48 HOURS IN ANTWERP BELGIUM

When you think of Belgium, you probably think of big cities like Brussels and Ghent and also important things like waffles and chocolate. If you’re looking for a smaller city vibe with that Belgian charm, put Antwerp on your list!

What to bring:

In the early fall we were comfortable in jeans and a warm jacket, with temps comparable to sweater weather. Comfortable walking shoes a must, because the city is very pedestrian and bicycle friendly.

Antwerp Central Station

Transportation:

Walking would be the best options, because its on the smaller scale size we were able to walk everywhere. They have trams and public bikes as well. Uber if you’re feeling fancy.

Statue outside the Cathedral

Where to sleep:

For places to stay in a new city- Google maps is my best friend. Try to find the city center and look for hotels around it.

We found a place on booking.com called Hotel Eden, although it was a 20 minute walk from the Grote Markt (city centre) it was a great price, clean and comfortable and there was plenty to see on the walk there. {Use this link to get $20 back if you book through booking.com}

I also highly recommend using Hostelbookers.com to look for hostels in the area. The website is set up so you can easily see the location map, the cost, options and most important reviews and photos. Though options for Hostels are sparse in Antwerp, the city hostel was smack in the center of the Grote Markt for quick walking to everything!

Where to eat: 

We only had time to try a handful of places to eat but got a ton of recommendations from our tour guide on the free walking tour- which you should do 100% in any city you’re in.

The places we did get to:

  • Elfde Gebod: “The 11th commandment”
  • Frituur No. 1: for the popular snack of french fries and mayo (eat it- I promise you’ll like it)
  • Billie’s Bier Kafetaria: this place was my favorite, if you like good bar eats and beer
  • Brasserie de Post: for afternoon Bitterballen and drinks overlooking the square
  • The Chocolate Box: we actually caught this place having their opening as we were walking by. We enjoyed some free snacks and drinks and a drag show. LGBTQ friendly and so charming!

Places Recommended:

Steen Castle

What to eat:

  • Belgian waffles (dessert)
  • French Fries with mayo or other dips and toppings (snack)
  • Smoutebollen (dessert)

Where to drink:

The places we did get to:

  • De Koninck Brewery: tour the brewery and have some samples afterwards
  • Kulminator: this best can best be described as having drinks at your grandparents house. The owners are very knowledgable about beer but hands down the strangest pub I have ever been to.
  • Billies Beer Kafeteria: here we ended up meet a Belgian couple who skipped their dinner reservation to have dinner with us! We had such a fun time laughing and drinking with them, one of my favorite parts of traveling. Definitely try here for a pub atmosphere with lots of people and good bar food.
  • De Muze Jazz Cafe: great pub for live Jazz music

Places Recommended:

Vlaaikensgang Alley Way

What to see:

  • Free walking Tour (!!!) I highly recommend finding one of these ANYWHERE you are, and try to do it on the first day you’re there and write down notes in your phone! Our tour guide had a whole list I was able to snap a photo of. Bring some change for a tip! This one meets in Grote Markt in front of the statue- so very easy to find!
  • Grote Markt- this is the best place for photo ops with the dreamy cobblestone roads and row buildings in the background. Also full of tons of shops and restaurants for browsing and people watching
  • Central Station- this is by far the prettiest train station I have ever seen in my life. Which might not be a lot but go with me here.
  • MAS Museum lets visitors access their rooftop for free without buying a ticket into the museum although it would be worth it to visit the museum as well.
  • Botanical Garden, I didn’t get the chance to visit here but it was recommend by our tour guide and who doesn’t like a beautiful garden?!
  • Steen Castle- serious question- if I visit all the castles in Europe can I be a princess too?
  • Vlaaikensgang Alley Way– A charming little secret alley way. I love imagining what it would be like to live here in back in history.
  • St. Annas Tunnel– an underwater passageway connecting the right and left banks of Antwerp. The best spot for a skyline view of the city!
  • Cathedral of our Lady- this church has so much history that we learned about on the walking tour, including why there is only one tower. It’s beautiful to see in the skyline and is huge!
The Cathedral of our Lady

Where to shop:

  • Kloosterstraat: Shopping Street “straat” means “street” in Dutch, good for antiques
  • Stadsfeestzaal: Shopping Mall
  • De Wilde Zee: “The Wild Sea” Shopping Streets
  • Lombardenvest: Shopping Street in De Wilde Zee
  • Kammenstraat: Shopping Street in De Wilde Zee
  • Steenhouwersvest: Shopping Street in De Wilde Zee
  • “Hospital” Vlaamse Kaai: shopping also a good area for bars and restaurants
The view from the top of the MAS museum

What to buy:

  • Elixir D’Anvers Liqueur: A licorice tasting alcohol blend of 32 herbs and spices that is good for the health!
  • “Belgian” Chocolate: Unfortunately we found this to be super expensive, but a free sample never hurt anyone
  • Postcards: I always buy these for my travel collection. I have yet to figure out what to do with them so I popped them in a travel photo album. They’re cheap and easy to transport home, I also always send a postcard home to my parents for the fridge!
  • Other collection ideas: patches, mugs, magnets, money
Inside Central Station

Other tips when in Belgium:

Phone: If you will be in Europe for 2 or 3 weeks it would definitely be worth getting a sim chip for your smart phone. There is wifi but it’s always nice to have data to use google maps to use for public transport or if you need to call an emergency Uber. You can use Vodafone or other providers in most countries over there if you’re hopping around.

Another option is downloading offline maps when you have wifi of the area you’ll be going around.

The language that they speak in Antwerp is Flemish Dutch. In Belgium they also speak French, German and English.

Go with the flow! Pick a few must sees and then let the adventure take you wherever else you’re meant to be.

Try to have some cash on you- exchanging at the airport can be expensive but is convenient, You also may be able to use your debit card in local ATMs.

Most Importantly a rule of thumb to here and anywhere you travel is to remember that you are a TOURIST. This is someone’s HOME, although you are only visiting, they live here day in and day out. Please BE RESPECTFUL and treat it like YOUR home. I have always only met amazing locals throughout my travels who helped with directions, suggestions, even digging us out of a snow pile when our rental car was stuck, not everyone is friendly OR owes you their time of day.
Be courteous, kind, and take out what you take in.
Don’t ruin a beautiful place for everyone, no matter where you go!

 

Headed elsewhere in Belgium?! Check out these great know before you go tips by Joelle at Riding around the Globe!

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  1. Pingback: 30+ Things to Do in Brussels – Riding Around The Globe

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