Top 7 Things to Do in Antwerp, Belgium
The Dutch-speaking city of Antwerp should be on every traveler’s list when visiting Belgium. Despite my best efforts, I arrived in Antwerp after sunset and was unable to get my bearings during daylight hours. Yet somehow, I still felt safe on my walk to dinner that evening and immediately fell in love with this city.
Even though Dutch is predominantly taught in Schools here, you’ll hear a mix of languages spoken — including English, German and French — so it’s an extremely tourist-friendly destination. And because the city is surprisingly small, the list below can easily be done on a three-day visit.
Grote Markt in Old Town
I had dinner reservations on the night of my arrival, so I set off on foot to find Dock’s Cafe — using confusing directions from the receptionist at my hotel. After a frustrating day of train delays, I opted to cancel my dinner plans and instead stumbled upon Grote Markt and Old Town Antwerp.
This area of Antwerp is definitely my favorite because of the unlimited restaurant options and stunning architecture. Old Town is also where you will find the Cathedral of our Lady (the tallest building in downtown Antwerp) and Silvius Brabo (the famous hand statue and how Antwerp got its name). Because of its size, the Cathedral is a great reference point to avoid getting lost in this part of the city.
The Chocolate Line Shop in Grand Meir Palace
The Chocolate Line is a gorgeous chocolate shop and is located in Grand Meir Palace, which was at one time owned by both the Belgian Royal Family and Napoleon. You can buy a variety of unique handmade chocolates here — including Earl Grey, cannabis, bacon and cigar-flavored chocolate squares.
Cellar Restaurants & Beer Tastings!
I absolutely loved the underground restaurants in Antwerp. These dungeon-like cellars serve food that ranges from French and Belgian to medieval cuisine. That’s right, you can reserve a table at De Grootte Ganz and taste traditional medieval dishes eaten with a spoon and your hands!
I ordered the beer tasting at De Pelgrom (in the same cellar as De Grootte Ganz) and it came with four healthy tastings of Belgian beer and a block of cheese for 11 Euro. Estro Armonico is another cave-restaurant, located a block or two away from De Pelgrom and it gets excellent reviews for its Belgian cuisine.
I did eventually make it to the Michelin-approved restaurant, Dock’s Cafe, located along the docks of the Scheldt river. The French and Italian-inspired cuisine and extremely fresh oyster bar definitely deserves its Michelin Star status. I highly recommend the savory duck with leeks and potatoes. I was actually sad that I don’t like oysters because their bar looks tempting.
Antwerpen-Central Railway Station
Did you know that Antwerp has one of the prettiest train stations in the world? Apparently, this 19th Century building is listed as one of the top three most beautiful railway stations. Even if you’re not arriving or departing by train, it’s a must see for the photo opportunities alone.
Invincible is a hip restaurant with a menu that changes daily. I suggest reserving a seat in the kitchen, where you can watch the cooks prepare everyone’s meal from start to finish. The waitstaff and chef really know how to pair local beers to compliment each dish.
Goossens Bakery & Philip’s Biscuits
Goossens has been around since 1884 and it’s extremely popular with the locals, which means you absolutely have to try it. You can’t miss this small shop if you arrive in the morning because there will be a line out the door. Right next door is Philip’s Biscuits and it’s also a local favorite. Don’t forget to try the delicious, buttery Antwerp Hand cookie — it’s a great gift to bring home as well.