Welcome Trekkers to Antwerp, one of the most vibrant and dynamic cities in Belgium! Nestled in the heart of Flanders, Antwerp is known worldwide for its diamond trade, rich history and magnificent Gothic architecture.
As you wander through the cobbled streets of Antwerp, you will be enchanted by the unparalleled beauty of its distinct blend of old and new. The city’s architecture is a captivating mix of old medieval buildings and contemporary design, making it a treat for the eyes.
Antwerp is also a hub for fashion, food, and culture. The city is home to renowned fashion designers, Michelin star restaurants and a thriving arts scene. The M HKA (Museum of Contemporary Art) and the Museum Plantin-Moretus, both UNESCO World Heritage sites, are must-see destinations for those interested in the arts and history.
For shopaholics, Antwerp is a paradise filled with trendy boutiques, specialty shops, high-end fashion stores, and of course, one of the world’s largest diamond marketplaces. Antwerp’s main square, the Grote Markt, is an excellent location to grab a coffee or a cold Belgian beer while admiring the picturesque architecture, including the famous Brabo fountain.
Whether you are looking to admire stunning architecture, delve into the city’s rich history, enjoy a culinary extravaganza, or simply absorb its vibrant energy, Antwerp is the perfect destination for globetrotters seeking a unique and memorable travel experience.
Here are 10 things to do while you’re in Antwerp, Belgium
1. Stroll Antwerp’s Meir Pedestrian Street
Strolling down Antwerp’s Meir Pedestrian Street is an enchanting and invigorating experience, perfect for both locals and visitors alike. As you meander through the heart of this historic Belgian city, prepare to be captivated by the vibrant atmosphere, stunning architecture, and endless shopping opportunities.
Meir, the city’s premier shopping district, effortlessly blends the old with the new. Marvel at the beautifully preserved 16th-century buildings, such as the Stadsfeestzaal, which now houses an array of modern shops and boutiques. As you wander beneath the ornate facades and Baroque-style statues, you’ll discover everything from high-end fashion to local artisanal crafts, ensuring that every taste and budget is catered to.
Don’t forget to take a break from shopping and immerse yourself in Antwerp’s rich history and culture. The pedestrian street is peppered with charming cafes and delightful eateries, offering you a chance to sample delicious Belgian waffles, chocolates, and other local delicacies. Grab a cup of coffee at one of the cozy cafes along the street, or take a break from shopping and indulge in a delicious Belgian waffle with chocolate. If you’re in the mood for some drinks, there are bars and pubs where you can experience Antwerp’s nightlife.
In addition to the historical landmarks and shopping galore, Meir Pedestrian Street is also a hub of street entertainment. Enjoy the lively performances of musicians, street artists, and performers who bring a unique energy and excitement to the bustling thoroughfare. The energy and the buzz of the street make it an exciting and enjoyable experience for visitors.
2. Unveil Antwerp’s Regal Royal Palace
Visiting Antwerp’s Royal Palace is an enchanting experience that will transport you back in time to a world of opulence and grandeur. Nestled in the heart of the historic city, this architectural gem showcases the rich heritage and artistic legacy of Belgium’s vibrant past. A visit to the Royal Palace is a must for any traveler seeking to unravel the threads of Antwerp’s fascinating history.
As you approach the palace, the striking Neoclassical façade will undoubtedly leave you in awe. The intricately carved columns and statues stand as a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the artists who helped create this magnificent structure. Step inside and be prepared to be dazzled by the luxurious interiors, adorned with stunning frescoes, gilded ceilings, and sumptuous tapestries. Each room in the palace tells a story, providing a glimpse into the lives of the royals who once called it home.
Embark on a guided tour to fully appreciate the depth and significance of the palace’s history. Knowledgeable guides will regale you with tales of the monarchs who resided within these hallowed halls, as well as the political intrigues that shaped the nation’s past. Discover the hidden corners of the palace, such as the lavish Throne Room and the enchanting Mirror Hall, where the grand balls and state banquets of yesteryear were hosted.
The Royal Palace’s beautifully landscaped gardens are an oasis of tranquility amidst the bustling city. Take a leisurely stroll through the manicured grounds, where vibrant blooms and delicate fountains create a serene atmosphere perfect for relaxation and reflection. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore this majestic symbol of Belgium’s regal past during your time in Antwerp.
3. Explore Antwerp’s Grand Place Splendor
Dive into the heart of Antwerp, Belgium, and explore the Grand Place’s splendor, a captivating and bustling square that serves as the city’s beating heart. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and lively atmosphere, the Grand Place is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking to immerse themselves in the essence of this vibrant European city.
As you step onto the cobblestone streets of the Grand Place, you’ll be greeted by an impressive array of architectural masterpieces. Take a moment to admire the striking facades of the centuries-old guildhalls, each adorned with intricate carvings and statues that evoke the city’s prosperous past. At the center of the square, you’ll find the magnificent Brabo Fountain, a tribute to the legendary Roman soldier Silvius Brabo, who is said to have slain the giant Druon Antigoon and liberated the city from his tyranny.
The Grand Place also serves as a hub for Antwerp’s thriving cultural scene. Throughout the year, the square hosts a variety of events and festivals, including open-air concerts, art exhibitions, and the renowned Christmas market. No matter when you visit, you’re sure to find something exciting happening in this lively gathering spot.
Don’t forget to indulge in some of the delectable culinary delights that the Grand Place has to offer. Sample authentic Belgian dishes at one of the many local restaurants lining the square, or treat yourself to some delicious Belgian chocolates and waffles from the charming street vendors. As you savor these local flavors, take the time to soak in the infectious energy and warmth of the Antwerp people.
4. Learn about diamonds
The Diamond District in Antwerp, Belgium is a must-see destination for anyone interested in learning about the history of diamond trading. Antwerp has been known as the diamond capital of the world since the 15th century, and the Diamond District is the heart of the city’s diamond industry. Visitors can learn all about the city’s rich diamond heritage through guided tours or by simply exploring the area on their own.
The Diamond District is located in the heart of Antwerp and features an extensive collection of diamond dealers and jewelers. Visitors can explore the diamond shops and see some of the world’s finest diamonds up close, as well as learn about the history of diamond trading in Antwerp. The diamond dealers are happy to share their knowledge about the industry, and visitors can learn about how diamonds are cut, polished, and marketed.
One of the highlights of the Diamond District is the opportunity to see some of the stunning jewelry on display. This is truly a jewelry lover’s paradise, with breathtaking displays of diamonds, gold, and other precious stones. Visitors can admire the craftsmanship and beauty of the diamonds, and even purchase their own special piece to take home as a souvenir.
The Diamond District is also home to the Antwerp Diamond Bourse, which is the world’s oldest and largest diamond trading floor. Visitors can watch as diamond traders from around the world come to buy and sell diamonds in this impressive space. This is a unique opportunity to see the diamond trade in action and to witness the passion and skill that goes into buying and selling these precious stones.
Visiting the Diamond District can offer a unique insight into the history of diamond trading in Antwerp, and it can be eye-opening to learn about the intricate process of diamond cutting and polishing. Additionally, admiring the stunning displays of jewelry can be truly captivating and breathtaking. With its rich heritage, stunning jewelry displays, and unique opportunities to see the diamond trade in action, a visit to the Diamond District is sure to be an unforgettable experience.
5. Go back in time in Het Zuid
When traveling to Antwerp, Belgium, it is impossible to miss the allure of the city’s medieval history. One of the most captivating neighborhoods in the city is Het Zuid, where visitors can transport themselves back in time through the winding, cobbled streets and picturesque architecture.
As you walk through Het Zuid, you will feel as if you have stepped into a time machine. The neighborhood’s rich history is palpable in every step you take, from the towering gothic architecture to the centuries-old stone buildings. Visitors can explore the iconic 15th-century St. James’ Church, which towers above the neighborhood, and marvel at its ornate stonework and stunning stained glass.
In Het Zuid, you will also find a treasure trove of charming artisanal boutiques, traditional Belgium beer halls, and cozy cafes. As you stroll through the neighborhood, take a break to taste some of the local delicacies, such as freshly baked waffles or crunchy pommes frites. Alternatively, unwind at a cozy beer hall, where you can sample some of the area’s most famous brews, like the Trappist Ale or Lambic beer.
One of the best things about Het Zuid is its close proximity to other exciting attractions in Antwerp. Just a short walk away is the bustling Groenploin, a popular public square that is home to a variety of cultural events and festivals throughout the year. Alternatively, visitors can take a relaxing boat tour along the picturesque canals that run through the city, providing an entirely unique perspective of Het Zuid and the surrounding area.
Walking through the medieval streets of Het Zuid would provide tourists with an opportunity to appreciate the antiquity of Antwerp and learn about its history. Het Zuid is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Antwerp, and its architecture reflects the styles of the medieval and post-medieval periods, making it a fascinating area to explore.
6. Take a boat tour on the Scheldt River
As you float down the river, you’ll see some of the most iconic landmarks of Antwerp, including the magnificent Cathedral of Our Lady, the impressive Antwerp Port House, and the historic Grote Markt. This tour is perfect for those who like to take stunning photos, as the views from the water are unparalleled.
The Scheldt River itself is a sight to see. As you glide through the water, you’ll see the busy port of Antwerp, the second-largest port in Europe. You’ll also be able to witness the shipping containers being loaded onto massive cargo ships, bringing goods from all over the world to Antwerp.
Additionally, the tour guides can provide them with insightful information on the history and culture of the city, making it an educational experience as well. As you meander along the river, your guide will share stories about the rich history of Antwerp. Learn about the city’s diamond trading industry, and how it became one of the wealthiest cities in Europe. Hear tales of the famous painters who lived and worked in Antwerp, such as Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck, and Jacob Jordaens.
This boat tour is perfect for all ages and interests. Sit back, relax, and take in the beautiful sights and sounds of Antwerp from a new perspective. Don’t forget your camera, as the views are an Instagrammer’s dream!
7. Visit the Antwerp Zoo
Antwerp Zoo is an oasis of wildlife in the heart of the city. The zoo features a diverse collection of rare and exotic creatures from all corners of the globe, from majestic lions and tigers to playful primates and colorful birds.
Visitors to Antwerp Zoo can expect to be transported to far-flung corners of the world all within a single day. With over 5,000 animals spread across beautifully landscaped enclosures, the zoo is not only a fantastic opportunity to admire the beauty and diversity of the animal kingdom, but also to learn about the conservation efforts that are being made to protect these incredible creatures.
One of the highlights of the Antwerp Zoo is the newly opened Savanna. This immersive exhibit takes visitors on a journey through the landscapes of Africa, complete with acacia trees, herds of wildebeest, and towering giraffes. It’s a truly unique experience that’s not to be missed.
Beyond the animal exhibits, the zoo has plenty of additional activities to keep visitors entertained. There are a variety of restaurants and cafes where you can take a break from exploring and refuel with delicious meals and refreshments. The zoo also offers regular events and workshops throughout the year, from guided tours to animal-handling sessions.
8. Explore Royal Museum of Fine Arts
Embark on a captivating journey through the world of art at Antwerp’s Royal Museum of Fine Arts, a treasure trove of artistic masterpieces housed within a breathtaking Neoclassical building. As you step through the museum’s grand entrance, prepare to be transported into a realm of creativity and inspiration, where the works of renowned artists from across the centuries come together to tell a fascinating story of human expression.
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts boasts an impressive collection of over 7,000 artworks, including paintings, sculptures, and drawings, spanning from the early 14th century to the present day. As you wander through the museum’s airy, light-filled galleries, you’ll encounter iconic masterpieces by renowned Flemish artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and Jacob Jordaens, alongside equally captivating works by international artists like Rembrandt, Titian, and Auguste Rodin.
Take your time to explore the museum’s diverse exhibitions, which showcase not only the finest examples of Flemish and Belgian art but also fascinating works from around the globe. Discover the vibrant colors and intricate details of Baroque masterpieces, the powerful emotions conveyed through Romanticism, and the groundbreaking innovations of modern and contemporary art. Each gallery offers a unique glimpse into the world of art, enabling visitors to appreciate the diverse range of styles and techniques that have shaped artistic expression throughout history.
Enhance your visit to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts by joining one of the expert-led guided tours, which provide a deeper understanding of the museum’s collection and the stories behind the artworks. You can also participate in workshops and educational programs, making it an enriching experience for art lovers of all ages.
9. Relax in greenery around Stadspark
Stadspark is an oasis of greenery and tranquility, nestled within the bustling city. This sprawling park boasts an impressive array of flora and fauna, including colorful flowers, fragrant herbs, and towering trees that provide shade and coolness on warmer days. The well-maintained gardens are a sight to behold, with vibrant blooms arranged in neat rows, offering the perfect backdrop for a peaceful stroll.
As you wander through the park, the sound of bubbling fountains and chirping birds provide a soothing soundtrack, keeping your mind at ease and your senses relaxed. The park is also home to a number of stunning sculptures and artworks, adding an air of sophistication and culture to this natural oasis.
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and bask in the serenity of Stadspark. Whether you’re looking to unwind after a long day of sightseeing or simply looking for a peaceful retreat, this park is the perfect destination. Bring a picnic basket and blanket and sit beneath the shade of a tree, or take a leisurely stroll and admire the carefully curated gardens. No matter what you choose to do, Stadspark offers a chance to connect with nature and find a sense of calm in the heart of the city.
10. Taste the treats
Antwerp, the diamond capital of the world, is also known for its mouth-watering Belgian chocolates. If you’re a true chocoholic, visiting the chocolate shops of Antwerp is a must-do activity. Neuhaus and Burie are just two of the numerous chocolate shops that will indulge your sweet tooth.
Neuhaus, founded in 1857, is one of the oldest chocolate shops in Antwerp. It’s the perfect place to begin your chocolate journey as their pralines are a must-try! The chocolate-covered strawberries and raspberries will give you a burst of flavor with every bite, and the dark chocolate truffles will transport you to chocolate heaven.
Burie is one of the best places to go if you’re looking for traditional Belgian chocolates. Established in 1850, their creations are made with locally sourced ingredients, including the famous Belgian Callebaut chocolate. Whether you’re looking for milk, dark or white chocolate, Burie has got you covered. Their chocolate bars are among the best in the city and their specialty chocolates, such as the Florentines, are sure to leave you wanting more.
There’s nothing quite like the flavor of Belgian chocolate, and the chocolate shops of Antwerp offer some of the best chocolate in the world. Whether you want to sample the traditional recipes or try something new, visiting Neuhaus and Burie is sure to leave you with a sweet taste in your mouth and a new appreciation for Belgium’s chocolate heritage.
From its awe-inspiring architecture and rich history to its world-class art and vibrant culture, Antwerp has proven itself to be a true gem of Europe that captivates and inspires at every turn. From the medieval charm of the old town to the world-renowned diamond district, Antwerp has a unique character that is sure to leave you captivated. You can explore the city’s many museums, galleries and cathedrals, or simply soak up the atmosphere at one of the many cafes and bars that line the cobbled streets.
Before departing from this charming city, be sure to indulge in one last feast of authentic Belgian cuisine, savoring the delicious flavors of local dishes like stoofvlees, moules-frites, and of course, those irresistible Belgian waffles. Don’t forget to pick up some exquisite Belgian chocolates or other local souvenirs to share with loved ones back home, ensuring that the spirit of Antwerp remains with you long after your journey has ended.
As you reflect on your time in Antwerp, it’s impossible not to be moved by the warmth and hospitality of its people, who welcome visitors with open arms and genuine enthusiasm. The city’s unique blend of history, art, and culture creates an atmosphere that is both captivating and inviting, encouraging visitors to return time and time again to explore its many wonders.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor, the magic of Antwerp is undeniable, and its allure will undoubtedly beckon you to return and continue exploring its hidden treasures. Until then, hold onto the memories you’ve created and let the spirit of Antwerp, Belgium, live on in your heart.