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17 Things to Do in Antwerp, Belgium

Best Things to Do in Antwerp, Belgium

Diamonds, fashion, design, art, world-class food, and one of the prettiest train stations on the planet. Discover top attractions, hidden gems, and some of the best things to do in Antwerp in this travel guide.

Antwerp is Belgium‘s second city, biggest port, and the ‘capital of cool.' It has long been a powerful magnet for fashionistas, club queens, diamond dealers, and art lovers alike. 

As it's only 30 minutes' travel via train from Brussels Airport, Antwerp is the perfect quick getaway and city break. 

What's more, the city can make even the grayest of days seem more vibrant and fun. Antwerp surprised me in so many ways with everything from its epic shopping opportunities, cozy vibes, gastronomic experiences, and above all – its daring and impressive architecture. 

There's no doubt that Antwerp is worth visiting. 

Even if you only have one day or two. Antwerp has a lot to offer for any city-tripper!

Tram in Antwerp, Belgium
Antwerp is a compact and walkable city with a population of just over half a million.
View of Antwerp from across the river Scheldt, Belgium
View of Antwerp from across the river Scheldt.


1. Admire Antwerpen-Centraal railway station

Antwerpen-Centraal Railway Station
Antwerpen-Centraal was constructed between 1895 and 1905.

A train station might not be a top attraction in many cities, but in Antwerp, you can admire one of the world's most beautiful train stations. The Antwerpen-Centraal.

This monumental railway station features four separate levels of trains, and the architecture is absolutely breathtaking! 

There's no wonder that this impressive multi-level station is one of the city's most treasured landmarks. 

Even if you're not arriving at Antwerp by train, this is a must-see for the photo opportunities alone. Just check out the neo-Gothic facade, the richly decorated main hall, the ostentatious glass windows, and grand staircases. It's WOW!

Exterior, Antwerpen-Centraal Railway Station
A palace? No, just the central train station in Antwerp.
Antwerpen-Centraal Railway Station, Belgium
Antwerpen-Centraal railway station features four separate levels of trains.

2. Explore Grote Markt 

Grote Markt | Antwerp, Belgium | Attractions
Grote Markt is a town square in the heart of the old city quarter.

Another architectural treat in Antwerp is Grote Markt (“Great Market Square”). It's Antwerp's medieval heart and a great place to start your visit. 

In the middle of the square is the baroque Brabo Fountain (that depicts the legendary story of how Antwerp got its name). Surrounding the iconic site are very photogenic guildhalls dating from the 16th century, an extravagant city hall, and many restaurants, taverns, and cafés.  

Stroll around, admire the buildings, do some window shopping, and enjoy a drink or a meal at a local beer bar or an eatery while you soak in the atmosphere. 

If you're visiting Antwerp during Christmas, you can experience the famous Antwerp Christmas Market and other popular attractions like an ice skating rink, Ferris wheel, funfairs, and a magical winter forest in front of the cathedral. 

READ ALSO: 14 Things to Do in Zermatt, Switzerland

Grote Markt | Antwerp, Belgium Attractions
Between the crowds, a random stranger was kind to help me take this quick photo.
Grote Markt Square in Antwerp, Belgium
Grote Markt is a town square situated in the heart of the old city quarter.

3. Visit the Fashion District

Vrijdag, Shopping in Antwerp
Vrijdag shop in Antwerp.

Shop 'til you drop! It's not for nothing that Antwerp is considered the Belgian capital of fashion. Not least thanks to the Antwerp Six (a group of fashion designers who graduated from Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine arts in the 1980s and put Antwerp on the world's fashion map). 

Antwerp has everything a fashionista could ask for. From flagship stores and trendy boutiques to small independent stores, ground-breaking concept stores, vintage, and large fashion houses. And that's all within walking distance. 

In addition, many shops are located in awe-inspiring buildings. You can, for example, shop in Dries Van Noten's iconic flagship store Het Modepaleis, in a gold-decorated banquet hall (Stadsfeestzaal), in a 16th-century mansion (Verso) and a real palace (Palace op de Meir). 

Jewelry, Antwerp, Belgium
Jewelry on display in Antwerp.
Dries Van Noten's flagship store, Het Modepaleis in Antwerp, Belgium
Dries Van Noten's beautiful Antwerp flagship store, Het Modepaleis.
Marie-Marie, Home Decor Store in Antwerp
It's rumored that Marie-Marie is the best store for bed sheets in Antwerp.
The Tutu Shop, Antwerp
The Tutu Shop.
Pierre Marcolini, Luxury Chocolate Shop in Antwerp
From fashion to luxury chocolate.

4. Visit the Diamond District

Diamanti Per Tutti Store in Antwerp
The contemporary jewelry brand Diamanti Per Tutti sells affordable everyday diamonds. They are 100% certified, sourced sustainably, and conflict-free.

Antwerp has been known as the diamond capital of the world for several centuries. Over 80 percent of the world's rough diamonds and 50 percent of all cut diamonds on the planet are traded in Antwerp.

Get dazzled by the diamond quarter with its many sparkling shops. No fewer than 1,800 diamond companies are active here.   

Whether you are looking for an engagement ring, a wedding ring, or a special gift for yourself or a loved one, there's a LOT to choose from. 

Good to know is that every diamond sold in the diamond district is guaranteed conflict-free, ethical, and in compliance with the UN resolutions. 

To learn more about the city's diamond history and trade, you can visit Antwerp's diamond museum, called DIVA, in the center of Antwerp. 

Diva Antwerp: Wonderkamer I: Axel Vervoordt
Enter the enchanting world of diamonds at the diamond museum DIVA that opened in May 2018.

5. Witness the iconic Cathedral of Our Lady

Antwerp Cathedral of Our Lady, Belgium
The cathedral is an iconic treasury that towers 123 meters above Antwerp.

One thing you literally can't miss in Antwerp is the city's well-known symbol, the majestic Cathedral of Our Lady

As the tallest Gothic cathedral in the Low Countries, it's a dominant fixture on Antwerp's cityscape and skyline. It took nearly 170 years to build before being completed in 1521. 

The top attractions inside are the four masterpieces by Antwerp's beloved artist Peter Paul Rubens and the impressive stained glass windows. 

6. Eat Belgian Waffles

Belgian Waffles, Hotel Pilar, Antwerp
Belgian waffles for breakfast at Hotel Pilar in Antwerp

When in Belgium, you should definitely treat yourself to a light, fluffy, and perfectly crisp  Belgian waffle.

They come with a lot of various toppings – from bourbon whipped cream, melted chocolate, and wild berries to cherry syrup and Oreos. 

In addition to dessert waffles, you can find everything from tasty breakfast and lunch waffles with salty toppings to wurgers (waffle burgers) och taffles (toast waffles). 

Some of the hottest Belgian waffle spots in Antwerp are: 

7. Eat Belgian Fries 

Belgian Fries - Frites Atelier Amsterdam
The best fries I've ever tried, at Frites Atelier in Antwerp.

…  and speaking of treats: You can't visit Belgium without trying real Belgian fries. Forget about eating healthy or having regular fast-food; you need to try this. 

In Belgium, they serve French fries in special fries cafes and chip-shops.

We had lunch at the Dutch chef Sergio Herman's famous Frites Atelier, which probably serves the best Belgian fries ever! I think having a meal here is a must-do in Antwerp.

The crispy fries themselves are fantastic, but what's worth raving about are the sensational toppings – like homemade truffle mayonnaise, grated Mimolette cheese, cabbage salad, and roasted hazelnuts. And don't miss the crispy croquettes and homemade iced tea. 

READ ALSO: 6 Of the Coolest Places to Eat in Riga, Latvia

Belgian Fries, Frites Atelier Amsterdam
Frites Atelier in Antwerp has been named No. 1 place for fries in Europe.

8. Admire the statues in St. Paul's hidden churchyard 

Angel Statues in St. Paul's Churchyard, Antwerp, Belgium
‘The Angel Path' of statues in St. Paul's secret churchyard.

A secret gem in Antwerp that few tourists know about is St. Paul's Church‘s hidden courtyard (also called The Calvary Garden). It's filled with over 60 gorgeous life-sized statues.

The statue garden looks like a set from an epic film about Christ's suffering and resurrection. It's dark and mesmerizing! 

The 16th-century church itself is also worth checking out with its beautiful architecture, Baroque altars, and over 50 paintings by renowned Antwerp masters like Rubens, Van Dyck, Van Balen, and Jordaens. 

The Calvary - Angel Statues in St. Paul's Churchyard, Antwerp, Belgium
The Calvary Garden features over 60 life-sized statues.

9. Visit Plantin-Moretus Museum 

Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp, Belgium
Plantin-Moretus Museum's courtyard is worth a visit in itself.

Visiting Plantin-Moretus Museum is often rated as one of the top things to do in Antwerp – and it's the only museum in the world on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Come to learn all about the history of printing presses and the work of the influential 16th-century printers Christophe Plantin and Jan Morteus. 

Or drop by to check out the very Instagrammable baroque courtyard (free), which was a tourist attraction already in Plantin's day. 

The museum is housed in a mansion that was once the house of Plantin. Inside are two of the world's oldest printing presses, a library, workshop, printing offices, valuable artwork, and different exhibits that present 300 years of book-printing art and family history. 

10. Venture to the picturesque Zurenborg District

Visit Zurenborg District | Things to do in Antwerp
A stroll in Zurenborg is an architectural feast.

Zurenborg is possibly the most gorgeous neighborhood in Antwerp. It's a feast for the eyes! And a dream come true for architecture enthusiasts and photographers.

The area flaunts dozens of gorgeous mansions and houses in a mix of architectural styles, from Art Nouveau and Flemish Renaissance to Neo-Gothic and Byzantine. Zurenborg’s elegant streets display incredible houses dating back from the late 19th and early 20th-century. 

The best-known streets to visit are Cogels Osylei, Transvaalstraat, and Dageraadplaats. Though if you have the time, it's worth just strolling around this remarkable neighborhood and exploring other streets too.

There are grandeur facades and surprising ornamentations to look at in every direction. 

READ ALSO: Cascais: Holiday like a Royal on the Portuguese Riviera

One of the many gorgeous buildings in Zurenborg.
Zurenborg District, Antwerp, Belgium
Cogels-Osylei in one of the most remarkable streets in Zurenborg.
House in Zurenborg, Antwerp, Belgium
Always take a closer look at Zurenborg. Can you spot the small balcony statues?
Street in Zurenborg District, Antwerp, Belgium
Another beautiful street in Zurenborg.

11. Explore the Eilandje 

Antwerp Port House
The impressive Antwerp Port House is one of the main attractions in Eilandje.

Het Eilandje is Antwerp's oldest port area. It's also called “The Little Island” as it's surrounded by water. 

Having been a neglected neighborhood only a few years ago, Eilandje is now a new trendy hotspot. The regenerated dockland area is packed with an eclectic mix of hipster cafes, quirky restaurants, night clubs, and laid-back bars. 

One of the coolest and newest attractions in the area is the impressive Port House with its faceted-glass ‘diamond' floating above the former fire station. Talk about a real architectural jewel!

Towering above Eilandje district is the 10-story box-shaped MAS Museum aan de Stroom, which tells the story of Antwerp and its port. On clear and sunny days, many people come here just for the views over the city from the observation deck (no ticket required).

Only a stone's throw away is the Red Star Line Museum, which tells the stories of migrants who traveled to America in the early 20th century. 

MAS Museum Antwerp, Belgium
The MAS Museum is a landmark between the city and its port.
View of Antwerp from across the river Scheldt
View of Antwerp from across the river Scheldt. Do you spot the MAS museum and the Port House?

12. Stroll through St. Anna's Tunnel 

St. Anna's Pedestrian Tunnel - Wooden Escalator
These majestic wooden escalators will transport you down to St. Anna's pedestrian tunnel.

While most modern cities build grand bridges over their rivers, Antwerp went the other way. Instead of crossing over the Scheldt River to Antwerp’s Linkeroever area, you can go under it, through the 500 meters long St. Anna's Tunnel

Transporting you down to the pedestrian tunnel, are rare historic wooden escalators that were made in the 1930s.

Even if you don't plan to cross the river, I would recommend going down just to see these old escalators. They are a hidden gem!

READ ALSO: 25 Things to Do in Slavonia, Croatia

13. Explore the fabulous food scene 

l'Épicerie du Cirque under the palm trees, Restaurant in Antwerp, Belgium
l'Épicerie du Cirque under the palm trees, Restaurant in Antwerp, Belgium

When you've had enough of Belgium fries, waffles, and chocolate, it's worth opting for fine dining. 

Belgium is not just a rising gastronomic star, but it's already on the map. 

Belgian Flanders has 97 Michelin-starred restaurants – one of the highest densities on the world – and Antwerp claims 18 of them.

Even if you don't book a table at two-star The Jane, which serves inventive nine-course menus in a former church with the open kitchen on the altar, I'm sure you will have spectacular gastronomic experiences. 

We had a fabulous dinner at the Michelin-star restaurant l'Epicerie du Cirque (‘under the Palm Trees'). The straightforward food and trendy atmosphere are outstanding. I loved the incredible flavors and the jungle-inspired theme. 

l'Épicerie du Cirque under the palm trees, Restaurant in Antwerp
How lovely decor? I loved the vibe at l'Épicerie du Cirque (under the Palm Trees).
Starter at Restaurant l'Épicerie du Cirque in Palm Trees
My starter at Michelin-star restaurant l'Épicerie du Cirque. Straightforward with incredible flavors!

14. Check out the street art 

Nero - Street Art in Kloosterstraat, Antwerp, Belgium
Nero – Comic Wall in the Kloosterstraat

While Antwerp might not be famous for its street art (yet), it's fast becoming a street art city. Through events, festivals, and social media, the city is attracting artists from all around the world to transform buildings with their artworks. 

The street art might not be easy to find on your own, but you download the free Street art app where street art hunters all over the globe document art in every city. Or opt for a guided tour. 

Click here for more attractions, tickets, and tours in Antwerpen

15. See Park Spoor Noord Bridge

Park Spoor Noord Bridge, Antwerp, Blegium
Park Spoor Noord Bridge, Antwerp, Belgium

For a cool and unusual Instagram-friendly spot, head to the gateway to the north of the city: Park Bridge Spoor Noord.

This bicycle and pedestrian steel bridge is simply striking! Especially so when it's sunny, and the sunshine creates a play of light and shadow through the structure's fascinating pattern.

It was unfortunately cloudy when I was here, but I still think it was worth seeing. It's fair to say that the bridge is a technical masterpiece. 

15. Grab a pastry at Goossens Bakery

Goossens Bakery in Antwerp, Belgium
Goossens is one of the most popular bakeries in Antwerp.

If you love sweets or bread, you can't miss Goossens (not to be confused with the fabulous chocolate shop with the same name). This old-style bakery has been around since 1884. It's one of the most popular bakeries in Antwerp and a favorite among the locals. 

There might be an endless queue outside, but I've heard that it's worth it – no matter what.

I didn't have time to stand in line myself, but when you spot people gladly queueing in the rain to get perfectly baked raisin bread, Antwerp butter cookies, or other traditional cookies and treats, you know it's the real deal. 

17. Visit PAKT

PAKT, Green Quarter, Antwerp
PAKT is a series of former industrial warehouses transformed into a creative and sustainable hub.

Tucked away and hidden from the street in one of Antwerp's busier districts is PAKT

This former industrial site is now the sustainable heart of Antwerp's Green Quarter. This is the perfect place to get a locally produced lunch, dinner, or coffee in a unique setting, surrounded by beautiful rooftop gardens. 

Restaurants here grow their vegetables and herbs on the roof; the heat of the ground-floor pizzeria is used to warm the offices on the upper floors, and water that's gathered by the rooftop gardens is used by the well-known coffee bar and roastery Caffènation.

How amazing? I wish more places worked like PAKT. Together and sustainable. 

Vegan sourdough pizza at Standard PAKT, Antwerp
Vegan sourdough pizza at Standard, PAKT

I had a delicious vegan sourdough pizza for lunch at the restaurant Standard in PAKT. 

Different creative companies, a gym, a coffee bar, and restaurants share the site at PAKT.

More awesome things to do in Antwerp


Hotel Pilar, Antwerp, Belgium
The cool design Hotel Pilar in Antwerp.

Staying within walking distance from Old Town is ideal if you want to visit the locations mentioned in this post.

There's a lot of great accommodations for every budget: from hostels and budget hotels to studio apartments, charming B&Bs and five-star hotels with all the amenities.  

We stayed at the cool 3-star design Hotel Pilar in the trendy and busy ‘t Zuid neighborhood. The location is within walking distance to a lot of the major sights and shopping areas. As a bonus, the decor is super stylish (no two rooms are alike). 

I stayed in a gorgeous and roomy Terrace suite, where I took lots of photos, enjoyed the views, and had breakfast on my private terrace. 

Click here to see the latest prices and availability for accommodation in Antwerpen

Suite at Hotel Pilar, Antwerp, Belgium
My Terrace suite at Hotel Pilar in Antwerp.


Antwerp is a compact and very walkable city.

Good to know, however, is that the city is well-connected with buses, trains, trams, and metro. There are also many super-handy bike rental services for both short- and longer-term rentals. 

We rented bicycles outside Central Station and took us around with ease. We explored the views from across the river, Eilandje, Park Spoor Noor Bridge, and many more places.

Biking is a great way to explore more! Antwerp is a very bike-friendly city all year round with flat bike lanes and not too large distances. 

Book a trip to Antwerpen here (compare cheap flights, trains & buses)

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I visited Antwerp on a press trip organized by Visit Flanders.
As always, all opinions are my own.