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Antwerp is a large city and the capital of the eponymous province in the region of Flanders in Belgium. At a population of just over half a million people, it is the second largest city in Belgium (after Brussels), and it has a major European port. Due to its long and culturally rich history, the city of Antwerp houses many interesting historical buildings from different historical periods, as well as a lot of interesting museums. Antwerp is also known as the global diamond trade hub - more than 70% of all diamonds are traded in Antwerp. Antwerp has grown to become a trendy city, attracting many Flemish and foreign artists, writers, intellectuals, and actors. This is reflected in the city's many trendy bars and shops. Antwerp is a city with many faces. While it may not be as historically preserved as Bruges or Ghent, it is a very dynamic city, offering a perfect mix of history and present-day modern life. The overwhelming friendliness of the people of Antwerp and their innate penchant for good food and good living, combined with their low stress lifestyle, makes it a desirable and relaxing place to visit. (less...) (more...)
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Points of Interest in Antwerp
- Antwerp City Card With the Antwerp City Card you can visit all museums and three monumental churches over a 48-hour period. It also features a 25% discount on attractions, sightseeing and bicycle rentals. In the free guide you find vouchers that you can use to enjoy benefits on typical Antwerp and Belgian products such as chocolate, chips and much more. Price: €28.
- City Hall/Old Market Square (Stadhuis/Grote Markt). This is the historical center of town. The market square is surrounded by the typical medieval guild houses you can find in most Flemish historical towns. The city hall is designed in special architectural style with a combination between Gothic and early Renaissance. This style is almost exclusively found in this region of Europe.
- Red Light District. Like other cities such as Amsterdam and Hamburg, Antwerp also has its own red light district. If you want to visit, consider going during the day. When Villa Tinto setup, Antwerp's little red light district became Europe's most High Tech Brothel. If you intend to be a patron of the Red Light District, be wary of women who beckon you towards their kamers and invite you in without discussing a price. In many cases, these women will charge a greatly inflated rate once they have you inside their kamer. Even if you have no intention of partaking in the festivities, it is worth while just to actually see the spectacle that the district is. 200 women all in their own window dressed for action. It is also worth being wary of beggars in the Red Light District. While few of these are particularly hostile, they can be bothersome and should be ignored. Antwerp keeps a constant Police presence there, expect to see them. With the constant Police presence there is very little illegal activities.
- Diamond District. This is the district south and southwest of the central station. As the name already indicates, this is an area where you will find countless jewellery shops, as well as the Antwerp Diamond Exchange, arguably the most important financial centre of the world's diamond industry. The district is also interesting from an ethnic and cultural perspective, since the diamond industry is for at least 50% in the hands of the city's Jews. Antwerp has a rather large population of Jews (about 50,000 people), a lot of them Orthodox.
- The hidden street Vlaeykensgang. Connects Hoogstraat, Oude Koornmarkt and Pelgrimsstraat. It is a real street, but only accessible through unassuming medieval front doors in the streets. The medieval equivalent of a gated community. It now houses nice, but informal restaurants and chic, discrete houses. A must see!
- The Jewish Quarter (Joodse wijk). Contact the Jewish community for a guide — One of the main Jewish Centers in the world with the beautiful 'Van Den Nest' ans 'Bouwmeester' synagogues.
- The Antwerp Ruien. You can take a guided tour of the underground city of Antwerp
Museums and galleries
- Plantin Moretus Museum, Vrijdagmarkt 22-23, ☎ +32 (0)3 221 1450 or +32 (0)3 221 1451. The home of 16th century bookbinder and printer Christoffel Plantin. Regarded as one of the finest museums dedicated to printing in the world. Its extensive collections of important books and printing presses along with its role in spearheading the technology of printing have seen it added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
- Vleeshuis. Literally, this is the "Meat house". It was built as the guild hall for the butchers. Every day tonnes of meat switched owners here. The building is famous for the original masonry and is made to resemble stacks of bacon (switching between white stones and red bricks). It now houses a museum, of which the main part comprises a musical instrument collection, including some examples of old harpsichords built by the local Ruckers family.
- MAS. Large museum that tells about Antwerp is the world. You can visit the building for free, with an very wide view across Antwerp on the rooftop. Visiting the museum requires an entry fee of €5.
- Extra City Kunsthal, Eikelstraat 25. ECK is an art space for contemporary visual arts, based in an old bottling factory. Its shows are mostly experimental, but always intriguing.
- Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedraal). One of the most impressive and largest Gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe, built in 1351 it stands over 400 ft tall. It also houses some of Rubens' most famous paintings.
- Saint Paul's Church (Pauluskerke). A beautiful mixed gothic and baroque church formerly part of a nunnery. Noted for its Calvary monument. It is a short distance north of the Grote Maarkt on Zwartzustersstraat.
- Carolus Borromeus Church. Unlike the cathedral, this is a Baroque church. With a safe and minimal exterior, you would not know the beautiful decorations (done by Rubens' studio) are inside. Located on the picturesque square Conscienceplein.
- Antwerp Zoo. One of the oldest zoos in the world, with over 4000 animals and lots of 19th century design and architecture.
- Aquatopia. Reasonable aquarium in the basement of the Astrid Park Plaza hotel, tickets also available from the Zoo.
Other buildings of note
- The Begijnhof (beguinage). A sort of medieval monastery for women. The well-kept gardens are great photo opportunities.
- Boerentoren (Farmers' tower). Now called "KBC-tower" after the company that owns it, this skyscraper (97m) in the historical center of town is said to be the oldest one on the European continent. It was built at the beginning of the 1930s. It is located at the end of the Meir shopping street. There is an observation deck on the 25th floor (6E entry including an exhibition downstairs), from which you get fantastic views of the city, including the nearby Cathedral. The tower is renowned for its typical art-deco sculptures. The term skyscraper is a little bit irrelevant if you compare it to other buildings that were erected on the American Continent, for example the Empire State Building in New York, built in the same period, has 381m.
- Bourla theatre (Bourlaschouwburg). 19th century neo-classicist theatre building. Charming from the outside and even nicer if you manage to get in for a theater show or a concert. It houses a spectacular pastry salon inside the large cupola above the theater itself. Great place to have tea with cake or waffles, of course.
- Central Station. Even if not arriving or leaving by train the station is well worth a visit. Platforms are on three levels, all constructed beneath the very impressive original structure.
- Het Steen (The Stone). This is a rather small medieval castle on the banks of the river Schelde. It used to function as a city fortification and now houses a naval museum (open air only, inside closed). It is the starting point of the Wandelterrassen, a scenic boardwalk with a cafe/restaurant at either end.
- Rubenshuis, Wapper 9-11, ☎ +32 (0)3 201 1555. The house of painter Peter Paul Rubens is now a museum of his life and artwork Entrance fee: €6, Students under 26 €1, other students free. Free audio guide (recommended). Bring light earphones to plug in to the audio guide..
South of Antwerp
Since the restoration a couple of years ago, the south of the city is known as the trendy part. The centre of this piece of the city is a huge square called de gedempte zuiderdokken which simply means, 'the filled-up southern docks'. In the sixties, this was an abandoned trade dock. They filled up the dock in an attempt to expand the city. The high crime rate in the region made it a very cheap place to live. This was a blessing for the local art world, which started to flourish, making the region trendy and safe over the years. Today, it is known as a "yuppie stronghold".
- MUHKA, Leuvenstraat 32, ☎ +32 (0)3 260 99 99, e-mail: email@example.com. Museum of contemporary art.
- FotoMuseum, Waalsekaai 47, ☎ +32 03 242 93 00, fax: +32 03 242 93 10. Renovated in 2004.
- Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Royal Museum of Fine Arts), Leopold de Waelplaats, ☎ +32 (0)3 238 7809. Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten boasts of an excellent collection of paintings from the 15th century right up to the 20th century. The museum's permanent collection has masters such as Peter Paul Rubens, Brueghel, Van Eyck, Anthony Van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens, and James Ensor to name a few. Closed for heavy reconstruction work through early 2017. Some of the collection will be temporarily displayed at other museums in Antwerp and nearby cities on a rotating basis during construction.
- Zuiderpershuis, ☎ +32 (0)3 248 7077. It is on the "kaaien" and is a center for intercultural art.
- Het Muntplein. A place where graffiti artists can make artwork without being chased by police. There are often very nice creations. Graffiti contests occur on a regular basis.
- Palace of Justice (Justitiepaleis). There are actually two of these. The old one is a 19th-century red brick building on the Britselei. The new one is a dominant, modern, white building in the south of Antwerp (Bolivarplaats). You can hardly miss it once you're there. The architect of this building was Richard Rogers, who also built the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Millennium Dome in London.
- Zurenborg neighborhood. A little off the beaten track. This neighborhood in the south east of Antwerp (near the railway station Antwerpen-Berchem, look for 'Cogels-Osylei' on the map) is known for its eclectic, sometimes rather bizarre 19th century architecture. Consider taking a tram or bicycle to get there.
- Middelheim Park. The center of Antwerp is not very big, and once you cross the ring road, you will mainly see suburbs. There are some nice parks outside the ring road The Middelheim Park is one of them. It houses a permanent open-air exhibition of modern sculpture, including work by famous artists such as Rodin, Hans Arp, Henry Moore, and many others.
The origins of the name of Antwerp comes from "aan de werpe", which is Dutch for "at the throw", referring to where the river throws its sand. The name also has a funny anecdote saying it comes from "Hand werpen", which translated is "throwing hands". In the official flag, the castle "het Steen" and the hand of Antwerp are shown.
In the 16th century, Antwerp was one of the most important financial centers of the world, where traders from all over Europe and Asia sold and bought their goods. After the siege of Antwerp in 1585 by the Spanish, this role as a financial center was taken over by Amsterdam. Nevertheless, since the 19th century and especially the 20th century, Antwerp has made a serious economic comeback.
- Take St. Anna pedestrian tunnel (Sint-Annatunnel) to the left bank of the river Schelde. On the left bank, you have a beautiful view on the city center, so make sure you bring your camera! Besides that, there is not very much to see here, but it's very quiet compared to the city centre. If you don't feel like walking back again, the premetro will take you back to Groenplaats in under 5 minutes.
- Pelgrom, ☎ +32 (0)3 234 0809. This building combines both an impressive bar in the basement, plus the 'poortershuis', which is a replica of the house of businessmen in Antwerp during the 17th century.
- Antwerp by Bike — Discover Antwerp with a bike. The inner city is perhaps too crowded, but the green outskirts are really worth visiting. For bike rental, see  and "Vélo" . "Antwerp by Bike"  has a charming tour with all the highlights of Antwerp, like the cathedral, the Butterfly Palace and the MAS museum (from July till September). For other tours, see  or )
Guided Tours and Cruises
- Port of Antwerp — Take a tour of one of the largest ports in the world. The second largest port in Europe and 5th largest in the world. 2.5 hours long. €12 for adults, €10 for students.
- Ghostly Nighttime Tour, (Antwerp Ghostwalk). Take the ghost tour and learn about the dark history of Antwerp.
- Jan Plezier Boottochten. Themed cruises including the pancake cruise (pancake boat), the spareribs cruise and the shrimp cruise.
- Zomer van Antwerpen (Summer of Antwerp,), ☎ +32 (0)3 224 8528. A great festival that takes places during the whole summer in the whole city. Cheap or free activities such as dancing, theater, performances, circus, movies in open air, and much more are organized. Reserving is often a must (especially on free activities).
- Laundry Day. Is a large dance festival in Antwerp.
- As with most Flemish towns, you can find many fritkoten in the city. These are places of which the Belgians are really proud of. Here you can buy the famous Belgian fries and other fried food for a reasonable price.
- Pitta/Shoarma — These shops are often open through the day and are the last ones to close.
- Broodje/Boterkoken (sandwiches) are local and inexpensive. Try one with mussels and curry (2,85€) at Vishandel van Bladel (Schrijwerkerstraat 25), or one with crevettes and sause andalouse (3,50€ for a double one) at Diksmuise Boterkoeken, in the basement of the ugly shopping center (Schoenmarkt)
- People often go eat a "smos", a sandwich with several layers of garniture in it. The name refers to the mess you make when trying to eat it. You can find them in several stores like Panos or Foodmaker. The most famous "smoskes" according to students are found at "Jean-Pierre". You can find it opposite to the university (Grote Kauwenberg 41).
- Thai Thai Simple, ☎ +32 477 292 554. Amerikalei 72. Fresh authentic thai food in an old mansion on Amerikalei.
- Sombat, ☎ +32 3 226 21 90. Vleeshuisstraat 1. Thai haute cuisine
- De Keyserlei (the street that runs west from Central Station) is a street with a varied choice of restaurants. The side streets on the north side of De Keyserlei offer even more options, with Lebanese, South-African, Mexican, Italian and Vietnamese (to name but a few) restaurants all rubbing shoulders with each other. With so many restaurants in a small area the prices tend to be pretty competitive.
- Chinatown takes up a couple of streets on the north side of Koningin-Astrid-plein (the large square to the north of Central Station). Look for the 2 lions guarding the entrance to Van Wesenbekestraat. Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai and Nepalese restaurants are here as well as lots of Chinese options.
- Da Giovani (Jan Blomstraat 3-5-7-8), ☎ +32 (0)3 226 7450. A cheap Italian restaurant. It is popular among students, because of their 20% discount. A second "Da Giovanni" is on the Keyserlei, near the central station.
- Tropicos (at Tabakvest and Hopland), ☎ +32 (0)3 231 9964. Known for its lively South American atmosphere, caipirinha cocktails, and tasteful Brazilian Mexican kitchen.
- Wok & Tandoor, ☎ +32 (0)3 248 9595. A show-restaurant serving wok and tandoori food. It is prepared in front of you by cooks in a spectacular way. It's an all-you-can-eat buffet with very reasonable prices. It is in the south of Antwerp close to the new Courthouse.
- Try one of the Indian restaurants on Lange Herentalsestraat
- The Hilton Hotel has a restaurant overlooking the Groenplaats.
- Rooden Hoed Corner of Oude Koornmarkt and Tempelstraat. The oldest restaurant in Antwerp, specializing in seafood, especially mussels. Very popular with locals, but few tourists, so you know it's good. Mains starting at €20.
- Mata Mata & Pili Pili (African Restaurant and Cocktail Bar), Hoogstraat 44, 2000 Antwerpen, ☎ 03 213 19 28. from 5pm 7 days. Lively and colourful restaurant with a range of dishes from across the African continent and a particular focus on West African cuisine.
- Bourla, Graanmarkt 7. A "Havanna style" restaurant in an old theatre. They serve a mix of Belgian and French style food. Not cheap, but excellent value for money €25-€50 for a 3 course meal incl. wine and drinks.
- Aahaar (Vegetarian Indian Cuisine), Lange Herentalsestraat 23, 2018 Antwerpen (Minutes from Antwerp's main train station Central Station), ☎ +32 3 226 00 52. Mon to Fri 12:00-15:00 / 17:30-21:30 Sat & Sun 13:00-21:30. Serves only vegetarian Indian cuisine, including a buffet with a daily changing menu. €9 Unlimited Buffet.
Wherever you are in Antwerp, you will always be near a pub or another drinking facility. Not surprising for a city that has the most pubs per capita in the world. In Antwerp pubs do not have a closing hour.
- Den Engel — Most famous traditional cafe in Antwerp. Situated at Grote Markt.
- De Vagant — A famous Belgian cafe serving about 300 kinds of Jenever.
- De Muze — A jazz café located in Melkmarkt. Relaxed atmosphere and live (jazz) music played on a regular basis. Beyond typical Belgian beers, coffee lovers can enjoy a true Italian Espresso or, if willing to drink something bigger, a "Koffie Verkeerd".
- Caffénation — Most friendly bar in Antwerp. They have very nice specialized coffee creations and a cozy outdoor with lots of green. Good music. Say hi from "TheKitt" for a special, double shot cappuccino.
- Kulminator, Vleminckveld 32. Kind of off the beaten path, this bar has a neat hole in the wall atmosphere and an amazing selection of beer, (around 700 beers, with 200-300 aged over 10 years) ranging from expensive to about average. All in all, a great time, and a great value.
- Paeters Vaetje, (in the Cathedral Square). Here you can order more than one hundred different kinds of beer. In summertime, you can also sit outside.
- De Pelgrom, (Pelgrimsstraat). A cafe that is in an old underground storage place right next to the vlaaikesgang with medieval finishes.
- Kassa4, located in the student neighborhood, on the Ossenmarkt. Very popular student pub with a good choice of alternative music. Can be very crowded at times.
- Den Hovenier — Typical Antwerp pub near the Sint-Jacob Church.
- Café Beveren, near the river. Enjoy the automatic Decap Organ.
- Stanny — Non-smoking café close to the station of Antwerp-Berchem.
- Copa Cava — a cava bar on the vlasmarkt, with a cosy atmosphere and which serves relatively cheap and exclusive cava from Barcelona.
- La Treille — intimate wine bar and shop at Haarstraat 23, close to the Grote Markt, serves and sells authentic wines (straight form the vineyard) out of Italy, Belgium and France.
- t Vervolg -- between the "groenplaats" and the "Grote Markt", very friendly prices mixed with house & RnB always ensures there's something going on Monday through Saturday evening.
- SIPS. A cocktail bar.
- Witzli-Poetzli (Blauwmoezelstraat 8 | Meir From 10:00 daily) The Witzli-Poetzli is a very small café in the center of city center. It is next to our great cathedral. In the summer there's a unique terras in the shadow of the cathedral. In the winter it is a cosy place where people come to drink coffee and read a newspaper.
- Café Den Joker. Kleine Markt 16. The one and only comedy bar in Antwerp. A lot of Belgian stand-up comedians started their career in this small bar. Comedy organized weekly. Also improvisation sessions and quizzes. Often in Dutch.
- Petrol. The most trendy club and concert venue at the moment. Located on a deserted industrial terrain south of the city, somewhat away from the city center. You might need a bicycle or a taxi ride to get there, unless you don't mind a long walk.
- Noxx. The most famous and exclusive club of Antwerp with the biggest names in the DJ world performing. You can find it close to the Kinepolis Antwerp ('Metropolis'), just outside the center of Antwerp.
- Café d'Anvers. The most infamous club in Antwerp. Situated right smack dab in the middle of the red light district. Known for its progressive music.
- Café Local. Located in 't Zuid. Free entrance on Thursdays.
- De Koninck (commonly called "Bolleke") — Beer that is brewed in Antwerp.
- Antwerpse handjes — Little biscuits or chocolates in the shape of a hand. Invented by a Jewish baker in 1932.
- Elixir d'Anvers — A liquor based on plants.
- The Antwerp Six — Clothes designed by Ann Demeulemeester, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk Bikkembergs, Dries Van Noten, Marina Yee en Dirk Van Saene.
- The main shopping area is the Meir, a street that stretches out from the Keyserlei (close to the central station) to the Groenplaats. It is one of the most famous shopping streets in Belgium. Don't forget to visit the mall Stadsfeestzaal (between Meir and Hopland), which was beautifully restored and reopened in 2007 after it was partially destroyed by a fire ten years earlier. You will see a lot of gold on the ceiling, and all sorts of stores. The streets Hopland and Schuttershofstraat are the shopping terrain of the rich and famous with exclusive fashion shops like Cartier, Hermes, Scapa, Armani, etc. The Huidevettersstraat, Nationalestraat, and Kammenstraat (all located close to the Meir) are also very interesting shopping streets to visit.
- Purchasing a diamond at one of the many tourist jewelry shops around the Central station can be an unpleasant experience. Like any big diamond city in world, there are many tourist trap diamond shops around the actual diamond district centre, though it is fair to say that if you are prepared to barter you can purchase jewellery here for significantly less than in countries such as the UK. Wealthy diamond buyers should do their investigative shopping online prior to visiting Antwerp. If you're less wealthy and someone asks you to bring back some diamonds from Antwerp, buy diamond-shaped chocolate pralines at e.g. Burie (Korte Gasthuisstraat 3), Château Blanc  (Torfbrug 1) or Del Rey (Appelmansstraat 5).
- Trendy shopping can be done in the Kammenstraat and surroundings. In this area, you will also find the Fashion Museum  and many shops of famous Antwerp fashion designers, such as Walter van Beirendonck and Dries van Noten.
- The Kloosterstraat has many antique shops, with often bizarre items for sale.
- Chinatown can be found about 300m north of the Central Station (see also Eat). A lot of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese products can be found here.
- Weekend Markets take place on the Theaterplein Square (follow Wapper or Meistraat south from the Meir) in front of the Stadsschouwburg theatre. The markets are very popular with stalls offering everything from food (fruit and veg, meat, fish, nuts, cheese ethnic specialities) to household goods to bicycles to antiques to clothes. Sunday tends to see a lot more stalls compared to Saturday. Take a break from browsing at the stall at the centre of the square, where you can buy a cheese roll with a glass of chilled cava to wash it down, most convivial!
- At Ploegstraat 25 you can find a "give-away shop", where you can bring and take stuff as you please without any monetary interaction. Open M-F 2PM-6PM.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Antwerp on Wikivoyage.