Antwerp: Belgium’s Second City And Biggest Port
Old Antwerp – Despite severe WWII bombing, Antwerp retains an intriguing medieval core. At its heart is a classic Grote Markt (Market Sq) featuring the Baroque Brabo Fountain, photogenic guildhalls and an impressive Italo-Flemish Renaissance-style town hall from 1565. Nearby, the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal is Belgium’s finest Gothic cathedral, with four early Rubens canvases inside.
De Groote Witte Arend – This place combines the joys of a good beer bar with the satisfaction of well-cooked, sensibly priced Flemish home cuisine, notably stoemp (potato hash), stoofvlees/carbonade (beef, beer and onion stew) and rabbit in rich Westmalle beer sauce. De Groote retains the stone arcade of a former convent building.
De Vagant – Tap into Antwerp heritage just across the street from De Groote Witte Arend. More than 200 types of jenever (a distilled drink similar to gin) are served in this bare-boards local cafe or sold by the bottle across the road from its slijterij (bottle shop), which resembles an old-style pharmacy.
Station Quarter – With its neo-Gothic facade, vast main hall and splendid dome, the 1905 Antwerpen- Centra al train station is reason enough to head east to the multicultural Station Quarter. Here, sleazy peep shows rub shoulders with grand cerrtury-old buildings and the world’s main diamond exchanges. To see the Diamant area, walk southwest to heavily guarded, pedestrianised Hoveniersstraat and Schupstraat.
Fieskbar – Locals head to’t Zuid, south of the centre, to dine and they swear that Fiskebar serves Antwerp’s best sea food, meaning there’s always an almighty crush for tables in this bustling, fashionably dish evelled former fish mongers’ shop. If you can’t get a booking, try its oyster bar next door, which serves a more limited selection and works with out reservations.
De Koninck – Something would be missing if beer tourism didn’t figure in a trip to Belgium. Historic De Koninck-one of the few true city breweries left in the country – is a wonderful tern pie to Antwerp’s favourite drop and an evocative exam pie of early- 20th-century industrial architecture. Self-guided tours begin with interactive exhibitions on brewing, then a walkway that takes you over the brewery hall, to finish with a tasting.
Mas – The Museum aan deStroom is a 10-storey complex that redefines the idea of a gallery. Floors are designed around big-idea themes using a barrage of media, from old m aster paintings through to tribal artefacts and video installations. You don’t need to pay the entry fee to take the external escalators to the roof for views across the city.
Kloosterstraat – Most of Antwerp’s shops aren’t open on Sundays, but the brocante dealers and vintage stores on historic Kloosterstraat are an exception, making this street a pleasant place to stroll on Sunday afternoons. Highlights include Art Partout (No 30), where you can browse and buy prints by Antwerp artists and always-busy Chez Fred bistro (No 83) formoules-frites. Most shops open 1pm to 6pm.