Last week Lonely Planet published their famous top 10’s for 2018.
Amongst the many lists, they have a “top 10 cities to visit in 2018”. We weren’t really surprised. However, we were flattered that at number 6 – our own city – Antwerp was shining like a diamond (pun intended ;)).
You can find the complete list of cities to visit at the bottom of this post!
This is how Lonely planet describes Antwerp:
“Once northern Europe’s greatest city, today Antwerp is one of its best-kept secrets. Flanders’ unofficial capital is laden with historic riches and home to world-class arts and design, and this year it’s showing its cultural chops with a celebration of its Baroque heyday. Inspired by the city’s most famous resident, Rubens, Antwerp Baroque 2018 will feature Flemish Masters rubbing shoulders with modern talent in a calendar that spans parades, concerts, street art, multimedia shows and workshops. Not that Antwerp’s residents need an excuse to unleash their creativity: the city, especially its former docks, is flush with pop-up bars, farm-to-fork joints and architectural showstoppers.”
From master painter Peter Paul Rubens to the crashing drum ‘n’ bass of Rampage, Belgium’s biggest port has been setting trends for over 500 years. Could this be the most continuous cool city in the world?
Antwerp is our home
As you might know, we live in Antwerp. Or perhaps it’s even better to say that we have our home there, as we’re only there half of the time…
That being said, we both just love Antwerp. Katrijn moved to Antwerp at the age of 18, when she started studying at Karel de Grote University college. After we met each other in Toledo (Spain), Yentl moved there too. We rented a place for 1 year and the following year we bought a house in Antwerp. At the time of writing, we are both working at Karel de Grote University College.
Our favourite places and activities in Antwerp
We made a list of our favourite spots in and around Antwerp. Restaurants, bars, museums, parks, breweries, activities and there is even a festival or 2 involved…
Our favourite restaurants
We don’t really have a favourite frituur, but whenever you visit Antwerp you have to eat French fries. We’re not going to discuss the name here, but if you ask us it’s Belgian Fries… 😉
There are over 100 frituren in Antwerp so just ask anyone for a good one nearby.
If you want to go to a fancy place (not so typical), you could go to Frites Atelier. It’s a deluxe frituur by Sergio Herman (a famous chef; see ‘The Jane’ below).
Yentl’s favourite burger place. Their burgers are freshly made and cost between 5 and 10 euros. They have around 50 different burgers and they even have a dozen veggie burgers. We always order some delicious fries with their homemade mayonnaise to accompany our burger.
If you love Thai food you should definitely visit this restaurant. You can find it next to the museum of contemporary arts in the middle of a trendy neighbourhood. Everything is freshly made by Asian cooks, so the food is really authentic. Make sure you make a reservation in advance because it’s a really popular restaurant.
Our Mercado is a bit different from the ones you know from Spain. The Mercado is located in the old post building next to the Groenplaats. It’s a fancy place to have dinner and you can stay for an after party as well(mostly on Friday’s). Inside you can find 10 small restaurants. The place has a really chilly atmosphere and you can enjoy different types of food like croquettes, pizza’s, Asian food, bubble waffles…
Pitten en Bonen
Pitten & Bonen (seeds & beans) is a really cosy lunch bar in shopping area de wilde zee (the wild sea). They have a lot of healthy salads, sandwiches, quiches, shakes, juices…
If you like a healthy and quick lunch during your shopping spree, this is the place to be.
If your mouth starts watering when you hear bagel, cheesecake and an extraordinary coffee, then this is your spot. They serve coffees with marshmallows and delicious bagels with cream cheese and spinach, that’s why this is one of Katrijn’s favourite lunch spots in Antwerp. You can find it in a cosy square next to the Nationalestreet.
We’ve never eaten there ourselves, but if you have plenty of money you have to go there. The Jane is located inside a church and the chef is Sergio Herman (the owner of the French fries place).
Our favourite bars and clubs
Belgium is famous for its beers so you’ll have to drink some beers. We have bitter, sweet, sour, dark, blond, triple, abbey, red, amber,… The list is endless.
This is Yentl’s favourite bar near the Grote Markt. The bartenders are super talented and know lots about beer. If you don’t know what beers you like, just tell them that you don’t know and they’ll start asking you questions until they have a beer that you’ll definitely like.
We used to go here a lot because they have hundreds of beers and Yentl has a beer blog with 2 of his friends (Loft-7.be).
If you want some super cheap cocktails, this is the place to be! You can find it at the Groenplaats. They have a wide variety of cocktails to try. Prices are around €5 a cocktail. Don’t expect the fancy cocktails, but you’ll definitely get the alcohol you long for… Great place if you want to do a pré-drink for a night out in the centre.
Beer lovers bar
Another great beer bar with every month 12 different draft beers and around 150 special beers in bottles. If you’re picking random names of draft beers, always double check with the waiter what kind of beer it is. Yentl once got a black, coffee savoured beer by accident…
Antwerp has a huge amount of clubs. Because of that, we can’t really say to which clubs you’ll have to go, as clubs come and go. Some noteworthy clubs are Red & blue (Thursdays are normal club days, the other days this is a gay club), Café D’anvers (in the middle of our red district)…
If you’re coming to Antwerp, let us know in the comments below and we’ll check with our Facebook friends where the party is at.
Other things you must see/do
There are a lot of things you can do or see in Antwerp, so we’re going to list a few of the things we’ve already done or visited.
Antwerp has a lot of parks. In the centre, you can visit park spoor Noord, Stadspark or Harmoniepark. Our favourite parks are the 3 parks close to our home, being Park de Brandt, Nachtegaelenpark and Middelheim park. They are all 3 next to each other.
Middelheim park is the special one. It’s actually an open-air museum with around 50 statues and pieces of art. And it’s free!
The red light district
Although the official website of Visit Antwerp states:
The famous MAS museum is located in the newest neighbourhood of Antwerp, ‘t Eilandje. It’s the iconic big red building surrounded by water. You will recognize it immediately. On each floor, you can find a different story about Antwerp, the port, the world,…
Tip: go to the rooftop of the building, where you can watch the stars and have an overview of the whole city.
Tip 2: if you have some spare money you can make a reservation in ‘t Zilte at the top floor to have a fancy dinner with an amazing view.
De Konick Brewery and museum
If you haven’t visited a brewery yet you’ll have to visit one in Belgium. De Koninck museum is located in the centre of Antwerp (Harmoniepark). It’s not the best brewery tour in our opinion as it’s not really personal, but because it’s so interactive you can do it at your own pace. (Yentl has done too many brewery visits.. 🙂 )
At the end of the tour you can choose 3 beers at the bar, so that’s a huge plus!
Something you’ll notice for sure is the red bikes. You’ll see them everywhere! As soon as you leave the central station you’ll see a huge line of these cute red bikes. You can rent them for 1 day, 3 days or a week.
Go for a bike tour next to the Schelde (through the docks perhaps) or visit one of the parks we described earlier.
The cathedral of Antwerp
Another must visit is the cathedral of Antwerp, next to the Grote Markt. The Cathedral has an impressive collection of major artworks, including a series of paintings by Rubens.
If you come by train to Antwerp, you’ll arrive at our central train station. Chances are you already saw this big and majestic building with some nice roofing and a super impressive entrance hall somewhere online. Below our train station there’s always some kind of expo or temporary art gallery, so make sure you check out these hidden gems as well!
Right beside the central train station, you’ll find the ZOO of Antwerp, a must do if you’re visiting our town with your children. They have a lot of different animal species. If you come in the winter you can watch ‘China Lights’. During the evening they light up the zoo with Chinese inspired lampions and animals, really beautiful to see.
At the other side of the central station, you’ll find the diamond district or diamond quarter. It consists of several square blocks covering an area of about one square mile (thus the nickname “the square mile”). Over $16 billion in polished diamonds pass through the district’s exchanges each year. There are 380 workshops that serve 1,500 companies.
So guys, if you’re looking for a nice piece of jewellery for your girlfriend… Look no further 😉
If you haven’t spent all your money on diamonds and you love shopping, then you must go the Meir. It’s the biggest shopping street in Antwerp and even in Belgium! You can find all kinds of shops there, ranging from H&M, Bershka and ZARA to Esprit, AS Adventure and Primark.
Fosbury & sons
Fosbury & sons is a co-working space near Harmoniepark. They decorated the place really nicely into ‘rooms’ ie. themed rooms like living, kitchen, desk… Plus they have delicious food, snacks and drinks!
When we’re abroad and we tell people we are from Belgium, they always say ‘Oh, so you’re from Tomorrowland’. Yes, we are, and we’re proud of it because this is (in our opinion) the best festival in Europe.
Not particularly because of de DJ’s but because of the atmosphere, the stages which are really nicely designed, the way the crew is dressed up and of course there are people from all over the world… United, as one happy family.
Tip: you have to book your tickets in January! The festival itself is in July and sold out in minutes… If you need a place to stay during the festival you can always contact us! We’re also working at the festival so if you need some help or information, you can find us there.
The top 10 cities to visit in 2018
- Seville, Spain
- Detroit, USA
- Canberra, Australia
- Hamburg, Germany
- Kaohsiung, Taiwan
- Antwerp, Belgium
- Matera, Italy
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Guanajuato, Mexico
- Oslo, Norway