Day 1 in Antwerp

Welcome to Antwerp! Upon arrival, you will go through customs and immigration. Make your transfer to your destination, arrive at your hotel, check in and do not give in to jet lag! There is so much for you to see and do.

If you arrive by train (or even if you don`t, but we urge you to) make sure to admire the famed Central Station. Once you rise to the main area of the station, you will see the architectural beauty of the Antwerpen-Centraal (Antwerp Central Station). Dubbed Europe`s most romantic and the world`s most beautiful train station, this `railway cathedral` has breathtaking qualities that depicts a mix of modern and ancient construction. So even if you do not arrive or depart by train, it is a must see for the photo opportunities alone.

Spend your afternoon enjoying a pleasant lunch at any of the charming cafes in Grote Markt in Old Town, an area that offers 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.

While in Grote Markt you will find an impressive array of former (medieval) guild houses or guild halls. Look at the top of these houses and you will see how decorative the roofs are; they would even have statues upon them so watch out for those as well. This area is a great place to stroll and offers the perfect opportunity to people or crowd watch! It`s a great way to observe the locals, though you might even meet a friendly Belgian to strike up a conversation with.

Spend some time discovering the Cathedral, a well-known symbol in Antwerp. It took 169 years (1352-1521) of labor to finish and it is listed as one of the UNESCO World`s Heritage Sites! Inside, you will see paintings of Antwerp`s beloved painter, Rubens, which are `The Raising of the Cross`, `Assumption of the Virgin Mary` and `The Descent from the Cross` .

(NOTE: To get into the cathedral, you would have to pay a fee. For adults it`s about €5 and for students/60+/groups of at least 20 people, it would be about €3. Children below 12 years old are given free admittance)

Spend the rest of the day wandering the city. Nearby from the city center you`ll find Hendrik Conscienceplein, a small square named after Hendrik Conscience, a famous 19th century Flemish writer and poet. This is near the St. Charles Borromeo Church and the Municipal Library which both have beautiful Baroque-style facades.

Also nearby is the `almost` hidden secret spot, Vlaeykensgant, a picturesque alleyway which is like a throwback to the Middle Ages, a time wherein streets were small and cramped. This actually used to be an area where the Antwerp`s poorest lived, but today, it`s transformed into a heavenly refuge which makes for a really great spot when you want to escape the bustle of the city. Besides, the tenants who live here have set up restaurants that are Antwerp`s finest. You may just want to stay here for dinner.

As night falls you`ll find plenty to keep you entertained. Two of the main entertainment areas are Grote Markt and Groenplaats, which both contain concentrations of bars, cafes, and theaters. If you`re looking for a night filled with dancing and nightclubs, head over to the Centraal Station (Central Train Station) area.

Day 2 in Antwerp

Wake up early and visit one of the weekly markets, there are various markets going on throughout the week, as well as many monthly and seasonal markets that take place. The Vogelenmarkt (`Birds market`) is a local favorite in Antwerp. It is diverse and definitely not a typical farmers market. The stands at the Vogelenmarkt sell flowers, fabrics, antiques, jewelry and more. Some other weekly markets are the Exotic market, Friday market (obviously one that takes place on Fridays), Antiques market, and the hip Bio market that is held on Sundays. Also be sure to check out when the monthly and seasonal markets are held.

We recommend spending the rest of your day discovering the art and culture of Antwerp. You`ll find an abundance of museums, music halls and theaters in this city. There are even numerous fairs, festivals, concerts, exhibitions and events that happen throughout the year.

We highly recommend The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, the city`s best museum because it houses a huge collection of world-class paintings, sculptures and drawings from the 14th through the 20th centuries. The museum predominately represents artists in Antwerp, Belgium and the Northern and Southern Netherlands since the 15th century, as well as works from abroad.

Another favorite is the Museum aan de Stroom (Translated: Museum at the River). This is a fantastic museum that tells the story of Antwerp and the world: its past, present and future. The museum is a striking red building at the area of Eilandje and also has a café, restaurant and rooftop access to enjoy panoramic views of the city!

Some other fabulous museums worth checking out during your visit include the Rubens House, the former home and studio turned museum of Peter Paul Rubens; Museum Plantin-Moretus, a museum that honors the printing influence of Christophe Plantin and Jan Moretus; Red Star Museum, located in old warehouses in the old port district, this museum showcases the historical period when millions of Europeans chose to sail across seas in order to get to the promised lands, amongst many others in and around the city.

Wind down your day enjoying the green areas located in the city center of Antwerp. Grab an afternoon snack and escape the crowds to enjoy the green outdoors. The Park Spoor Noord is the newest green park in Antwerp, offering a panoramic green park for leisure, sports and perfect for strolls. The Stadspark (or city park) is over 34 acres of green space in the shape of a triangle where a beautiful pond sits in the middle. And located in the Leopoldstraat and the Huidevetterstraat is the Botanical Garden, built over 200 years ago. Here you`ll find beautiful trees, shrubs, plants and herbs making it a perfect spot to relax and smell the roses.

As night falls, we recommend a visit to deSingel, a performing arts center that was built in 1968 offering internationally renowned symphony orchestras, musicians, theater troupes, and dance companies. You`ll also find an opera house and the Bourla Theatre offering some other choices in performing arts.

Day 3 in Antwerp

Start your day off with a hearty breakfast before a busy day exploring the renowned shopping districts of Antwerp. The city is called a `triomfelycke coopstad` (triumphant shopping city) which is undoubtedly true being that it is packed with various shopping centers. It is also called a `fashion city`, as it is home of the `Antwerp Six`, a group of fashion designers that made Antwerp a notable location for fashion design in the international setting. They have been such a huge influence over the years that there has been a rise of inexpensive to luxurious boutiques of designers that can satisfy every shopaholic looking for the latest fashion trends.

With Antwerp being the diamond center of the world, one area not to be missed is the Diamond District, located right outside the Central Station. Here, you`ll find over 1,800 shops that offer some of the world`s highest quality cuts called the `Antwerp Cut`. We recommend a guided tour of the `diamond business`, and check out Diamond Land that is on a nearby side street, De Keyserlei. Here you can watch cutters, setters, and goldsmiths at work as they cut and polish precious stones.

The main shopping street in Antwerp, Meir, is also the most important shopping area in the country, both by number of shoppers and by rent prices. While here, make sure to check out the De Stadsfeestzaal (City`s Party Hall) where you`ll find 40 luxurious shops in one of the most beautiful shopping centers you`ve probably ever seen, with a gorgeous marble staircase and mosaic floors.

For all you fashionistas out there, make sure to pay a visit to the Fashion District, located at the Modenatie. This is where the Flanders Fashion Institute (FFI), the Fashion Museum (MOMU) and the Fashion Academy are all located, and it is home of several fashion boutiques in the surrounding streets, especially around the Kammenstraat, Schuttershofstraat, and Lombardenvest.

Another excellent distinct if you are looking for fashion is the Zuid District or `South district`, which offers a lot of designer shops, interior showrooms and contemporary galleries in the neighborhood. Make sure to stop in the Demeulemeester (owned by one of the `Antwerp Six`).

Another area to check out is the De Wilde Zee or `Wild Sea`, a laid-back area near Lombardenvest that has shops specializing in delicatessens and pralines, as well as some fashion boutiques. De Keyserlei is the a long street by Central Station that leads to the Meir, this avenue offers a several stores such as cafes, jewelers, shoes, clothing and more. It also is where you`ll find several shopping centers. And the Historic City Center in Grote Markt and Goenplaats are perfect for finding that special souvenir. Groenplaats is also where you`ll find another shopping center, the modern Grand Bazaar that has 50 shops and is the biggest indoor center.

Once you have worked up an appetite, you`ll want to grab a treat at Goossens Baker or Philip`s Biscuits. Goossens has been around since 1884 and it`s extremely popular with the locals, which means you have to try it. Right next door is another local favorite, Philip`s Biscuits. Make sure to try the delicious, buttery Antwerp Hand cookie, also a perfect gift to bring home as well!

In the evening, head to the arty ares of `t Zuid` (the South) where you`ll find several trendy bars and restaurants, this is a perfect area to stroll during the day, but also perfect for run at night.

Additional Days in Antwerp

Should you be able to spend additional days in Antwerp we recommend you cross the river to explore the `left bank` of Antwerp. To get there, just go through the enchanting St. Anna Tunnel that goes through the Scheldt River. Once you are on the left bank check out the Galgenweel, a semi-natural lake about 100 acres around, it`s a popular getaway for the locals looking to escape the crowds, and especially for sailing enthusiast. Also located on the left bank is the Boeienweide, a green field full of buoy decorations, a great spot to enjoy a view of Antwerp`s city skyline.

We also recommend experiencing the city by bike. Around the port area, down cobblestone streets around Zuid and the old town, out to the green spaces of Middleheim, and by the water and shipping containers Eilandje. The city is bike-friendly with over 400 miles of bicycle lanes, making this is an excellent way to experience the city.

You may also want to pay a visit to the Antwerp Zoo, located right in the center of town. The zoo was founded in 1843 and is widely regarded as one of the finest zoos in Europe on account of its variety of species; its success in breeding; cared bestowed on the animals; and its beautiful architecture.

Your Last Day in Antwerp

Depart your hotel for the airport for the airport or train station where you will head home or make your way to more European adventures. Savor the memories of a very special time in Antwerp in the Flanders province.