How to get the most out of Antwerp in one day
Ever buzzing and almost excruciatingly hip, the fashion-capital of Belgium – Antwerp – is by far one of the coolest cities to visit. Antwerp in one day will be a whirlwind of culture, architecture, hip eateries and a lot of very good people watching. Put on your most fashion-forward outfit, and find out what the best of Antwerp has in store for you!
On a sidenote, if – like me – the city has managed to capture your heart try and see if you can extend your visit for a full weekend (bet you will not regret it)!
The legend of Antwerp
The legend of Antwerp starts with a Roman soldier called Silvius Brabo. This brave soldier killed the tyrannical giant Druon Antigoon who terrorised the inhabitants of the city and exerted toll on anyone seafarer who wished to cross the river Schelde. If the seafarer refused, their hand would be cut off and thrown into the river.
According to legend, one faithfull day Silvius Brabo refused to pay the toll. He fought courageously against the giant eventually killing him and cutting of his hand to throw it in the river. The Dutch words for the action of throwing a hand are hand werpen, supposedly this is where the name of the city of Antwerpen stems from!
These days remnants of the legend of Antwerp can be found all over the city. On the central square in Antwerp you will find a found with a statue of Silvius Brabo holding the famous hand. Walk a litte further to the the Meir (the central shopping street) and see if you can spot the large statue of a single hand.
And finally, the traditional biscuit of Antwerp is called Antwerpse Handjes (Hand of Antwerp). A buttery crispy biscuit in the shape of a hand! If you are not a fan of biscuits, why not try some Belgian chocolate shaped in a hand instead!
Places to visit in Antwerp in one day
Central Square Antwerp
An iconic element of any European city is the central market square. Traditionally located in the heart of the historic city and usually containing the most opulent houses and buildings the city had on offer. Antwerp sure lives up this description!
A daytrip to Antwerp would not be complete without a visit to the central square. The city started growing in importance in the 14th century and attracted merchants from all over Europe, by the 15th century Antwerp was the most important cities of the Low Countries. This status is clearly reflected in the palatial buildings adorning the central square.
Gaze upon the opulent 16th century town hall and perfectly preserved guild houses. You will also find a plethora of restaurants and bars on the square, be weary because prices are high and the quality of food is just a smidge above mediocre. The view however might be worth the extra few euros.
This medieval little alley is within eyeshot of the central square. It’s tiny, it’s cute and it will transport you back in time the second you walk in. Your bucketlist of things to do in Antwerp in one day would not be complete without a little meander down the not-so-secret Vlaeykensgang. Way back in the day (the 16th century to be precise) you could find the poorest people in town living here, nowadays it holds an exclusive restaurant and a few upscale art galleries. Oh how the times have changed!
Plantin Moretus Museum
Did you know that industrial-scale printing started out in Antwerp? And it happened right here in the Plantin Moretus Museum four hundred years ago. Today the building serves as a museum to both the workshop of Plantin Moretus and the long history of book-printing. It houses the worlds oldest printing press and a very impressive array of books dating back across the centuries. The museum is on the list of UNESCO world heritages sites since 2005.
Practical information for visiting the Plantin Moretus Museum
Address: Vrijdagmarkt 22-23, 2000 Antwerpen
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 10.00 – 17.00
Entrance fee: 8€ for adults over 26
De Konick Brewery to try een bolleke
No selfrespecting guide to Antwerp in one day is complete without the mention of een bolleke. Een bolleke is the colloquial term for the iconic amber-colored beer brewed by the local brewery: De Konick. The name is derived from the shape of the glass the beer is served in and the beer itself is as inherent to the city itself as the legend of Bravo.
De Konick brewery has been brewing in the city of Antwerp for centuries and has grown out to be a veritable symbol of the city. Since 2015 they have opened the doors to their brewery where can partake in a very interactive visit and/or a tasting of their various beers. On site you will find and interesting array of culinary establishments ranging from a bakery to a full fledged restaurant servind traditional Flemish food.
If your daytrip to Antwerp does not allow for a visit to the brewery, simply pass by any of the – many – bars in the city and ask for “een bolleke”. Chances are high you will be received with a big smile, after all who could resist a visitor who knows their beer!
Visit the MuHKA – Museum of Contempory Art
The city of Antwerp has a long standing tradition of art and culture. It has a world renowned fashion school and houses some of the countries best art galleries. Although visting Antwerp in one day means time is short, it would be a pity not to get a bit of a feel for the artistic flair the city has the to offer and what better way to do this than to spend a couple of hours in the Mukha (Museum of Contempory Art). Check out which exhibition is before you go.
Practical details for visting MuHKA
Address: Leuvenstraat 32, 2000 Antwerpen
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday : 11.00 – 18.00
Sint Anna’s tunnel – The pedestrian underpass under the Schelde river
Linkeroever (the left bank) of Antwerp is located on the other bank of the Schelde river. If you are looking for the best place to view the skyline of Antwerp, this is the spot! But how in the world do you get to this other side, surely swimming is not required?
No need for bathing suits, the answer to your question is suprisingly simple: You take the tunnel under the water! The Sint Anna tunnel is a 553-meter pedestrian tunnel, dug 33 meters under the ground and dating back to 1933. It came out of WW2 with a little damage but was restored beautifully. To this day the original old wooden escalators, warning signs and entrance hall are still being used.
If you are planning on completing Antwerp in one day, try and spend your last few hours on the left bank. Bring something to nibble on and “een bolleke”, kick back and enjoy the best sunset spot in the city!
Antwerp Central Station
Chances are high you decide to take the train for you daytrip to Antwerpen. A worthy choice as it is better for the environment and it will allow you to start your visit to Antwerpen in one of the most beautiful buildings of the city: The Central Station of Antwerp, which has been crowned as one of the most beautifil stations in the world.
The station is an interesting mixture of opulent old and very urban new architectre, despite containing two – polar opposite – architecture styles, the station feels like one well put together building. The original part of the station dates back to the early 20th century and held 6 platforms. You will see the remnants of this part in the central hall (where you buy your tickets at the counter) as well as at the top of the grand staircase leading to the platforms.
The newer part dates back to 2007, when 18 new platforms were added as well as a highspeed line.
for your daytrip to Antwerp
Antwerp City Card
If you are looking to visit a few of the museums in Antwerp, try and look into purchasing the Antwerp City Card. Even if you are only planning a daytrip to Antwerp, the discounts are worth looking into! The card can be purchased online or at the visitors centre of the city for a period of 24-48-72h. Prices start at €27 for 24h.
Parking in Antwerp
If you are planning on driving to Antwerp, be aware that the city is a low emission zone. Be sure to double check if you car is allowed into the city, without having to pay the €35/day emissions tax. Parking in the city itself can be expensive. The city is split into various different zones: red, orange and yellow, each of which adhere to a different tariff. Your best best for free parking is in one of the designated parking zones on the outskirts of town and then catching one of the shuttles bus into the city!
Vegetarian restaurants in Antwerp
With a host of really good veggie restaurants, it will be hard to pick where you want to indulge! Either of the options mentioned below are really good, but be sure to check out my more extensive list of vegetarian restaurants in Antwerp.
An organic restaurant in Antwerp with a strong focus on both local and seasonal produce. Native caters to (non)-vegetarans and vegans. Vegetables take centre stage on the menu. Dine-in and take-away options both available.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 11.30-18.00
Address: Muntstraat 8, 2000 Antwerpen
De broers van Julienne
This restaurant has been around since 1992, it is a one of the most well-establish veggie restaurants in the city. On the menu you will find a delectable array of dishes suitable for both vegetarians and vegans. Additional bonus is the beautiful terrace that is the perfect place for a relaxed meal on a warm summer’s day.
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday: 12.00-21.00 // Friday to Saturday 12.00-22.00 // Sunday 17.30-21.00
Address: Kasteelpleinstraat 45-17, 2000 Antwerpen
Where to stay in Antwerp
Antwerp in a day will entail a lot of walking and exploring. Why not stay the night in one of the accomodations the city has the offer! Here are a couple of hotels that might just change your mind.
- Bontanic Sanctuary Antwerpen: An original 12th century monastery that has been rebuilt to house luxury accommodations and a spa. The hotel has a gym and pool on site and the restaurant offers delicious Belgian meals.
- Hotel de Witte Lelie: A small luxury boutique hotel built in the 17th century and located in a beautiful gabled house on the main shopping street. Contains 10 beautifully curated rooms and 2 sitting rooms for guests to relax in.
- Astoria Hotel Antwerpen: This small 3 star hotels is centrally located and has a solid sustainability policy in place. It was awarded a green-key label to recognise the efforts in minimising their ecological impact.
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