Things to Do in Antwerp

McCabe David / March 05, 2021

Antwerp is a unique, stylish city located in northern Belgium. Since medieval times, Antwerp has been an important center for commerce and trade due to its location as a port city on the Scheldt River. The city is known for diamond dealers in its famous Diamond District, fashion designers like the celebrated Antwerp Six, and the legacy of Flemish Baroque artists like Peter Paul Rubens. Antwerp is also known for its food, with Belgian delicacies like waffles, chocolates, fries, and beer!
The most popular shopping street in Antwerp is the Meir. It’s a long, pedestrian-only thoroughfare going through the middle of the city and it’s filled with dozens of shops, from trendy boutiques to big chain stores.
Grote Markt is the historic town square of Antwerp surrounded by lovely Flemish Renaissance buildings. During the holidays, it’s transformed into a beautiful Christmas market. There are other markets held here throughout the year so make sure to do some research before you go to see if there will be a market there during your visit! Just behind the Grote Markt is the iconic Cathedral of Our Lady. This church is the tallest building in Antwerp and is a World Heritage Site. It took 169 years to build and is unique because of the gilded clock on top of its belltower.
The Antwerp Six are six famous designers who graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp around the same time, including Ann Demeulemeester and Dries van Noten. These designers put Antwerp on the map as a city for fashion and design. You can find most of their flagship stores around the city like the one below. Located a little ways away from the city center by the waterfront, Het Steen is an impressive medieval castle and fortress. Built in the 13th century, Het Steen is the oldest building in Antwerp. Now it’s home to the National Maritime Museum.
Just steps away from the cathedral is Groenplaats, one of the most popular squares in Antwerp. This square is filled with outdoor cafes and restaurants and it’s the perfect place to sit down for a meal after a day of exploring the city. It’s also a prime spot for people-watching if you grab a seat at one of the many sidewalk cafes! The Rubenhuis is a museum housed in the former home of artist Peter Paul Rubens. This is one of the most impressive museums in the city, with a large collection of works from Rubens and his Flemish contemporaries.
Another food that Belgium is known for is their fries! Although they’re called French fries, fries were actually invented and perfected in Belgium. You can get some delicious “gourmet” fries at Frites Atelier in Antwerp. These fancy fries come with six different dipping sauces. For some more basic and traditional fries, head to Fritkot Max in the Groenplaats square. One of my favorite places in Antwerp is the historic Vlaeykensgang alley. Dating back to medieval times, the hidden alleyway winds between some of the main streets in the city center just steps away from the cathedral. Once home to shoemakers and other tradesmen in Antwerp, the alley now houses art galleries and a chic French restaurant. To enter to alley, go to 16 Oude Koornmarkt and you will see a little doorway. (It’s very easy to miss!)