Antwerp, Belgium: young vibe, hipster cafès, and Baroque art to die for. Discover Antwerp in one day with this itinerary that will show you the highlights of the city.
Antwerp is a beautiful city with a rich cultural heritage in Belgium, and definitely worth exploring if you’re in Central Europe. I must admit it, this city was for me was the biggest surprise of 2018.
When the guys at This Is Antwerp invited me with another 9 very interesting people (a mix of artists and writers and bloggers), I didn’t even know where Antwerp was and had to check it on Google Maps.
But as soon as I arrived and as the days went by, the city of Antwerp conquered me with its young, energetic vibe, and its mix of old, new, and hipster.
The best part about Antwerp is that it’s easily accessible on rail networks from across the continent, and can be visited just for a day or two. I mean, you should definitely stay and explore more, but if you have limited time, you can still see the highlights of Antwerp in 24 hours. If you’re thinking about paying it a visit, try this one-day itinerary for the best sights in the city.
Arrive in Antwerp & check out the Central Station
There are plenty of ways to get to Antwerp, such as plane and coach, but the best way is by train. Not only is this because it’s cheaper than flying but being greeted by Antwerp Central Station is one of the best welcomes into any city.
Also known as Middenstatie, it’s considered one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. The architecture is incredible and shouldn’t be missed if you’re going to the city. If this is what the train station is like, just imagine how the rest of the city looks!
Take a stroll down Meir Street
This is the main shopping street in Antwerp and is home to some of the biggest brands around. The buildings echo the design of the train station, and are a sight in themselves. There are hundreds of shops to visit, both chains and independents, along with loads of places to eat and drink.
If you’re not careful you might end up losing your whole day here. Limit yourself to an hour or two of shopping, there’s still a lot to see in Antwerp!
Explore the historic city center
There are plenty of amazing historic buildings to see in the city center, so make time to visit them. The highlights are:
Cathedral of Our Lady: It took 169 years to build and reaches 123m into the air! Considering this was finished in 1521, this is a feat of medieval engineering.
Grote Markt: This is one of the original squares of the medieval town center. It’s surrounded by the old buildings that you recognize immediately as typical Belgian.
Other than this, it’s just very nice to walk (or bike!) in the city center. The vibe is young, and the buildings are super instagrammable.
I recommend you stop for lunch at CoffeeLabs, one of my favorite cafès in Antwerp and a very central one. One of the trendiest and hipster places to eat in Antwerp, the cafè specializes in unique coffee blends, fresh juices, and some amazing food. I can definitely recommend the soups and the salmon pie… yummy! Recharge and get some coffee, we have a busy afternoon ahead!
CoffeeLabs Address: Lange Klarenstraat 19, Antwerp.
Visit Rubens House
This is the former home of Baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens, and has now been converted into a museum. It was custom-built by the artist in the 17th Century, and now houses exhibitions about his life and work.
There are even several of his early works on display, including Adam and Eve, and a self-portrait. A must-visit for any art fans out there… and even if you don’t know much about art like me, it’s still an interesting visit.
Stroll around Stadspark
Stadspark is Antwerp’s central park. The park itself is beautiful, with vast green spaces and carved fountains, and I loved taking photos on the bridge with Maya, a great photographer. It’s the perfect place to take a break from the city, and to relax for a little bit before continuing with your day.
The park borders the Jewish quarter of the city, and so you’ll likely see Orthodox Jews walking around the park and feeding the ducks. An anecdote: this community has a tradition of throwing bread into the pond also to drown the sins of the previous year during Rosh Hashanah.
Visit the MAS Museum
Located on the banks of the river Scheldt, this is Antwerp’s largest museum. It’s got a distinct red sandstone and glass exterior, and stands out from the landscape. The museum houses nearly half a million artefacts, but most are kept in storage. However, there are plenty of exhibitions to visit so come before closing time at 5 PM.
The most impressive bit of the museum though, in my opinion, is the view from the roof. This is a great way to get perspective on the city you’ve been walking around all day, and shouldn’t be missed.
Enjoy happy hour around MAS
There are plenty of bars and terraces around the MAS Museum, so make sure you get there at happy hour. There’s nothing better than relaxing on the riverside terrace enjoying a cocktail or two with friends, and you can still get stunning views from down there. Most of the bars offer happy hour, so take advantage of this offer while it’s on.
It’s Belgian fries time!
How could you spend the day in Antwerp without sampling some amazing Belgian fries? Luckily, it’s dinnertime and what better excuse is there? If you’re looking for the authentic Belgian dining experience, try Baraque Friture on Marnixplaats.
The restaurant is famous for its authentic, homemade fries, and there are plenty of things to choose from to go with them. Remember though, it’s not Belgian custom to have ketchup on your fries, they prefer mayonnaise or one of the many other sauces!
Baraque Friture Address: Marnixplaats 10.
Antwerp is an amazing city, and is definitely worth a visit if you can. This itinerary isn’t exhaustive, and you’ll probably find loads of other things to do with your time too.
I was invited by This is Antwerp and Visit Antwerp on this great trip. All opinions are my own, as always.
Maria @ Tourist Visa Australia
Tuesday 11th of September 2018
Great information.! Planning my first visit to Antwerp and it leads here. Thanks for this post!