Things to do in Antwerp

Must-see Antwep sights

Antwerp, Belgium’s second city, and the de facto capital of Flemish Belgium, fans out from the east bank of the Scheldt River about 50km north of Brussels. Many people prefer it to the capital; it is an immediately attractive place, famous for Rubens, fashion, diamonds and the best nightlife in Belgium.

  1. See the Cathedral of Our Lady
  2. Head to the north of the Grote Markt area
  3. Discover the Plantin-Moretus Museum
  4. Head to the city’s fashions quarter
  5. Visit the Rubenshuis
  6. Discover the north of the city
  7. Enjoy the vibrant nightlife of Antwerp

Antwerp, a large old port that flourished during the sixteenth century and is now Flanders’ most forward-thinking city. Your Antwerp holiday will ooze with utter coolness.

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1. See the Cathedral of Our Lady

Southeast of Grote Markt is the Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwe Kathedraal). It is one of the finest Gothic churches in Europe, dating from the middle of the fifteenth century. Four paintings by Rubens, including his masterpieces Elevation of the Cross and Descent from the Cross, are displayed here.

Best for: Gothic church

While you’re there: Head to Kapitein Zeppos for food. Named after a famous 1960s cartoon hero, this restaurant has excellent food.

2. Head to the north of the Grote Markt area

The impressively gabled Vleeshuis is a short walk north of the Grote Markt. Built for the guild of butchers in 1503 and distinguished by its striped brickwork, it now holds a permanent exhibition covering 600 years of music and dance. Just north of here, along Vleeshouwersstraat, the elegant nave at the sixteenth-century St Pauluskerk is decorated by a series of paintings depicting the Fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary, including Rubens’ exquisite Scourging at the Pillar of 1617.

Best for: Art and culture

While you’re there: The north side of Grote Markt is lined with daintily restored sixteenth-century guildhouses.

3. Discover the Plantin-Moretus Museum

The UNESCO-listed Plantin-Moretus Museum at Vrijdagmarkt 22-23 occupies the grand old mansion of Rubens’ father-in-law, the printer Christopher Plantin. It provides a beautiful, richly decorated setting for two of the oldest printing presses in the world.

Best for: Unique museum

While you’re there: Make sure to take a look at the Brabo fountain. It features a bronze of Silvius Brabo, the city’s first hero.

4. Head to the city’s fashions quarter

In the heart of the city’s fashion quarter along Nationalestraat, MoMu showcases some of the avant-garde fashion for which the city is famous, with displays ranging from sixteenth-century lace dresses to pieces by Dries van Noten.

Best for: Fashionistas

While you’re there: The Royal Museum of Fine Arts has one of the country’s best fine-art collections.

5. Visit the Rubenshuis

Ten minutes’ walk east of the Grote Markt is the Rubenshuis , at Wapper 9; the former home and studio of Rubens, it’s now restored as a very popular museum. On his death in 1640, Rubens was buried in the chapel behind the high altar at St Jacobskerk, just to the north at Lange Nieuwstraat 73. The church features one of his last works, Our Lady Surrounded by Saints, featuring himself as St George, his two wives as Martha and Mary, and his father as St Jerome. Take a look at these Antwerp holidays to get you inspired.

Best for: One of the most interesting things to do in Antwerp

While you’re there: Enjoy a peaceful stroll in nearby Stadspark after.

6. Discover the north of the city

The docks north of the city centre are home to MASt, which brings together the collections of the former Ethnographic, National Shipping and Folklore museums in a dynamic display spread over floors four to eight. The top floor offers superb panoramic views of the city. This is one of the best things to do in Antwerp for sure.

Best for: Museum with a view

While you’re there: The Red Star Line Museum explores the lives and journeys taken by families sailing on the Red Star Line ocean liners.

7. Enjoy the vibrant nightlife of Antwerp

Antwerp has a buzzing nightlife that will appeal to all types of travellers. If you’re looking for jazz, Antwerp has it, looking for pumping nightclubs, it’s got that too. Quinten Matsijs, established in 1545, is Antwerp’s oldest bar. The regal dark-wood interior is ideal for a quiet, relaxed drink of the local brew Triple d’Anvers, while the hapjes (appetizers) are hearty and delicious too.

Best for: Evening entertainment

While you’re there: Make sure to check out Jazzcafé De Muze. It’s a renowned jazz bar that puts on free live performances.

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