14 Highlights to Eat, Drink and See in Antwerp, Belgium

by Janis on September 4, 2017

We’ve visited the Belgium city of Antwerp several times, most recently during a 22-hour overnight stay while sailing on Holland America Line’s ms Prinsendam. If you are going to Antwerp, these are 14 things we recommend to eat, drink and see during your stay.

Brabo statue in front of Town Hall, Antwerp., Belgium1. Head to the ‘Grote Markt’ historic city center. Check out the Brabo statue in front the Town Hall that celebrates the legend of how the city of Antwerp got its name. A mythical giant named Antigoon lived by Scheldt River and demanded a toll from all who crossed the river. If anyone refused to pay, Antigoon would sever one of their hands and throw it into the river. One day, a brave young soldier named Brabo cut off the giant’s hand and tossed it in the river. The name ‘Antwerp’ was derived from Dutch words that mean “to throw a hand.”

The Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp, Belgium2. While in the historic center, marvel at the 400 ft. spire on The Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp’s Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral that dates back to 1352. The cathedral contains famous Peter Paul Rubens paintings including The Raising of the Cross, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and The Descent from the Cross. 

Waffles at Waffle Factory, Antwerp, Belgium3. Have a waffle and a coffee. For fast service and a convenient location, stop by the Waffle Factory at 60 Grote Markt. Belgium waffles are distinct, and some shops offer both the softer, doughy version (left, with chocolate, in photo above) as well at the kind with a crisp outside (right, with powdered sugar, in photo above.)

Waffle Désiré De Lille, Antwerp, Belgium4. For a more decadent and upscale waffle experience, head to Désiré de Lille at 16 Schrijnwerkersstraat. You can have lunch or make lunch out of the ice cream- topped Waffle Désiré de Lille pictured above.

Interior, The Church of St. James, Antwerp, Belgium5. Admire the interior of The Church of St. James. Artist Peter Paul Rubens is buried here, with one of his paintings above his tomb.

Lange Wapper statue in front of Het Steen castle, Antwerp, Belgium6. Notice the unusual Lange Wapper statue in front of the Het Steen medieval fortress beside the Scheldt River. The statue depicts the giant Lange Wapper — a Flemish folkloric character who used to terrorize the people of Antwerp during medieval times.

Hoegaarden white wheat and Hoegaarden Rosée fruit beer in Antwerp, Belgium7. Try one or two of Belgium’s 1,600 different beers. We enjoyed this round of Hoegaarden wheat beers while people watching at one of the many outdoor cafes also the Hoogstraat. Hoegaarden Rosée, (right in the photo above) is one of the fruit beers

Museum aan de Stroom, Antwerp, Belgium8. Explore the 10-story Museum Aan de Stroom or MAS, Antwerp’s largest museum filled with maritime history and the development of the city through the ages.

city view from the rooftop terrace of the MAS Museum, Antwerp, Belgium9. Take in a panoramic view of Antwerp from rooftop terrace of the MAS Museum.

Red Star Line Museum, Antwerp, Belgium10. Follow the footsteps of millions of immigrants to North America at the Red Star Line Museum.  The museum is housed in the former shipping line’s warehouses in Antwerp’s old port district called The Eilandje.

Wijngaardstraat - street in central Antwerp, Belgium11. Explore narrow streets such as Wijngaardstraat in Antwerp’s historic center. In addition to the romantic heart-shaped street lights, you will find a lovely cocktail lounge on Wijngaardstraat.

Dogma cocktail bar, Antwerp, Belgium12. Experience Dogma, one of Antwerp’s hip cocktail bars at 5 Wijngaardstraat. While any of the bar’s craft cocktails will be interesting, you might consider trying one made with gin.  The juniper-flavored liquor is said to have evolved from the jenever or “Dutch Courage“ that British soldiers drank to calm their nerves before battle in 1585 when fighting in Antwerp against the Spanish during the Eighty Years’ War.

Sherry Cobbler, Cocktails at 9, Antwerp, Belgium13. Broaden beyond gin and beer. Try the too-pretty-to-drink Sherry Cobbler, at Cocktails at 9.  

Cocktails at 9, Antwerp, BelgiumOur friends enjoyed the quiet, comfortable but luxurious atmosphere of Cocktails at 9. The bar is hidden off Lijnwaadmarkt near the Antwerp’s landmark Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral.

Belgium frites with curry sauce14. Try the Belgium frites topped with curry sauce or curry gravy.  Belgium, rather than France, invented the “French fry” during the 17th century, and “frites” are part of Belgium’s gastronomic and cultural heritage. Good frites are cut from fresh potatoes and fried twice, leaving while them crispy on the outside and soft inside. The frites — served with a variety of delicious sauces — make the perfect late evening snack.

Antwerp has many delightful things to see, eat and drink. If you’d like to hire a guide, check out Antwerp: Private Tour with a Local from Get Your Guide.

What is your favorite thing to eat, drink or see in Antwerp, Belgium? 

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