*DISCLAIMER*: This post was written in collaboration with TripAdvisor. Find the final product over here.
Antwerp is the city that stole my (Sanne) heart forever. This is the city where I met my amazing friends, where I found myself, had my first date with Michèle and where I lived three years. If I had to choose a city to live in, it would be Antwerp. The place where you can be yourself and where magic happens around every corner. Antwerpen, stad naar mijn hart!
The beautiful city in the north of Belgium lies close to the Dutch border, the part where they speak Flemish (kind of similar to Dutch). Apart from all this, Antwerp gives the feeling of freedom; be who you are. Not only because of the yearly Antwerp Pride, but also through the presence of gay bars, rainbow crossings and numerous flags hanging around the city. In this guide we will point out our favourite places in the city that might not be as popular as the usual tourist attractions!
What to see
Antwerp has loads to offer! You can easily live there for some time and still haven’t seen everything! Apart from all the super touristic and famous places, we have listed a few things that are not so obvious. Also good to know that Antwerp is gay-friendly check it out below!
- The Central Train Station –A real eyecatcher when you arrive by train! The classic architecture combined with the modern tracks are a nice contrast that complement each other. Be prepared for a lot of people though, the station counts 24 tracks in total with trains going to France & The Netherlands aswel.
- Het Steen – Het Steen is a medieval fort. It was the first stone fortress of Antwerp and it is the oldest building of the city aswel. They are currently renovating it. Near Het Steen is a rainbow pedestrian crossing.
- Het Mas – Het Museum Aan de Stroom is a museum and a beautiful architectural building. It’s the largest museum in Antwerp and it has both temporary as permanent exhibitions. On the 10th floor you can enjoy a panorama of the city for free! Make sure to go there as it has a beautiful view on the docks and the river “de Schelde”.
- Sint Anna Tunnel – This tunnel leads to Linkeroever, the other side and not touristy part of the city. The journey down to the tunnel is already a thrill, 31,57 meter below surface. Start walking the 572 meters to the other side and watch out for the many cyclists. When you arrive at the end, you have a panoramic view of the city.
- Grote Markt & city hall – The city hall was built between 1561 and 1565 after designs made by Cornelis Floris de Vriendt and others. This Renaissance building has influences from both Flemish and Italian styles. “Het Stadhuis” is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List along with the 56 other historical buildings. On the square, de grote markt, are a lot of events and you can see the famous sculpture of Brabo, throwing a hand.
- Onze Lieve Vrouwe Cathedraal – What would a city be without an ancient church? This beautiful Roman Catholic cathedral was completed in 1521 and reaches a tower height of 123 meters. Inside the church are numerous works of Antwerp’s finest baroque painter, Peter Paul Rubens. You can also climb the tower with a tour. Only available from April to September.
- Hendrik Consience plein –This square is small but very beautiful. The old buildings, the statue and the library give this place a warm feeling. Don’t forget to check out the cute restaurants and cafés around!
- Het Felix Pakhuis – This cute warehouse was turned into a real eye catcher. With a small museum and a trendy restaurant, you really need to visit. Look up when you’re walking through the passage!
- Parkbrug – This bridge was only build recently. If you’re looking for interesting photoshoot spots, this definitely is one of them. The modern looking bridge with holes in it, is the perfect location and it also saves a lot of time if you want to cross the street.
- Meir shoppingstreet – More of a shopper? The Meir is the place to be. The big street counts a lot of stores with the usual shops. If you want to look for something different, check the streets behind it. There are a lot of expensive and exclusive boutiques.
- Vlaeykesgang – This passage is probably the most famous one in Antwerp. The cute narrow streets contain restaurants, galleries and normal homes. It looks really cute and has a rich history. Also perfect for a photoshoot.
- Park Spoor Noord – One of our favourite parks in Antwerp because you can BBQ here! During the summer a lot of locals enjoy the nice weather in the park. In the warehouse next o it you have a bar with a small pool.
- Red Star Line Museum – An interesting museum that pictures the history of the Antwerp – America line. Antwerp used to be one of the biggest harbours. Many ships departured here to sail to America. The museum tells the story of different people before, during and after the war.
- FOMU – FOMU is Antwerp’s Photography museum. The expositions rotate every once in a while and they specifically support the local photographers. Recently they installed gender neutral restrooms!
Where to eat
The options in Antwerp are endless! Through the years we have created some favorites we have listed below!
- Pho ‘61 – want to taste the Vietnamese kitchen, please go here! We always love to have a big bowl of pho, but the dumplings and pancakes are just as good. Prices are good too and the hipster interior is cute. Vegetarian options.
- Da Giovanni’s – The most famous Italian in the city. It has 4 different locations and is placed in the city centre. The prices are quite low and the quality of the food is super! For only 10 euros you can have a pizza with a drink. *Note* many tourists and students come here. If you want to go to quieter place, go to Het Eilandje. There is a Da Giovanni’s who is focused on the locals. Prices are a little higher here. Vegetarian options are present.
- Otomat – Best pizza in town if you ask us! The interior is really nice, the staff too. They not only have the common famous beers, but also a variety of other craft beer. The pizza crusts are really thin and delicious. There are also vegan and gluten free options. The prices are a little high when you’re on a small budget.
- Ellis Gourmet Burger – They say it’s the best burger in town and to be honest, I think they’re right. They have three restaurants around the city, but you can also find them in Brussels, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Paris. Vegan options, everything is home-made and don’t get me started on the fries. Not the cheapest restaurant.
- Amadeus – If you like ribs, this is the place to go! Take the spareribs a volonté and eat as much as you want. On a plate you get two racks (in the first round), a jacket patato & coleslaw. The waiters walk around with trays to refill. The interior is really classic with books and candlelight. Wine comes from a magnum bottle on the table so you can serve yourself. The meaty restaurant also has vegetarian options.
- De Pelgrom – Probably the most exciting restaurant. You dine in a cellar! Walk down the stars and sit like the people did in medieval times. Enjoy the Belgian kitchen on a whole new level and enjoy it with a nice Belgian beer. Quite expensive, but worth the experience.
- Unagi Sushi – The cheapest sushi we found that is also really tasty! We got our sushi for two dished on a sushi boat and it was awesome. The dumplings are also super good. Vegetarian options are present & the staff is really friendly.
- Juno – A really nice hipster café on a square outside the city centre. Good & fresh food, lovely interior and if the sun shines you can sit outside. We enjoyed our breakfast there, but if you want to lunch, it’s a perfect fit! Vegetarian options are present.
- Frituur de Jean – People say that Frituur N1 is the best one in the city, but we disagree. This small one located in the student area is definitely the best! It’s cheap, the fries are delicious and the snacks too. If you want a real Belgian fries experience, go to Jean.
- De Nonius – Located in the student area, this place has the best sandwiches. Everything is fresh, the owners are really nice and the buns are delicious. I do think it’s a little expensive, but the quality is really good!
- Bodrum Palace – Looking for a quick dinner or you want to enjoy your döner in a restaurant? This is the place to go. You get your food fast, it’s fresh, really tasty and there is loads of choice. You also get a free tea after your dinner. Vegetarian options are available.
- Goesting – The soup and coffee here are the best. I only have experienced to-go, but the interior looks really nice. It’s not overpriced, but not cheap either. The quality is very good though. The owners are friendly and love their restaurant. Vegetarian options available.
- Greenway – The name says it already. This vegetarian/vegan restaurant is located in the middle of the city centre. The food is nice and it’s a typical hipster interior that everyone likes. The prices are alright, they don’t have waiters though.
Where to go for coffee
A city without coffee is just …?
- Georges Espressobar – Best coffee in town! Niki is a young business owner and started Georges Espressobar in 2014. The atmosphere is calming and the interior minimalistic. It’s like a hipster café with really good coffee and homemade treats. Everyday there is fresh, homemade soup and everything comes from local shops. There are also non-diary milk options available. This is our absolute favorite go-to in Antwerp.
- Vandoag Is’t – Really nice coffee, good prices and if you bring your own cup or take-away, you get a discount. Do choose a coffee with Mikado’s or another weird name, because it’s worth it! The hipster style and the students around, give a nice and trendy feeling. Keep in mind that it’s only open on weekdays.
- Tartine – Looking for good coffee, but you also want to eat something that isn’t cake? Go to Tartine. Tartine means bread in French and bread they have. So many healthy choices and almost in the middle of the centre. Try one of their home-made ice tea’s, so good!
- Coffee Labs – From a small coffee house this place has grown to a coffee & lunchroom. It’s not cheap, but the quality of the food is really good. If you’re a digital nomad, this is the place to work. It even has a terrace on the roof. Located next to the shopping street, so when you want a break from working, a shopping spree is optional.
Where to drink
Belgium is famous for it’s beers, that’s why we created a seperate list with our fvaorite places to drink a “pintje” or enjoy the belgian atmosphere. All gay friendly!
- Elfde Gebod – A café famous for the amount of Holy Virgin statues. You can eat and drink here, but keep in mind that the statues will stare at you the whole time. It’s a nice experience and while you’re near the church, pay a visit!
- Paters Vaetje – A typical Belgian café. This one is very small though. There is a lot of choice in different beers and you have view on the church.
- Gollem Beers & Burgers – This café has craft beers from all over the world! Their menu is even bigger than some restaurants have and that without food. They do serve some really tasty burgers & they have recently opened a second restaurant!
- De Muze – Probably the best café in Antwerp. It has had quite a rough few years with financial problems, but the Jazz Café is back on track. On a normal weekday the place is packed with locals. The staff is nice and the interior is really authentic. Tip, when there is live music you have to pay a little extra on each drink.
- Quinten Matsijs – The oldest café of Antwerp. The interior is typical Belgian, you can play a typical sailors game and eat typical Belgian food. It is somewhere hidden in the city centre, but you can find it with a little navigation help.
- Kassa 4 – This café is located on the Ossenmarkt in the middle of the student neighbourhood. That’s why it’s often packed with students, but a lot of locals go there too! In the summer there is a wide terrace. When you think the place is packed, just search for the toilets. There is a whole other part of the café in the back.
- Santos Café – Above the café is a flag waving with pride. The café is owned by two guys who also ran another café. The interior consists of chairs and tables that served in other cafés. It gives a warm but modern feeling. Yearly there are multiple events, but during Antwerp Pride is probably the biggest.
- Café Den Draak – A normal café in the neighbourhood Zurenborg. This café is just like any other, nice interior, friendly staff, big range of drinks… nothing extra ordinary. Except during pride. Everyone is a little extra happy and are having an even better time.
- Café DeLux – A really nice café in the middle of the city centre. Open to everyone, a nice range of drinks and friendly staff. Since it’s a café, a lot of older members of the LGBTQ+ community are coming here to sit on the terrace and enjoy their beverage. There are also a lot of smaller events, just ask inside.
- Cargo Club – Still known as the former Red&Blue under the locals, this club is one of the biggest gay clubs in Europe. They rebuild their interior to attract more people than just the LGBTQ+ community, but it has not lost its charm!
- Café Hessen Huis – A bar for everyone, but since 1993 a gay-by-gay bar. You can sit on the terrace in the sun and enjoy a drink. Don’t forget to check the events. Every weekend there is something special. From a drag race to a concert. The staff is incredibly friendly and the bar is situated just out of the city centre. If you want to have fun, go here!