Welcome to Antwerp, the bustling capital of the Province of Antwerp and the second-largest city in Belgium. Located near the picturesque river Schelde and boasting one of the largest ports in Europe, Antwerp has been an important economic and cultural hub for centuries. With a diverse population of 170 nationalities, Antwerp is the world’s second most multicultural city, offering a unique blend of cultures and traditions. In this comprehensive guide, we will help you explore the charming streets, world-class museums, and delicious cuisine that make Antwerp a must-see destination.
A brief history of Antwerp
Antwerp, the capital of Antwerp Province in the Flemish Region, is the largest city in Belgium by area. Its history can be traced back to Gallo-Roman times, as evidenced by excavations on the right bank of the Schelde in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. In the 4th and 5th centuries, the region was occupied and Germanized by Franks and possibly Genoese, who were later succeeded by the dukes of Brabant. As one of the duchy’s capital cities, Antwerp grew in the 15th century to become the mercantile metropolis of western Europe, succeeding Bruges in Flanders. With the economic preeminence of Antwerp over Bruges evident by the end of the 15th century, the city grew wealthy on the profits of its port, trading in diamonds, priceless works of art, and luxury goods. Today, Antwerp is globally known as the hub of the world’s diamond trade.
Best things to see & do in Antwerp
Antwerp is a city that is rich in culture, history, and natural beauty. Here are some of the top things to see and do in Antwerp:
The grand square or in Flemish “Grote Markt” of Antwerpen is the heart of the historical city centre. The main focus is the City Hall with it 28 flags for every nation in the European Union. The traditional houses surrounding the Grote Markt are a beautiful example of Belgian architecture.
Centered of the grand square you’ll find the Fountain of Brabo. According to the legend, Brabo was a Roman soldier who defeated the giant “Antigoon” by cutting of his hand and throwing it in the river Schelde. Supposedly this is where the city got it’s name, Antwerpen would be derived from the Flemish “hand werpen” which means “throwing a hand”.
The Cathedral of our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe-Kathedraal)
The beautiful medieval Gothic cathedral contains a significant amount of Baroque paintings by local painter Peter-Paul-Rubens, as well as other artists. Walk around the Cathedral to find the statue of a child sleeping next to his dog and discover the sad story of Nello and Patrasche.
Antwerp Train Station
Antwerp Central Station is one of the most beautiful train stations in the world, known for its stunning architecture and grandeur. Take some time to explore the station and admire its intricate details, including the impressive dome and glass ceiling. It’s a must see for all travelers, regardless you’re traveling by train or not.
Pieter-Paul-Rubens was Belgians most important Baroque painter. You can find his works in the Cathedral mentioned above, his statue on the “Groenplaats” and his former house is also a museum worth visiting.
The Zoo of Antwerp is not only the oldest zoo in Belgium, but also one of the oldest zoo’s in the world. It is located right next to the Antwerpen-Centraal railway station and opened every day, all year long from 10h00 untill 18h00.
More info: https://www.zooantwerpen.be/en/
Antwerp Tourist Map
The Antwerp Tourist map below contains the best sights in Antwerp along with the best things to do. Don’t forget to save it, so you can use it later on your smartphone as your Antwerp city travel guide.
Antwerp Tours & Excursions:
There are also many guided tours and excursions that you can join to discover Antwerp in a more immersive way. Some of the most popular ones include bike tours, food tours, and beer tasting tours.
Travel to Antwerp City
If you’re planning a trip to Antwerp, getting there is easy. The city is well-connected by train, with several stations serving both national and international routes. Once you arrive, you’ll find that Antwerp is easy to navigate on foot, with many of its top attractions located within walking distance of each other.
Antwerp has 3 railway stations and is therefore nationally and internationally well connected with other Belgian and European cities.
- Antwerpen-Centraal Railway Station:The railway station serves national and international trains. The trainstation is located next to the Zoo. Check for combi-tickets to get a discount.
- Antwerpen Zuid (South) Railway Station: Serves local trains
- Antwerpen-Berchem Railway Station: Serves local trains
International trains to Antwerp
Antwerp is well-connected to other major European cities by train, with international services running regularly to destinations like Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin.
Local trains to Antwerp
If you’re traveling within Belgium, you’ll find that Antwerp is easily accessible by train. National services run regularly from cities like Brussels, Ghent, and Bruges, with journey times typically ranging from 40 minutes to an 1h40. The national railway company in Belgium is called SNCB/NMBS.
|5 trains / hour
|4 trains / hour
|3 trains / hour
|2 trains / hour
Getting around in Antwerp
Once you arrive in Antwerp, you will find that getting around is easy and convenient. The city has a well-developed public transport system, including trams and buses. The system is integrated, meaning that one ticket is valid for all modes of transportation. Alternatively you can also take a taxi or an Uber to your final destination, however this is considerably more expensive.
Most attractions in the Antwerp city centre itself are within walking or biking distance from each other.
Antwerp public transport
The local Antwerp public transport system is fairly well organised. All busses and trams in Antwerp are operated by “De Lijn”. Tickets cost 3€ and are valid for 60 minutes. Within this period you can change lines as much as you want. After the 60 minutes you can continue your ride to your destination, but you can’t change lines anymore unless you purchase a new ticket. Day passes cost 5€ on pre-sale or 7€ on board. 3 day passes cost 10€ on pre-sale and 12€ on board
Where to stay in Antwerp
There are many options for accommodation in Antwerp, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels. If you prefer a central location, you can stay in the Old Town, which is close to the city’s main attractions. If you are looking for a more tranquil experience, the South District is a good option, known for its trendy cafes and boutiques.
- Belgian Fries – Belgian fries, also known as “frites,” are a popular street food in Antwerp. These fries are made from high-quality potatoes that are first blanched and then fried twice to achieve the perfect texture. They are often served with a side of mayonnaise or other sauces.
- Stoofvlees – Stoofvlees is a hearty beef stew that is popular throughout Belgium, but particularly in Antwerp. It is made with tender beef that is slowly simmered in a rich, savory sauce made from beer, onions, and spices. It is often served with fries or mashed potatoes.
- Mosselen – Mussels are a popular seafood dish in Antwerp, and they are often served steamed in a pot with white wine, garlic, and herbs. They are typically accompanied by a side of Belgian fries or bread.
- Bolleke – Bolleke is a type of beer that is brewed in Antwerp by brewery De Koninck. It is a light, golden beer that has a slightly sweet and malty flavor. It is typically served in a distinctive, rounded glass that is known as a bolleke.
- Elixir d’Anvers – Elixir d’Anvers is a popular herbal liqueur that has been produced in Antwerp since 1863. It is made from a blend of 32 herbs and spices, including juniper berries, orange peel, and vanilla. It is often served as an aperitif or digestif.
- Filet d’Anvers – Filet d’Anvers is a type of cured meat that is similar to beef jerky. It is made from thinly sliced beef that is marinated in a mixture of vinegar, salt, and spices, and then air-dried. It is often served as an appetizer with bread or crackers or as a sandwich filling.
- Antwerpse Handjes – Antwerpse Handjes, which translates to “Antwerp Hands,” are a type of cookie that is shaped like a hand. These cookies are made from a buttery dough that is flavored with almonds and sugar, and they are often dusted with powdered sugar.
Antwerp’s nightlife scene is not to be missed. With a wide range of bars, clubs, and music venues, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. From trendy cocktail bars to underground techno clubs, Antwerp offers a diverse and exciting nightlife experience. Whether you’re looking to dance the night away or simply enjoy a few drinks with friends, Antwerp has plenty to offer. So why not head out and explore the city’s vibrant nightlife scene for yourself?
Bars and pubs in Antwerp
Antwerp is home to a wide range of bars and pubs, catering to all tastes and preferences. Visit the famous De Muze jazz bar, or try a local Belgian beer at a traditional pub like Den Engel or Kulminator.
Clubs and music venues in Antwerp
For those looking for a night of dancing, Antwerp has plenty of options with clubs like Café d’Anvers, Ampere, and Petrol showcasing the latest music and DJ sets. For live music, check out venues like Trix and Het Bos for a diverse range of acts.
Antwerp is a city that truly has it all, from its rich history and stunning architecture to its lively culture and delicious food. Whether you’re a history buff, an art lover, or simply looking for a fun and exciting destination to explore, Antwerp is sure to impress. So why not plan your visit today and discover all that this hidden gem of Belgium has to offer?