Antwerp’s heyday may have been centuries ago, but behind its Flemish facades, a renaissance is underway.
The cultural capital of Flanders has earned its stripes as a fashion hub, an art history hotspot and a bastion of Belgian beer. Best of all, it’s friendly, picturesque and easy to tackle on foot.
Arriving at Antwerp Flanders International Airport
Antwerp Flanders International Airport is less than four miles (6km) from central Antwerp. The airport is compact and simple, with a few shops and restaurants, a VIP lounge and complimentary Wi-Fi. Grab a snack at Belgian supermarket Louis Delhaize just before security. For aviation buffs, the Stampe & Vertongen Museum, open on weekend afternoons, displays a collection that includes several World War I military aircraft.
The easiest way to get to central Antwerp is by taxi. Hail a ride from the roundabout in front of the airport and you’ll be in the city centre in just 15 minutes.
Alternatively, take a bus to nearby Antwerpen-Berchem train station and a tram into the city centre from there. There are buses every 15 minutes from the airport to Antwerp-Berchem Station. From there, take a tram to Silsburg and get off at Antwerpen Groenplaats for the historic city centre. For the zoo and Antwerpen-Centraal station, head towards Rooseveltplaats and get off at the final stop.
For lots of locals, a typical night out means a few rounds of beers at a favourite ‘brown café’, a Belgian version of the London pub. These warm and welcoming cafés are throughout the city, with some dating back as early as the 16th century. To seek one out, head to the streets that surround the Cathedral of Our Lady or the side alleys off the Meir shopping street.
Antwerp is a buzzing university town, with over 40,000 full-time students. As such, the university district north of the city centre has a lively bar scene, with young people sipping beers at the casual spots that line the Ossenmarkt and Stadswaag squares.
Of course, Belgian beer isn’t the only thing available in Antwerp after dark. The city is also renowned for its house and electronic music scenes, thanks to its world-famous Tomorrowland festival that takes place each summer. The rest of the year, house club Cafe d’Anvers, in a converted church, has been a fixture on the Antwerp clubbing scene for more than 20 years.
For something more refined, head to De Muze for a live jazz performance. The dark, moody bar has been an Antwerp staple since the 1960s.