station, where we arrived. Our bus ride was really comfortable while the hotel was ok only. If you get a good deal, it’s ok, but that’s it, the latest reviews actually tell you everything you need to know before booking.
The big plus: the location was great so we were able to explore Antwerp by foot and didn’t take any taxi or public transportation throughout our stay. If your hotel is not that central, it’s not a problem, you can take trams, busses or rental bikes to get around in the city.
The first important sight of the city immediately catched our eyes when leaving the bus: Antwerp Central Station. It’s an impressive, eclectic style building with a huge entrance hall and glass dome. When you enter this station you feel set back in time more than a hundred years ago, it’s just great, a short walk through this station is a must when in the city.
We really liked the atmosphere in this city. It was quite crowded this Saturday when we arrived, the stores were having sales and the school vacations started already, nonetheless it was worth it to stroll along the Meir street, one of the main shopping streets of the city. Beautiful historic buildings left and right, the stores located inside of them. If you like it less crowded you should come on Sunday, when many stores are closed. But to be honest, we also made use of the many sales here and found some good bargains on clothing. 😉
Not far from here you find the botanical garden as well as the Stadspark. The botanical garden is a small oasis in the city, you should stop by for a short rest and a walk through the many plants here. The De Serre Café in the botanical garden also is recommendable, pretty interior, much seating on the outside where you can have snacks and drinks in the pleasant atmosphere of a garden.
Right around the corner you find the historic building of the Belgian National Bank.
Walking back north from here, you can’t miss the Cathedral of Antwerp: Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal. This impressive building, which’s groundbreaking was in 1352 is still the tallest building of the city today and you can’t miss it while walking around the city center. It thrones over the old town. Inside of it you can also have a look at the famous paintings “The Elevation of the Cross” and “The Descent from the Cross” by Peter Paul Rubens, which once was a citizen of Antwerp and died here.
Near the cathedral you can find many restaurants and bars, perfectly for a break, lunch or dinner.
We went over to the Grote Markt from here. It is a square which is surrounded by guildhall buildings, the Antwerp City Hall and other historic buildings. We were lucky that the “Swan Market” took place on the Sunday we were there. It is a market for handmade, design, vintage and organic goods, we found gourmet food and sweets, handcraft items, jewelry and deco stuff here, as well as different stalls with freshly made food and drinks. The nice atmosphere was accentuated by some really good live music played by local artists. If you want to visit this market as well (it is really worth it), you can find the next date here: http://www.liveinbelgium.be/event/swan-market-antwerpen/. It is taking place once or twice a month from April to September.
Walking over to the waterfront from here you find the Het Steen (“The Stone”) a castle like those with which the city has been fortified in the past. In its history it has also been used as a jail and residence, today it is home to a marine museum.
Besides that the waterfront wasn’t our favorite here, it’s neither really nice nor interesting, and there is not much to see here.
Nonetheless we really liked Antwerp for its many historical buildings and impressive cityscape. It was interesting and fun to explore the city, the first time we paid a visit to Belgium. It definitely is recommendable to go here, it’s great for a two or three day trip and can perfectly be combined with visits to other nearby Belgian cities such as Brussels, Bruges or Ghent. We can totally understand why it is recommended by so many people, the city has its own unique flair and made us planning more visits to Belgium in future.
If you are planning to go here, here are some gastronomical recommendations from us for you:
- Asian food and snacks to go: Woké (Tripadvisor)
- Breakfast and snacks: Foodmaker (Tripadvisor)
- Irish Pub with nice terrace (drinks only): The Irish Times Pub (Tripadvisor)
- International food and drinks: Hard Rock Café Antwerp (Tripadvisor)
- Coffee, drinks and snacks at the botanical garden: De Serre (Tripadvisor)
- Streetfood: The Swan Market (once or twice a month during sommer, more infos here)
Hot to get to Antwerp?
From within Europe you can easily access Antwerp by car, train or bus, a metasearcher like www.goeuro.com can help you by evaluating the best tariff and connection from your starting point. We used the IC-Bus by Deutsche Bahn (https://www.bahn.com/en/view/offers/bus/index.shtml) which was quite comfortable and connects Antwerp with Düsseldorf, Essen, Roermond, Eindhoven, Gent, Lille and London.
If you are living farther away you can also access Antwerp by plane. Antwerp Airport (ANR) is quite small, there are flights to holiday destinations only, except for flights to London City Airport. For that reason it is easiest to fly into Brussels Airport (BRU) and take the train or bus to Antwerp. Brussels can be reached from all over the world on their home carrier Brussels Airlines as well as many international airlines such as Aeroflot (via Moscow), Air Canada (via Montreal), Austrian Airlines (via Vienna), British Airways (via London), All Nippon Airways (via Tokyo), Delta Airlines (via New York and Atlanta), Egypt Air (via Cairo), Emirates (via Dubai), Ethiopian Airlines (via Addis Abeba), Etihad (via Abu Dhabi), Finnair (via Helsinki), KLM (via Amsterdam), LOT (via Warsaw), Lufthansa (via Frankfurt or Munich), Qatar Airways (via Doha), Royal Air Maroc (via Casablanca), Scandinavian Airlines (via Oslo, Copenhagen or Stockholm) or Ukraine International Airlines (via Kiev) for example.
Thank you for reading, we hope we were able to give you some interesting insight into our trip.
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