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Antwerp: so much more than a diamond in the rough

Antwerp is one of our favourite Belgian cities for a city trip. When visiting the second largest Belgian city you will get a taste of its unique history. The city is filled with magnificent museums, alluring architecture, great shopping, and a range of dining options from traditional Belgian brasserie’s to Michelin Star dining experiences . We promise you that during your trip to Antwerp you will find out that this beautiful Belgian city is more than a diamond in the rough.

Discover what to do in Antwerp on a city break

If you visit Antwerp, a visit to the historic city centre should be the first stop on your list. Take out a few hours of your day to take a walk through the old centre of Antwerp that has its roots in the late Middle Ages. This history is reflected in the narrow streets and alleys, large squares such as the Grote Markt and the many spectacular buildings and facades that you will see all around you. The best place to experience this is the narrow alley of the Vlaaikensgang, where you can easily imagine yourself back in times long forgotten. Feeling peckish? The Vlaaikensgang is home to the charming family-run bistrot t’Hofke. Take a moment to relax and recharge in its hidden historic courtyard with a glass of wine or a hearty meal. Also worth a visit are the Plantin-Moretus Museum, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and Het Steen, which is the oldest surviving building in Antwerp. A favourite of many visitors to Antwerp is the fourteenth-century Cathedral of Our Lady, where you will find paintings by the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens to admire, amongst other secrets. Looking for a place to stay in the city centre? Check out our Mercure Antwerp City Centre, where you are sure to find everything you need to enjoy your visit to Antwerp.

The Antwerp port house shines bright like a diamond

A bit further north from the city centre is an area surrounding the Antwerp port house, called “Het Eilandje”. Het Eilandje combines all of Antwerp’s good sides: good food, relaxed life along the water and a strong link with the old port of Antwerp. Historically, the port has always played an important role in Antwerp, helping to shape it into the city it is today. The current port house’s architecture reflects the role played by the diamond trade throughout Antwerp’s history. Atop a former fire station rests a new construction that resembles the surface of a diamond, with a façade that completely consists of glass. The unique building, designed by Zaha Hadid, is more than worth a visit when in Antwerp. Nearby you will also find other attractions such as the MAS, one of Antwerp’s best museums. Make your way up to its rooftop and enjoy an incredible panoramic view of the city. From here you will be able to see everything that Antwerp has to offer, such as the neighbouring Felix Pakhuis, a monumental warehouse from 1858 that is now bursting with nice restaurants.  

Experience Antwerp’s multi-faceted cultural scene

As well as iconic historical sights, Antwerp boasts a thriving culinary scene, including a healthy beer culture steeped in history, and buzzing live music experiences. It’s no secret that Belgium is famed for beer. So, no trip to Antwerp is complete without visiting one of the many breweries or tasting rooms the city has to offer. We recommend a stop by De Koninck, Antwerp’s city brewery for a cold glass of beer served in a typical beer glass known as a “Bolleke” and a brewery tour.  In addition to breweries, the city’s many brown cafés make for the perfect venues to sample Belgian beer, and offer a cosy glimpse into the city’s cultural heart. Cafés such as Bier Central,  ’t Waagstuk or Paters Vaetje make for an authentic beer-sampling experience. For a more bohemian twist to the classic café, don’t forget to pop into the iconic Café De Muze for a dose of live jazz. 
For fans of more established theatre and music, Antwerp has plenty to offer. Make sure to catch a show at the Queen Elizabeth Concert Hall, or the Stadsschouwburg with its unique modernist architecture. Alternatively, head over to deSingel Art Centre, which puts on a varied program of international theatre, dance, music and architecture year round. Right next door you will find our Mercure Antwerp City South hotel. Book a room and enjoy all that Antwerp has on offer. 

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