Planning a solo trip to Antwerp? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- Largest municipality in both Flanders and Belgium, with a population of ~500,000.
- Located on the Eastern bank of river Scheldt, linked to the North Sea.
- The city’s rich history attracts a lot of artists, intellectuals, writers, tourists – anyone interested in exploring the unique Flemish culture.
- The inhabitants of Antwerp are nicknamed Sinjoren.
- Currency: Euro (EUR).
- Spoken languages: Flemish (Belgian Dutch) is the official language. French is also widely spoken.
- Best time to visit: May to September.
- Getting there: the airport is 7 km away from the city center. Bus line 14 is the connection between Antwerp Airport and the Central Station. A taxi will cost around EUR 20.00 to the Antwerp city center (approximately a 15 minute ride).
WHERE TO STAY
- Best Antwerp hostel for solo travelers: Yust. The obvious choice in town – exceptionally clean and well kept rooms, friendly staff, and modern amenities/facilities. Free tea and coffee. This isn’t a party hostel – but perfect for a quiet stay.
- Anywhere in the old town, around Central station, diamond district or the Grote Markt (“Great Market Square”) would be a good choice.
- Antwerp is a small metropolis and can be easily navigated on foot. The historical center is a pedestrian zone.
- Trams operated by the Flemish region’s De Lijn are the most popular mode of transport. Buses and metro can also be used. A single ticket costs EUR 2.50. A day pass is available for EUR 7.50, while a 3-day pass is available at EUR 15.00.
- Taxis can be booked by calling +32 3 238 38 38, +32 3 366 66 66, +32 3 231 61 42, +32 3 828 25 25. Taxis are efficient and affordable in Antwerp – look for licensed taxis (with a red sign).
- Drinking age is 16, last call is 2.00 AM.
- Hip/local scene: The bars and cafes in the small and interesting old town.
- Trendy scene: The city’s nightlife revolves around the cafes and pubs just around the Cathedral area in the Old Town.
- Great bars for solo travelers: Café De Kat, De Muze, Witzli-Poetzli, Korsakov, Molly’s Irish Bar, The Northerner, and The Corner House.
- Interested in clubs/dancing? The top picks: Het Bos, Pekfabriek, and Ampere. College crowd: Grand Café Capital (located in Stadspark).
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Cathedral of our lady – this is the historical heart of Antwerp. The Cathedral is one of the most impressive Gothic cathedrals of Northern Europe, and houses some of the greatest paintings of the Flemish painter Sir Peter Paul Rubens.
- Rubenhuis is the former home of Rubens, now a museum showcasing the famous painter’s life and work.
- The Antwerp Zoo. Located next to the Antwerpen-Centraal station, this is the oldest and one of the best known zoos in Europe.
- Centraal Station. Constructed between 1895 and 1905, this is regarded as the finest example of railway architecture in Belgium. Both the exterior and interior are brilliantly designed in the traditional baroque style.
- Stadhuis – this Gothic and early Renaissance style town hall is one of the most recognized buildings in Antwerp. Tours to the town hall can be arranged at the tourist office. The town hall is located in the historic center of the city.
- Diamond Museum. Antwerp is known all around the world for its diamonds – 70 percent of the world trade in diamonds takes place in this Flemish city. A visit to the diamond museum in Antwerp is a must for anyone fascinated by this precious stone.
- Het Steen, a small medieval fortress built on the bank of the river Scheldt. Dating back to the year 645, the castle underwent reconstruction in 1520 (under Charles V). At one time a prison, it now houses the National Maritime Museum.
- Stroll around the historic center of Antwerp, starting from the Cathedral. Take in the lively Flemish culture of this charming historical city. The old town square has a delightful mix of historical architecture, building, bistros, chocolate boutiques, and designer shops.
- Stroll around Meirstraat in the older part of the town – the area is bordered by brilliant baroque style buildings (and some very classy stores).
- Explore the street South of Meir – you will find high-end boutiques set inside 16th and 17th century buildings.
- Go for a walk to the train station and the block on either side of De Keyserlei (right by the train station). The area is lined with diamond shops!
- Walk down Cogels-Osylei, known as one of the most beautiful streets in the city. Kloosterstraat is another great street for lovers of art.
- Antwerp is a relaxed multicultural city with warm and welcoming Flemish locals. Though Dutch is the local language, one can easily navigate around the town with just English.
- Want to stop at a great cafe? Head to Rush Rush Coffee, Me & My Monkey, Cafématic, or Caffenation.
- Belgium chocolate is world famous – don’t forget to sample and bring some home! The local chocolate Antwerpse handjes (“Little hands from Antwerp”) is a traditional specialty of the city. Chocolates can be sampled at most locations.
- Visit the Maurice Verbaet Center. Located in the decommissioned Antwerp Water Works buildings, this unique privately-run museum, the culmination of years of fervent collecting by its owners Maurice and Caroline Verbaet, opened in September 2015. Upholding the belief that art connects people, the entrepreneurial couple invites a broad audience to (re)discover Belgian art produced during and after the period known as ‘Les Trentes Glorieuses’ (1945 – 1975).
- Great restaurants to try: Ciro’s, Mampoko, Overzicht, Den Druiventros, and ESSEN.
- Where to find good cheap eats: the fritokens in the city sell classic Belgian fries. The moules-frites and waffles can make a nice cheap Belgium lunch. The restaurants in Groete Markt are quite affordable for traditional Flemish food and beer. There are also several bistros, pubs and restaurants in the old town square which offer a variety of traditional Flemish food. A meal there will cost around 20-25 Euros, inclusive of drinks.
- Dangerous areas: while Antwerp is a generally calm city, areas best avoided at night include Coninckplein, the streets leading to it from it from the central station, the station itself, as well as any parks.
Recommended trip duration: 1-2 days