WHat to see & Discover

Admire the beautiful Antwerp-Centraal station

One sight in Antwerp surprised me a little: Antwerp Central Station. Normally, I don't necessarily associate train stations with the most beautiful buildings. Sure, there are impressive stations. But they are often a bit dirty and noisy. Antwerp-Centraal station is different.

The imposing building catches the eye even from a distance. But inside, you can expect a Harry Potter-like architectural setting. And the best thing about it: although it is Antwerp's main station, the imposing entrance hall is empty and quiet. For this photo of an almost deserted station concourse, I didn't have to get here particularly early or retouch people out of the picture, it was so empty! You can admire the interesting building even better.

Stroll through the Vlaaikensgang

One of my highlights was strolling through the Vlaaikensgang. The medieval alleyway had a very special atmosphere. I was also surprised at how empty it was. I had read about the alley, but it didn't seem to be very well known. It is also somewhat hidden, so we were able to immerse ourselves in the Middle Ages.

The best, however, was the restaurant t'Hofke in the middle of the alley. Not only did we have an incredibly good meal there, but we also ate in a very special atmosphere. The courtyard already had a very romantic feel to it. However, due to the approaching rain, we decided to eat inside and were therefore taken to a medieval cellar. You probably won't eat this authentically anywhere else in Antwerp!

Visit the center of the city: The Grote Markt

In almost all large Belgian cities you will find a large market square in the center of the city - the Grote Markt. Antwerp is no exception. When we walked to the Antwerp market square, I thought for a moment that I had landed in Brussels. The square was so similar to the capital's famous market square. The only difference is that Antwerp's Grote Markt is not overrun with tourists and is therefore more pleasant to visit. You will also find the Brabo Fountain in the middle, which gives the market square its own character.

The Brabo Fountain depicts the city hero Silvias Brabo. Legend has it that a giant on the banks of the Scheldt once demanded tolls from passing ships. If they did not pay, he chopped off their right hand until Brabo chopped off the giant's hand and threw it into the Scheldt.

Explore Eilandje

You will often find very old houses in Antwerp - mostly imposing large buildings or cute Flemish medieval houses. In Eilandje, on the other hand, you are more likely to walk past modernized industrial buildings and newer buildings. But even these can hold their own architecturally. The harbor house, for example, is well worth seeing, as a new building in the shape of a ship was constructed on the roof of an old fire station. From the Droogdokkenpark, you can observe the house while enjoying the sunshine on the edge of the canal.

There are also good views from the Museum aan de Stroom. If you are passionate about the port of Antwerp and shipping, you should buy a ticket for the museum. If, on the other hand, you just want a nice view from the roof of the museum building, you can take the escalators up for free and enjoy the view over Antwerp. For the photographers among you, a detour to the Parkbrug is also worthwhile. A very cool photo opportunity!

Enjoying peace and quiet in the courtyard of the Plantin-Moretus Museum

Another museum where you can get something for nothing is the Plantin-Moretus Museum. Because if you only want to visit the inner courtyard of the museum, you don't pay admission. The inner courtyard is a little oasis of peace. It's the perfect place to take a short break from your sightseeing tour. Simply sit down on one of the benches and soak up the atmosphere.

In the museum itself, you will find the only surviving printing press from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. However, if you want to visit it, you will have to pay the normal entrance fee.

Discover a slightly different parking garage: Felix Pakhuis

The Parkhuis Felix was a fun discovery. Along the old industrial building and parking garage you will find restaurants, cafés, offices and event venues. Before your trip to Antwerp, it's worth checking out which events will be taking place here soon.

The parking garage is located right on the edge of the Willemdok of Eilandje. As we made our way there, we unknowingly walked through the red light district of Antwerp: the Schipperskwartier. This is probably due to the urban development program. Because we had the feeling that we were simply strolling through a pleasant neighborhood when we suddenly spotted the women in the shop windows. Fortunately, unlike in Hamburg, they didn't take it amiss that we (two women) were walking through here.

Crossing under the Scheldt through the Sint-Annatunnel

You don't cross the Scheldt ovebridges in Antwerp, no. All roads here lead under the Scheldt. Tunnels lead from one side of the city to the other for cars as well as pedestrians and cyclists.

The Sint-Annatunnel is the tunnel for pedestrians and cyclists. For locals, it is a daily route - whether to get to work or to meet friends. But the tunnel is also attracting more and more tourists who want to ride the old-school wooden escalator. We did the same and I definitely found it fun. It was a slightly different sight!

Discover interesting buildings in Zuid

If you want to stroll around a bit without a major destination, then head to the south of Antwerp. In the Zuid district, you will pass beautiful boutiques and nice restaurants. Interesting buildings will cross your path again and again. Like the art nouveau building Het Bootje. Here, a small balcony in the shape of a boat prow juts out between the first and second floors. The shipbuilder P. Roeis commissioned this peculiar building.

The Royal Museum of Fine Arts is another building worth seeing, both inside and out. The imposing building houses a collection of paintings and sculptures by renowned artists such as Rubens and Ensor.

Stroll across the Afdaken at Jordaenskaai

Talking about strolling around, I have another address for you. Jordaenskaai is a great place to stroll over the roofs of the Afdaken. You can look across the Scheldt to the other side of the city. Or you can be surprised by the view of Steen Castle. We hadn't expected to see this historic building here.

Incidentally, the Afdaken are old warehouses. They are currently derelict and cordoned off. However, I can well imagine that the Afdaken will soon be given a new lease of life. They certainly have the potential!

Meeting Nello & Patrasche in front of the Cathedral of Our Lady

The Cathedral of Our Lady is probably the most famous church in Antwerp. No wonder, as it towers imposingly in the center of the city. However, there is another attraction right on the church's doorstep. There you will find the sweet statue of Nello & Patrasche. This is a tribute to the book “A Dog of Flanders” by the British author Ouida. The story of the poor farm boy Nello and his faithful dog Patrasche is set in and around Antwerp. The statue is certainly cute to look at!

Where to go shopping

If there's one thing you can do well in Antwerp, it's shopping! From small boutiques to well-known fashion chains and expensive brands, you'll find everything your shopping heart desires here. The best-known shopping address is Meir. The most famous brands are lined up on and around the street. However, I found the Stadsfeestzaal shopping center particularly interesting because (as the name suggests) it looks more like a ballroom than a shopping center.

We particularly liked the De Wilde Zee district for shopping. We found some nice boutiques there. There are also a few cool second-hand stores near the Nationalestraat. You should also take a look at Kloosterstraat and Leopoldstraat.

What else to do:

Antwerp is much bigger than I had expected. That's why there is so much more to see. For example, there is the beguinage. This typical residential complex of beguines is often found in Belgian Flanders and the Netherlands, including Antwerp. If you are interested in fashion in addition to shopping, I can also recommend the Fashion Museum. If you want to discover the city away from the tourist hustle and bustle, head to the Zurenborg district.

A slightly different attraction is the bird market, which is always open on Sundays from 8 am to 1 pm. Antwerp also has a (small) beach: Sint Annastrand. Chocolate fans can also visit the Museu Chocolate Nation. And then there's the Church of St. Charles Borromeo and the Church of St. Paul, the Rubens House and Museum De Reede...

Extra: 8 beautiful castles in and around Antwerp

Antwerp is beautiful and worth seeing. But it's also worth getting out of the city center a little. Because there are countless interesting castles there. We took a look at the beautiful moated castle Kasteel Borrekens. The castle is privately owned and is beautifully situated on the water surrounded by woodland. We were the only tourists walking around the castle in the forest. Afterwards, we took a delicious break at Café Koffie & Moor alongside some locals.

But there are several other castles worth visiting in the Antwerp area. Just see which one is on your way or which one interests you the most:

  • Sterckshof Castle in Antwerp
  • Castle Bossenstein in Ranst
  • Zellaer Castle Estate in Bonheiden
  • Cantecroy Castle in Mortsel
  • Cleydael Castle in Aartselaar
  • Wissekerke Castle in Kruibeke
  • Bornem Castle in Bornem

I have put together a list of all the places on Google Maps.

You can find the list here.