Oh, Antwerp, I love you.
For those of you who know me, you know I absolutely love this city. It’s the type of city I can visit a million times and love it the same each trip. I’ve talked about it before (casually mentioning that I like the city way better then it’s more popular counterpart Brussels), and I can’t believe I haven’t done up an itinerary for it yet! This itinerary is meant to be a tourist-centered itinerary, touching on SOME of the “most iconic” parts of the city. A “deeper look”, locals itinerary will come soon!
I have spent too many days to count wandering around the beautiful city and I’d love to share quite a few itineraries with you, but to save time I will pick all my favourite things from the different day trips I’ve taken there – and compile them into one AWESOME ITINERARY. A super itinerary, if you will.
This itinerary will include information on and photos of:
ARRIVING IN ANTWERP VIA CENTRAAL STATION
TIPS FOR VISITING ANTWERPEN CENTRAAL STATION:
- Camera ready, and look up!
- There are numerous places to grab a quick snack or drink within the station, including a Starbucks on the main level.
- Know the history. This station is OLD, and knowing just how old it is (having opened in 1905) – you appreciate it a lot more.
- Be on the look out…crazy things happen in this place.
Even without a flash mob dance, I could spend hours in this station, because it’s absolutely gorgeous. Not to mention, from this station, you can catch trains to Paris or Amsterdam quite easily.My favourite thing about this station is the beautiful ANTWERP arch on the higher level. Classic and rustic beauty that welcomes you to the city.
ANTWERP DIAMOND DISTRICT:
“Oh, look, honey…”
I promised I would never be one of those girlfriends who makes her boyfriend look at insanely gorgeous jewelry – but come on…as soon as you exit the station, THERE THEY ARE. And by they, I mean too many stores to count. You can’t help but be distracted by the shine of these stunning store windows.
TIPS FOR VISITING THE DIAMOND DISTRICT:
- Try not to spend all your or your boyfriend’s money.
FEELING HUNGRY? WHY NOT TRY A LOCAL PUB?
While there are tons of bars and restaurants on the beginning of this street as soon as you exit the station, the place I love to go for dinner and a beer is Kelly’s Irish Pub. It’s located just a few doors down the street from the station. I’ve heard mixed feelings about this pub, but in my opinion, they have good food, great (ENGLISH SPEAKING) staff, and awesome cheap drinks.
TIPS FOR YOUR LUNCH AT KELLY’S IRISH PUB:
- Try their Long Island Iced Tea if you’re interested in having a good time.
- Their caesar salad (with chicken) is honestly the closest thing I’ve found to an American caesar salad! I had been dying to find a salad that’s not served with caesar vinaigrette, and I finally found one!
- They have an amazing selection of stronger drinks (scotch, whiskey), and their beer is reasonably priced. Have fun!
SHOPPING ON DE MEIR:
Time for some shopping! And maybe even some entertainment, because De Meir is always bustling with people and local street talent. Magicians, pianists, bands, and even clowns sometimes!
The stores on this street really vary in their origins and that’s what I love. While you have some more mainstream “American” known stores (like H&M, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21), you also have some international/European stores in there too (such as Hunkemöller, Triumph, Galleria Inno, O’Neill, Zara Belgie). Not to mention their chocolate suppliers (The Chocolate Line, Leonidas)!
Whatever you need, chances are there is a store on this street that can help you!
TIPS FOR SHOPPING ON DE MEIR:
- Stop (and support) local street performers; they tend to be amazing!
- If you’re feeling hot, cool down with Australian Ice Cream. Because wow!
- Take your time and shop around!
- There is a souvenir store located fairly close to the station. Between Central Station and Kelly’s Irish Pub (look down the streets that break off from the main one!)
Now, THE MARKET SQUARE:
Once you’ve reached the end of De Meir, you will realize the “touristy” part of Antwerp is ending. KEEP GOING! You’ll find the big market center. In the summers, this place is teeming with vendors selling trinkets, booze and gifts. In the winter, they have an amazing Christmas market and giant Ferris wheel/ice skating rink! No matter the season, you’ll be happy you made the little venture to the big market square.
HOW TO GET THERE:
While there are probably a few ways to get to the center square, the landmark you generally want to head towards would be the Antwerp City Hall. Enter this into your GPS/MAPS app or follow this map:
HOW ABOUT A BEAUTIFUL VIEW OF THE CITY?
NEXT STOP: HET MAS!
I love heading up this tower to get views of the city from the roof, but what is interesting is that this is actually a museum! That’s right, a museum with a view! Along with their permanent exhibits (depicting the history of the city), they also usually have some interesting temporary exhibitions as well!
Learn about the city in their museum and then head on up the escalators to the roof for an ultimate view of the city.
TIPS FOR VISITING HET MAS:
- Admission to the museum varies based on the temporary exhibitions going on, but tickets range from 8 euro – 10 euro.
- If you’re visiting on the last Wednesday of the month – you’re in luck! Entrance to the museum is free on the last Wednesday of every month of the year! (Belgian’s love their Wednesdays! These days are usually “half days” at most middle schools as well.)
- THIS MUSEUM/LOOKOUT DECK IS CLOSED ON MONDAYS. I’m telling you this in capital letters because of a lot of things here in Belgium close on Sundays/Mondays and/or Tuesdays. Check your dates!
- There is also a souvenir shop here as well.
WHY NOT WALK ALONG THE MARINA?
Exiting Het Mas, you’ll see a bunch of boats parked in the harbor and you can even enjoy a little stroll around the area. There are restaurants, grocery stores and great views across the water.
HEADING BACK TO CENTRAAL STATION:
Returning to the station the same way you came, you’ll stumble upon the Antwerp Zoo (located right next to/behind the station). This zoo is really awesome, and although I highly recommend touring inside it, it is rather large. I’m not sure it would fit into this 8 hour itinerary with all these other awesome things, but it’s definitely worth mentioning!
TIPS FOR YOUR VISIT IN ANTWERP, BELGIUM:
- Always look up! The tops of buildings are sprinkled with statues and beautiful architecture.
- Stop, enjoy (and support!) street performers. Most of the time they are amazing, and Antwerp is one of the only big cities I have been to (many times) and no one has ever tried to scam me.
- Avoid visiting the city on a Sunday or Monday, as things (like shops and Het Mas) may be closed on those days.
- If you’re in the city at night during the summer months – do the candlelit cruise with FLANDRIA. It’s amazing. The food, the (FREE) champagne, the view, the food (did I say the food already…?)
- Get a photo with THE HAND (on De Meir) and the Brabo Statue (center market), and read up on the local lore of the city. Learn how the city got it’s famous name HERE.
- TRY the beer, even if you hate the stuff. I was never a beer girl, I actually hated it; until I moved to Antwerp in 2013. I fell in love with KRIEK (cherry beer), and at BEIR CENTRAAL on De Meir (close to Kelly’s Irish Pub) they offer over 300 different kinds of brew. I’m sure you’ll be able to find one you like…
- Be on the look-out for street art.
- There is a currency exchange very close to the station (between the station and Kelly’s Irish Pub – you can’t miss it!)
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