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Aug 14 2013

7 Things to See, Do, and Try in Antwerp

In a previous post about Antwerp, I explained how much I loved it.  One of the great things about it is that there really is something for everyone.  So here is a list of some of the things you can see, do, and try when you are in Antwerp.

1. For chocolate lovers

When I heard there was a Chocolate Palace, I just HAD to go.  It seemed relatively easy to find on the map but when I got there, it took me a while to find because it is called The Chocolate Line rather than the Chocolate Palace.  I think that’s a local name for it because it is actually located in a former palace that once belonged to Napoleon.  It’s housed in the same building as Flamant so once  you see a sign for Flamant, you know you’re in the right place.  As you walk into the shop, past a chocolate statute of Napoleon, the intoxicating smell of chocolate will hit you, as it did me.

A Chocolate Nelson
Af first, I resisted the temptation to buy chocolate and walked through to the kitchen where some chocolatiers were in action.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the same opportunity as I did in Perugia to make chocolate so I just watched them.  

I thought I would be able to resist the urge to buy chocolate but I was sorely mistaken.  Once I saw someone buying just a few chocolates I realised that I could do the same, so I did.  I only bought four.  It’s just as well because these were the most expensive chocolates I had ever bought.  Somehow, that didn’t actually bother me at the time.  I sat down on one of the benches in the courtyard of the palace to try my first chocolate.  The taste was exquisite as it tickled my tastebuds and shortly after, I had eaten all four chocolates.  The thing is, I didn’t crave for any more.  I had this wonderful taste of chocolate in my mouth for ages after and it really had my endorphins soaring.  I was on a bit of a chocolate high.

2. For diamond lovers

They say that diamonds are a girl’s best friend.  After my chocolate experience, I would say that’s debatable.  Nonetheless, if you love all things that sparkle then head to the main train station for diamond shop upon diamond shop, in the station and down the roads close by.

Diamonds are a girl's best friend

It’s incredible; so many shops of pure loveliness with the stones glistening, twinkling, and sparkling in the sunlight.  They are beautifully crafted and presented to tempt potential purchasers of which I definitely wasn’t one (not on my budget!).  I just admired them from the other side of the window as I walked along the street.

3. For the discerning foodie

When you’re veggie, like me, you don’t go to certain places because of the food as people do for the fish or meat of a particular country or region.  I’m normally just glad when I can get vegetarian food.  I hadn’t been wowed by any place I had eaten in Antwerp until, while searching for another place, I stumbled across Eten vol Leven.

A Vegetarian Nori Wrap

As I was walking down a small street, I saw a board outside with the words ‘raw food’ and ‘vegan’.  That got my attention so I went in and sure enough it was vegan and pretty much every other diet friendly.  I was presented with a problem though, I had to decide what to order.  It’s a good problem to have but not one I am familiar with.  I could actually have anything on the menu.  I decided to try the black wrap, which was nicely presented and delicious.  I had a fresh mint tea to accompany the meal and a vitality juice afterwards.  That gave me a huge energy boost but a natural one.  I would say that the prices are reasonable for what you get: great-tasting, wholesome, healthy food.  It’s worth every penny in my book.  I just wished I had found it earlier!

4. For coffee lovers

It has to be Normo.  If you’re after great coffee, this is the place to go although it isn’t the easiest place to find.  I wandered around for ages before I stumbled across it and that was using a map!  It isn’t obvious even when you get there because there isn’t a sign outside.  Just look for the droves of people sitting outside and follow your nose with the smell of coffee!

Coffee Shop in Antwerp

Apart from great coffee and really friendly people, I found it really interesting and a little bamboozling!  I ordered a filter coffee but I had a choice of three or four different types.  One of the guys talked me through each of them but I really had no idea which to go for so I just picked one.  I watched as he made coffee in a way I had never seen before.  It wasn’t made with a machine but by hand.  He poured some hot water through a filter bit by bit so it filtered through slowly.  Then, when I sat down to drink my coffee on one of the sofas, I was fascinated by the guy behind me who was roasting coffee beans.  He had a laptop hooked up to the machine so he could check the temperature and adjust it as necessary.  These guys take the coffee-making process very seriously.  They experiment and keep a record of what works and what doesn’t.  All in all it’s an experience that you really shouldn’t miss!

5. For beer lovers

Belgium is well-known for its beer production so I obviously had a beer or two while I was is Antwerp.  I stuck with the local beer De Koninck, which is brewed in Antwerp.  The beer I had was a light beer, which I prefer.

De Koning Beer

There is a pub called The Kulminator which sounds like the place to go if you are interested in beer.  Apparently they sell over 300 different varieties of beer there and I was told that they age beer in the same way that people age wine.  It’s an unusual but interesting concept that stirred my interest.  Unfortunately, it was closed the only time I had the chance to visit it.  It’s a real shame because I really fancied a beer at the time.  Oh well, next time!

6. For lovers of architecture

There are so many old and beautifully crafted buildings to look at.  Antwerp really is a feast for people, like me, who love such things.  When you are on Meir Street, it is easy to window shop and see what’s on sale, as it is the main shopping street in Antwerp.  I encourage you to just stop for a minute and look up to see the magnificent buildings in their full glory.

Carolus Borromeus Church, Antwerp

This particular building is Carolus Borromeus, a Baroque Church, which I loved the moment I clamped eyes on it.  It is by far my favourite church in Antwerp because of the architecture, the artwork inside, and the pretty square in which it is located –  opposite a fountain and another rather charming building.  We are lucky to be able to enjoy the beauty of this church because, in 2009, there was a fire.  Thankfully, with the help of the local community and the fire brigade, the damage was limited.

7. For alternative views of Antwerp

If you want an alternative view of Antwerp there are two things you can do.  One is to head under the River Scheldt along Sint Anna Tunnel, the pedestrian tunnel, to the left bank of Antwerp either on foot or by bicycle.  Once over there you can enjoy the stunning waterside view of the centre of Antwerp and you could continue on for another 15 minutes to the beach.

Being in the tunnel is like being in an underground station in London.  Well, it’s the same really.  The only difference is that with this, the tunnel takes you to the other side of the water rather than to a train.

Pedestrain Tunnel in Antwerp

The other alternative view is to go to the top of MAS (Museum Aan De Stroom).  I got there too late to visit the museum but I was able to enjoy the far-reaching views from the top.  It’s free to do so and, as far as I’m aware, it’s the best view of the city.

View of antwerp from the top of MAS

Location

Here are the locations on the map:

Have your say

Have you been to Antwerp?  What would you add to the list?

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

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