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Antwerp Travel Guide

About Antwerp

Forget the beer and waffles cliché, Belgium’s second largest city is the latest European hipster hub, with an avant-garde cultural scene that blows all stereotypes out of the water.

The style revolution spearheaded by the Antwerp Six in the 1980s helped establish this modern metropolis as a capital of cool. Though it’s packed with contemporary art galleries and independent fashion houses, Antwerp has never lost touch with its historic roots.

The magnificent Old Town is home to some of the finest architecture in the Low Countries, and the stepped-gable buildings that line the Grote Markt are as impressive as anything you’ll find in Amsterdam.

Antwerp’s architectural achievements are mirrored by its artistic ones. The city has long been a magnet for painters, but not even Van Gough’s stint here could steal the limelight from Antwerp’s most celebrated resident, Sir Peter Paul Rubens. The house and studio of this legendary Baroque painter have been turned into a museum, and his work is proudly on display in a selection of world-class galleries.

If you prefer fashion to fine arts, a stroll through the bustling diamond quarter is a must. This small and fairly shabby district has been the capital of the world’s diamond trade for centuries, giving the city a long-standing reputation for glamour and sophistication.

The sprawling industrial cargo docks once added some grit to the Antwerp oyster but, thanks to a recent intensive programme of rejuvenation, the port has morphed into one of the trendiest parts of town.

With a stellar array of restaurants, Antwerp doesn’t disappoint on the foodie front either. There are Michelin-starred venues scattered across the city, not to mention an array of more eclectic places to dine, plus a few traditional Belgian gems too.

Unfortunately, eating out isn’t particularly cheap. Diners won’t find significant reductions by escaping the touristy Old Town, but you’ll soon forget about the exorbitant restaurant bills with an Antwerp-style shindig. The city’s energetic nightlife caters to everyone from rockers to ravers.

 

Key facts

Population:
520, 504
Latitude:
51.217473
Longitude:
4.416687

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Hotel Rubens

Tucked away in a quiet side street behind the Grote Markt, this stylish 4-star hotel is the perfect base to explore the Old Town. A friendly concierge welcomes weary travellers with a refreshing port or sherry, while the hotel’s chic rooms are comfortable, quiet and well-appointed. You won’t go hungry either; their buffet breakfast will set you up for a day full of sightseeing.

Hotel Rubenshof

Next to the Fine Arts Museum, this cheap Antwerp hotel sits in the trendy Zuid district. The building occupies a former cardinal's residence that dates back to 1860, with ornate public areas and 22 tastefully decorated bedrooms.

Hotel Matelote

Matelote is a unique boutique hotel merging 21st century convenience with 16th century architecture. Nestled in the Haarstraat, the building is just a short walk from main attractions like the Grand Palace and its town hall, the River Scheldt and the Antwerp Cathedral. The Fashion Museum and Rubens House also sit nearby, making sight-seeing a breeze. Because it’s a historical site, there is no elevator in the hotel, meaning it does not offer full accessibility.

 

Firean Hotel

Built in 1929, the Firean Hotel is reputed to be one of the most charming hotels in Belgium. This hotel is an Art-deco mansion that the actual owners restored in 1986. They take pride in offering outstanding quality and service with thoughtful gestures. One of the proprietors welcomes guests upon arrival, acquainting visitors with the space.

 

Tra Noi

Located in the heart of the fashion district, this superb little guesthouse is owned by Danielle, a friendly lady who has two apartments and a guest bedroom that she rents out at very reasonable rates. Danielle used to work in the fashion industry, so the decor is stylish and slightly eccentric (there’s an antique rowing boat hanging from the ceiling of one apartment), but the city centre location is almost unbeatable.

Hotel Postiljon

Nestled in the shadow cast by the neighbouring cathedral, this long-established Antwerp hotel offers simple, clean and elegant rooms. It may be small with no frills, but considering its prime location opposite the city’s biggest landmark, Hotel Postiljon offers fantastic value for money.