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The Best Things to Do in Antwerp, Belgium
Antwerp is a unique, stylish city located in northern Belgium. Since medieval times, Antwerp has been an important center for commerce and trade due to its location as a port city on the Scheldt River. The city is known for diamond dealers in its famous Diamond District, fashion designers like the celebrated Antwerp Six, and the legacy of Flemish Baroque artists like Peter Paul Rubens. Antwerp is also known for its food, with Belgian delicacies like waffles, chocolates, fries, and beer!
Where to Stay in Antwerp:
Here are some of the best places to stay on your trip to Antwerp:
What to Do in Antwerp:
If you are planning a visit to Antwerp, here are the top 11 things you should do:
1. Eat a Belgian waffle
Belgium is famous for its waffles, so how could you come to Antwerp without trying one? Just don’t call it a “Belgian waffle” when you’re ordering – they are actually known as Liège waffles here!
I recommend stopping at Désiré de Lille for some of the best waffles in the city.
2. Do some shopping on the Meir
The most popular shopping street in Antwerp is the Meir. It’s a long, pedestrian-only thoroughfare going through the middle of the city and it’s filled with dozens of shops, from trendy boutiques to big chain stores like H&M.
3. Visit the Grote Markt
Grote Markt is the historic town square of Antwerp surrounded by lovely Flemish Renaissance buildings. During the holidays, it’s transformed into a beautiful Christmas market. There are other markets held here throughout the year so make sure to do some research before you go to see if there will be a market there during your visit!
4. Admire the Cathedral of Our Lady
Just behind the Grote Markt is the iconic Cathedral of Our Lady. This church is the tallest building in Antwerp and is a World Heritage Site. It took 169 years to build and is unique because of the gilded clock on top of its belltower.
Admission to the church is €5 for adults and €3 for students. Inside you can see works of art by Peter Paul Rubens and other famous Flemish painters.
5. Go shopping at the stores of the Antwerp Six
The Antwerp Six are six famous designers who graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp around the same time, including Ann Demeulemeester and Dries van Noten. These designers put Antwerp on the map as a city for fashion and design. You can find most of their flagship stores around the city like the one below.
6. Visit the impressive Het Steen
Located a little ways away from the city center by the waterfront, Het Steen is an impressive medieval castle and fortress. Built in the 13th century, Het Steen is the oldest building in Antwerp. Now it’s home to the National Maritime Museum.
7. Eat a meal in the Groenplaats
Just steps away from the cathedral is Groenplaats, one of the most popular squares in Antwerp. This square is filled with outdoor cafes and restaurants and it’s the perfect place to sit down for a meal after a day of exploring the city. It’s also a prime spot for people-watching if you grab a seat at one of the many sidewalk cafes!
8. Admire art at the Rubenshuis
The Rubenhuis is a museum housed in the former home of artist Peter Paul Rubens. This is one of the most impressive museums in the city, with a large collection of works from Rubens and his Flemish contemporaries.
Admission to the museum is €10 for adults and €8 for students.
9. Eat some Belgian fries
Another food that Belgium is known for is their fries! Although they’re called French fries, fries were actually invented and perfected in Belgium.
You can get some delicious “gourmet” fries at Frites Atelier in Antwerp. These fancy fries come with six different dipping sauces. For some more basic and traditional fries, head to Fritkot Max in the Groenplaats square.
10. Step back in time in a secret alley
One of my favorite places in Antwerp is the historic Vlaeykensgang alley. Dating back to medieval times, the hidden alleyway winds between some of the main streets in the city center just steps away from the cathedral. Once home to shoemakers and other tradesmen in Antwerp, the alley now houses art galleries and a chic French restaurant.
To enter to alley, go to 16 Oude Koornmarkt and you will see a little doorway. (It’s very easy to miss!)
11. Learn about Antwerp at the MAS
The MAS (Museum aan de Stroom) is the largest museum in Antwerp. Most of the collection in the museum are all about Antwerp: history, culture, art, infrastructure, etc. This is one of the best museums in the city and it’s definitely worth a visit! However, if you don’t want to pay admission to the museum, you can go to the roof of the MAS for free and take in a panoramic view of the city.
Tickets to the MAS are €10 for adults and €8 for students.
More things to do in Antwerp:
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