Since Antwerp is just across the Dutch border, we thought it would make for a fun weekend trip from Amsterdam (yes, we recently moved to Amsterdam!). We decided to stay in a hotel from Friday to Sunday and had a relaxed, but eventful weekend in Belgium.
I loved Antwerp even more than I anticipated to so beware: this list is quite long. 🤪 However, most activities will not take up too much of your time so it is still feasible to do them all in two days.
This was my first visit to Antwerp and some parts of it reminded me of Brussels, especially the Grote Markt which resembles the main square (Grand Place) in the Belgian capital.
This is the list of the fun and exciting things that we did in Antwerp in absolutely no particular order! Let me know your favorite thing to do in Antwerp in the comments below!
Visit The Rubens House
The Rubens House belonged to the Rubens family (duh) in 1600s, where Peter Paul Rubens - a world famous Flemish painter - spend most of his life and created so many magnificent paintings.
Because of his love of art he filled the house with impressive artwork. Still today, the Rubens House embodies Ruben's artistic ideals: the Italian Renaissance and the art of Roman Antiquity.
The furniture from that age is still astoundingly well preserved although the house is believed to be altered around mid-17th century. Today, the portico and garden pavilion are the only intact survivals of tbe 17th century complex.
The house has great international artwork on display, including classical sculptures and paintings that Ruben collected, and Rubens's own artwork, such as Adam and Eve.
Arrive at Antwerpen Centraal
We came to Antwerp by train and the Antwerp central station was the first beautiful sight that we could marvel at in Antwerp. Make sure not to miss one of the most beautiful train stations in Europe! The interior as well as exterior is astonishing.
If you come to Antwerp by train, do not rush out of the station immediately but take a couple of minutes to walk around and see the gorgeous details on the walls.
Try local beer
A guy at work told me that if I only do one thing in Antwerp, it should be trying their local beer! Some great beers originate from Antwerp that you should definitely try out, especially if you're a beer lover.
Their most famous and popular beer is from De Koninck brewery. If you're interested in beer brewing, you can visit the Antwerp City Brewery where they produce different local beers.
You can try De Koninck beers in most bars; we tried it in De 7 Schaken that is situated right on Grote Markt.
Which one do you like best - Bolleke, Triple d'Anwers or Wild Jo?
Hint: De 7 Schaken has an adjescent restaurant full of Flemish goodies and makes a perfect place for dinner. We had a gorgeous steak and a salmon plate – it was delicious!!
The picturesque buildings, a lively vibe and vibrant cafés and restaurants make Grote Markt the place to be in Antwerp. The Grote Markt is the main square of Antwerp and one of the most magnificent town squares in Europe.
In the center of the square, you can see the Brabo Fountain which depicts an old legend about the city. Behind the fountain you can see the majestic City Hall (Stadhuis). On the other side of Grote Markt, there are beautiful Guild Houses.
While the square can be quite crowded during the day and in the evening, you can visit it first thing in the morning to have the place entirely to yourself!
Have you ever been to Brussels? I think Grote Markt resembles Grand Place in Brussels and both are absolutely breathtaking, especially if you take a look at the details on the buildings!
Visit the local market on Europaplein
There is a huge local market on Europaplein every weekend. You can buy everything from local food to flowers and clothes. It's a nice square to walk through and get a cup of coffee as you move through the stands and enjoy the vibe.
Antwerp is known by being the diamond capital where rough and polished diamonds are traded. The diamond district can be found right by the central train station. Let yourself stand in awe by looking at the gorgeous diamonds on rings, necklaces and other jewelry.
I heard some might even go to Antwerp just to buy diamonds ... And apparently, it is a good idea to bargain for the price although this is not a common practice elsewhere in Belgium.
Groenplaats is a lively square in the historic part of Antwerp and close to Grote Markt, where you can go to grab a drink or a meal any time of the year. From time to time, events take place on Groenplaats, which could make the square less accessible and more crowded.
As Antwerp has a tradition of open markets, a daily flower market and part of Antwerp Christmas market can also be found on Groenplaats.
Have Belgian waffles
I mean, Belgian waffles are a must whenever visiting Belgium, especially for a sweet tooth like me! You can take them natural, with powdered sugar, caramel or nutella – whatever you prefer.
Have a sweet coffee break with some waffles and remember how delicious life can be!
Chocolate Nation is the first museum in which you can see the production of Belgian chocolate - from where the cocoa seeds grow to transportation to the making of the exquisite chocolate. What's more, at the end of the tour, you can taste different varieties of Belgian chocolate. In the gift shop, you can also buy authentic Belgian chocolate in different forms and packaging to take home with you.
Chocolate Nation was only opened in 2018 but it quickly became one of the most popular tourist attractions in Antwerp.
Antwerp Cathedral of Our Lady
The Cathedral of Our Lady is an iconic Gothic cathedral with a magnificent collection of artworks, including paintings by Rubens.
There is a small entrance fee to pay if you want to see the gorgeous interior of the Antwerp Cathedral. If you want to attend a mass in English at the cathedral, there is one every Saturday at 5 PM. In that case, the entrance is free.
Shopping on De Meir
Before our visit, I heard that Antwerp is the prime shopping destination in Belgium. And it rightfully is! There is plenty to choose from – for all different tastes, different budgets, different styles ... You name it.
The main shopping street is De Meir, where you can find bigger international brands, like H&M, Costes, Zara and Nike. The architecture of the buldings makes shopping really special.
Don't miss the exclusive shopping center called Stadsfeestzaal in the impressively restored city hall.
De Meir runs directly to the historical city center, Groenplatz and Grote Markt. Two streets down from De Meir is the best boutique shopping in Antwerp, maybe in Belgium. Find yourself going through the beautiful collections of Michael Kors, Pinko, Patricia Pepe or even Chanel.
Walk by the Scheldt River & Riverbanks
Antwerp is a port city and you can get the feel of the harbour by taking a walk by river Scheldt. It is the second largest seaport of Europe so you can often see large container ships in the distance.
Next to the Steen Castle, there is a cruise terminal where cruise ships are docked at. You can also take a boat tour from Antwerp's harbour or a water-bus to St Anna.
Het Steen Castle
If you walk to the Scheldt river directly from Grote Markt, you will bump into Het Steen Castle which served as a city fortress from when it was built in 13th century. The views from the fortress are amazing, especially after the sun sets behind the river.
The fortress today hosts a visitor center where you can learn more about Antwerp and the history of the city. Additionally, it is home to the Antwerp Story – an interactive museum that showcasts Antwerp in original ways.
There is also a nice gift store where you can buy local speciaties of the city.
Walk through Stadspark
While the city park is not necessarily a must-do in Antwerp, it is a nice get-away from the city. It must be especially pleasant during summer when you can chill and relax in the park, rest your eyes on some greenery.
Luxury Boutique Shopping
While De Meir has the biggest international retail brands, there is an amazing luxury shopping experience awaiting just a few streets down.
From Liu Jo to Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Pinko, Boss and Michael Kors, you can find and choose from the most exquisite brands on Huidevettersstraat and Schuttershofstraat. While De Meir is usually also quite crowded, especially during the weekend, these boutiques are less busy and allow for a calm but exciting (window) shopping experience.
Let me know what is your favourite part of Antwerp in the comments below. I would love to hear and visit it soon!