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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 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
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.
Antwerp Airport Information
CityJet Flight Routes
Amsterdam to London City