• Travel Planning Guide

Should You Visit Antwerp?

Are you thinking about visiting Antwerp, Belgium? Here's what you need to know before planning your trip.

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  • Is Antwerp Worth Visiting?

Reasons to Visit Antwerp

  • In the Summer?
  • In the Autumn?
  • In the Winter?
  • In the Spring?

What is Antwerp most famous for?

  • What is Antwerp most known for?

What is the most famous sight in Antwerp?

  • How touristy is Antwerp?

How long should I spend in Antwerp?

Is antwerp worth visiting.

Antwerp is worth visiting for one to three days so that you can explore everything that the port city has to offer. We first visited in 2022 and have returned several times. During our time here, we fell in love with its authenticity and countless chocolate shops. Antwerp is an industrial port city that is a cultural, culinary, and shopping destination in Flanders. The city is larger than many other nearby cities and it has a large and impressive train station that offers connections to many nearby areas. There's a bustling old town area that brings together locals and tourists who dine, shop, and explore. Visitors enjoy the city's cathedrals and architecture, as well as popping in the many chocolate shops and waffle stands.

Antwerp

Nightlife With its large student population and young vibe, you'll find an active nightlife scene around town. Many of the the clubs and bars are concentrated in the docklands, but you'll also find places to hang out everywhere around town.

why to visit antwerp

Food People with a sweet tooth will enjoy the chocolates and biscuits that make this city famous. You'll also find plenty of fries and casual dining options to choose from. Local favorites include mussels and fish and chips, and of course, you must try the beer!

Authenticity Antwerp has an authentic vibe where you can experience local culture, cuisine, and activities without the large tourist crowds of other popular destinations.

Is Antwerp worth visiting in the Summer?

You'll find the weather to be very nice here during summer with average temperatures around 17°C (63°F).

The peak season for travel is summer in Antwerp, so expect to see more tourists than usual. Even though this destination is not very touristy, in the high season it's busier than usual because this is when most visitors come here.

You'll also find it quite easy to get around on foot, because this is a very walkable port city, especially in the nice weather. This is a great time of year to wander through the museums, enjoy the city's energy, and admire the historic sights. Also, you'll be able to grab some drinks at a bar.

Is Antwerp worth visiting in the Autumn?

Autumn is the shoulder season for travel in Antwerp. This destination is not very touristy, and in the shoulder season it can become fairly quiet.

You'll find the weather to be very nice here during autumn with average temperatures around 12°C (54°F).

Autumn is a great time of year to explore the numerous museums and landmarks around town. They are fun for the whole family as well great for couples. Soaking up that old town charm in the autumn is one of the favorite activities of visitors. The quaint scenery combined with the weather this time of year is quite nice. You'll find plenty to do during autumn, as you'll be able to browse around the old town, browse through museums, and discover the big city activities.

Is Antwerp worth visiting in the Winter?

This is the low season for travel in Antwerp. This destination is not very touristy, so in the low season it can become fairly quiet.

The weather in Antwerp can be quite cold during winter, and averages around 3°C (38°F). But be prepared for much lower temperatures, too.

During this season it's fun to experience the famous sights and museums, the cuisine, and the historic old town. Also, you can enjoy the evening activities and soak up the big city atmosphere.

Is Antwerp worth visiting in the Spring?

The weather in Antwerp can be quite cold during spring, and averages around 8°C (47°F). But be prepared for much lower temperatures, too.

Spring is the shoulder season for travel in Antwerp, which means slightly less visitors than in the peak season. This destination is not very touristy, and in the shoulder season it can become fairly quiet.

Soaking up that old town charm in the spring is one of the favorite activities of visitors. The quaint scenery combined with the weather this time of year is quite nice. This is a great time of year to browse the shops, browse the museums, and admire the historic sights. Also, you can check out the nightlife.

Things to Consider Before Visiting Antwerp

Not As Family-Friendly While there are some family activities, it's not as child-friendly as other destinations.

The Cost Depending on your budget, schedule, and travel style, Antwerp might be an expensive destination for you. You can find out the travel costs for Antwerp here or see if Antwerp is expensive here .

Antwerp is most famous for its historic train station, festive chocolate shops, decadent waffle stands, and down-to-earth old town. The port city is very popular for its shopping. It's also known for museums, nightlife, and historical sights. And many travelers come for the food, as well. It is often described as cultural, historical, youthful, vibrant, authentic, and genuine.

The most popular sight in Antwerp is Antwerpen-Centraal . You can see prices and costs for this and other sights in Antwerp on our travel costs page .

Or, see tickets, activities, and tours for Antwerpen-Centraal and other attractions here .

How touristy is Antwerp? Is it a popular port city to visit?

Antwerp is an off-the-beaten-path port city that many travelers overlook. Here are some of the most popular activities and tours. (Prices in US Dollars)

  • 2-Hour Private Walking Tour in Antwerp: $198
  • Antwerp Private Walking Tour With A Professional Guide: $247
  • Antwerp Bike Tours: $29
  • Private tour: Highlights & History of Antwerp: $91
  • Walking Tour: Highlights of Antwerp: $16
  • Legends of Antwerp Private Walking Tour: $91
  • Guided Bike Tour: 2 Hours Highlights of Antwerp: $29
  • Private Tour: The Dark Side of Antwerp: $91

The ideal length of time for a trip to Antwerp is one to three days. Since Antwerp has a variety of activities such as shopping, most people need this much time to see and do everything here.

If you have a specific amount of time for your trip, see our advice about how much time to spend here: Should I spend 1, 2, or 3 days in Antwerp? and Should I spend 3, 4, or 5 days in Antwerp? .

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Full Suitcase Travel Blog

24 Best Things To Do in Antwerp (+Insider Tips & Map)

By Author Jurga

Posted on Last updated: October 27, 2023

24 Best Things To Do in Antwerp (+Insider Tips & Map)

Visiting Belgium’s second-largest city and wondering what to see and do in Antwerp ? In this article, we share the very best places to see and top things to do in Antwerp, coupled with our insider tips and advice. Find out!

First, let me tell you that it’s a great choice to visit Antwerp! In my opinion, Antwerp is one of the most beautiful cities in Belgium and well worth visiting !

We live nearby and I just love Antwerp, so I might be a bit biased. But to me, Antwerp is a perfect mix of history and modern trendy places; it’s a city that has an amazing vibe and keeps on reinventing itself. I’m certain that you’ll love it here as well and I hope that our tips will help you plan a more memorable visit to Antwerp!

In this article, we share the very best things to see and do in Antwerp . It’s an insider’s guide to the best places that you have to see if visiting the city for the first time.

In addition to the most famous landmarks, we also included the best new additions, things to do in Antwerp that you won’t find in the older tourist guides. At the bottom of this article, you can also find the map indicating the best things to do in Antwerp , as well as our suggested walking route. We also share some suggestions on where to stay .

I hope that this will not only inspire you to come to visit Antwerp, spend a bit more time here, and explore deeper but will also help you to get the most out of your trip. Find out!

TIP: If you are short on time and want to experience the best of Antwerp in a nutshell, I recommend joining a city tour with a local. Here are the best-rated 2-3 hour tours that I found:

  • Historic Antwerp walking tour
  • The highlights of Antwerp by bike
  • Private walking tour

Things to do in Antwerp Belgium

Best things to do in Antwerp – how to use this guide

If you only have limited time in Antwerp, you will probably want to see the most famous landmarks that the city is known for. Below are the main highlights, most popular things to do in Antwerp . I listed them in the same order as you would visit if you start walking or biking from the Central Station.

The tasty additions to the best places to see in Antwerp – Antwerp Chocolate Museum and Antwerp City Brewery – are listed in the end. These are not a must but will make your visit to the city even more memorable.

To help you better plan your time in the city, I also created a map with a sample city walk itinerary to help you get the best out of your time in Antwerp.

Even if you are visiting Antwerp for just one day, you can see most of the best places. However, please note that if you want to actually visit (and not just see the exterior) every place on this list, you will need at least two days.

TIP: Renting a bike or joining a guided bike tour is a great way to see the best of Antwerp, especially if you are short on time and want to cover a lot of ground.

Without further ado, here are the best things to do in Antwerp :

1. Central Station – Antwerpen Centraal

The central station of Antwerp is one of the world’s most beautiful train stations. The building’s exterior is very impressive, but to truly appreciate it, you have to see it from the inside.

The most impressive is the main hall (main entrance on the side of Koningin Astridplein) and also the big hall with a clock as seen from the ground level.

Central Station is one of the places you must see in Antwerp. Don’t miss it! If you arrive in Antwerp by train, you will start your city visit here anyway, so don’t rush outside when you arrive and take some time to look around the building.

Antwerpen Centraal - one of the most beautiful train stations in the world

2. Antwerp Zoo

Established in 1843, Antwerp Zoo is the oldest animal park in Belgium and one of the oldest in the world. This historic zoo is located in the center of Antwerp, right next to the Antwerpen Centraal railway station.

A visit to the zoo is the perfect way to escape the hustle and the bustle of the city, while at the same time being right in the heart of town.

Antwerp zoo can be visited the whole year as there are indoor as well as outdoor attractions. There are all kinds of activities and shows and you can easily spend a good couple of hours here. Don’t miss it if you are visiting Antwerp with kids !

Antwerp Zoo is considered one of the best things to do in Antwerp for locals and tourists alike. However, if you only have one day in Antwerp, I think that there are other places that are worth your time more. But if you have 2-3 hours to spare, it’s well worth a visit.

TIP: In winter, Antwerp Zoo hosts a beautiful light festival . It’s amazing, especially in the evenings. So if you visit Antwerp in the winter, I really recommend the light show at the zoo (best visit after it gets dark, of course). Check out this guide for more practical info and things to do in Belgium in winter .

Antwerp zoo is the oldest animal park in Belgium

3. Diamond District

Antwerp has been known as the diamond capital of the world since 1447 and it still is today.

Right next to Central Station is the famous diamond district of Antwerp , the place where rough and polished diamonds are traded. You can’t really visit the trading markets, but there are plenty of shops selling diamond jewelry… I bet you have never seen so many diamonds and jewelry in one place!

The majority of diamond stores are concentrated in a triangle of three streets to the west of the Central Station: De Keyserlei, Pelikaanstraat, and Vestingstraat. Most diamond shops are open every day except Saturday.

TIP: If you want to buy diamonds, make sure to bargain. Negotiating the price is normally not done in Belgium, but Antwerp’s diamond stores are an exception to the rule.

In fact, it might be worth it to make a trip to Antwerp if you are considering buying diamonds. On a bigger purchase, you can save so much that your whole trip to Belgium will easily pay back for itself.

Best things to do in Antwerp - diamonds in the Diamond district

4. City Park

Antwerp City Park is another great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy city life.

It’s a nice place to visit with kids or if you have some time to spare. But, to be completely honest, it’s not an absolute must among the things to do in Antwerp. So – as it often goes – it all depends on how much time you have in the city.

The park isn’t big and it’s quite centrally located, so it’s quite easy to check it out on your way between the station and the old town.

Explore Antwerp City Park by bike

5. Meir Shopping Street

The Meir shopping area encompasses the streets surrounding the area from the Cathedral all the way to the Central Station.

Meir is a prime shopping destination in Belgium , but there is more to it than the shops. Thanks to its historic architecture and prestigious character, the Meir makes shopping feel special.

Not only do the buildings make it worth a visit, but the offerings are also first-rate. You’ll find all the major, international brands here. Don’t miss Antwerp’s Stadsfeestzaal , an exclusive shopping center in the beautifully restored city festival hall. It’s one of the hidden gems of Antwerp that most tourists don’t know about.

Meir Antwerpen

6. The Rubens House

Closed for renovation (likely until at least 2026)!

If tourists visit just one museum in Antwerp, they usually choose the Rubens House . World-famous Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens lived in this palazzo with his family. He created many of his paintings in this house, in the center of Antwerp.

The museum has an interesting collection of Rubens’ works but also shows how the master lived and worked. It doesn’t require much time and it’s really worth a visit.

On the other hand, there are other really interesting museums in the city, so if you are only visiting Antwerp for a day, you’ll have to choose. The Rubens House is certainly one of the top choices.

For practical information, please check the official website of the Rubens House .

TIP: You can also see lots of Rubens’ paintings inside the Antwerp Cathedral (see below). Also the beautifully-renovated Royal Museum of Fine Arts also has some of his works. In fact, this museum is a wonderful alternative to the Rubens House while it remains closed. You can find more information about it further below.

The Rubens House is one of the best places to see in Antwerp

7. Belgium’s Best Boutique Shopping

After leaving the Rubenshuis to continue in the direction of the Graanmarkt . It’s a nice little square and it’s usually amazingly quiet compared to the surrounding streets.

If you are interested in (window) shopping, then you will love the Schuttershofstraat and the Huidevettersstraat . Here, you can find some of the world’s most luxury boutique stores like Hermès, Chanel, or Louis Vuitton to name just a few.

Antwerp is also the fashion capital of Belgium and home to one of the best-known fashion designer schools in Europe. Some of the best Belgian designers also have their shops in Antwerp. If you are looking to buy some unique clothing, this is the place to be.

And if you are looking for some really good Belgian chocolate, you’ll also find some of the best brands in this area. Look for Neuhaus, PIERRE MARCOLINI, Godiva, or Leonidas, and pass on the chocolate that you find at the souvenir shops.

Shopping in Antwerp - Fratelli Rossetti luxury shoe store on Huidevettersstraat in Antwerpen

8. Plantin – Moretus Museum

If you like history and somewhat unusual museums, you will enjoy a visit to Plantin – Moretus Museum . This is my personal favorite museum in Antwerp and I highly recommend it to everyone.

It’s the only museum on the Unesco World Heritage list and is the only remaining printing workshop and publishing house in the world, dating back to the 16th century. You can admire the beautiful buildings, the richly decorated interior of this mansion, see an impressive library, and the printing house. You also learn so much about the art of book printing. This is such a fascinating place and it exceeded all my expectations.

If you have some time left in between other great things to do in Antwerp, check it out! Platin-Moretus Museum is also a great place to visit in Antwerp when it rains.

Practical information: Platin-Moretus Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 AM to 5 PM. You can easily spend two hours here. More info here .

Things to do in Antwerp - museum Plantin-Moretus

9. Groenplaats

Antwerp’s Green Square is the perfect place for those who want to laze around on a warm summer’s day under the sun and enjoy watching the city from the comfort of a cozy café.

If you are looking for McDonald’s or Starbucks, you can find them here, together with many local cafes and restaurants. A little tourist train departs from Groenplaats in summer and is fun for adults and children alike.

Antwerp has an old tradition of open markets and you can find the daily flower market on the Groenplaats. The Antwerp Christmas market is also (partially) located on this square.

Groenplaats in Antwerp

10. Antwerp Cathedral of Our Lady

Antwerp Cathedral of Our Lady ( Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal ) is the highest Gothic building in the Low Countries. It’s an iconic building, but also a treasury with an impressive collection of major artworks, including several paintings by Rubens.

You can join the guided tour of the Cathedral or explore it at your own pace. There is an 8 EUR fee to visit the Cathedral for adults (kids are free). If you’re coming for the mass, the entrance is free of course, but you won’t be able to see the best parts. There’s also a mass in English; it’s held on Saturdays at 5 PM.

At the moment, the exterior of the Cathedral is being renovated and you can’t see it in all its glory. However, you can still see all the masterpieces inside.

Good to know: The Cathedral is open daily, usually from 10 AM to 5 PM. Opening hours differ on the weekends. For more info, see their website .

Antwerp Cathedral of Our Lady - Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedraal

11. Grote Markt

Grote Markt is the main square of Antwerp and is one of the most beautiful town squares in Europe. The magnificent 16th-century City Hall (Stadhuis) dominates the square surrounded by the beautiful Guild Houses .

If there is one place you absolutely have to see in Antwerp, it’s the Grote Markt.

You cannot overlook the Brabo Fountain , right in the center of the square. According to the legend, Brabo killed a giant who demanded a high toll for each ship that wanted to enter the city. If the ship’s crew wouldn’t pay the toll, their hands were cut off. The little Brabo fought the giant, cut his hand, and threw it in the river. The fountain’s statue depicts this story that is used to explain the origins of the name of the city – Antwerpen – hand werpen meaning ‘to throw a hand’.

Grote Markt is only empty on cold winter mornings; the rest of the time – it’s always busy here. In summer, it’s buzzing with tourists and locals, and lots of events take place here as well.

Filled with cafes and restaurants, Grote Markt is the place that wakes up around noon. If you come here first thing in the morning, you can often have the whole place to yourself. But its lively atmosphere is part of the charm, so we prefer to visit here in the afternoon.

Grote Markt in Antwerp Belgium is not to be missed

12. Het Elfde Gebod

The café Het Elfde Gebod (The 11th Commandment) can be found on the Northern side in the shadow of the Cathedral and is worth a short stop for a drink.

It might look strange to include a café in the ‘best things to do in Antwerp’ list, but it’s such a special place that you really should check it out when in Antwerp. The 11th Commandment has a spectacular interior filled with saints, angels, saints, pulpits, etc. and has kept its authenticity for over 40 years.

You will find many traditional Belgian beers here, including the local Antwerp De Koninck beer (‘t Bolleke), the famous Trappist beers, and more. Non-alcoholic drinks are also available, of course.

Het Elfde Gebod cafe in Antwerp Belgium

13. Saint Carolus Borromeus Church & Hendrik Conscience Town Square

Saint Charles Borromeo Church (Carolus Borromeukerk) is one of the most beautiful churches of Antwerp. It’s slightly hidden and out of sight, located on a charming little town square, Hendrik Conscienceplein .

You have to walk through some narrow cobblestoned streets to see the magnificent facade of this 17th-century Jesuit church.

Antwerp is the most distinctive Baroque city of the Low Countries and Saint Carolus Borromeus church is one of the places you really should see in Antwerp. It’s impressive from the outside, but its rich interior is not to be missed either!

Right opposite the church, you can see Hendrik Conscience Library. This library is home to one of the nicest hidden gems of Antwerp – Nottebohmzaal.

Saint Charles Borromeo Church (Carolus Borromeus Kerk) in Antwerp

14. Vleeshuis

Vleeshuis (literal translation ‘the meat house, also known as the Butcher’s House) is the oldest guildhall in Antwerp. The 500-year-old building is very impressive from the outside and is worth seeing if you are in the area.

Inside, you can find a museum featuring all kinds of musical instruments. This is a great place to learn about the centuries-old history of music and dance in Antwerp. There is also an exhibition where you can see how the church bells are made. It’s quite interesting!

Plus, it’s worth visiting inside to see the interior of this unique building.

For practical information and opening times, consult the official website of the museum .

Vleeshuis in Antwerp

15. Het Steen Castle & Antwerp Story

Het Steen is Antwerp’s oldest building. It was built at the beginning of the 13th century and served as a city fortress. This impressive castle lies on the Scheldt river and is just a short walk from the Grote Markt.

In the past, Het Steen was home to the Maritime Museum, later – a child-friendly meeting space with all kinds of workshops for kids. Finally, the city has decided to make better use of this beautiful building and it now serves as a visitor center and a nice place to learn more about the history of Antwerp.

Het Steen is now home to one of the newest attractions in Antwerp – the Antwerp Story . I thought that it would be a bit comparable to the Historium in Bruges , but it’s actually a very different concept. You walk through 11 different rooms, each showcasing different facets of Antwerp in original ways.

Antwerp Story is much more focused on the city as it is today and lots of exhibits are videos of the locals telling stories about the city, etc. While it’s interesting to see, I really wonder if it will appeal to many international visitors… To tell the truth, we found it a bit random and disappointing, and much prefer the concept like the Historium in Bruges which showcases the past of the city.

In addition to the interactive museum, you can enjoy nice views from the panoramic roof terrace of Het Steen, and also the building itself is really impressive to see. There is also a nice store inside where you can buy all kinds of local specialties from the city.

All in all, we highly recommend visiting Het Steen – for the building, the views, and the shop – all of which can be visited for free. But I don’t think you’ll be missing that much if you skip the Antwerp Story, the only part that actually requires a ticket.

This is now one of the best places to visit in Antwerp, so be sure to check it out!

Good to know: Het Steen and the visitor center is open daily from 10 AM to 6 PM. For more information, see here .

Het Steen castle - Antwerp's oldest building

16. Antwerp Ferris Wheel ‘The View’

The View Antwerpen, aka Giant Ferris Wheel, is a ‘traveling’ Antwerp attraction. Sometimes you can find it just outside the central station, next to the Zoo, and sometimes next to Het Steen, by the river.

For a few years, it seems to have settled on the Steenplein next to the river, where the views are really nice. However, as I am updating this article, it moved back to the station due to the works that take place next to the river… I indicated both locations on our map, but you can’t really miss it since you’ll likely pass both of these areas when sightseeing in Antwerp.

Either way, a ride on the Antwerp Giant Wheel gives you a different perspective of the city. We prefer it when it’s next to the river as you can see the river on one side, the historic old town right at your feet, and Antwerp harbor in the distance. But it’s also nice in the center – it’s just another perspective.

The ‘giant’ wheel isn’t actually that high, but because the buildings in Antwerp are quite low as well, you have good far views of the entire city.

While this is not an absolute must-do in Antwerp, it’s actually quite enjoyable. And since a ride only takes a few minutes of your time, I think it’s worth it. Because the cabins are closed, it’s something nice to do in Antwerp in any weather and any season.

Good to know: Antwerp Ferris Wheel is open daily, from 11 AM to 11 PM. At the moment of the latest update, a ticket costs 9 euros (5 euros for kids), and usually, you get 4 rounds.

The View Antwerpen ferris wheel - one of the best tourist attractions in Antwerp Belgium

17. Scheldt River and Antwerp Harbor

The harbor has always been of utmost importance to the city of Antwerp. So make sure to take a short walk next to the river Scheldt and get the feel of what this port-city is truly about. Antwerp is Europe’s second-largest seaport and ranks among the world’s top ten. You can usually see some large container ships in the distance.

The cruise ships visiting Antwerp are also docked at the new cruise terminal next to the Steen fortress, right in the center of the city.

If you have a couple of hours to spare, consider a boat tour in Antwerp harbor , or simply take the waterbus for a short ride to St Anna on the other side of the river – see below. But if you only have a day in the city, this is not a must.

TIP: There are now also great boat connections from Steen Castle to the other side of the river by waterbus . And so if you have more time, you could take a boat to St. Anna Beach on the Left Bank ( Linkeroever ). You can then take a nice walk along the river, and have lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants there.

The waterbus runs frequently, the ride to St. Anna takes less than 10 minutes (just one stop), and you don’t have to reserve in advance. It’s something nice to do if you are visiting Antwerp in summer and have at least two days in the city.

Schelde River in Antwerp - view from Het Steen castle

18. St. Paul’s Church

St. Paul’s Church is impressive both from the outside as well as from the inside. The 18th-century Calvary with 60 life-sized statues is not to be missed. But also inside the church, there are hundreds of statues and lots of masterpieces by famous Flemish painters such as Rubens, Van Balen, and Van Dyck. Definitely worth a short visit!

We first discovered this hidden gem when exploring some off the beaten path places in Antwerp with kids. But I think it’s one of the unique landmarks that deserves a mention on this list of must-see places in Antwerp as well.

Note that the church is only open in the afternoon from 2 PM to 5 PM, and only in the high season (summer and Christmas).

St. Paul's church in Antwerp

19. Het Eilandje District and MAS Museum

The modern red building of the MAS museum in the new trendy Het Eilandje district has quickly become one of the landmarks, a must-see place in Antwerp.

MAS has many interesting expositions, but the interior of this modern building is just as impressive. Make sure to also go all the way to the top of the building. The rooftop terrace of MAS has some of the best views of Antwerp.

Practical information: The entrance to the museum building and the rooftop terrace is free of charge; the rest of the museum requires a ticket. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM. More info on their website .

MAS museum in Antwerp

20. The Port House

The Port House of Antwerp ( Havenhuis Antwerpen ) is yet another recent addition to Antwerp’s skyline. When it was first opened in 2016, it was called the New Port House. It’s now the head office of the Antwerp Port Authority and is simply called the Port House.

It is one of the most impressive buildings I have ever seen and it’s fascinating to watch this ‘diamond ship’ change in a different light.

Visits inside are possible but require advance reservation and it’s not straightforward (at the moment of the latest update, only group reservations are possible – see here for more info). However, the building is the most impressive from the outside anyway, and therefore easy to visit at any time of day or even at night when it’s nicely lit.

TIP: Because the New Port House is located a bit further away from the city center, it’s easiest to visit with a bike tour or with a rental bike. Some harbor boat tours pass here as well.

New Port House of Antwerp

21. Red Star Line Museum

Red Star Line Museum is a trip back in time with the stories of people who sailed from here to find a new life in North America. You can also climb to the top of the tower for nice views of ‘t Eilandje district and the harbor.

Together with the Plantin-Moretus Museum (mentioned higher above), this is one of my personal favorite museums in Antwerp, also a good place to visit with kids. A visit here is very touching and eye-opening. Believe me, you’ll never look at emigration with the same eyes after visiting the Red Star Line Museum.

This rather recent museum is, in my opinion, one of the best things to do in Antwerp! Count 1.5-2 hours for a visit.

Practical information: The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 AM to 5 PM. More info on their website .

Red Star Line museum in Antwerp

22. Royal Museum of Fine Arts

The newest addition to the best places to see in Antwerp is the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (or KMSKA – Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen ). I say ‘new’ because it has recently reopened its doors after eleven years of renovations.

This is now one of the best art museums in Antwerp and one that’s definitely worth considering if you have a few hours to spare in the city. It could also be a good alternative for the Rubens House while it remains closed for renovations.

Some of the best pieces not to miss at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts include Rubens’ “The Adoration of the Magi”, a collection of several paintings by James Ensor, Jean Fouquet’s “Madonna Surrounded by Seraphim and Cherubim”, and Jan Van Eyck’s “Saint Barbara”.

But there are many more incredible masterpieces at this museum. And the way it’s been renovated and the artworks are presented, makes it one of the best art museums in Belgium. Recommended!

Good to know: The museum is open daily from 10 AM and has a late opening on Thursday evenings. You can reserve a time slot in advance, but normally, you can just get your tickets there. For more info, see their website . This is one of the few Antwerp attractions that is also open on Monday!

KMSKA is located a bit further away from other main sights and landmarks in Antwerp, so we didn’t indicate a walking route here. But it’s really just a small detour and absolutely worth it.

Rubens painting The Adoration of the Magi at KMSKA museum in Antwerp, Belgium

23. Chocolate Nation

Chocolate Nation is the largest Belgian Chocolate Museum in the world. Opened in 2018, this unique and interactive museum is one of the newest additions to Antwerp’s tourist attractions. It has quickly become one of the most popular places to see in Antwerp.

Interesting fact. The very first Belgian chocolate factory opened in Antwerp in 1831. This new chocolate museum brings history to life and is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Antwerp for all types of visitors, no matter your group size or interests.

Everyone I know who visited Chocolate Nation really enjoyed it, so it’s not just ‘for tourists’. The delicious chocolates that you get to taste (or take home with you) make the visit even better, of course.

We recently took our kids here and the whole family had such a great time! The exhibitions are really well done, with lots of interaction where you can see, feel, smell, and taste chocolate while learning all about it in a fun way.

Good to know: Chocolate Nation is located very close to the Central Station and is open every day (see their website for more practical info). Check it out when in Antwerp!

Antwerp Chocolate Nation - top places to visit in Antwerpen Belgium

24. Bolleke Beer & Antwerp City Brewery De Koninck

Belgian beers are world-famous and every city and region has its own special beers that they are proud of. The most famous beer in Antwerp is Bolleke from De Koninck Brewery.

If you like to taste a traditional local beer when visiting Antwerp, be sure to ask for ‘ Bolleke ’ at any café or restaurant. If you prefer light beer (which is actually stronger), you may want to try Tripel d’Anvers – also from the same brewery.

In addition – if you want to know more about these and other Antwerp- and Belgian beers, you can also visit the Antwerp City Brewery De Koninck . Here, you can learn all about the history of Belgian beers, taste Antwerp city beers, and see the entire brewing process.

Here you can find more information and reserve your visit . The interactive tours are self-guided, so you can visit when it suits you. Every tour includes beer tasting as well (two beers).

Good to know: Antwerp City Brewery is open daily except on Mondays. It’s located a bit further from all the other major tourist sights, but still within walking distance from the rest (about 30 minutes walk from the old town). We indicated the location on our map below, but didn’t include a walking route here since there are so many options, depending on where you’re coming from.

TIP: If you don’t want to walk, the easiest way to get here is by taking the metro/tram. You can take line #15 from Groenplaats in the Old Town or line #2 from Antwerpen Astrid Metro near the Central Station.

Bolleke De Koninck beer is the local beer from Antwerp Belgium

Best things to do in Antwerp – suggested city walk and map

Below, you can find our custom-made city map featuring the best things to do in Antwerp.

I indicated each location mentioned in this post, as well as the suggested walking route for the main sights and attractions.

How to use this map:  Use your computer mouse (or fingers) to zoom in or out. Click on the icons to get more information about each place. Click the arrow on the top left corner for the index. Click the star next to the map’s title to add it to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’. If you want to print the map or see it in a bigger window, click on ‘View larger map’ in the top right corner.

Where to stay in Antwerp

If you want to explore the best that Antwerp has to offer, stay for 2-3 nights. This will give you more time to see the best of Antwerp, visit a few museums, do some shopping, experience some of the best food in Belgium, and maybe also find some hidden gems as well.

If you are looking for the best-located hotels for sightseeing in Antwerp , here are our recommendations.

For the very best location in the heart of Old Town , stay close to Groenplaats/ Antwerp Cathedral. Here are some of the best hotels in this area:

  • €€€€€ Gulde Schoen The Suite Hotel – a charming boutique hotel in the heart of the old town.
  • €€€€ Hilton on the Groenplaats – one of the best-known, historic hotels in Antwerp.
  • €€€ Hotel Rubens-Grote Markt – one of the best price/quality/location 4* hotels in the old town.
  • €€ HotelO Kathedral – a very nice 3* hotel.

If you don’t mind walking to the main attractions and rather stay close to where you arrive by train, you may like Radisson BLU Astrid Hotel or NH Collection Antwerp Centre . Both these hotels are located near the central station, the Zoo, and close to many shops and restaurants. Usually, these hotels are cheaper and offer better value than comparable hotels in the old town .

LEARN MORE: Best Areas to Stay in Antwerp

TIP: Using the map below, you can compare hotels, apartments, and short-term rental accommodations in Antwerp city center . Simply insert your travel dates and group size, and you’ll see the best deals available for your stay. Check it out!

So, this is our guide to the very best things to do in Antwerp . This is in no way a complete list of everything that Antwerp has to offer, but if you are visiting the city for the first time and looking for must-see places in Antwerp, then this list is a good place to start.

TIP: If you have more time and are looking for more things to do in Antwerp, take a look at our guide to some amazing lesser-known places in the city that most tourists never see (but that are well worth your time). Check it out via the link below!

READ ALSO: Amazing Hidden Gems of Antwerp

Enjoy your trip!

Antwerp FAQ

Antwerp in Belgium is best known as the diamond capital of the world and is the second-largest port in Europe. In the 16th century, Antwerp was one of the biggest and richest cities in the world, and many buildings and art in the city date from Antwerp’s Golden Age. Antwerp is also home to one of the best fashion design schools in Europe and is a great city for culture, shopping, and dining.

Antwerp is a city that truly has something to offer to everyone! With its glorious past reflected in the most beautiful historic buildings and world-famous art, but also modern architecture, interesting museums, and some of the best shopping and dining in Europe, Antwerp is more than worth a trip. It’s one of the most diverse cities in Belgium with a great vibe and fantastic atmosphere. In fact, if you visit just one city in Belgium, Antwerp would be our top recommendation.

If you only have a few hours in Antwerp, be sure to visit the Old Town with the Cathedral and the main town square Grote Markt. Also walk to the Scheldt River and Het Steen castle. If you visit just one museum in Antwerp, most people choose the Rubens House, but we also highly recommend the Plantin-Moretus Museum.

You can see the main landmarks of Antwerp in one day, so if one day is all you’ve got, Antwerp is still worth a trip. However, ideally, you plan at least 2 full days for Antwerp. This will give you more time to explore the city beyond the Old Town, visit a few of the best museums, check out some hidden gems, do some shopping, dine at many great restaurants in town and try local beers.

Antwerp is a year-round destination and you’ll enjoy a visit in any season. For the best weather and fewer crowds, visit in May – June or September – October. July and August tend to be busy, but that’s also when the city really comes to life with various outdoor events, concerts, etc. December is also a nice month to visit Antwerp for Christmas shopping, a great holiday atmosphere at the Christmas market.

In general, Antwerp is a very safe place to visit and we never even think twice before walking around the city center at night. If you stay in the main tourist areas around the Old Town, you’ll feel totally safe. That being said – just as in any other big city – use common sense, watch out for pickpockets in the busy areas, and not wander around areas that you don’t know on your own in the dark.

Antwerp is located in the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium. In general, everyone in Flanders also speaks English, so you will have no difficulties communicating in English in Antwerp. Most museums and tourist attractions have signs and info in four languages: Dutch, French, German, and English. Most restaurants will also have an English menu.

More travel inspiration for visiting Antwerp:

  • For families: Best of Antwerp with Kids (fun things to do – not just for kids!)
  • By bike: Discover Antwerp by Bike
  • Winter visit: Antwerp Christmas Market

Belgium travel guides:

  • Belgium Itinerary – how to see the best of Belgium in 3-4 days
  • Interesting to know: Belgium Facts
  • Best Things to Do in Brussels
  • Manneken-Pis Story
  • Is Brussels Safe
  • Where to Stay in Brussels
  • Best Things to Do in Bruges
  • Bruges Belfry Tower
  • Bruges Christmas Market
  • Dinant: Best Things to Do in Dinant
  • Bastogne: Best Things to Do in Bastogne
  • WWI sites: Ypres & WWI Battlefields
  • WWII sites: Bastogne War Museum
  • Winter: Best Christmas Markets in Belgium & What to Expect if Visiting Belgium in Winter
  • Spring: Hallerbos Bluebell Forest
  • Summer: Brussels Flower Carpet
  • For families: Best Theme Parks in Belgium

READ ALSO: Best Things to Do in Amsterdam

If you found this post helpful, don’t forget to bookmark it and share it with your friends. Are you on Pinterest? Pin this image!

Insider's guide to the best things to see and do in Antwerp Belgium

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Wednesday 29th of November 2023

This info is great! Are the markets you mention on everyday and do you have info on how to get to Antwerp from Brussels by train? :)

Hi Sek, no, there are no daily markets in the center. The best one is on Saturday and Sunday on the Theater Square and there are a few more, also mostly on weekends. In the summer, there are more options. You can find an overview here. As for the train, it's very simple - you can take a direct train to Antwerp from Brussels (South, Central, North Stations, Airport, etc.) and there are at least a few trains every hour.

Sunday 2nd of April 2023

Thank you for this guide.. Found something to visit for me (chocolate museum) and my bf (beer museum) 😃. Gonna be a good 2 days in Antwerp!

Tuesday 4th of April 2023

Have a great trip!

Wednesday 16th of November 2022

Thank you for your guide. We are visiting soon but on a Monday! I am a bit worried as it seems at lot of places are closed on Mondays! Can you recommend places to go?

@Jurga, massive help thank you! I have put the fine arts museum on the itinerary 😁

Hi Heloise, don't worry - many places in Antwerp will be open on Monday too and most landmarks you just see from the outside anyway. I see that the recently reopened and beautifully renovated Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp is also open on Mondays (see their website for more info). I haven't been myself yet, but everyone says it's beautiful. So maybe something for you? I just checked some tours and indeed, many of them don't run at the moment or don't run on Mondays. There's a private walking tour that's available daily. I also see that the Hard Rock Cafe is open daily if that's your thing. But you'll find some local restaurants open on Mondays too. Also, most shops should be open too. Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip!

Saturday 16th of July 2022

Thank you so much for the best guide I’ve seen online .. I have been researching places to visit with my family and this was the best(:

Tuesday 19th of July 2022

Glad to help, Manal. Have a great time in Antwerp!

Monday 3rd of January 2022

This is a wonderful guide to Antwerpen! Thank you so much, it’s the best guide I’ve ever seen on the Internet (and I’ve checked far and wide). I’m going to Antwerpen for 3 days for my birthday and I’m sure this guide will help me a lot. Thank you again!

Glad to hear that you found this useful, Arianna. With three days in Antwerp, be sure to visit a few museums (Plantin-Moretus is well worth it, and we also really like the Red Star Line, to mention just a few) and also take a look at our guide to some of the hidden gems in the city. It's a great city to explore deeper, and there are so many nice restaurants and shopping opportunities too. I'm sure you'll have a great time here. Happy travels!

why to visit antwerp

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Antwerp (Antwerpen/Anvers in Dutch/French) is Belgium’s second city, biggest port and capital of cool. It has long been a powerful magnet for everyone from fashion moguls and club queens to art lovers and diamond dealers. In the mid-16th century it was one of Europe’s most important cities and home to baroque superstar painter Pieter Paul Rubens – as many a museum will regularly remind you. Despite many historical travails thereafter, and severe WWII bombing, Antwerp retains an intriguing medieval heart with plenty of café-filled cobbled lanes, a riverside fortress and a truly impressive cathedral. Today, however, Antwerp’s top drawcards are its vibrant fashion and entertainment scene, along with its startling architectural and cultural contrasts.

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Attractions

Must-see attractions for your itinerary.

Museum Plantin-Moretus

Museum Plantin-Moretus

The medieval building and 1622 courtyard garden alone would be worth a visit, but it's the world's oldest printing press, priceless manuscripts and…

Belgium, Antwerp, garden in Peter Paul Ruben's house

This delightfully indulgent 1611 mansion was built as a home and studio for celebrated painter Pieter Paul Rubens. It was rescued from ruins in 1937 and…

Interiors of Notre dame d'Anvers cathedral, Anvers, Belgium

Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal

Belgium’s finest Gothic cathedral was 169 years in the making (1352–1521). Wherever you wander in Antwerp, its gracious, 123m-high spire has a habit of…

Museum Mayer van den Bergh

Museum Mayer van den Bergh

Styled as a 16th-century town house, this superb place was actually constructed in 1904 as one of the first museums in the world built around a single…

Snijder-Rockoxhuis

Snijder-Rockoxhuis

Combining the impressive 17th-century houses of artist Frans Snijders and of Antwerp lawyer, mayor and Rubens-patron Nicolaas Rockox, this recently…

Brabo fountain and medieval houses in the Grote Martk in Antwerp. (Photo by: Loop Images/UIG via Getty Images)

Grote Markt

As is the case with every great Flemish city, Antwerp’s medieval heart is a classic Grote Markt (market square). Here the triangular, pedestrianised space…

KMSKA

In a monumental neoclassical building topped with winged charioteer statues, KMSKA holds a world-class collection of artistic masterpieces. However, the…

500px Photo ID: 83525221 - The MAS ( museum ) in Antwerp, Belgium. It has an observation deck on the 10th floor witch you can visit every day for free until midnight in the summer and 10 in the winter. It gives you a great view over Antwerp city and its harbour.

Opened in 2011, MAS is a 10-storey complex that redefines the idea of a museum-gallery. Floors are designed around big-idea themes using a barrage of…

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Winter in Antwerp is designed to capture the magic of the season. The addition of a fairytale forest this year hopes to enhance visitors' sense of wonder.

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A guide to Antwerp, Belgium's striking second city

​An arresting clash of old-world grandeur and industrial power plays out across Belgium’s unpretentious second city, home to historic dockyards, award-winning cuisine, captivating museums and some of the country’s best beer.

Antwerp has long been at the centre of things. Belgium’s handsome northern city grew wealthy on the profits of its port, trading since the 16th century in glittering diamonds, priceless works of art and the spices and spoils of assorted empires. The Port of Antwerp remains extraordinary: a  Blade Runner -esque noirscape of industrial architecture, where the rusted hulks of old trade ships sit side-by-side with space-age modern buildings, presided over by a steel canopy of creaking girders and looming cranes. Nothing encapsulates the port’s double-edged character like the Zaha Hadid-designed Havenhuis, where a futurist, diamond-like building glitters atop a historic former fire station. In the midst of it all are remnants of the port’s pre-industrial life — lonely church towers, frozen windmills and, most charming of all, the village of Lillo: a pocket of Old Flanders marooned among reed beds and duckboard walkways.

Today, most visitors arrive in Antwerp by train, with the city’s heritage on show in the cavernous marble hallways of Antwerpen- Centraal railway station, a masterwork of art nouveau architecture. This style crops up throughout the city, most notably in the fashionable district of Zurenborg, where eye-catching houses are testament to a boom during the late 1800s. Antwerp is no stranger to fortune, of course; before that, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the city was famed for the riches of its citizens. A wealth of grand Flemish buildings survive from this era, including the home of Peter Paul Rubens, the masterly painter whose work remains the pride of Antwerp.

Despite this grand past, the city is a straightforward kind of place, where bustling cosmopolitanism and commercialism can still be felt everywhere. Car-boot traders cheerfully set up shop in the grand squares of the historic core, and the boxy post-war architecture south of the train station makes a humble setting for the world’s most lucrative diamond district.

The character of the city also reveals itself through food: even with a galaxy of Michelin stars, the favoured local dish remains, reassuringly, a steaming pot of moules with a bucket of frites. This unpretentious spirit pervades the city, whether you’re dining by lamplight in the rarefied surrounds of the historic stock exchange or rubbing shoulders with the bright young things of Belgium’s most vibrant nightlife scene.

Antwerp’s broad, leafy boulevards and outdoor cafes might evoke those of Paris, but in the cobbled, 16th-century alleyways, Flemish townhouses and sprawling, retrofuturist port, Antwerp shows its true face: one which is all its own.

Things to see and do

1. Cathedral of Our Lady Among the treasures in Antwerp’s Gothic cathedral are two vast Peter Paul Rubens triptychs — including his masterwork, The Elevation of the Cross. Little chapels branch off from the ambulatory, adorned with kaleidoscopic stained glass that floods the marble in technicolour on sunny days. You can also worship at the altar of Belgian beer at De Plek, the cathedral’s bistro-bar. 

2. Museum Plantin-Moretus For a vivid illustration of the wealth that flowed through Antwerp in the 16th century, visit the former home and workshop of printing magnate Christophe Plantin. Gorgeous rooms, decked out in dark wood, harbour magnificently wellpreserved artifacts of the printing revolution, including the world’s two oldest surviving printing presses, dating from around 1600. There are also priceless manuscripts, including the grandly illuminated Wenceslas Bible. 

3. Royal Museum of Fine Arts (KMSKA) Reopening in September 2022 after being closed for over a decade, the neoclassical building that houses the Royal Museum of Fine Arts has had a top-drawer makeover and will once again be the best place in Antwerp to admire the works of the Flemish Masters. Collection highlights include Hans Memling’s Portrait of a Man with a Roman Medal and Jean Fouquet’s Madonna Surrounded by Seraphim and Cherubim. 

4. Rubenshuis The stereotype of the artist starving in a dark garret wasn’t for painter Peter Paul Rubens, as his former home and workplace attests. Buying the grand property in 1610, he transformed it into something akin to an Italian palazzo, with a neoclassical courtyard and even a miniature ‘Pantheon’ room. Rubens’ own works are also exhibited here, of course; meet the artist’s gaze in his self-portrait. 

5. Red Star Line Museum Antwerp’s most captivating human-interest museum chronicles the lives of some of the two million passengers who departed Europe for the US on the Red Star Line ships, including Albert Einstein and Irving Berlin. The museum outlines the struggles and indignities faced by the passengers, who endured stringent medical examinations and rough living conditions on the journey. 

6. Mas Museum This angular, red sandstoneand- glass confection is the city’s largest museum, with its varied exhibitions spanning everything from Antwerp’s food scene to pre-Columbian art. Those interested in the mechanics of museums will be fascinated by ‘A Look at the Collection’, which tells the human stories behind chosen objects, including who made, used and collected them. 

How to explore like a local 

1. Ulminator Hundreds of Belgium’s famous beers can be sampled at this under-the-radar bar, where the elderly proprietors will only deign to let you in if you ring the bell then utter the password, “I am here to taste beer.” Inside are board games and a quiet atmosphere. One for the purists.

2. Exotic Market The rather vaguely named Exotic Market sees locals descend every Saturday on the Oudevaartplaats, not far from the Rubenshuis, for a worldwide street food tour. Alongside Belgian classics (shrimp croquettes and  stroopwafels ) are stalls selling French cheese and charcuterie, Moroccan small plates, Mexican quesadillas and more.

3. De Roma A sumptuous art deco auditorium is the centrepiece of this 1920s former cinema, which now serves as a multipurpose performance venue. Local bands and singers grace the stage along with international acts on tour; indie films are shown; and there are expos and events on issues as diverse as refugees and mental health. 

4. Seef Brewery There are several great brewery tours to choose from in Antwerp (including at the legendary De Koninck), but Seef’s is the best. Owner Johan Van Dyck is a colourful character who will talk you through his revival of Antwerp’s historic Seefbier, a cloudy buckwheat blonde known as ‘working man’s champagne’. The tour is followed by tastings, naturally. 

Where to eat

Fish a'Gogo It’s a crowded field, but this legendary street shack just off the Grote Markt does the best fish and frites in Antwerp. Perch at a tiny sea-blue wooden table and chair and order the house specialities — mussels in white wine sauce or shrimp croquettes, served with that most Belgian of accompaniments: chips and mayonnaise. Oysters, when in season, are also a fantastic choice. 

InVINcible This relaxed restaurant has a reassuringly slim menu: a creamy pancetta pasta, rich bouillabaisse and lamb sausage are the mainstays, alongside what may just be the finest steak in Antwerp. Opt to sit at the bar surrounding the open kitchen for a lively, sociable dining experience. 

Fiera The grand surroundings of Antwerp’s former stock exchange form the backdrop of this elegant city-centre restaurant, all ornately carved stone archways and wood panelling worthy of a cathedral. Just as spectacular as the setting is the food, including mouth-melting kobe beef and truffle pappardelle.

Where to shop

Luddites Books and Wine Urbane travellers will feel right at home in this charming bookshop, which has a decent English-language selection among its cookery books, novels, poetry and assorted non-fiction. Shopping done, head upstairs to the laid-back bar, where you can enjoy a glass of wine while leafing through your purchases. 

The Chocolate Line Self-described ‘shockolatier’ Dominique Persoone puts a modern, vibrant spin on traditional Belgian chocolate. The purple selection boxes offer a rotating medley of Dominique’s creative offerings, which include treats infused with matcha and bergamot, calamansi and pine nuts, and more. They all look and taste like tiny works of art. 

Dries Van Noten The ‘Antwerp Six’ are the most prominent movers and shakers on the city’s world-renowned fashion scene. Among them, Dries van Noten has garnered particular appeal for his colourful threads. His flagship shop is on Nationalestraat, just a few steps from the ModeMuseum, where you’ll find an informative exhibition of the finest work by Antwerp’s designers. 

Where to go for nightlife

Jazzcafe de Muze Hang out with Antwerp’s hepcats at this glorious, cavernous jazz bar, which resounds with live music five nights a week. Pull up a chair at one of the wooden tables, spread across two floors, and soak up the lounge-like atmosphere while sampling a wide selection of beers, wines and spirits.

Davai If you need a break from Belgian beer, look no further than this voguish cocktail bar, decked out with wooden pallets, potted plants and bare bulbs. The menu spans dozens of classic and creative cocktails; try the oriental blossom, with rum, elderflower and ginger. 

Ampere Antwerp’s clubbing scene outperforms that of sedate Brussels, and Ampere is one of the city’s finest institutions. The emphasis is on house and techno, with world-leading international acts such as Nina Kraviz and Joris Voorn appearing alongside Belgian veterans like Marco Bailey. Workshops in music production, video and photography are held here during the day.

Where to stay

Yust Combining sociability with an eye for design, this ultra-stylish hostel has bookcases lined with arty books, plush banquettes bookended with houseplants and a breezy rooftop garden complete with sofas. The dorms are charming, too, with recessed wooden bunks and cosy window seats. Large private rooms are also available.

Hotel Rubens Down a quiet side street off bustling Grote Markt, Hotel Rubens promises the best of both worlds. The rooms and stylish communal areas have an airy, modern feel that belies their historic surroundings, and some overlook the baroque tower of St Paul’s Church. 

Botanic Sanctuary This exquisite hotel, set in a 12th-century monastery and surrounded by botanical gardens, is the epitome of peace and quiet. Rooms feature splendid wooden beams and period windows, but are otherwise modern and understated, with an earthy colour palette and in-room greenery. There are four excellent fine-dining restaurants, including traditional Belgian offerings at 1238. 

Getting there and around

The quickest and most comfortable way to get to Antwerp from the UK is to travel by Eurostar from London St Pancras to Brussels and then take one of the many regular trains onwards to Antwerp. 

Average journey time: 2h40m.

British Airways , Brussels Airlines , Lufthansa and Ryanair fly from UK airports, including Manchester and Heathrow, to Brussels, but not directly to Antwerp. 

Average flight time: 1h20m.

It’s possible and enjoyable to explore the majority of Antwerp’s attractions on foot. For sights further afield, use the efficient De Lign transit network — tickets, bought online or at stops, can be used on buses and trams — or Antwerp’s waterbus. Bikes can be rented using the Velo network. delijn.be portofantwerpbruges.com velo-antwerpen.be

Summer is pleasant, with plenty of sun and temperatures generally falling between 20C and 25C. Rainfall is a possibility year-round, and in fact is slightly higher in the summer months, so a waterproof layer is always advisable. Spring and autumn are relatively mild, while December is also a good time to visit as the traditional Christmas markets open.

More information

Antwerp Tourism .  The Rough Guide to Belgium & Luxembourg , £9.99

How to do it

Eurostar offers three nights in Antwerp at the NH Collection Antwerp Centre hotel B&B, including trains from London, from £310 per person.

Published in the September 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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19 Must-Visit Attractions in Antwerp

Brabo fountain

Known as the cool kid on the block in Belgium, Antwerp combines all the charms of a historic port city with all the joys of a fashionable frontrunner. Its 20 must-visit attractions include grand artist residences, architectural masterpieces—both old and new—and a bunch of exciting museums.

MAS

2. Red Star Line Museum

Red Star Line Museum

Both the MAS and the Red Star Line have become large attractions in Het Eilandje , an abandoned port district until a decade ago. As the news and the excitement about the MAS project spread, coffee bars, artist ateliers and repurposed warehouses flowered to comfortably overtake Het Zuid as the hippest district in the city.

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Het Eilandje, Antwerp, Belgium

Even without a specific restaurant in mind, a stroll down Het Zuid ’s terraces at dinner time has the mouth watering in seconds. Trendy restaurants and cafés dot the historic neighborhood’s wide boulevards and squares. The afternoon running up to the meal is well spent exploring the FoMu photo museum, the stately Museum of Contemporary Art, or a couple of its many art galleries.

Het Zuid, Antwerp, Belgium

3. The Port House

The Port House | © Bobo Boom / Flickr

Vintage hunting in the Kloosterstraat

Antiques and vintage are the Kloosterstraat’s forte. Visitors will find the oldest and oddest objects in the shops lining this street, from wooden rocking horses to winged designer lamps and seas of retro chairs.

Kloosterstraat, Antwerp, Belgium

4. Cogels-Osylei

Cogels-Osylei | © David Van Laere / courtesy of Visit Antwerp

5. Rubenshuis

Rubenshuis

6. Plantin-Moretus Museum

Museum, Library

Plantin Moretus Museum

7. Park Spoor Noord

Park Spoor Noord

8. The Grote Markt

Grote Markt | © Sigridspinnox.com / courtesy of Visit Antwerp

9. The Brabo Fountain

Brabo fountain | public domain / Pixabay

10. Central Station

Train Station

Central Station

11. Middelheim's sculpture park

Museum, Park

ANTWERP, BELGIUM - JULY 5, 2016 : Art sculptures and park in Middelheim Park. Middelheim Open Air Sculpture Museum is popular place where modern and c

Vlaeykensgang alley

Antwerp’s eminent medieval alley has to be the idyllic Vlaeykensgang. It’s a beloved spot to listen to the city’s carillons chime away during a concert and to dream about simpler times.

Vlaeykensgang, Oude Koornmarkt 16, Antwerp, Belgium

12. Cathedral of Our Lady

The Cathedral of Our Ladys lacework spire

13. St. Anna’s Tunnel

Underpass | © Jan Crab / courtesy of Visit Antwerp

14. City Brewery De Koninck

De Koninck brewery tour

15. Vrijdagmarkt

Vrijdagmarkt | © Sigridspinnox.com / courtesy of Visit Antwerp

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The Top 10 Things to Do in Antwerp

TripSavvy / Gautier Houba

Antwerp is one of Europe’s relatively unknown gems which visitors immediately fall in love with. It has spectacular historic and modern architecture to look at, the river Scheldt to stroll beside, and museums which could take up your whole vacation. There’s something here for everyone from the fabulous Peter Paul Rubens House to the Red Star Line Museum where the days of the great trans-Atlantic liners come to life. Don’t miss the MoMu Fashion Museum as Antwerp has always been at the cutting edge of fashion design. There’s the extraordinary Museum Plantin-Moretus which is the only museum in the world to have UNESCO World Heritage status… and much more. 

How to Get to Antwerp

If you’re traveling from London, take the Eurostar train from London St. Pancras to Brussels Midi. There are regular Eurostar trains throughout the day taking 2 hours and 1 minute. Book your Eurostar ticket here . Your Eurostar ticket gives you complimentary travel from Brussels to Antwerp, and from Antwerp to Brussels on a return ticket, and the connection is direct from Brussels Midi. The train journey between Brussels and Antwerp takes around 56 minutes.

If you’re traveling from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to Brussels Midi, the direct train takes 1 hour 20 minutes and there are regular trains throughout the day. You will have to buy a separate train ticket from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Brussels Midi.

Step Into the World of Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) was not just one of the world’s greatest Old Master artists — he also became an international diplomat in the complex political world of 17th century Europe. His charm and good looks helped him work for the notoriously difficult Marie de Medici (widow of Henry IV of France), and later for Charles I of England (designing the ceiling of the Banqueting House in Whitehall for the King).

From the age of 10, Rubens lived in Antwerp in this gracious house which was turned into a museum in 1946 and recently refurbished. The house was designed as an Italian palazzo with a baroque portico, a semi-circular statue gallery and wood-paneled rooms which run from the kitchen to richly decorated living rooms. There’s a huge studio where the artist and his students produced works for the royal families and nobles of Europe who were his major patrons, and a delightful formal garden enjoyed by the painter and his family.

The house offers a wonderfully intimate look at many of Rubens’s works, but it is also full of what are described as "Distinguished Visitors", a series of paintings by contemporaries like Van Dyck on more or less permanent display from museums and galleries around the world.

If you’re a real fan, go after seeing the house to visit Rubens’ tomb in St. James’ church, the parish church for most of Antwerp’s citizens. More of his works are on display in the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal, the Cathedral of Our Lady.

Visit a 400-Year-Old Printing House

This large, imposing and very grand house is tucked down a side street in central Antwerp. Walk inside and you enter the house and workshops of the Plantin-Moretus publishing firm, the most important and largest printers in Europe at the time.

The house was built around a charming formal 17th-century garden with rooms on four sides. The first rooms you visit are domestic, a splendid series of dining and living rooms that showed off the wealth and power of the family. Some have oak paneled walls; others have walls lined with gilded leather or hung with portraits of the family and their friends.

But the house was more than just a home and the rest of the building was used for the printing firm. You can see rooms full of substantial wooden presses that are the oldest in the world, and can watch demonstrations of how the presses worked. The old bookshop takes you back to the days when wealthy customers came to buy, their silver and gold coins weighed to check their value before they were allowed to take their precious books home.

The Plantin-Moretus firm produced 55 works a year, employing 22 men who worked 14-hour days. They acted as the official printer for Antwerp, and the royal typographer to King Philip II of Spain. Their 8-volume Plantin Polyglot Bible with Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Syriac text was the most sophisticated production at the time; others of their publications are shown here in facsimile.

The Plantin-Moretus Museum is a real treasure trove, the only museum in the world to be granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

Learn About the Emigrant Journey From Europe to the New World

The Red Star Line Museum tells the stories of some of the millions of poor emigrants who left Europe via Antwerp to seek a better life in America in the 1800s and 1900s. It tells their stories in the most compelling ways. You see the emigrants’ faces in old photographs; follow their journeys from all over Europe to Antwerp on maps, journeys often taking months of heart-rending effort, and in many cases, you can hear them on headphones that cut off the rest of the world around you and take you into their lives in an extraordinarily powerful way.

You feel real sympathy for little Ita Moëll who was suffering from trachoma when she was examined at Ellis Island for diseases, and was sent back to Europe. Cholera, typhoid and trachoma were the diseases that America feared the most and any outbreak in Europe brought stricter controls in both Antwerp and New York, plus a backlash against immigrants.

There were thousands of immigrants who were absorbed into American life taking the lowliest manual jobs. And there were immigrants who went on to enrich American life, like Israel (‘Izzy’) Berlin. Many were Jewish, fleeing prejudice and real danger particularly in the 1930s from countries like Russia, Germany and Eastern Europe.

The Red Star Line museum, housed in the historic offices of the company, continues telling new stories as visitors, particularly North Americans, visit to find out if their relatives left from here for a new life. Before you leave, climb the stairs to the roof for a view over the Scheldt river quays. Look down and you see plaques pointing out the distances. Kiev is 1826 kilometers away; Odessa is 1989, Warsaw 1137 and Berlin 632. Walk to the other side and you see the distances to the New World: Montreal is 5526 kilometers away; New York 5879 and Philadelphia 6016. It brings home the scale of the life-changing journeys that took the emigrants from everything that was familiar and safe to an uncertain future halfway across the world.

Tour the Unusual MAS (Museum aan de Strom)

You can’t miss MAS : this tall, red brick, asymetric building acts like a beacon on Eilandje, an island that is fast becoming Antwerp’s coolest neighbourhood. The exhibitions are arranged over the 10 floors, each one taking a different theme. One of the most surprising is the first where over 180,000 objects in the museum not on display are kept in storage. Labeled and numbered, they hang on walls or are placed in special cabinets, waiting their turns to be put before the public. It gives a very good idea of how complex organising a museum is. Other exhibitions take on life and death; pre-Columbian art; the story of power and prestige and how it is displayed and used; and Antwerp’s place as one of the major ports of the world.

Then, go up to the top floor for the best 360-degree view over Antwerp. You see domestic homes where householders have made inventive use of their rooves, church spires that punctuate the skyline, the curving river Scheldt and in the distance, the port of Antwerp with its endless industrial clutter of cranes, quays and power stations.

Tip: Go up to the Panorama platform when it’s dark during the summer months (April to October). This free attraction stays open until midnight and gives you a sparkling nighttime view of the city.

Experience Antwerp Fashion at the Mode (MoMu) Fashion Museum

For decades, the ‘Antwerp Six’ group of world influencers highlighted the pre-eminence of Antwerp’s fashion designers, so if you have any interest in the subject, make the Mode Fashion Museum one of your stops. It only holds temporary exhibitions, but these are stunning. The current exhibition — Margiela, the Hermes Years — lasts until August 28th, 2017, and will be followed by one more until Spring 2018 when the museum shuts for a huge refurbishment.

Only Dries Van Noten from the original Antwerp Six still has a stand-alone shop, housed in the fabulous corner site of Het Modepaleis a couple of minutes walk away. The other designers such as Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester sell through their own houses and within other major stores.

Antwerp still produces a formidable crop of young designers, and every May and October, the current designers hold their special sales (including Van Noten, Margiela and Demeulemeester). Check with the tourist office for details of this. Every fashionista should be there!

Visit Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal, the Cathedral of Our Lady

This impressive, vast Gothic cathedral was built between 1352 and 1521 on the site of a smaller church. Its soaring 123-metre high spire stands out like a beacon from anywhere in Antwerp, and was once the magnet for the pilgrims who flocked here in the thousands. Go inside for a look at the early Rubens’ paintings and Old Masters from other painters that are scattered throughout the cathedral, framed in glorious red against the bare white walls.

Marvel at the Great Grote Markt Square

The medieval square that is the heart of the city is every bit as flamboyant as any of the other great Flemish squares like Brussels and Bruges. The Grote Markt, once housing the merchants and the guilds that made the city rich, now hums to a tourist beat. It’s pedestrianised so sit in one of the cafes lining the square and take in the extraordinary Brabo fountain and the wonderful, over-the-top Renaissance style Town Hall which was completed in 1565.

The Antwerp Tourist Office is in the square.

Visit one of the world’s oldest zoos

When you arrive in Antwerp you immediately find two wonderful pieces of architecture. Coming by train, you’ll be overwhelmed by the splendid 1905 Centraal Station, one of the most striking in Europe. Walk out and to your left you see another architectural glory: Antwerp Zoo .

Founded in 1843, it’s one of the world’s oldest zoos with a world-wide reputation for its special breeding programme. It has lovely buildings like the Egyptian temple, built in 1856 and the antelope building built in 1861 in Oriental style. It’s recently been renovated and a reef environment area has been added to the aquarium, making this a must for anyone visiting with a family.

Drink the beer

Like all Belgian cities, beer and beer cellars are a major part of life here. Take the number 9 or 15 tram out to De Koninck , Antwerp’s historic brewery, for a tour of the brewery and the chance to sample some of their products. The brewery is housed in the original early 20th-century industrial building and the tour takes you through interactive exhibitions on brewing and over a walkway where you look down over the brewery hall until you end up in the cosy ‘pub’.

There’s a good shop selling beer and the famous bolleke (bowl) glasses. Also on the premises is a top cheese shop and a very good independent butchers shop.

Try the frites

Frites (fries) are a staple part of the Belgian diet; the Belgians are the greatest consumers of fries in Europe. And the frites they produce are very good indeed, particularly in Antwerp which claims to be the city to have invented the concept of the friterie. While there are lots of places to drop into for a quick frites fix, the one you must try is Frites Atelier at 32 Korte Gasthuisstraat. It’s always busy but you might get lucky and be able to grab a chair at the four or five small tables inside. Otherwise stand outside at a high table.

And the fries? They are quite delicious, but then they should be. The Frites Atelier is a small chain started by Michelin-starred chef Sergio Herman. You can get plain frites, then choose your sauce which you get from large stone dispensers. Or go for a real treat and top the fries with Belgian stew, or boudin blanc.

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Home » Europe » Belgium » 21 Fun Things to Do in Antwerp, Belgium

21 Fun Things to Do in Antwerp, Belgium

By Author Laura Longwell

Posted on Last updated: April 25, 2023

A vibrant port city with a rich history, Antwerp, Belgium is full of interesting attractions and things to see. From fashion and artwork to a 600-year-old diamond district and standout museums, visitors are never at a loss for ways to keep busy. We’ve been to the city several times and always find something new to love. Here’s a look at some of our favorite things to do in Antwerp.

Explore the Central Station

Visit the cathedral of our lady, see the works of a master at ruben house, walk through history at plantin-moretus museum, explore the diamond district, hang out in grote markt, see het steen castle, take a break in groenplaats, visit mas museum, browse meir shopping street, sample flavors at the chocolate line, see the art at st. paul’s church, visit red star line museum, see the activity at the port of antwerp, descend in saint anna’s tunnel, marvel at the art nouveau buildings, see the exhibits at museum vleeshuis, grab a bite at the saturday exotic market, enjoy the botanical garden, step inside st. andrew’s church, listen to music at de muze jazz cafe.

Clock inside a railway station under a glass arched roof

Among one of the most spectacular places to see in Antwerp is the central railway station, Antwerp Central (Antwerpen-Centraal). The train station is arguably one of the most beautiful in the world. It’s striking from the outside, but to truly appreciate the station, you’ll have to explore the inside.

The building’s interior incorporates iron, steel, and glass in intricate designs that make it truly remarkable. The central station has a main hall located on the entrance side of Koningin Astridplein and a clock that’s the center of attention. It’s a perfectly beautiful welcome and a great place to start an Antwerp visit.

Three panels of stained glass behind a triptych painting inside the Antwerp cathedral

The Cathedral of Our Lady or Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal is a Gothic holy building in the city’s historic center. Thanks to its 123-meter-high north tower, the building is visible from most places around Antwerp.

Completed in 1521, the architectural wonder was under construction for 169 years. Its belltower is included along with other remarkable towers in Belgium–like the belfrys in Bruges and Ghent –as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The cathedral houses outstanding artworks, including paintings by Baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens. Visitors can either explore the cathedral on their own or opt for a guided tour to see the paintings, incredible stained glass, and other features.

Ornate room with embossed leather wall coverings and Baroque paintings

Even if you’re not an art lover, a visit to Ruben House Museum ( Rubenshuis ) in one of the top things to do in Antwerp based on its 400-year history and preservation. The home of Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens is now packed with his masterpieces and works of contemporaries.

Rubens purchased the house in 1610 and later extended and renovated it, making it into his perfect space for living and creating. Here, the renowned artist produced most of his famous paintings that gained global recognition. From the embossed leather wall coverings to the spaces where every inch is covered with art, it’s impossible not to feel the creative energy here.

Room with wooden printing presses on the right and cases containing moveable type on the left

Another great attraction in Antwerp worth visiting is the Plantin-Moretus Museum . The only UNESCO-listed museum , Plantin-Moretus offers visitors a close look at the importance and history of printing through artifacts stretching back to the 1500s.

Visitors get to explore the old buildings that housed the printing presses as well as the Plantin and Moretus families over the centuries. The rich library features many notable historical books, including the Biblia Polyglotta (1568-1573), a Bible written in five languages. Over three centuries, the printing house was among the top in Europe, distributing scientific discoveries, philosophical theories, and art like Rubens’s portraits around the continent.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see the world’s oldest printing presses, which were built around 1600.

The famous Diamond District right next to the Central Station is one of the more intriguing places to visit in Antwerp. Dating from 1447, it is considered the diamond capital of the world, and over 80% of the world’s rough diamonds pass through the area. Visitors can visit the numerous jewelry shops selling diamonds. However, the diamond trading markets are usually out of bounds.

If you’re interested in getting a deeper appreciation of the diamond world from history to craftsmanship to design, head to nearby DIVA, the diamond museum . Through multimedia and interactive exhibits, guests get immersed in the glittering world of precious jewels.

Statue of a man on a pedestal in foreground with numerous tall buildings with lots of windows and gold details in background

The Grote Markt, the main square, is among the most beautiful town squares in Europe. With the 16th-century city hall and gleaming guildhouses, you can’t ask for a better backdrop to enjoy.

Grote Markt is a great place for people watching on summer afternoons. On weekends or during certain seasons, it fills with local markets, most notably the famous Antwerp Christmas market . After you’ve had your fill of shopping or simply taking in the views, head to one of the many cafes and restaurants just a few steps away.

Stone castle with turrets behind a statue of a man

Het Steen Castle, established in the early 13th century, once served as the city’s fortress in its prime location right on the river. It’s the oldest building still standing in the city and is a favorite of photographers for the castle itself and for the curious statue just outside.

Over the centuries, “the Steen” has served lots of different purposes from a prison to a museum. It’s now a visitors center with a panoramic rooftop and is home to The Antwerp Story . The exhibit introduces people to the history of the city and provides an overview of its neighborhoods, its people, and what makes Antwerp unique.

City square with a statue of a man on a pedestal surrounded by cafes and a church with a large tower

Groenplaats, or Green Square, is another of Antwerp’s welcoming squares right in the heart of the city. Ringed with bars and cafes, it’s a fun place to stop for a coffee or to enjoy lunch while watching the activity. There is also a daily flower market to peruse.

Exterior of 10-story building made from alternating red brick and glass

A distinctive modern building along the river Scheldt, the MAS Museum is the largest museum in Antwerp. It has a vast and varied collection of over 500,000 items that are featured in permanent and temporary exhibitions with themes relating to Antwerp’s contact with the world. Visitors will find everything from eating utensils to maritime artifacts that chronicle international trade and shipping.

The iconic building is 10 stories high, and its rooftop provides panoramic views of the city, so it’s a great place to visit when the weather is nice.

One of the top places for shopping in Belgium, Meir Shopping Street runs from the Cathedral of Our Lady to the central railway station. It is lined with major European chains and luxury shops, making the street a draw for tourists and locals. One of the best places to shop along the street is the exclusive shopping center known as Stadsfeestzaal in the restored city festival hall.

Beyond the shops they house, the buildings along Meir are also worth a look. The Rococo facades date from the 18th and 19th centuries and are gorgeous to look at.

Large bust of a man wearing a hat made entirely from chocolate

Any visit to Belgium must include chocolate. The Chocolate Line is a fantastic place to visit in Antwerp, especially if you’re a great fan of chocolate. Located in the city center, it is in a historical building on Meir.

Chocolatier Dominique Persoone is known for innovation and developing unusual flavor combinations, so be prepared to find uncommon offerings, including chocolate lipstick. The Chocolate Line offers everything from raspberry and salted caramel to fried onions, beetroot, and even grass. The shop is accented with plenty of larger-than-life chocolate sculptures.

St. Paul’s Church is a work of art. Built in 1639 as a Dominican monastery church, the Gothic building is ornate inside and outside.

The church has some remarkable Baroque altars and 50 paintings by renowned artists, including Rubens, Van Dyck, and Van Balen. Outside, the Calvary Garden includes 63 life-sized statues made by a group of Belgian sculptors dating back to the 1700s. It’s definitely worth stopping in when you visit Antwerp, especially if you’re an art lover.

Large metal sphere in the center of a museum exhibit with information and photos on the walls

From 1873 to 1935, the Red Star Line transported people from Antwerp to New York and Philadelphia in search of a new start and prosperity in North America. The Red Star Line Museum tells the story of these courageous individuals, looking at why they left and what happened on their journey.

In total, more than 2 million people made the transatlantic trip that began in the very buildings where the museum is now. From photographs and luggage to letters and personal testimonials, the museum brings their stories to life.

The second largest seaport in Europe, there’s always something moving through the Port of Antwerp whether it’s container ships in the distance, cruise ships docking, or the frequent water buses that traverse the river Scheldt. Originally constructed in 1811, the port remains a vital part of the city economy.

Visitors can take a walk along the waterfront or rent a bicycle to explore one of the four cycling routes. A free map shows the routes and what can be seen along the way. There are also boat tours of the harbor if you have time to spare, or you can take a water bus to St. Anna on the opposite side of the river.

Wooden escalator descending deep into a tunnel with white tile on the walls

If you don’t want to wait on the ferry to St. Anna or are simply curious about the passage, take a ride on the escalator in St. Anna’s Tunnel (called the Underpass by locals). As the name indicates, it was designed to connect the new part of town with the historic center.

The unique escalators were made in the 1930s. They were a novelty then and still are (we’ve only seen them at Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan), and they take users on a ride deep below the river to cross to the other side. On the way down, you’ll see pictures showing the history of the tunnel and its construction.

Exterior of a building with a colorful mosaic, rounded windows, and intricate iron balconies

Antwerp’s Zurenborg neighborhood has numerous stunning examples of Art Nouveau architecture. Characterized by bright exterior paintings, mosaics, large windows, and ornate details, the style evolved in the late 19th century and took hold in cities around Belgium (they’re some of many beautiful places to see in Brussels ).

Zurenborg’s Golden Triangle–the area between Transvaal, Waterloo, and Cogels-Osylei streets is a particularly rich place to find examples of the fanciful style. Lovers of architecture and photography will want to spend some time wandering the streets here to see all the different features

Exterior of a large stone building with red and white stripes

The Museum Vleeshuis is a former guildhall that has been transformed into a museum. At over 500 years old, the building itself is notably historic, but its displays are what command much of the attention today.

The exhibits at Museum Vleeshuis chronicle six centuries of dance, sound, and music in the city of Antwerp. There are lots of rare instruments and musical manuscripts as well as stories about many notable musicians and the importance of music as part of the fabric of the city.

Seed-covered pastries displayed on a table

The Saturday Exotic Market at Theaterplein is a perfect stop for lunch on a Saturday afternoon. The food runs the gamut from Turkish and North African specialties to quiche, oysters, and champagne.

There are lots of ingredients and prepared items to take home and plenty to eat at the market with lots of tables available. Not only is the food delicious, but the market is full of locals out shopping and enjoying a social occasion, so the whole atmosphere is fun. Bring your appetite!

With over 2000 plants, the Botanical Garden (Den Botaniek) provides a green oasis in the city. This world-class garden has a wide variety of shrubs, trees, herbs, and exotic plants that make it a paradise for plant enthusiasts.

The Botanical Garden was originally established nearly 200 years ago to grow medicinal plants to supply St Elisabeth hospital. The city started managing the garden in 1926, and it has since become an indispensable part of Antwerp’s landscape. It is free to visit and open year-round, so it functions much like a city park.

Marble statue of a man beside a large marble altar with columns and black and white decorations

From the moment you step into St. Andrew’s Church , it’s hard to look away from the stunning high altar. Made in the early 1700s, it has soaring marble columns and more than 20 figures adorn the sides. But it is only one of many brilliant sculptures and paintings visitors will find in the impressive church.

Built by Augustinian friars, St. Andrew’s Church was consecrated in 1529. The church is predominantly late Gothic in style, but the steeple and upper tiers are characteristic of the late-Baroque era. If you find it open, it’s worth a peek inside to see the sculptures and the beautiful pulpit.

Jazz quartet playing instruments on stage beside a bar

Initially opened in 1964, the De Muze Jazz Café is among the top places for jazz in the city. For decades, it has attracted jazz greats from around the world to play on its stage. With a healthy selection of cocktails and beers and some of the best music around, the cafe draws regulars and visitors to hear live music every night after 10pm.

why to visit antwerp

Laura Longwell is an award-winning travel blogger and photographer. Since founding Travel Addicts in 2008, she has written hundreds of articles that help over 3 million people a year get the most out of their travel. In that time, she has visited nearly 60 countries on 5 continents, often returning to favorite destinations over and over again. She has a deep love of history, uncovering unexpected attractions, and trying all the good food a place has to offer.

In addition to Travel Addicts, Laura runs a site about her hometown of Philadelphia—Guide to Philly—which chronicles unique things to do and places to see around southeastern Pennsylvania. Her travel tips and advice appear across the web.

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Attention: since August 1st 2023, the parking policy in the City of Antwerp has changed.

Read more on Parking on the street | Smart ways to Antwerp or Transport in and to Antwerp .

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Would you like to admire a Rubens through the eyes of the curator, get a glimpse of Antwerp’s history during a guided city walk or visit one of the beautiful churches or inspiring museums? Our offerings are just as vibrant as the city itself. What are you waiting for? Discover, book and experience Antwerp!

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School offers, most popular activities, most popular city walks, most popular museum tours, individual tickets for a guided activity, a practical overview of all antwerp museums, discover the most beautiful antwerp districts, locations that are definitely worth a visit, city by the water, trendy antwerp, don’t just visit. experience antwerp..

You are about to visit a city, but how do you start planning your visit? Often you will find a scattered offering online or you will find some things to do that are not really your cup of tea. That won’t be the case in Antwerp! Experience Antwerp is your reliable partner for golden tips and tickets. Experience Antwerp helps you to not only visit our city, but to really experience it. Check it out!

  • Official partner Experience Antwerp is the official partner of the city of Antwerp for tickets and tips. We unite the most diverse experiences in one place, so that you can experience our city to the fullest.
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Looking for the hippest hotspots, must-taste culinary delights, best activities for young and old or the hidden gems that even a true local doesn’t know about? Experience even more of Antwerp thanks to insider tips from born and raised Antwerp locals. Check it out and make the most of your visit to this beautiful city!

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Six reasons why Antwerp is worth visiting

Missy Cahill

Missy Cahill

  • Why Antwerp is worth visiting

Antwerp is one of those underrated gems of a city. So often travellers head straight to Brussels, Bruges or Ghent on their visits to Belgium, and in reality, they skip over one of the best kept secrets in Western Europe.

Antwerp is a port city with an incredible history. Thanks to its proximity to the water, Antwerp grew throughout the middle ages and became a city of enlightenment. Now you can find an ethnically diverse and vibrant city with a fantastic history.

Brabo fountain in front of the town hall on the Great Market Square of Antwerp, Belgium

1. The diverse food

Antwerp is home to over 150 different nationalities, making it an incredibly diverse and ethnically rich city. Thanks to its incredible diversity, it is home to delicious ethnic food and restaurants. Antwerp has an incredible culinary scene, ranging from Ethiopian to Nepalese and much, much more. Bogerhout is home to a large Moroccan population and is a must when trying to find authentic Arabic food - and the dessert shops are unreal.

The whitewashed exterior of De Koninck Brewery in Antwerp

2. De Koninck Brewery

Belgium has a lot of things that it is famous for but perhaps its beer is a front runner. Antwerp has a f antastic beer scene. The De Koninck Brewery and Museum is an absolute highlight for any visit to Antwerp.

Located in Berchem, you get to drink your free ‘Bolleke’ as you tour around the museum and learn about the brewing process. It’s highly interactive and hilarious. Admission also includes three tasters in the bar at the end of the tour.

An outdoor terrace in Antwerp, Belgium

3. Outdoor terraces

Belgium is not known for its glorious weather. Usually, the forecast is for grey overcast skies and a bit of rain. Welcome to Western Europe! But just because the weather is rubbish, it doesn’t mean that you can’t go out and enjoy a nice cold beer.

Antwerp has terraces strewn all over the city, usually under large umbrellas and heaters, and even the occasional blanket {pre-Covid}. Finding the perfect terrace is a matter of preference, but my favourite has always been at Bourla Theatre under the canopy of large oak trees.

Loaded Belgian frites

Chips or fries are a staple in Belgium. As some who is Irish, and therefore an automatic connoisseur of potatoes, I rank Belgian Frites very high on the potato scale. The difficulty is trying to find your favourite frituur (aka chip shop).

One of the best frituurs was created by Dutch chef, Sergio Herman who established Frites Atelier . Here, you can find your fries loaded with artisanal toppings that take your frites experience to a whole new level. Trust me, you won’t be able to stop thinking about them.

Filled Belgian chocolates

5. Chocolate

I never thought that I would be pretentious enough to have my own favourite chocolatier. But it’s true about living in Europe, you start collecting favourite cheese shops, bakeries and now chocolatiers. Like Swiss chocolate, Belgium is notorious for its delicious chocolates that can be found everywhere. The praline was invented in Belgium, so you know you are in safe hands when trying to find your favourite chocolatier.

When exploring the area around MAS, you will have to drop into IN CHOC by Tom Coosemans and thank me later. Tom has created the most incredible chocolates I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. He uses unique flavours like Yuzu and Kalamansi and creates art. Opening a box of chocolates by Tom is like Christmas arriving early. Unforgettable.

Antwerp's famous Caffenation cafe

Did you know that Antwerp holds the most coffee beans at any one time than anywhere else on earth? This is due to Antwerp port where thousands of tonnes of coffee pass through on a weekly basis.

The coffee scene in Antwerp is fantastic. One of the best coffee shops is a small franchise called Caffenation which has two locations in Antwerp and one in Amsterdam. It’s safe to say that I am wholeheartedly addicted to Caffenation and my bank app likes to ask me on a regular basis if I know how much money I am spending there. It truly is phenomenal.

Planning a trip to Antwerp? Stay at Hotel FRANQ , a boutique hotel in the heart of the city.

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Missy Cahill

Author - Missy Cahill

Missy Cahill is a school librarian and travel aficionado. Originally from Dublin, Ireland she took a very healthy dose of wanderlust and has spent the past 8 years living in China, Laos and Belgium. Outside of work, you can usually find her planning which part of the world is sunny and how to get there. You can find her tips on travel at Travels with Missy.

Last Updated 15 November 2022

A rainbow over the old town of Ghent, Belgium

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16 Top-Rated Attractions & Places to Visit in Antwerp

Written by Jess Lee Updated Dec 22, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

The cultural capital of Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern area of Belgium, Antwerp is both a bustling industrial port city and an outstanding historic center for Belgian craftwork and artistry.

The city was once home to such famous artists as Rubens, van Dyck, and Jordaens, while centuries of prosperity through trade and commerce have bequeathed an inheritance of architectural beauty, which includes the magnificent cathedral, the town hall, and many other outstanding historical buildings in the old town center.

For art lovers and culture vultures, Antwerp's excellent museums are the main tourist attractions and are a vital stop on any Belgian itinerary.

In particular, the city's paintings – an incomparable collection of 15th- to 17th-century masterpieces from a time when the work of artists of the South Netherlands school attained extraordinary heights – is a highlight of any visit.

Discover the city and the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Antwerp.

See also: Where to Stay in Antwerp

1. Grand Place (Grote Markt)

2. cathedral of our lady, 3. rubens' house (rubenshuis), 4. tour the museum aan de stroom (mas), 5. take the kids to antwerp zoo, 6. learn about chocolate at chocolate nation, 7. plantin-moretus museum, 8. see the collection inside museum mayer van den bergh, 9. royal museum of fine arts (koninklijk museum voor schone kunsten), 10. learn about migration history at the red star line museum, 11. st. paul's church (sint-pauluskerk), 12. the butcher's hall (vleeshuis), 13. check out antwerp-centraal railway station, 14. bike the havenroute (port tour), 15. st. james' church (sint-jacobskerk), 16. diva (the diamond museum), where to stay in antwerp for sightseeing, antwerp, belgium - climate chart.

Grand Place (Grote Markt)

Antwerp's Grand Place (Grote Markt) with its town hall and numerous guild houses is the heart of the old town. In the middle stands the ornate Brabo Fountain Brabo erected in 1887 by Jef Lambeaux and depicting the Roman soldier Silvius Brabo tossing the severed hand of the giant Antigonus into the Scheldt.

The Town Hall (or Stadhuis) dominates the plaza's western side and was built by Cornelis Floris de Vriendt between 1561 and 1565. Inside, the rooms are hung with 19th-century paintings by H. Leys illustrating the history of Antwerp.

Apart from the Stadhuis, most of the buildings bordering the Grote Markt are former guild houses (gildehuizen), which originally served as headquarters of the city's 16th- and 17th-century guilds.

Among the most interesting guild houses on the north side are the Gildehuis der Kuipers (Coopers' House No. 5), the Huis van de Schutters (Archer's House No. 7), and the Huis van de Kruideniers (Grocers' House No. 11).

Immediately behind the town hall, in the Gildekamersstraat, a former guild house has been turned into a Folk Museum devoted to the many traditional arts and crafts found in the Antwerp area, while nearby is the Ethnography Museum which highlights non-European cultures.

Address: Grand Place, Central Antwerp

Cathedral of Our Lady

The Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwkathedraal), is Belgium's largest Gothic church.

Work was started on the cathedral in 1352, continuing until 1521. Jacob van Thienen, Pieter Appelmans, Jan Tac, Everaert Spoorwater, Hermann and Dominic de Waghemakere, and Rombout Keldermans were among the architects and master-builders who contributed to its construction.

The church has suffered serious damage on a number of occasions over the years, depriving it of many of its most precious works of art. First came a fire in 1533, then despoliation at the hands of dissident iconoclasts in 1566, Calvinists in 1581, and French Republican troops in 1794 and 1800. Sadly, only a few of the lost treasures have since been recovered.

Restoration of the exterior was begun in the 19th century, and all the carved stonework on the outside of the building is therefore recent. Work on the interior began in 1965, starting with the nave where repairs were completed in 1983.

The finest of the remaining works of art are displayed in the nave and aisles as well as in the cathedral treasury.

Address: Groenplaats 21 / Handschoenmarkt, Central Antwerp

Official site: www.dekathedraal.be

Onze Lieve Vrouwkathedraal - Floor plan map

Peter Paul Rubens acquired No. 9 in 1610 – a year after his marriage to Isabella Brant – living there until his death in 1640. He arranged the house to his own taste and requirements, making his home to the left of the entrance and turning the right wing into his studio.

Following the French Revolution it was used as a prison, thereafter falling more and more into disrepair. Rubens' House (Rubenshuis) finally came into the possession of the City of Antwerp in 1937 and, between 1939 and 1946, was meticulously restored with the aid of old documents and drawings.

The 10 rooms are furnished in the style of the period and contain a large collection of paintings by both Rubens and his contemporaries. Among the pieces not to miss are Self-portrait , Adam and Eve , and The Annunciation , all by Rubens; Self-portrait by Anthony van Dyke; and Peasant Drinking by Adriaen Brouwer. The large studio contains several works by Rubens and others by his pupils.

Outside, the formal gardens of the house have been restored carefully to try and closely replicate the garden as it was when Rubens was resident at the house. It's a great spot for a stroll after touring the house.

Address: Wapper 9-11, Antwerp

Official site: https://rubenshuis.be/en

Museum aan de Stroom

Antwerp's municipal museum is housed in a fine example of modern architecture that features a geometric configuration of variegated stone and wave-shaped glass panels. This 10-story building resembles a child's block puzzle, and sits overlooking the harbor on the former site of the Hanseatic warehouse.

The museum's exhibits include a true variety of topics. Local subjects include a gastronomic history of the city on the 5th floor and a look at Antwerp's former role as the largest trade and shipping port in the world.

The rooftop, which is open on top but enclosed with glass walls, affords tourists a full 360-degree view of the city and the port; here is where you will find the Saluting Admiral Couple sculpture created by local artist Guillaume Bijl.

Additional exhibits focus on international topics, including explorations of mankind's approach to death and spirituality throughout various cultures, as well as the ways that cultures around the world celebrate rites of passage.

The 8th floor is dedicated to one of Europe's largest collections of pre-Columbian American art, focusing on the relationship between the native cultures and their gods.

As well as the permanent collection, MAS regularly hosts a program of temporary exhibitions focused on a wide range of subjects.

The museum also has a unique storage area on the second floor, which allows visitors to view the racks filled with over 180,000 items that have yet to be placed into exhibit space. In total, the museum is home to over 500,000 pieces in its collection.

Address: Hanzestedenplaats 1

Official site: https://mas.be/en

Male lion at the Antwerp Zoo

Right in the center of the city, Antwerp Zoo was founded in 1843. It is widely regarded as one of the finest zoos in Europe on account of its variety of species; its success in breeding; the care bestowed on the animals, which are kept in the most natural environment possible; and, last but by no means least, its architecture.

While the Art Déco facades of the entrance area are the first features to catch the eye, inside the zoo are several buildings of note, among them the giraffe and elephant house (1855) in the style of an Egyptian temple.

More than 6,000 animals of 950 species live in the zoo, including rare breeds such as the white rhino, okapi, and mountain gorilla.

If you are visiting Antwerp with kids, at trip to the zoo is one of the top things to do.

Address: Kon. Astridplein 26, Central Antwerp

Official site: www.zooantwerpen.be

Chocolates

This museum is a treat for visitors with a sweet tooth. Located just across from Antwerp's Central Railway Station, Chocolate Nation is the largest Belgian Chocolate museum in the world .

Visitors are introduced to every step of the process via a multimedia presentation and interactive exhibits, from the cocoa bean's equatorial origins to the final product - which, of course, you can enjoy to your heart's content via samples and the museum shop.

The museum also explores the special place chocolate has within Belgian culture and tradition, as well as the history of the confection's innovations here and in other countries.

Exhibits look at the many ways that chocolate is used and presented, and visitors can even sign up for a chocolate workshop with take-home goodies.

Address: Koningin Astridplein 7, 2018, Antwerp

Official site: https://www.chocolatenation.be/en/

Plantin-Moretus Museum

In 1576, Christophe Plantin the printer who hailed originally from France, moved into a house he christened "De gulden Passer" – the Golden Compasses – south of the Grote Markt Grote . The house, lived in by Plantin and his Moretus family heirs is now a supreme example of Flemish Renaissance architecture.

Today, the building is the Plantin-Moretus Museum incorporating the history of printing as well as showcasing the atmosphere of an Old Flemish patrician house.

The original furnishings, wide-ranging exhibits, and above all, the still tangible atmosphere arising from the proximity of home and workplace make this museum one of Antwerp's most fascinating tourist attractions.

If you're short on time, make a beeline for Room 7, devoted to the history of books and the processes involved in their production, from the earliest forms of writing and development of the alphabet – exhibits include important archaeological finds and manuscripts – to Johannes Gutenberg and the invention of letterpress printing using movable type.

And afterwards, don't miss Room 24 which is a celebration of the art of printing in Europe as a whole, the jewel in the crown being a 36-line Gutenberg Bible on display here.

Address: Vrijdagmarkt 22, Central Antwerp

Official site: www.museumplantinmoretus.be/

Museum Mayer van den Bergh

In the course of only a short period during the 1890s, a connoisseur of the fine arts, Fritz Mayer van den Bergh, assembled a remarkable collection of more than 3,000 items. These are now displayed on four floors of a Neo-Gothic house at Lange Gasthuisstraat 19 known as the Museum Mayer van den Bergh.

The collection includes some superlative works of art, among them paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, ( Dulle Griet and the earliest of the artist's signed works The Twelve Proverbs , both in Room 26), Rubens, Jordaens, Bouts, van der Weyden, van Ostade, Lucas Cranach, and Quentin Massys.

Also of great interest are the Flemish and French religious statues, the outstanding collection of ivories, and a unique 16th-century Flemish breviary, and in Room 14, a polychrome group Christ with St. John (1300) by Henry of Constance and a Netherlands diptych (ca. 1400).

The second floor features a collection of porcelain, while 17th-century furniture and paintings occupy the third.

Address: Lange Gasthuisstraat 19, Antwerp

Royal Museum of Fine Arts (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten)

The nucleus of the collection inside the Royal Museum of Fine Art (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten) belonged originally to the Lucas Guild of Painters and Sculptors, founded in 1442.

Following the winding up of the guild in 1773, the works of art accumulated over the years passed into the possession of the Academy of Fine Arts.

In the mid-19th century, however, the collection was swollen by a substantial number of new acquisitions, particularly gifts, mainly of 15th- and 16th-century paintings, from Florent van Ertborn, a former burgomaster of Antwerp.

The academy found itself with insufficient space to accommodate the enlarged collection and the decision was taken to build a new museum.

The collection is housed on two floors. The ground floor is largely devoted to 19th- and 20th-century paintings and sculpture, some 1,500 items in all, providing, among other things, an excellent overview of the development of the plastic arts in Belgium since 1830.

The exhibition of Old Masters on the first floor comprises more than 1,000 works, mostly from the Flemish and Dutch schools.

Address: Plaatsnijdersstraat 2, Antwerp

Official site: www.kmska.be/en/

Red Star Line Museum

One of the newer tourist attractions in Antwerp, the Red Star Line Museum was opened in 2013 after over two decades of planning.

The Red Star company's steamers transported emigrants from Belgium and surrounding European countries between 1883 and 1934, bringing them across the ocean to Canada or the United States to escape persecution, poverty, and oppression.

The museum is dedicated to exploring not only the journey and process itself, but the reasons that people chose to leave their home in hopes of a better life.

Among the exhibits are the areas where passengers were selected for passage, some of whom were never given the chance to get aboard a ship. Areas of interest also include personal stories of those who did emigrate, and those who were left behind, and accounts of the passage across the Atlantic.

Address: Montevideostraat 3, 2000 Antwerp

Official site: www.redstarline.be/en

St. Paul's Church (Sint-Pauluskerk)

In the central city, the Veemarkt (the plaza that once functioned as a former cattle market) is home to the late Gothic St. Paul's Church (Sint-Pauluskerk), begun in 1517 and not completed until 1639. The Baroque clock tower dates from 1680.

A fire in 1968 badly damaged the church and only the spirited efforts of local people prevented the loss of valuable interior furnishings.

The church is home to paintings by Rubens, Jordaens, and Van Dyck. These include the superb Baroque confessionals by Pieter Verbruggen the Elder and three paintings by Rubens: The Scourging of Christ (1617) in the left aisle and the Adoration of the Shepherds and Disputation on the Blessed Sacrament in the left transept.

Address: Sint Paulusstraat 20/22, Central Antwerp

Butcher's Hall (Vleeshuis)

The elegant rooms of the late Gothic Butcher's Hall (Vleeshuis) include the former council chamber of the butchers' guild. The impressive brick building, built in 1501-04, was deliberately sited close to the Scheldt, allowing the blood of slaughtered animals to run off into the river.

The Vleeshuis is now a museum of applied art and archaeology with collections of prehistoric, Egyptian, Roman, and Merovingian artefacts; weapons and armor; ceramics; furniture; sculpture and woodwork; and coins.

Among its most prized possessions are a 16th-century depiction of the conversion of Saul created from Antwerp tiles known as the Averbode Retable by Pieter Coecke van Aelst.

The Vleeshuis is also home to an outstanding collection of musical instruments including the remarkable harpsichord from the workshop of Ruckers the instrument-makers.

Address: Vleeshouwerstraat 38-40, Central Antwerp

Antwerp-Centraal

Antwerp's railway station (called both Antwerp-Centraal or Antwerpen-Central) is one of the most beautiful railway stations in Europe and is considered to be one of the most impressive train stations in the world .

Its nickname of the Railroad Cathedral is a testament to its grandeur, and even those who are not traveling by rail will appreciate a quick peek at its interior.

Built between 1895 and 1905, it is historically significant as the first station of Belgium's public railway, which was itself, the first of its kind in Europe. Belgian architect Louis Delacenserie cherry-picked from several different architectural forms in his design, resulting in a bold, dramatic building that has a timeless style all of its own.

The entrance hall, with its high brick arches and dome, is the grandest section of the station's interior and a regal introduction to Antwerp if you arrive by train.

The station is an easy two-kilometer walk east from Antwerp's Grand Place in the old town, and just over one kilometer northeast from Ruben's House.

Address: Koningin Astridplein 27

Central Port area

The Havenroute is a sightseeing tour of the port area, marked out by the Antwerp Tourist Office. The central city sections can be easily explored on foot, but if you want to follow more of the route, hire a bike.

The Port of Antwerp is second only to Rotterdam among the major seaports of Europe, fully justifying its claim to be one of the largest in the world.

The harbor installations alone cover an area of more than 10,000 hectares, with a further 3,400 hectares of land in industrial use.

Start the Havenroute tour of the docks area from the Loodsgebouw (Pilot House) on the embankment north of the Steen, from where the route heads northwards, passing almost immediately the two oldest docks, the Bonapartedok and Willemsdok, at the far end, where you can see the massive Koninklijk Stapelhuis.

If you have a car or a bicycle, the Havenroute heads out of the city, past the 17th-century Eenhoorn windmill to Lillo (16 kilometers northwest of Antwerp), one of the few polder villages to have survived engulfment by the port.

At Lillo, there is a choice between driving on to inspect the huge Berendrechtsluis, the world's largest lock, or shortening the tour by turning round and following the Havenroute south again towards Antwerp, via the Frans Tijsmanstunnel beneath the Kanaaldok.

Address: Port house, 1 Entrepotkaai, Antwerp

St. James' Church (Sint-Jacobskerk)

With its sumptuously ornate Baroque interior, St. James' Church (Sint-Jacobskerk) is one of the richest ecclesiastical buildings in Antwerp, blessed with an exceptional endowment of art treasures.

It was the church at which the city's patrician families worshipped, and they regularly commissioned leading artists to design their private chapels, altars, and tombs.

The Rubens Chapel provides the chief focus of interest for visitors. Located behind the high altar, it contains the tomb of the artist (1640) and those of other members of his family.

Address: Lange Nieuwstraat 73, Antwerp

DIVA (Antwerp's museum of diamonds, silver, and jewelry) explores all the different aspects of the trade in diamonds, including sections on their extraction, processing, and industrial use.

It also focuses on Antwerp's long heritage of silversmithing craftwork and jewelry making and how that heritage led to the city's central role in the global diamond trade.

As well as displays of cut and uncut diamonds (genuine) together with copies of the more famous stones, the museum exhibits include a vast showcase of Belgian silverwork, from intricately embossed tableware to delicate jewelry.

The museum is temporarily closed for renovation until December 2022, but a pop-up DIVA museum, displaying a range of the museum's diamond and silver collection, is open in Antwerp's Grand Place (Grote Markt) for this period.

Address: Suikerrui 17/19

Official site: https://www.divaantwerp.be/en/

If you're visiting Antwerp for the first time, the best area to stay is in the old town, near the Grote Markt or the beautiful Cathedral of Our Lady. More affordable hotels tend to cluster around Antwerp Central Station in the Diamond District, about a 20-minute walk away from the old town. This area is especially convenient if you're arriving or departing by train. Below are some highly rated hotels in these central locations:

Luxury Hotels:

  • On a quiet street, a few minutes' walk from the old town, the boutique Hotel De Witte Lelie Antwerp occupies a 17th-century building but the flamboyant design within is bold and contemporary.
  • Also in a lovely building, with an original 1864 facade, the pet-friendly Hilton Antwerp Old Town , on the historic town square, has elegant guest rooms with marble bathrooms and is right next to the cathedral.
  • Not far from here, the hip Hotel Julien is a boutique property with high style and friendly service.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • Sleek and contemporary, the Park Inn by Radisson Antwerpen sits steps away from Antwerp Central Station in the Diamond District.
  • Also near Central Station, Radisson Blu Astrid Hotel , Antwerp, with an indoor pool, Jacuzzi, and fitness center, is a good option for families, who can walk to the adjacent zoo in less than three minutes.
  • If you prefer boutique hotels, the contemporary Leopold Hotel Antwerp , overlooking the city park, is a five-minute walk from the Diamond District and Antwerp Central Station.

Budget Hotels:

  • At the top end of the budget hotels, the charming Hotel Diamonds And Pearls is only two minutes on foot from the cathedral.
  • Right next to its namesake train station Ibis Budget Antwerpen Central Station is good value with clean, modern rooms.
  • In a fabulous location, meters from the cathedral, the family-run Postiljon offers clean, comfortable rooms in an evocative Flemish building, a short walk from the old town attractions.

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Ghent's Flemish Flair : Home to some of Belgium's most impressive architecture, Ghent can be explored easily on foot or by canal. Less tourist-filled than many other historic Flemish cities, this is a good place to go to get a feel for authentic culture.

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Bustling Brussels : Like Antwerp, Belgium's capital city of Brussels is home to several fine museums among its many tourist attractions. Tourists visiting Brussels will find a modern and busy city filled with excellent restaurants and cafés.

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Lovely Leuven : Home to one of Europe's most prominent universities, Leuven (Louvain, in French) sits east of Brussels on the banks of the Dijle. Despite damage done during the World Wars, Leuven still has many of its original historic buildings, including fine examples of Gothic architecture.

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Day Trips from Antwerp : In addition to the larger cities nearby, those looking for good day trip options from Antwerp have plenty of options to choose from, including the beautiful towns of Mechelen, Lier, and Turnhout.

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Why You Should Visit Antwerp, Belgium

by Cheryl Howard | Apr 28, 2023 | Antwerp , Belgium , Destinations , Europe | 0 comments

Visit Antwerp Belgium - Central Station

Belgium’s port city of Antwerp should be a highlight for anyone planning to visit Belgium . From the old and new architecture, to the shopping opportunities, gastronomy scene, and other quirky sites, there’s a little something for everyone.

Antwerp Belgium In Autumn City Scenes

In this little mini-guide to Antwerp , I highlight different places to visit including popular tourist sites, some quirky statues, a museum with one heck of a view, a place with the best fries you’ll have in your life, and more. While I haven’t highlighted every single thing there is to do in Antwerp, consider this a curated list of my very favourite things to do in this Belgian city.

Visit Antwerp - Frites Atelier

1) Frites Atelier – Frites Atelier attracts massive crowds who flock here for the star-rated chef’s fries. Dutch chef Sergio Herman spent 18 months testing and experimenting with various types of potatoes, sourcing the perfect salt to use, and following a set cooking method that leaves your fries soft and creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside. The fries are served with a number of exquisite toppings like “Parmesan & Basil” with grated Parmesan cheese, tomato powder, basil cress, and basil mayonnaise. Or try the Flemish Beef Stew where the fries are topped with braised beef soaked in brown beer that’s served with garden cress and pickled mustard seeds. Being Canadian , you’d think I’d be a loyal poutine fan, but this Belgium fries establishment puts Canada to shame. If you do anything when you visit Antwerp, grab some fries at Frites Atelier.

Address: Korte Gasthuisstraat 32, 2000

Den Deugniet Antwerp - Header Image

2) Den Deugniet – Brussels is notorious for its bizarrely numerous statutes of children, and even dogs, peeing. Antwerp has an equally strange, but no less humorous statue of a little boy with his pants down, showing off his bare bottom and giving the world a full moon. See this statue for a good laugh and some funny photos to share with family and friends.

Address: Korte Gasthuisstraat 36, 2000

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Visit Antwerp Belgium - Museum aan de Stroom

3) Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) – Antwerp’s largest museum, along the Scheldt river, is a beautiful postmodern art deco style building featuring red sandside and curved glass panelling. At 60 meters high, the rooftop is the prize, as it’s here you can find panoramic views over Antwerp. Stay there for a while to soak up the city views and snap some photos. Highly recommended is heading there for sunset. MAS hosts both permanent and temporary exhibitions focused on connecting local and global culture, art, and history. 

Address: Hanzestedenplaats 1, 2000

why to visit antwerp

4) Port Authority Building – Fusing both new and old architecture, the Port Authority building in Antwerp is a wild Neo-furist design by the late architect, Zaha Hadi. The massive 12,800 square meter building serves as the headquarters for the local port authority’s 500 employees. The lower part of the building is a restored fire station, while the four-floor glass and steel structure resting on top of it resembles the hull of a sailing ship. Visit the building to marvel at the incredible feat of architecture or take a tour with Experience Antwerp to learn even more about this fascinating building. 

Address: Zaha Hadidplein 1, 2030

Grote Markt Antwerpen

5) Grote Markt – If there is a pièce de résistance in Antwerp, then Grote Markt definitely fits the bill. Hordes of tourists head to this UNESCO site, situated in the old city quarter. The large town square is filled with 16th century Flemish Renaissance buildings, the Brabo Fountain, and a stunning city hall flanked by gilded houses that have been transformed into modern-day cafés and restaurants. Come here to admire the historical architecture, have a traditional Belgium meal (paired with beer of course!), and people watch. One of my favourite things to do when there was to watch aspiring social media stars posing for photos, with some even doing complete outfit changes right out in the open. 

Address: 2000 Antwerpen

Nello and Pastrache Statue Antwerp

6) Nello and Pastrache Statue – While wandering around Grote Markt, you’ll come across the statue of a young orphan boy, Nello and his dog Pastrache. These characters are from the fictional novella, A Dog of Flanders which takes place in Antwerp. The story actually became more famous abroad, in places like Korea and Japan, than at home. As fans started visiting Antwerp to see where their hero had lived, the city decided to add some statues to honour the beloved characters. You’ll find a white marble statue of the duo lying under a cobblestone blanket, depicting a poignant moment in the book.

Visit Antwerp Belgium - Central Station

7) Antwerp-Central Railway Station – Frequently hailed as one of the most beautiful train stations in the world, Antwerp’s central railway station is quite a thing to behold. Built between 1895 – 1905 by Belgian architect Louis Delacenserie, the highlight is the grandiose cathedral inspired dome in the waiting hall. The station was badly damaged during WW2 and was thankfully restored in the late 1980s. Even if you don’t plan on taking a train to or from Antwerp, this station is a must-see.

Recommended reading: A profile of the main train station in Liège.

Address: Koningin Astridplein 27, 2018

Shopping Stadsfeestzaal Antwerp

8) Shopping Stadsfeestzaal – Now a shopping center with upscale shops and eateries, this rather opulent heritage building was formerly an event and exhibition hall where elegant balls, trade fairs, and other festive celebrations took place. Back in 2000, the building was completely destroyed in a fire that left only the building’s facade, sweeping staircases, and the roof intact. Through extensive and painstaking renovation efforts over the course of three years, the place was brought back to life with the painting of the gold leaf ornaments taking more than 18 months alone. Even if you can only window shop, the Shopping Stadsfeestzaal is worth checking out, as the building is just too pretty to miss.

Address: Meir 78, 2000

Exotische Markt Antwerp Antwerpen

9) Exotische Markt – Another reason to visit Antwerp is the Exotische Markt, an open air food market held every Saturday from 8:00 – 16:00. Come to this market to buy high-end products from around the world like cheese from the Netherlands, homemade pasta from Italy, or nuts from Morocco. Stop by to grab a bite for lunch or breakfast, or stock up on food items to take home as a souvenir.

Address: Theaterbuurt 2000, 2000 

Visit Antwerp - The Chocolate Line

10) The Chocolate Line – You’d be remiss not to have world the renowned Belgium chocolate when you visit Antwerp. There’s no better place than The Chocolate Line, an established business that’s been around for more than 20 years that boasts a resplendent venue in the Palace on the Meir. Come here for a heady mix of both traditional and more innovative flavours of chocolate which are natural and ethically sourced. Browse their extensive product line to get an idea of what delectable bites are in store for you. Think bacon and hemp flavoured chocolate for example.

Address: Meir 50, 2000

Has our little guide convinced you to visit Antwerp, Belgium? While I recommend a longer stay to really get to know the city, it can also be done as a day trip from Brussels , with Liège making for another great day trip from Brussels as well.

What do you think about our reasons to visit Antwerp? Do you have any other hot tips for the city? Drop us your recommendations in the comments section.

Use this custom Google Map to find all of the places we suggest you visit when travelling to Antwerp.

Transportation Options In Antwerp

These are the main transportation options in Antwerp, Belgium: 

1) To travel to Antwerp’s city center, choices include going with a train, taxi, or bus:

  • From the airport  – Antwerp’s airport (ANR) is about 5 kilometers from the city center. Buses run frequently from the airport, taking you to Berchem train station which connects you to multiple lines running into the city. The commute should take around 20-30 minutes, with a single fare ticket costing around €3. If you’re driving from the airport, it should take you about 15 minutes to get into the city. A taxi will fetch you about €10. 
  • From the main train station  – The city’s main railway station, Antwerpen Centraal Station ,  is located in the middle of the city. Use public transit, walk, or take a taxi to get to arrive at your final destination.  
  • From the main bus stops  – Eurolines has a location not far from the main train station at Van Stralenstraat 8 and Flixbus has two stops, Koningin Astridplein (also near Centraal Station) and Berchem. From any of these stops, use public transit, your own two feet, or a taxi. 

2) Getting around Antwerp:

  • Taxis  – A recommended local company are  Taxivervoer Antwerpen .
  • Ride sharing  –  Uber  is also available.
  • Bikes  – Grab a bike with  Velo , the city’s bike sharing service.
  • Public Transit  –  De Lijn  has a network of buses, trams, and underground trams (the pre-metro). A single ticket journey is €3. If you’re planning on using public transit extensively, it’s cheaper to purchase in a day pass, a three day pass, or a 10 journeys pass. Download their app for even cheaper tickets and added convenience. Note, it’s not uncommon for buses and trams often run late during rush hours.
  • Driving  – If you want to drive in Antwerp, consider renting a car with Sixt Autoverhuur Antwerpen or Europcar .

For more information about how to get around Antwerp, see  Wikitravel .

Where To Stay In Antwerp

Find your accommodations in Antwerp with booking.com .

Paying For Things In Belgium

Important information to consider when handling payments while you’re travelling around Belgium:

1) Belgium uses the Euro:

  • See  xe.com  to find out how your home currency compares to the Euro.
  • Most places accept bank or credit cards. There also are bank machines throughout the city in case you need cash. 
  • When paying by card, you may be asked which currency you want to pay in – choose to pay in Euros (the local currency) to save money on the exchange rate.

2) Belgium is more expensive than some other  European destinations , so you may find yourself needing to budget when it comes to  accommodation ,  eating out , and more.

3) If you can avoid doing so, exchange your money in the city center and NOT the airport, as exchange rates at the airport tends to be on the high side.

Good To Know About Antwerp 

Other essential things to know about Antwerp:

1) To experience Antwerp on a deeper level, tour the city with Get Your Guide:

2) Is the country safe for travellers? Generally speaking, Belgium is fairly safe and doesn’t have high levels of crime. That said, pickpocketing and other forms of theft are all too commonplace. So keep your belongings close by at all times, especially in tourist hotspots. During dinner one night in Brussels, I actually stopped a thief when he tried to steal my companion’s purse! Racism sadly exists  everywhere , but if you’re a person of colour or of the Muslim faith, it’s also quite possible you’ll  experience incidents of racism .

3) If you love travelling around Belgium , read some of my other top posts about this beer loving country:

  • An Extreme Staircase, The Montagne De Bueren In Liège – Montagne De Bueren is one of the world’s most “extreme” staircases. With a 30% incline and 374 steps, scaling this staircase is no easy feat.
  • A Stylish Hotel In Belgium, The Radisson RED Brussels – Are you looking for a stylish boutique hotel in Belgium? Look no further than the Radisson RED Brussels for the perfect city stay.
  • Queen For A Day At Belga Queen Brussels – Feel like a queen (or king) for a day and take a gastronomic trip through Belgian cuisine when eating and drinking at Belga Queen Brussels.

If you like this post, share it on  Pinterest .

*Disclosure  – This post contains some affiliate links. If you book a tour or hotel, I’ll earn a tiny commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support!

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Home » Travel Guides » Belgium » 15 Best Things to Do in Antwerp (Belgium)

15 Best Things to Do in Antwerp (Belgium)

The second city of Belgium and home to the biggest port in the country, Antwerp is an obvious choice for travellers in the country. The city seems to ooze power and cool and this may be due to its historic status as home of moguls and diamond dealers. Antwerp is known as the diamond capital of the world and the diamond industry plays an important role in the economy of the city and has done throughout its history.

During the 16th Century the city was one of the most important places, and one of the most important ports in all of Europe. The city suffered greatly in the Second World War but still retains many of its medieval charm and landmarks. Today, the city has a reputation for art and fashion.

Antwerp has everything a traveller should wish for in a European city; world class museums and art, beautiful architecture and great food and drink. Here is our list of 15 Best Things to do in Antwerp :

1. Admire Antwerp Central Station

Antwerp Central Station

Looking at a train station may not be one of the best things to do in many cities but in Antwerp, it is an absolute must. The Gothic architecture of the building’s impressive exterior will take your breath away and the main hall is equally splendid.

The station is one of the city’s most treasured landmarks and has been rated as one of the world’s top five most beautiful train stations.

The station is much more than just a pretty face however and has been fully adapted to operate in the 21st Century with its multilevel platforms.

2. Learn about printing at the Museum Plantin-Moretus

Museum Plantin-Moretus

This former printing press was once one of the finest in the world. The site has been home to museum since 1876 and is now a UNSECO World Heritage Site.

It may be unusual for a museum to be inducted into World Heritage Site status but once you visit this fascinating place you will see why.

The building itself dates back to medieval times and, along with the courtyard, is alone worthy of a visit. Combine this with a museum exploring the world’s oldest printing press, a 17th Century library and a collection of valuable artwork and you will soon see why the Museum Plantin-Moretus is so highly regarded.

3. Pop into Rubens House

Rubens House

Rubenshuis is the former home of the painter Pieter Paul Rubens. The home was built by Rubens himself as both a place to live and also as a studio for him to work in.

The building was in a bad way prior to restorative work that began in 1937 but with some careful work, the building has now returned to its former glory.

As well as furniture from the period that the painter lived here, the house also shows off many pieces of his artwork.

4. Visit the Red Star Line Museum

Red Star Line Museum

The Red Star Line Museum exhibits the stories of many migrants who left Belgium, mainly for America, via the Red Star Line ships. Most of the passengers embarked from the very building in which the museum is housed.

The exhibits are very engaging and use actual photographs and other personal items to vividly tell the story of the crossing from Belgium to the States.

The observation tower, which was formerly the buildings chimney, has great views of the surrounding area.

5. Explore the historic Antwerp Zoo

Antwerp Zoo

Antwerp Zoo was founded in 1843 and makes a great day out when you are tired of looking at museums and architecture.

The zoo may be one of the oldest in the world but the facilities are modern and world class with state of the art enclosures and breeding programmes.

Popular attractions at the zoo include a loved up koala couple who live together in a thatched cottage as well as a new reef environment in the zoo’s aquarium.

6. Eat “French” Fries

Belgian Fries

I don’t want to spark an international conflict with this point but Belgians will argue that they actually invented so-called French Fries.

Regardless of who invented them, Antwerp is a great place to experience the Belgian take on fries.

Forget fast-food, in Belgium they slow the pace and serve fries in frites cafes which specialize in serving the tastiest fries around.

7. Shop in style

Stadsfeestzaal

Shopping centres don’t come much more stylish than the Stadsfeestzaal Shopping Centre in the centre of Antwerp.

The building was once almost destroyed but due to its status as a listed building it was promptly restored to exactly how it should be. The architecture, marble staircase and mosaic floor will keep even the most reluctant shoppers entertained and if not, there is always the champagne bar to enjoy.

8. Worship the Cathedral of Our Lady

Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp

The tallest cathedral in the Low Countries is one that can be appreciated both from outside and inside.

It took 169 years to build before being completed in the year 1521. The spire is visible from many areas of the city and rarely fails to take one’s breath away.

The interior is a striking blend of Baroque decor and Ruben’s artwork. An entry fee to the cathedral applies and guided tours are available.

9. Drink Beer

De Koninck Beer

The Belgians are rightfully proud of their beer and it would be rude to visit Antwerp and not sample a few cold beers.

Visiting the Antwerp Brewery is a good place to learn about Belgian beer as well as sampling a glass of De Koninck beer at the very site it was made.

If this fails to quench your thirst, why not visit Paters Vaetje, located by the cathedral, which serves over 100 beers. You are certain to find at least one that you like.

10. Explore Het Steen

Het Steen

Het Steen is the name of a small but pretty castle just on the side of the river in Antwerp. The castle dates back to the early 13th Century and makes for some great photographs.

Also worth photographing is the odd statue outside the castle of Lange Wapper, a large peeping tom character who is exposing his codpiece to passers by.

There is nothing to be seen inside the castle itself but the nearby maritime museum, with its collection of historic barges, is worth a look while in the area.

11. Visit the unique MAS Museum

MAS Museum

If you have had your fill of historic sights within Antwerp (and there are a lot worth seeing) then you should visit the modern MAS museum.

MAS is a museum that does explore the history of Antwerp and its role as an important port city but also features temporary cutting edge exhibits that are regularly changing. Temporary exhibits on display at the time of writing include one exploring different forms of body art.

Whilst visiting the museum it is well worth taking the elevators to the open top roof for breathtaking views of the city. There is no charge for this.

12. Tour the city by bike

Rental Bikes in Antwerp

Like many great European cities, Antwerp is great to explore on two wheels. Hiring a bike yourself and planning a route is a possibility but the safer option is to take a bike tour with a guide.

Most tours last for a few hours and will take in all of the cities major sights including the cathedral, MAS and central station.

Even if you have already walked around all of the main sights, seeing them again on two wheels is a great experience.

13. Visit the home of Rockoxhuis

Rockoxhuis

Nicolaas Rockox was something of a celebrity in 17th Century Antwerp. He was a lawyer and politician and his house remains beautiful to this day.

The house, complimented by a lovely courtyard and garden, features commissions from Rockoxhuis’ private collection that have not been sold to bigger galleries. Works by Rubens and Van Dyck are still housed here.

The Golden Cabinet art exhibition is also housed here and is both fascinating and varied.

  • 14.  Relax in the town square

Antwerp Grote Markt

Antwerp’s Grote Markt or town square dates back to the 16th Century and is a beautiful example of architecture from this period.

The town hall is the centerpiece and is built in Renaissance and Gothic styles. The statue at the centre of the square is of Brabo, a legendary giant slayer, and dates back to 1887.

The nearby street of Hofstraat is where the old stock exchange was located until the 16th Century.

15. Shop for Diamonds

Antwerp Diamond District

Antwerp is known for its so-called diamond district which is located west of the Central Train Station. Around 85% of the world’s uncut diamonds find their way here and result in the employment of more than 30,000 people.

The diamond museum here is the largest of its kind in the world and will tell you everything you need to know about diamonds and the industry here.

The diamond industry is largely run by orthodox Jews although more and more wealthy Americans and Indians are becoming influential.

15 Best Things to Do in Antwerp (Belgium):

  • Admire Antwerp Central Station
  • Learn about printing at the Museum Plantin-Moretus
  • Pop into Rubens House
  • Visit the Red Star Line Museum
  • Explore the historic Antwerp Zoo
  • Eat "French" Fries
  • Shop in style
  • Worship the Cathedral of Our Lady
  • Explore Het Steen
  • Visit the unique MAS Museum
  • Tour the city by bike
  • Visit the home of Rockoxhuis
  • Shop for Diamonds

IMAGES

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