A day in Antwerp • Along the Scheldt
One of the things I hope to achieve with my blog is to inspire people to go beyond the mainstream places and discover alternative parts of town. For instance Antwerp is about so much more than shopping on the Meir! Wandering from South to Central Antwerp alongside the river Scheldt, you'll discover some of the most beautiful relics of the city's past. Doing a little vintage shopping 'en passant' is therefore only fitting.
Shopping in the Kloosterstraat
The Kloosterstraat is the place to be for vintage lovers. In this pleasant street you'll find a high concentration of antique and vintage design stores. Whether you're looking for a lamp of the 50s or a second hand armchair, chances are big you'll be charmed by the many boutiques with an overwhelming offer. Most items you'll stumble upon will be pricey, but they're likely to have a rich history too. Some of my favorite spots are Christiaensen & Christiaensen (nr 58) and Woontheater (nr 14).
Not all stores are about vintage though. The Recollection (nr 54) is a very inspiring interior design store (hello dream tableware, among other things) and YOUR (nr 90) is the coolest of concept stores, for women and men, complete with cosmetics and gifts corner.
Lunch at Native | Muntstraat 8, 2000 Antwerpen
More authenticity can be found at Native, the 'bio bistro', where it's all about seasonal products coming from local suppliers. Not only is the food organic and healthy, it is also really delicious. The menu changes continually but for lunch the options per default are soup, quiche, salad and toasts. The vintage interior is the perfect extension of their philosophy.
Chilling on the Vrijdagmarkt
Continue your exploration of the neighborhood by crossing Steenhouwersvest, another almost-pedestrian street with shops such as I.Ma.Gi.N. Jewels (nr 11), 't Stad Leest (nr 16) and Christian Wijnants (at nr 36, I already told you about this designer in my blog post dedicated to Belgian Fashion in Antwerp), until you reach the Vrijdagmarkt on your left. This peaceful square got its name from the flea market that is held there every Friday and has some of the most inviting benches and terraces. Make sure to look for the few great boutiques among the cafés surrounding the square.
Walking along the Scheldt
Walk Steenhouwersvest back in the opposite direction and you'll arrive at the banks of the river Scheldt where you can take the stairs up Steenplein. This windy promenade is located on the roof of an old hangar and is guaranteed to have you contemplating the horizon, meditating, people-watching or all of the above.
Discovering the Grote Markt
Much like the Grand Place in Brussels, Antwerp's Grote Markt is a mesmerizing square thanks to the surrounding houses of the Guilds decorated with golden statues. In the middle of the square stands the majestic statue of Brabo, a character linked to a local legend. The story is about a mean giant that controlled the river traffic, demanding exorbitant tolls. If someone refused to pay, the giant would cut their hand off. Until one day a brave soldier named Brabo killed the giant and threw his hand in the river Scheldt. This 'hand thrown' (in Dutch 'hand werpen') supposedly gave the city its name 'Antwerpen'.
Visit of the Cathedral of our Lady Antwerp
Immerse yourself in the pedestrian, cobbled streets of Antwerp's Historic Centre. This is without a doubt the most touristy area of the city, but as long as you stay out of the restaurants, you should be fine! Apart from the potential crowds of foreigners, you'll find these narrow streets to be very charming. The eyecatcher of this area is the 123 meter high tower of the Gothic Cathedral. If you're willing to pay the €6,00 to visit it, you'll find it has a rich collection of art hidden inside! For instance there are four paintings by Pieter Paul Rubens and an intriguing bronze sculpture by Jan Fabre. (Keep in mind that visits stop at 15:00 on Saturday and 16:00 on Sunday.)
Visit of the Sint-Carolus-Borromeuskerk
Further into the Historic Centre you'll find the quiet Hendrik Conscienceplein. This small square is dominated by the impressive facade of the Sint-Carolus-Borromeuskerk. The beautiful church in Baroque style suffered major losses after a fire in the 18th century but has recently completely been renovated. It is a little more minimalist ever since (all the white parts are new, these used to be ornamented just as much as all the rest) but still it is really pretty (and entrance is free)!
Drinks at Coffeelabs | Lange Klarenstraat 19, 2000 Antwerpen
For a refreshing lemonade or a sweet chai latte, head to Coffeelabs! This place has an open, industrial interior and a small terrace in front. Everything is homemade and I'm sure you won't be able to resist the pastries on display behind on the counter.
If you come by train, Antwerpen-Centraal is where you'll get off. In order to arrive at the Kloosterstraat, you'll have to take the metro. If you come by car, park on the Vlaamsekaai which is free and close to your destination. Don't bother heading too early to the Kloosterstraat as most stores open at 11:00 (this is the one street in Antwerp where stores are open on Sunday too by the way).