Antwerp, the second-largest city in Belgium, is a treasure trove of amazing experiences for locals and tourists alike. It’s not just a picturesque city — beyond the charming, post-card-worthy facade of guild houses, churches, and Golden Age architecture, Antwerp is a vibrant city with a rich cultural prestige and commercial heritage.
Antwerp is a city of many names; it’s the city of diamonds, the city of fashion, the city of Rubens, and the city of port. Brussels, Ghent, and Bruges get all of the attention when we talk about Belgium travel but there’s no doubt that Antwerp deserves a spot in your travel bucket list too.
Booking a trip to Belgium soon? We uncover 7 of the best things to do in Antwerp.
1. Admire the world-famous Central Station
Antwerp is home to Europe’s most romantic and the world’s most beautiful train station, the Antwerpen-Centraal (Antwerp Central Station). This architectural beauty is characterized by a good mix of modern and ancient construction. It has a 43-meter high steel platform roof, an eclectic brick station building, and a vast entrance hall that often holds art exhibits.
If you happen to stay in a hotel in Bruges, for example, or anywhere in Belgium, the train has intercity services you can rely on. The station is also served by high-speed services to cities in the Netherlands and France.
2. Savor Belgian chocolate
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “Belgium”? Chocolate, of course. Belgium is the world’s chocolate capital. And did you know that Belgium’s very first chocolate factory opened in Antwerp in 1831?
Throughout your trip, you’ll find a plethora of chocolatiers and chocolate shops in Antwerp. Some of the top-rated are The Chocolate Line, Chocolatier Burie, Nello, Neuhaus, and Goossens Chocolatier.
3. Visit the largest chocolate museum in the world
Belgian chocolate is so adored by everyone that it has its very own museum, which also found its home in Antwerp. When you’re in Antwerp, you can visit the world’s largest Belgian Chocolate museum, the Chocolate Nation. The museum will take you on a 60-90-minute journey, telling the history of Belgian chocolate, the chocolate-making process, and how Belgian chocolate earned its worldwide reputation.
4. Discover Antwerp’s fashion and retail scene
Antwerp wasn’t called a “fashion city” and “triomfelycke coopstad” (triumphant shopping city) for no reason — the city is truly packed with tempting shopping centers. Whether you’re a true fashion connoisseur or just a trendy human who happens to love shopping, Antwerp is a perfect place for maxing out your credit cards.
Come and check out Antwerp’s shopping districts:
- Diamond District – a world-famous diamond district located just outside of the Antwerp central station.
- Meir – main shopping district in the city, lined with a wide range of local and international brands
- De Modewijk (The Fashion District) – a haven for fashionistas. The district is comprised of fashion boutiques with high-end labels, the Flanders Fashion Institute (FFI), the Fashion Museum (MOMU), and the Fashion Academy.
- Zuid District – designer shops, interior showrooms, and contemporary galleries
- De Wilde Zee (The Wild Sea) – fashion boutiques, delicatessens and pralines
- De Keyserlei – a street lined with cafés, jewelers, shoes, and boutiques
- Historic City Center (Grote Markt and Groenplaats) – a go-to place for antiques, vintage clothing, ornaments, and souvenirs.
Belgium is known for its festive Christmas markets, and Antwerp is no different when it comes to shopping. In fact, the city’s retail scene is booming all year round.
5. Know why Antwerp is called “the city of diamonds”
Antwerp is also dubbed the city of diamonds. Just outside the world-famous Antwerp central station is a renowned Diamond district or Diamond Quarter (Diamantkwartier), a place sparkling with over 1800 diamond shops, Aside from shopping, you can also watch how this beloved gem is crafted. You can see cutters, setters, and goldsmiths at work.
6. Embark on a fulfilling gastronomic adventure
Belgium chocolate isn’t the only irresistibly delicious gift of Belgium to the world. We’ve got waffles (Liege Waffles, Brussels Waffle, and Galettes camp noises), beer (try De Koninck, the beer of Antwerp), and fries too. And when you’re in Antwerp, you’ll be spoiled with a plethora of restaurants, cafes, and street food stalls that offer traditional Flemish dishes with Mediterranean, French and vegetarian cuisines.
Aside from those famous treats, you can also try other lesser-known Belgian foods that are just as satisfying:
- Mosselen met friet (Mussels with Fries)
- Frituur (Fry Shacks or Fast Food)
- Stoofvlees (Belgian beef stew mixed with beer)
- Rijsttaart (Rice Tart)
- Lard Balls” (also called Dutch Doughnuts or Dutchies)
- Charcuterie (a form of meat preservation that produces forcemeat, sausages, galantine, ham)
- Steak Tartare “Martino”
- Gegratineerde witloof (Gratin with Chicory)
- Tomaat garnaal (Tomato with shrimps)
7. Experience Antwerp’s vibrant cultural heritage
Antwerp is home to various museums, music halls, and theaters that celebrate the rich arts and culture scene of Belgium.
If you’re planning to visit a museum and gallery, we suggest the following:
- Koninklijk Museum Voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen (KMSKA) | (The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp) – stores an extensive collection of world-class paintings, sculptures, and drawings from the 14th to the 20th centuries.
- Museum Aan de Stroom (MAS) | (Museum at the River) – a museum that tells the tale of Antwerp
- Rubenshuis | (Rubens House) – the former house and studio of Peter Paul Rubens, Antwerp’s greatest Baroque Painter.