Antwerp is a historic city, steeped in culture. From beautiful architecture to historic locations, local cuisine and the best of Belgian craft beer, there is so much to do in the diamond capital of the world. Here are some of our favourite things to do in Antwerpen from our recent day trip!
If you’re looking for the perfect European city to visit, Belgium has so many great locations to choose from. Each have their own unique characteristics and specialities so there is always something new to do!
Only a 40 minute train journey from Brussels, Antwerp is easily accessible by train. The only problem is that there is so much to do in this wonderful city that it is impossible to see everything in just one day! That being said, here are some unmissable locations and things to do in Antwerp!
Table of Contents
- Things You Should Know Before Visiting Antwerp
- Arriving by Train in Antwerp-Centraal
- Things You Can’t Miss in Antwerp
- Things to do in Antwerp for History Lovers
- Things to do in Antwerp for Food Lovers
- Things to do in Antwerp For Art Lovers
- Things to do in Antwerp for Nature Lovers
Things You Should Know Before Visiting Antwerp
The Language: Dutch is the official language spoken in the province, but French, German and English are also widely spoken
Shopping: One interesting fact about Belgium is that in general, most shops close on Sundays. Restaurants, pubs and tourist attractions are usually still open however. On the first Sunday of every month shops open so it may help to know this when planning your visit to Antwerp.
Travel: Belgian public transport is excellent. It is cheap, reliable and efficient. If you are flying into Brussels, you can easily get to Antwerp by train in 40-50 minutes. Once there you can get to most places in the city on foot. Alternatively you can rent a bike to get around faster or use city buses. Cycling is really popular in Belgium, but it can be a bit intimidating if you are not used to it, especially in a busy city.
Arriving by train in Antwerp-Centraal
The easiest way to get from Brussels (or any other Belgian city) to Antwerp is by train. There are plenty of good value ticket deals and it is a really comfortable and reliable way to travel around Belgium. You will find yourself arriving in Antwerp-Centraal, a beautiful and historic train station located in the heart of the city.
Even if you aren’t arriving by train, it is well worth a quick visit to take in the splendid architecture. It is also located right beside the city zoo and close to many other attractions.
There is also a shop at the train serving delicious, authentic Belgian and Liege waffles. It’s the perfect snack to begin with on your tour of Antwerp and there are usually good deals if you want to pair it with a coffee.
Things You Can’t Miss in Antwerp
1. Visit the Grote Markt
The Grote Markt is the historic market square of Antwerp. There are plenty of pubs and restaurants nearby to sit down and appreciate the wonderful buildings as you watch the lively crowds pass by.
You may recognise the Grote Markt by the blue fountain located in its centre. This is one of the most iconic statues in Antwerp and depicts the famous myth of the Roman hero Brabo, holding the severed hand of a giant.
The 16th century town hall is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is exceptionally beautiful in an already breathtaking town square. On a nice day the Grote Markt will be very busy, with tourists and locals alike sitting outside with a coffee or Belgian beer and enjoying the sunshine.
2. Window shop at Antwerp’s Diamond District
As we have mentioned already, Antwerp was one of Europe’s first international trading port cities. It imported many goods including rough diamonds and overtime it has gained the reputation as the diamond capital of the World.
A trip to Antwerp wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Diamond District. You will find the diamond district just off the Centraal Train Station, where you can browse diamonds and jewellery in shop window after shop window. There is an incredible concentration of diamond shops in the aptly named district.
Many couples even travel to Antwerp to pick out engagement rings! So whether you’re on a mission to get the perfect ring or just want to window shop, the diamond district is a unique experience.
There are so many exciting things to do in Belgium, and Antwerp is no exception. Below we have more interesting things to see and do in Antwerp for history, food, art and nature lovers!
Things to do in Antwerp for History Lovers
Antwerp is often considered to be one of the world’s oldest global cities. This is due to the fact that it became a prominent location for international trade in the middle ages. As a result, there is so much history to uncover on every street of the city.
3. Enjoy the water views at Het Steen
Het Steen is a mediaeval fortress located on the River Scheldt. Just a 5 minute walk from the Grote Markt, it is well worth a visit for the spectacular views of the historic building on the waterfront. There is a visitors centre inside where you can find out all about the history of the fortress, or simply walk along the bridge and enjoy the views.
Het Steen is one of the most impressive buildings in all of Antwerp. The imposing structure was once used as a prison for centuries. The fortress was thought to be much bigger with its remnants today acting as an entrance.
Did You Know? Het Steen is one of the oldest castles in all of Europe.
While you are there, make sure to go on the Ferris Wheel located beside the fortress for the best views of Antwerp’s skyline!
4. Visit the Beguinage
The Beguinages are an important part of the history of the Low Countries. They are not exclusive to Antwerp, but these UNESCO World Heritage sites are worth a visit if you have not been to one before.
History of the Beguinages
Beguinages were made up of religious women, known as beguines, who lived in communities without taking any vows. As a result they were allowed to retain their wealth, participate in the local economy and even leave the order to marry if they chose to.
Beguinages offered many women from the countryside a chance to live and work in the city without getting married or permanently joining the church. They were walled communities inside of a city which offered solitude and protection and today are used as tranquil residencies in an otherwise busy city.
The Beguinages are a fascinating part of Belgian history, but they are easy to overlook by tourists. We’d recommend visiting a Beguinage if you’re looking for a nice stroll during your trip. The Beguinage of Begijnhof is just a 12 minute walk from Antwerp-Centraal train station!
5. Visit Museum Aan De Stroom
The Museum Aan de Stroom (also known as the Museum by the stream) is Antwerp’s biggest museum. You can enjoy the views of the city from the ten storey tall building which hosts an impressive collection of Belgian and international artefacts.
Things to do in Antwerp for Food Lovers
There are so many cool places in the city to try authentic Belgian food! You will find lots of Belgian restaurant chains if you’re looking for a quick bite, however here are some of the more unusual things to do in Antwerp for foodies!
Antwerp also has great international options as it is quite a diverse city, so you will be spoilt with choice!
6. Visit Chocolate Nation
Belgian Chocolate is an iconic confectionary, loved all around the world. While you’re in Antwerp, why not visit Chocolate Nation? You can take a tour and learn all about how chocolate is made or even test your skills and participate in a workshop.
Alternatively, if you are short on time you can head straight to the gift shop and pick up some delicious Belgian chocolate. The only problem is that there is so much chocolate to choose from!
7. Take a Brewery Tour
Belgian craft beer is another iconic part of the country’s culture. De Koninck Beer is brewed in Antwerp. You can visit the brewery and learn about its history, accompanied with a tasting of the local beer. A brewery tour can be a great way to incorporate history and culture into a fun interactive activity for all.
The Brewery offers mixed group tours every Sunday, so a full group is not needed to join. Alternatively a beer brunch is held on the first Sunday of every month, but these sell out well in advance so make sure to check the availability before you go!
Things to do in Antwerp for Art Lovers
Belgium is an ideal place to visit for lovers of art. With beautiful architecture, extraordinary museums and its fair share of iconic artists, there is so much to do. There is also a nice blend of traditional art and more contemporary design which are evident in the many statues around the city.
8. See Rubens Artwork:
Paul Rubens was a Flemish artist, known for mastering the Baroque style. His house is a popular tourist attraction, but unfortunately as of 2023, it has temporarily closed for long-term renovations expecting to last until 2027. However fear not, some of Ruben’s masterpieces can still be found in other places in Antwerp such as:
- The Cathedral of Our Lady – Ruben painted The Descent from the Cross and The Assumption of the Virgin Mary specifically for this Cathedral, where they have remained for centuries ever since. His other paintings found here include The Elevation of the Cross and The Resurrection of Christ.
- The Royal Museum of Antwerp – You will find an impressive collection of Ruben’s work here. You can also learn about the life of the painter who would become one of the most important European artists of all time.
9. Get A Photo with Nello & Patrache
Just in front of the Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp is the statue of Nello & Patrache. The little boy and his dog are characters from the novel ‘A Dog in Flanders’ (1872).
The tragic story explores the friendship between an orphan and an abandoned dog in the city at Christmas. There are many references to the duo in Antwerp, but none as impressive in our opinion as the statue outside of the cathedral.
Artist Batist Vermeulen created the statue to commemorate this world famous tale. While you’re at the statue, you can also admire the stunning gothic cathedral, one of the finest examples of beautiful architecture in all of the province!
Things to do in Antwerp for Nature Lovers
10. Visit Antwerpen Zoo
The zoo is located just beside the central train station so it is very easy to get to. Ideal on a sunny day, the zoo is something everyone can enjoy. The zoo opens 365 days a year and you can expect to find lots of exotic animals and marine life. However the price of entry is quite expensive so budget travellers may choose to give this location a miss.
Find Out More About Belgium
We hope that you have enjoyed reading our article! Whatever you choose to see and do while you’re in Antwerp, we’re sure that you will have an amazing time in Belgium.
If you’re undecided on where else in Belgium to visit, we have plenty more content related to Belgium to help you make the most out of your trip, including:
Or alternatively, why not explore the rest of Europe:
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