We found an apartment in Antwerp, so we made it our base for several days so we could explore the northern and Flemish part of Belgium. This large city (over 500,000) is located on the Scheldt River, which flows out to the North Sea. It’s been an important port city since 16th century and it is currently one of the largest seaports in Europe.
Although Antwerp is a fairly large city, it’s very clean and organized. Public transportation is efficient—with frequent trains, busses and trams to choose from. There are two train stations that serve Antwerp. The central station is a beautiful Art Nouveau building in the center of the city. For our neighborhood in Zurenborg, we used the convenient Berchem station.
Similar to Holland, bicycle use is very popular thanks to the flat terrain and abundant bicycle lanes. The Antwerp website provides lots of suggestions for exploring the city and where you can rent a bike, too!
The old city center has a fun mix of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, various colorful squares and hundreds of shops and restaurants.
We used the Antwerp City Card to visit just some of the 18 museums and important sites. It even includes free bus and tram service.
I found an excellent book called The 500 Hidden Secrets of Antwerp by Derek Blyth. He’s also written a similar book about Brussels. It was full of great topics such as buildings to admire, places for culture, 5 best tram rides, things to do with children and of course, the best places to find food and drink.
Here’s what we found in Antwerp:
Several churches with more paintings by Peter Paul Rubens
Plenty of museums
The Plantin-Moretus Museum of Printing-a UNESCO World Heritage site
The Zurenborg neighborhood with Art Nouveau homes. Look closely at the rooftop of one of the White Palaces on Cogle-Osylei Street. We thought the guy was for real, at first.
We just scratched the surface of Antwerp. There’s a great fashion district, the Diamond District and more fun neighborhoods. Another good resource for planning your time is the city planner.
What impressed us the most about Antwerp was the relaxed and casual pace of such a big city. The people are friendly, helpful and delightful to engage in conversation. Our only regret is that we didn’t have more time to explore more neighborhoods in this vibrant and charming city.