With a long weekend ahead my boyfriend and I decided we wanted to go somewhere, anywhere. Antwerp was not necessarily on the top of my list, but after snooping around on airbnb the future sights of a gorgeous art nouveau apartment convinced me to go. Hearing some testimonials about the awesome (hipster) shops around I grew more and more excited so here I’ll share my inside-outs of Antwerp!
For someone who has never been to the city before, you’ll surely get the hang of things after a day. Most importantly is to know the districts and what to find where. Here’s a little break down: ‘t Eilandje/The Island – The harbour, Antwerp South – hipster/pop-up shops, coffee, home decor, The Meir – Famous shopping street and the area around the Church – nice places to eat.
To get an actual idea of what Antwerp has to offer, one has to go there for sure. There are literally hundreds of shops, ranging from big brands to concept store and pop-up shops. What I loved most about them was the eccentricity and exclusiveness, you really had to go to Antwerp and into a small little street to find the best hidden places! I definitely think a walk along the Meir is a must, even if it is only to walk to the Central Station. There’s no harm in taking a peek in the Forever21 or the Urban Outfitters but don’t take all day, keep in mind that there are much more exciting shops to wait in one of the side streets.
For a curated display of designer goodies go to Hay, I’m sure this door is already eluding enough to make you come in and have a peek! I treated myself to a very nice notebook there and then I went along to their neighboring store Moose, a very cute store filled with everything cute and ‘design-ish’ (they’re also a travel agency)
If you are totally into Green Design take a walk along the Kloosterstraat and go to Rewind. It has the most amazing display ever and I where I found compostable postcards (they will grow into beautiful wildflowers). It’s the ingenuity I love from people who take trash and make something new.
The School of Life is a concept I had never seen before but I wish I could find it in my neighborhood (the name just sounds so intellectual and accomplished). What you can learn here are mostly skills us westerners aren’t that familiar with (or at least do not implement in our daily lives) like meditation and mindfulness with a splash of philosophy. It offers courses and books, but you can always come by for a cup of coffee and they have an amazing gift shop. Here you can find minimal notebooks, tote bags imprinted with the words ‘Emotional Baggage’ and question cards to determine what your career path should be.
I’m certain there are many more amazing stores out there so don’t feel discouraged and explore for yourself! Musea and activities There are a lot of Museum in Antwerp and on the top of my list was the MOMU (fashion Museum) and MUHKA (Museum of Modern Art). Last year they has a pretty amazing deal where both of these were just 1 euro to visit, sadly this year we had to pay full price. I must say the exposition on Dries van Noten at the MOMU is pretty amazing, but you’ll be out of there within 15 min.
The other museum I visited was the MAS, their exhibition was very extensive and interesting but we mainly went there to visit the FREE! rooftop to get a 360 view of the city. The museum is right next to a very nice little harbor so take a chance to look around in the neighborhood.
I would strongly suggest to rent a bike for 24 hours when you have your hotel is a bit far from the city center. Don’t be afraid to cycle to the edges of the city, when we cycled all the way north we were lucky enough to find Jardim: a Pop-up Garden in Antwerp (at night it also features a cocktail bar and dj!).
Belgium is famous for it’s chocolate and waffles and we have just the address for you! I’m not sure what it was called but it is a green and yellow shop which you just can’t miss in a street next to the church. If you still have some more room for a yummy snack visit Donuts, Coffee and Culture (or was it coffee, culture and donuts?). Nevertheless they have a really wonderful selection of Pop Culture cakes (think Oreo, Kit-Kat and Rainbows with fluffy marsh mellows) and funny donuts! To our surprise there was also a food truck festival right in the center of Antwerp, Barrio Cantina, were we tried our fist *I forgot the name* cake from Gent. Basically it was a bun with butter, sugar and cinnamon with an extra topping all heated up into some ball of YUM! Recommended by a friend who has come to Antwerp millions of times is Dogma, a cocktail bar. You might know that I have wanted to learn this skill for the past year and going there only made me want it more! You will easily walk past this bar (we sure did) but once you really look at the interior you’ll be jumping to get in. Make sure you get there at a reasonable time since they do host a lot of bachelor parties. Now, let me give you a taste of the atmosphere: bartenders in white shirts and suspenders, handwritten menu’s, leather couches in a candle lit basement. You’ll surely have the an amazing evening just looking at the bartenders swirling and mixing. To start the day fresh and anew have a big breakfast at Jam. It has a feeling of straightforwardness: good food for a reasonable price in a restaurant filled with mismatched plates and a vintage feeling. The staff is happy and helpful.
Here’s a scavenger hunt for you. Some impressions are best when they remain a secret, so I decided to keep some places a mystery for you to find.