Easter is coming so we’r thinking about some of the places you could head on an extended weekend or a non-extended weekend, really – we are in Europe. Nothing is that far where two days wouldn’t make sense.
Today? Antwerp. Cool things to consider about the city itself:
- It’s nearest airport is Brussels, which is a hub.. So flights can be pretty cheap.
- The good people of Belgium speak English better than I do – so that makes everything travel easy.
- Belgium is pretty small, so if you get Antwerp done you’ve still got Brussels, Bruges and Ghent only a stones throw away.
HOTEL HOTEL HOTEL
The trick to a fully functioning long weekend (or short weekend) away is being central. I personally think you are better off grabbing a hotel for a weekender. Hotels tend to be within the center of town, which makes functioning easier but they also do nice things like make your bed and clean up after you. For 2-day-travel apartment living can be kind of consuming, from locating the apartment to having a tour of the facilities to cleaning before you leave so you don’t get a bad rating – why take all that on.
This trip we booked through HotelTonight which I cheekily love because it leaves you with an element of surprise. HotelTonight works on last minute daily hotel deals concept, so the day you are set to arrive in your city of choice you check the app and it will show you all the best hotels for a fraction of a price. If you are a control freak, you can book a couple of days in advance, but typically you won’t get the absolutely BEST savings.
We stayed at the Hylitt, which was all sorts of old world fancy.
DRINK & EAT; RINSE WASH REPEAT
If it’s one thing you can do on a city trip, it’s drink and eat. If there is one thing you should do in Belgium, alone, it’s drink. We had a rather lush time making our way around to all the old beer houses and casually indulging, because: holidays. But also keep in mind coffee is a thing. And in general: the coffee guys were babes and (a single girl observation) the good men of Belgium are a bit like the French in the sense they are quite happy to meet you.
Few places we loved were:
Esco*Bar: Good breakfast. Really. I’m not sure we found much of a brunch scene in Antwerp, but this filled the gap. Meat and several cheese – you’re covered for all your slightly Euro-Breakfast style needs. I’m not certain you can manage a poached egg on toast in Antwerp – but probably I didn’t have enough mornings to research this so thoroughly.
Caffènation: I feel like Antwerp has coffee on lock. It’s possible because the city isn’t so big it feels like it’s a thing they have sorted, but I was pretty happy with Caffènation. This coffee shop sits on the corner and takes up three levels which are more or less heaving with people all hours of operation. It’s buzzy.
Paters Vaetje: I don’t know if this is a total tourist trap, or the most authentic place in the world – but they had bloody delicious beers that were so heavy they could probably double as lunch ! Also, it’s right on a very sweet little square so it all feels pretty pretty.
Het Stadscafé: We went here and ate all the mussels and chips a girl could stomach. To be honest, it was a our second choice as we were headed to the place across the road, which was totally full. But still seriously delicious.
WALK THE STREETS & SHOP
Coming from Berlin, I really think I’ve started to appreciate pretty cities more than I used to. This could be a lie, as Australia is also rather ugly and generally feels new, as opposed to romantically old…. So probably I’ve always had a feeling for them – but nonetheless, whatever your romantic city threshold – Antwerp is bloody cute. From all the old squares, to the tiny streets, to the sometimes graffiti’ed laneways, it’s easy enough to spend your time just wandering about.
That paired with the fact the shopping is next level delicious is a treat in itself. I honestly had no idea that Antwerp was the “fashion” capital of Europe. And maybe that’s debatable with the French vs. Paris, but the number of independent labels and fashion forward shops gives my EC card a minor heart attack at the damage I could do – but didn’t.
There are a number of good Vintage stores in Antwerp. I hate Vintage store shopping, but I know most people like it. So I’m just going to leave the names here and you can do as you please with that information.
Labels Inc.: This one is a more up-market vintage number. With serious Antwerpen brands and other big hitters from around Europe. You are probably finding a big saving if you are spending big on labels in general, but if you are Berlin vintage shopping, this will be beyond your financial means.
Rosier 41: Vast vintage store. Pretty well curated of all the labels we know and love (Acne, Isabel Marant etc.)
The Game Design Store: Wonderful design wares from all over Europe. If you are looking for something small/ interesting to take home with you – it’s a great place to stop. If you are looking for something large – they probably have that too. Focusing on contemporary design with a desire towards accessibility for all it’s an A++ recommendation. They also have lovely staff – bonus.
VISIT MUSEUM AAN DE STROOM
This is one of the coolest thing we did all weekend. Well – maybe this and the mussels. Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) is the big museum in Antwerp, and if I’m the honest uncultured human I am: I didn’t even look at the art. The thing about MAS is that (for starters) it’s a pretty major building, so even just seeing it from the outside is its own experience. But secondly, MAS has a roof deck which is a free entry type scenario. So if art isn’t your thing, you can skip that and make your way up the escalators to the top floor to get a pretty detailed look of the city.
The coolest thing for me about the whole experience was actually getting to the top. Making your way to the roof area you must take on 8 floors of escalators – pretty simple. But what is the most marvelous is the way that the building is designed; when you take the escalators up the view on each level is more or less a totally new look onto the city as the window positioning is changing as you loop around and up. It’s spectacular.
…I’m not sure I’m very good at explaining this. You just need to go, and then you can advise on the better way to communicate the activity :-\
THINGS YOU COULD PROBABLY SKIP?
Let’s be clear, you can skip checking out the water. Antwerp is no Hamburg, it’s not dramatic and industrial. Its Harbour area is bland and flat (from what I could see). Which really is not problem when the rest of the city has so much going for it – but just a tip: you don’t need to check out the docks. Use that time more wisely, over a beer in a romantic platz type area.