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CityJet Destination Guide - Antwerp
Belgium’s second-largest city and the de facto capital of Dutch-speaking Flanders, Antwerp wears its long history proudly on its sleeve. A wealthy trading port since the Middle Ages, as well as one of the centres of the European diamond trade, it is filled with grand boulevards lined with elegant townhouses, and smart shopping areas crammed with high-end designer label stores. That’s not to say the city lives in the past or feels elitist. Antwerp has a booming modern feel and thriving nightlife, and is a place where upmarket restaurants happily rub shoulders with gritty spit ‘n’ sawdust workers’ cafés.
Our top five sights
The city’s heart for 400 years, Grote Markt is lined with stepped gable former guild houses (most now cafés) and the magnificent Renaissance city hall.
Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedraal
The largest, most beautiful Gothic church in Benelux is Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedraal (Cathedral of Our Lady). Work on it began in the 14th century, and the tower is a 120m-high masterpiece.Groenplaats 21, 03 213 9951
The Plantin-Moretus Museum honours a famous local printing company founded in the 16th century. The star here is the building itself, the company’s headquarters for over 300 years.Vrijdagmarkt 22, 03 221 1450
Antwerp’s most famous son was Peter-Paul Rubens (1577-1640), and a visit to his grand home, Rubenshuis (Rubens’ House) will show you he was clearly paid handsomely for his work.Wapperplein 9-11, 03 201 1555
Museum aan de Stroom
The spectacular new nine-story Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) combines several former museums into one, telling the story of Antwerp and its relations with the world. Hanzestedenplaats 1, 03 338 4400
Our top five activities
To see Antwerp from the water, take a boat tour with Flandria. Trips on the Schelde River last from 90 minutes to a full day.Steenplein 1, 03 231 3100
To get to grips with the city’s murkier underbelly, take a three-hour tour through its drains and sewers (ruien).Entry via Het Ruihuis, Suikerrui 21, 03 232 0103
It may be tacky and commercial to some, but a 45-minute tour of Diamondland offers a rare chance to see polishers and setters at work – tours are free.Appelmansstraat 33a, 03 229 2990
Of for a little exercise while exploring, join Antwerp by Bike (book via www.antwerpbybike.be) for a three-hour guided visit on two wheels. Steenplein, 0471 467 685
The Royal Antwerp Golf Club is Belgium’s oldest golf course. Officially members-only, non-members with a handicap of 36 or better can play on weekdays with advance reservations.Korenlei 1A, Kapellen, 03 666 8456
Our top five events
For three months in summer, tons of imported sand turn the Kattendijkdok Westkaai docklands area into the Strantwerpen inland beach. DJs play from 4pm onwards in fine weather.
June: Bierpassie Weekend
Bierpassie Weekend is an open-air beer festival held on the last weekend in June on the Groenplaats. Sample some of the more than 200 beers on offer in the shadow of Onze Lieve Vrouwe Kathedraal.
June: Antwerp Fashion Show
Antwerp boasts several top fashion design schools, and each year the best graduates get to show off their creations at the Antwerp Fashion Show.
June-September: Zomer van Antwerpen
The Zomer van Antwerpen festival lasts from late June until early September, and combines theatre, cinema, art and music performances at various locations across the city. Many performances are outdoors.
August: Taste of Antwerp
In mid-August, the weekend-long Taste of Antwerp festival gathers around 35 top chefs together, some of them Michelin-starred, and they serve up their signature creations at stalls lining the Vlaamse Kaai.
The central artery of Antwerp shopping is Meir, a long, wide pedestrianised boulevard with just about every high-street brand in Belgium. Just off this street is the Stadsfeestzaal (Meir 78, 03 202 3100), a former exhibition hall built in 1908, which was gutted by fire in 2000. Since then it has been lovingly restored and converted into an elegant shopping centre brimming with designer outlets. For really exclusive fashion items (the kind displayed without price tags), Schuttershofstraat and the surrounding streets is the area to start your search. But for more basic fare, the huge market on Theater Plein, held weekend mornings, will cover most of your needs.
Food & Drink
Hidden down a narrow cobbled alleyway, and strewn with oak beams and stone pillars, Sir Anthony Van Dijck (Vlaeykensgang, Oude Koornmarkt 16, 03 231 6170) is a restaurant dripping with history, but the elegant French cuisine is anything but stuffy and old-fashioned. A popular place serving modern Belgian food in elegant surrounds is De Godevaart (St Katelijnevest 23, 03 231 8994), located close to the cathedral. Elsewhere, in a quiet residential neighbourhood behind Antwerp Centraal station, Dôme (Grote Hondstraat 2, 03 239 9003) has a reputation for superb French cuisine. This stylish old house with mosaic floors has in past lives been everything from a teahouse to a police station.
Café d’Anvers (Verversrui 15, 03 226 3870) has been a clubbers’ hotspot for many years, and hosts events most nights. Elsewhere, one delight of Antwerp is touring its many great bars. The wonderfully atmospheric tile-floored Oud Arsenaal (Maria Pijpelincxstraat 4, 03 232 9754) first opened in the mid-1920s and appears not to have changed one bit since. The Pelgrom (Pelgrimssstraat 25, 03 234 0809) occupies the candlelit vaulted cellars of an old 16th-century tavern. Beside the cathedral, Paters Vaetje (Blauwmoezelstraat 1, 03 231 8476) offers around 100 different beers in a postage-stamp sized bar with an even smaller mezzanine at the back
Accommodation in Antwerp
By some margin the city’s grandest hotel, and the height of opulence, is the Hilton Antwerp (Groenplaats 32, 03 204 1212). Not only a luxurious place to stay, it is also among the most centrally located of all hotels - some rooms look directly across to the cathedral. A more affordable and more intimate option is Hotel Julien (Korte Nieuwstraat 24, 03 229 0600), which enjoys an equally central location close to the Grote Markt. The building is a 16th-century townhouse. A little further from the sights, the Park Inn (Koningin Astridplein 14, 03 203 1330) offers modern rooms and facilities in a handy location opposite Antwerp’s central station.
Centrally located Antwerp International Airport is no more than 5km southeast of the central railway station, and less than 3km east of Antwerp Berchem station. Most major car rental companies have desks at the airport. A taxi to the centre will take about 10 minutes. Bus lines 51, 52 and 53 all connect the airport with Berchem station on a regular basis.
Antwerp Airport Information
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