Bruges, Brussels and Ghent are big hitters for visitors to Belgium. But Antwerp, says Daisy Cropper, shouldn’t be missed. Here’s how to get the very best from your trip
Belgians are famous for their beers – that’s a fact. When you’re in Antwerp don’t miss a visit to Gollem (Suikerrui 28), unless you’re incredibly indecisive. Gollem is home to over 400 different types of Belgian and international beer from light lagers to very bitter bitters. There are 30 available on tap and a whole range presented in funky, impressive glasses. You’ll get more than your average stein here. Hosting live jazz nights, a café area and located right in the city centre off the main square – it’s the best place to start your night. Warning: the choice is so good you may not want to leave.
The MAS (Museum Aan de Stroom; Hanzestedenplaats 1) is both an insightful museum linking the Belgian city with the wider world and an impressive monument. The eye-catching exterior, whose design is surprisingly inspired by the shapes and textures of a 16th century storehouse, has galleries stacked up like ‘boxes’ creating a spiral tower with large expanses of glass. Sprawled over nine floors, as you rise with each, the glass surroundings open up different views over the city’s skyline, river and port.
While you’re there, stop by the ‘Happy Birthday Dear Academie!’ exhibition: a celebration of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts’ 350th birthday.
Belgians are as famous for their waffles as they are their beers and chocolate treats. Désiré de Lille (Schrijnwerkersstraat) is arguably the greatest place in the city to settle down for a sweet treat or two. Established in 1903, this place has become somewhat an institution and has a well-earned reputation for waffles. Get yours smothered in chocolate sauce, with a scattering of fresh strawberries or with a traditional dusting of sugar – either way, you won’t be disappointed.
Not a fan of waffles? Try the Dutch doughnuts instead – a deep-fried pastry peppered with raisins and a layer of soft, white sugar.
Café Pelican is a typically gritty Belgian bar but is full of friendly, cheerful residents. The drinks are cheap and always flowing and there’s no pretentiousness, as with many upmarket and tourist-focused bars in the city. Pop by if you want to find a real local bar. The bartenders are also fond of playing cheesy 90s pop music. Don’t ask me why…
Located on Melkmarkt, there’s an impressive view of the cathedral and two large terraces for when it’s sunny.
Antwerp is a mixing pot of multi-culturism and nowhere is this more reflected than across its global range of restaurants. You’ll find Italian, Thai, Greek, Indian and many more cuisines on offer. But if you’re looking for traditional Belgian fare, De Godevaart (St Katelijnevest 23, Antwerp 2000) is the number one option. Exciting food and flavours, with a traditional Belgian twist are presented beautifully in this classy, sophisticated eatery. It isn’t cheap but you get what you pay for: impeccable service and a full, satisfied stomach! Treat yourself.