I was thinking to write about Antwerpen for some time, but somehow I could not find the right time or the right words for it until yesterday when one of my colleagues in the office where I started to volunteer (and about this a bit later, I promise 😉 ) told me that that she’s heading to Antwerpen this weekend.
Antwerpen is one of my favorite cities in Belgium and it’s far far far better than Brussels (sry guys!). I loved the feeling of safeness and this kind of being in a present-day-fairytale state of mind. I’m a daydreamer for life, perhaps that’s why I love it so much 😉
As many big cities in Europe, Antwerp offers a large variety of foods from around the world. It’s only up to you to decide what you want to try. Italian, French, Flemish, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, fusion …..you name it and you’ll find it!
Some of the must try dishes here, besides chocolate, waffles and potatoes with chicken, are steak with potatoes and pepper sauce, mussels or asparagus soup for lunch or light dinner. But, this sounds like nothing, too little and perhaps some of you would want to have vegetarian food and meats are a big no no, that’s why I looked more and this is what I have found:
- dining guide quite detailed and with a lot of recommendations, perhaps you’d want to try one or few of these places.
- Or if you want something more eccentric and with few pictures in it, then Spotted by locals will satisfy this request
At the time when I went to Antwerp, there weren’t so many smart phones around, but today the innovation and new technologies made it easier to discover this fashion capital, even if you’re new here. Some apps that you may want to check:
- Citizine (iPhone). It provides information for all Flemish cities in Belgium
- Approved by Mona (Android and iPhone). Strong in art, fashion, culture and food. This app is another handy guide for great lifestyle places to go in Antwerp
- Fashion in Antwerp (Android and iPhone) This guide will provide you with behind the scenes advice in the Flemish capital of fashion
Now you know that FASHION is what you have to think about Antwerp or Antwerp, but things don’t end here. Antwerp is the second biggest port in Europe after Rotterdam aaaaaaand the most exciting is that, yes, this city should be on each and every girl’s list because it’s the “diamond capital of the world”!
I know, buying a diamond ring, earrings or any other piece of jewelry that has precious stones in it isn’t something that one should take easily. You’ll find shops that sell handmade, unique and at times customized jewelry around the Railway Station, but there are shops that will try to get your money and sell lower quality if not some cheaper stones without you knowing it. I will try to help you with some tips on how to find what you’re paying for:
- Keep in mind that in Antwerp are hundreds of little diamond shops. The best you can do if you want to buy a diamond is get some information at the Diamond High Council. They will provide you with addresses of reliable companies.
- After choosing the diamond, jewelry you want, don’t let the vendor put it somewhere that you cannot see, because this is exactly the time when they make the switch!
- Do some previous research on prices back home and know your budget.
- Bargain. Sometimes, pretending to know a bit about diamonds will help you bargaining. To read some information regarding the cuts, clarity, color, carat and pricing go here.
- Ask for certificates and never leave without one and without a check!
- Have clear ideas of what model you want, don’t get distracted, stay focused.
- Last but not least, check the reviews on TripAdvisor regarding Diamond District. All the comments there will be of a big help and will give you an idea what to expect.
The next stop, or better said one of the first stops will be, most likely, the Central Station or Railway Station. It’s a very beautiful one. It’s kind of setting up the mood and expectations from this city from the moment you arrive there.
Just outside you’ll find the zoo and the famous Diamond District I wrote above.
If diamonds aren’t on your list, then move towards the downtown. Even though it’s a safe city, some attention to your belongings won’t harm, therefore avoid walking around with many bags or luggage. Try to limit this cargo to the minimum and take only the things you’ll need over the day.
Unlike other posts, I won’t make a list of what you have to see here, I will just say you to walk towards the main square and discover the old town at a slow pace. The old town is very charming and the cathedral is as beautiful as the surroundings are.
I will mention, though, the tunnel that goes under the Scheldt river. Saint – Anne tunnel will take you to the other side of the river and will give you a different perspective over the old town and Antwerp. Not many people know about it and not all the maps show it, therefore not a popular attraction. Sunsets are something not to be missed and add to this reflections on the Scheldt water 😉 More about this tunnel, read here.
After shopping, sightseeing and dining I guess that some of you will want to know what else they can do in Antwerp. Well, there are some interesting events that will rise your interest, I’m sure!
The first one to mention is sinksenfoor 2014 (07.06.2014 – 13.07.2014). It’s an annual fair with over 150 attractions.
The next on the list is lambermontmartre (25.05 – 29.06 – 27.07 – 31.08 – 28.09). It’s an opportunity for art lovers buy art in open-air in a cozy Montmartre-like atmosphere. More than one hundred artists (painters, photographers, graphic designers, sculptors) will exhibit their work.
Then air/port 2014 (01.07.2014 – 31.08.2014). This exhibition unites Belgian, Moroccan and other international artists and coincides with the fifty year commemoration of Moroccan and Turkish migration to Antwerp.
Air/Port will be held in many venues all over Eilandje in the north of the city, therefore, check the page for more information about this event and venues.
One last mention here is that during this time more than 60 artists and art students from around the world will showcase their talent
From 4th to 10th of August will be held the Gay Pride. For more information regarding the program, tickets and more, please go here.
14th – 17th of August are other dates to be marked in the calendar. During this period in Antwerp will be delighted with some quality Jazz at jazz middelheim. If you’re in Antwerp around those dates, go to Den Brandt Park.
Just because I used to travel on budget, I chose to stay in a hostel not too far from the Central Station. The place is called abhostel and you can find its website here. The place was nice, clean and had plenty of books to read or guides to make some notes. I have found about this tunnel from the owners of this hostel and I’m sure they know other places that aren’t on a tourist map.
More information about Antwerp, you can find on Visit Antwerp Official Tourism Portal.
That’s all about Antwerp. I hope you enjoyed reading this post 😉
On the river bank in Antwerp
Travel safe and wise!