Looking for your next city break? Discover the cobbled lanes, stunning architecture and chic coffee shops of Antwerp
Words Joy Montgomery
It’s Belgium’s second city and biggest port that combines historic charm and contemporary cool. From sipping on artisan coffee and perusing stylish fashion boutiques, to gazing up at awe-inspiring architecture, this is the European city that has it all.
Scroll down to discover why you should visit this year’s hot holiday destination. Plus the best places to stay when you’re there.
If nothing else, simply wandering round the cobbled streets of Antwerp could justify a trip to this historic city. Cogels-Osylei is known as one of the most beautiful streets in Antwerp, with eclectic architecture dating from 1894 to 1908. A weekend in Antwerp would also not be complete without an awe-inspiring stroll around Grote Markt. Situated at the heart of the old city quarter, it features grand guildhalls, the main City Hall and iconic Brabo fountain.
More active individuals can rent bikes for a tour of the River Scheldt. Make sure to stop for lunch at the ship-shaped The Zuiderterras restaurant. Meanwhile, foodies should amble through the historic city centre and pause for pudding at The Van Hecke Waffle.
LAND OF COFFEE AND CHOCOLATE
Coffee and chocolate-lovers (which, let’s face it, is all of us) will be in heaven in Antwerp. Stocking the single largest supply of coffee beans in the world, you can while away the hours in the plethora of arty coffee shops. Head to Normo for home-roasted coffee beans or Buchbar for Insta-friendly interiors.
Meanwhile, chocolate lovers shouldn’t miss The Chocolate Line. Admire the chocolatiers’ stunning creations and make sure to sample one or two yourself. Or, for the best of both worlds, head to Gunther Watte, a chic chocolate cafe which attracts connoisseurs of both coffee and hand made chocolates.
CULTURE FOR DAYS
With history dating back to the Middle Ages, it’s no surprise that Antwerp is a hub of fascinating museums and places of historical interest. The Italian villa-inspired home of iconic polymath and painter Rubens is one of the city’s most popular cultural sites. While the Cathedral of Our Lady, dating back to 1352, is another unmissable destination for architecture buffs. The Plantin-Moretus Museum is another unique and beautiful building. Housing the world’s oldest printing press, visitors can learn about 300 years of book printing and explore the surrounding gardens.
For those wanting a more contemporary experience should head to Museum aan de Stroom. An eclectic museum located along the river Scheldt, it opened in 2011 and is the largest museum in Antwerp. The geometric architecture is a sight in itself.
CAPITAL OF COOL
Antwerp has been attracting style moguls for decades. It was put on the fashion map in the ’80s through the work of six graduates (the ‘Antwerp six’) from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Now the city boasts an impressive selection of chic boutiques. Dries Van Noten’s flagship store, housed in a beautiful 19th century building, is a must-see. Also boutiques, such as Enes, Graanmarkt 13 and Step by Step, are all impeccably designed as they are well-stocked with sartorial gems.
PLUS WHERE TO STAY…
Hotel O Kathedral
Located in the city’s historic centre and across the street from Cathedral of Our Lady, Hotel O Kathedral is the trendy design-led hotel from Architect Jo Peeters.
Situated on a quaint square in the fashion district area of Antwerp, Aplace provides comfortable suites and city flats featuring chic, retro interiors.
This family-run B&B combines a collection of curiosities, museum-worthy antiques, free-standing baths and roaring open fires with contemporary coffee machines and flatscreen TVs.
De Witte Lelie
Situated right in the city centre of Antwerp, Hotel De Witte Lelie was built in the 17th century and houses only 10 rooms and suites. A must-see for design aficionados.
Hotel le Nuits
Within walking distance of the cathedral and the high end boutiques of the “Schuttershofstraat” across the street, Hotel Les Nuits is ideal for a city break weekend away. Each modern room differs in style, colour and decoration.