Antwerp runs on coffee and my favorite haunt is Tartoer, a coffee shop near the Grote Markt in the old town. It has great homemade cakes and vintage Vespa memorabilia. My other favorite is coffeebar Zulma near my house in Marksem – it serves the best chocolate cake in Antwerp.
Little Island offers good-quality, all-day dining with views across the harbor near the District Landmark Museum An de Stroom. Bar Panik is an old warehouse by the water, with an artsy atmosphere, while Otomat Pizza has a unique Belgian take on pizza with fantastic toppings and local beer.
The reopening of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts this autumn is huge for the city, bringing the Flemish masters back to the public after 11 years of being closed for renovations. You’ll find classical art by Rubens and Jan van Eyck alongside more modern works – the redesigned galleries are arranged thematically rather than chronologically – plus a new wing dedicated to Ostend-born artist James Ensor.
This coincides with the reopening of MoMu, the fashion museum, this month (8 October 2022), which has a new gallery for its permanent collection, as well as bimonthly Saturday Fashion Walks.
Antwerp has a classical tradition, but I love its street art. If Rubens were working today, he would be creating street art. We now have over 400 examples of murals and graffiti around the city, and new urban-art stars like Zenith and Roa are Antwerp’s answer to Banksy. I wander around the northern district of Marksem, a huge open-air art museum open to all. This is the new creative spirit of Antwerp.
Berchem is only 10 minutes south by train from Central Station but relatively undiscovered. It combines art nouveau architecture with reasonably priced places to eat around the Daggeradplatz, such as Gijscht.
My walks in this part of town always end at the Summer Factory, which has over 4,000 square meters of murals. A series of streets built around a creative art center and café-bar, featuring works by artists from around the world as part of the annual street-art festival. It is recreated every year and each mural now has a QR code, linked to the artist’s profile. It’s rumored that the entire area could be knocked down to make way for housing, so check it out while you can.
In the city center, I like to walk through the Moonthof, one of the main street-art spaces in the city. It was a volatile district, but has now been mellowed. Graffiti started here in the 1990s as a rebel art, but the new scene is more about quality.
My favorite green space is Park Spur Noord, reclaimed railway land transformed into a public space between the harbor and the resurgent Little Island district, 15 minutes by tram from the city centre.
For beer in the old town, my choice is Pater’s Vetje. This is what we call a proper “brown cafe”, a place lost in time with old furniture and a huge selection of beers. My other favorite is Coates Antwerp for small plates and cocktails – I’ve got a thing for their Moscow Mules.
Any big night out ends at Frituur No. 1, Old Town’s incomparable snack bar. It’s a meeting place for all walks of life, open until 4am and serving my favourites: currywurst and fries.
The A-Stay Hotel (doubles from €125 B&B), near Central Station, has huge murals of exotic animals by local artist Charlotte de Kock, inspired by the nearby Antwerp Zoo.
Uist (doubles from just €114), near Berchem’s de Koninck brewery, is a boutique bolthole with family rooms and women-only dorms, among other options.
Tim leads Antwerp street-art tours on Sundays, cost €20pp; visitantwerpen.be A good source of more information