Each year I meet up with a group of girlfriends I went to university with and we spend the weekend together in a different city. This time we went to Antwerp, Belgium, and we travelled by car and train since we all still live in the Netherlands.
We spent our nights in a lovely Airbnb called the HanjamInn which is a combination of the names of the owners: Hanna and Benjamin. There were seven of us, and there is room for eight people, including another floor where you can stay on your own or with two persons.
For €240 per night you get two whole floors, consisting of a spacious kitchen with all the cooking utensils you need and plenty of glasses, cups and cutlery. There is a big dining table and a little balcony. For me the kitchen is always the heart of a home, and here it’s just the same. While at the house we spent almost all of our time at the big wooden table playing games, drinking some wine or just chatting away.
On the main floor you also find the biggest bedroom with an en suite bathroom and a toilet in the hallway. Upstairs you’ll find another bathroom, as well as three more bedrooms, one with two separate beds which was very nice for the two “less-easy” sleepers in our midst. Every morning we received a nice big breakfast with fresh bread and juice.
You can tell the owners have put a lot of love into their Airbnb, everything was carefully decorated with small but important details like flowers, mirrors in every room, enough space to put your clothing, some glasses and a water bottle in every bedroom with some local sweets. There was a big bookshelf with books about the city, kitchen towels and even food items like honey, hagelslag (sprinkles) and tea. The whole house was decorated quite “sweet” with some 1970’s furniture and decorations in every room. Think: orange lamps, an old 1970’s cabinet or a funky colorful rug, while still looking modern and fresh.
We arrived Friday evening, quite late since the route can be horrible traffic-wise, so preferably try to arrive before or after rush hour. Once you get off the highway it’s a quick ride to the Airbnb since it’s a little bit more on the outskirts of the city. It’s located in a calm residential area from which the city is easily reachable by tram. A tram ticket for 10 rides will costs €14 and is totally worth it because of the cute old-fashioned trams in which you still need to put your card through one of those “stamp-machines.”
We decided to stay in Friday evening and be all fresh and fruity the next day. Saturday we went to the inner city that has one huge famous shopping street called “the Meir” where you can find just about any shop and brand you like. It also has loads of side-streets with smaller shops and boutiques for the less commercial shoppers amongst us. Laws for shops on discounts are somehow different in Belgium so you’ll find discounts quickly going up to 70%, making your trip to Antwerp even more worth it. One could see it as a smart investment. Be aware that even though it’s a big city the shops aren’t always open on Sunday. Belgium is a bit conservative about those kinds of things, which is totally fine but should be taken into account.
Just walking through the city is already quite the experience, since Antwerp has a rich history which you can see in the architecture of many buildings. Worth visiting is: Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal, Rubenshuis and the Sint-Jacobskerk. Also the many statues, stone-laid streets and fronts of the houses give the city a special kind of historical vibe.
For some drinks and lunch you should go to the Groenplaats (Greenplace) or the Grote Markt (Big Market), two squares where you find all sorts of cafés and lunchrooms in the side streets and which are surrounded by nothing but beautiful architecture.
Of course when in Belgium you should try the famous Belgium fries and mayonnaise in one of those pointy bags that are actually a bit inconvenient to eat from. On the Groenplaats square you’ll find the “Fritkot” which is translated somewhat as: Fries-barn, and you can easily spot it by the huge plastic bag of fries standing just outside of the place. It is owned by a well-proportionated lady and often has a line waiting down the street. Well, it isn’t because of her nice service. She is very loud and rude towards customers, and is especially impatient with tourists. Somehow this is actually quite the experience and we still talked about it three hours later so it does leave an impression. And the fries were very good.
It’s also worth visiting the smallest waffle shop in the world at Meirbrug, and I very, very strongly advise you to choose the one covered with hot melted chocolate deliciousness.
Once it got a bit rainy, which we didn’t mind since we were prepared with awesome poncho’s (as you can see in the photos), we went to the fashion museum MOMU.
At the moment they have an exposition called “Anything can be a shoe” with pieces of designers like Manolo Blahnik, Fendi, Louboutin, Viktor & Rolf, Jean Paul Gaultier and many more. If there is anything else that can make a group of girls happier do tell me. If you’re a guy and taking your girlfriend to Antwerp, surprise her with this, you can’t go wrong here and it only costs €3 per person. You might have to go shoe-shopping afterwards, though.
In the evening we went to a Restaurant called Huis De Colvenier at St. Antoniusstraat 8, with a big wine cellar in the basement where we had an aperitif and some mussels (quite classic food in Belgium as well as it is in the Netherlands). After going upstairs the decoration and food was a bit outdated. Too bad since the place is in a beautiful monumental building and has a lot of potential. The food was good and certainly enough, but not very surprising. But I’d definitely go back for drinks in that beautiful wine cellar.
Going out in Antwerp has two sides. The inner city has more of a “cozy beer-culture” with small cafés that have comfy seats, standing tables and heaters outside where everyone has a couple of beers and good conversations, since Belgium people absolutely love to talk and socialize. Go a bit towards the outskirts of the city about 10 minutes from the big market square, and funny enough close to or at the red light district, and you can go clubbing until 6 in the morning. Some ideas: Café D’Anvers (it says café but it’s a club), NOXX and Red & Blue.
Here you pay quite the price to get in (mostly around €15 to €20) and naturally your drinks will be quite expensive as well. The doormen at these clubs can be very strict about clothing and if you’re with a group of guys, find some girls who want to go in with you or your chances of being rejected on a Saturday night increase to about 80%.
As for us, we went to a cocktail bar called Vuile Was, which literally translates to Dirty Laundry (hahaha) located close to the market square. It has a bit of both worlds: not a café and not a club. You’ll have a fun night and you can buy buckets of cocktail (yes, it’s that kinda place) and I won’t go into further detail about what went down after a few of those. Let’s just say we had a fun night and aspirins for breakfast.
Well, that “wraps up” my weekend in Antwerp. I’ve been living very close (about a 20 minute car ride) in the Netherlands for most of my life so I could add some experiences from previous trips. Antwerp has a rich culture but as you can see is also very well suited for the younger adults among us. Not saying the older ones can’t go partying in Antwerp, of course, I recommend everyone gives it a try! Have fun!
All Good Vibes, Amy