A day in Antwerp • Berchem & Zurenborg
As many of you know, I recently moved to Antwerp, Berchem more precisely. Naturally I developed a curiosity for my new neighborhood and the one directly adjacent to it, Zurenborg. And boy, they did not disappoint! This part of Antwerp is considered by some to be the most beautiful of Antwerp for one particular reason: its Belle Époque grandeur! The neighborhood's quiet streets are packed with gorgeous architecture which make it the perfect decor for an afternoon stroll.
Brunch at Maurice Coffee and Knits | Cogels-Osylei 88, 2600 Berchem
Before you go for a long walk in the neighborhood, push the door of Maurice Coffee and Knits for a delicious brunch. Founder Véronique Leysen is a creative soul who has a special relationship with her grandfather Maurice. She has her own brand of knitwear and wishes to bring the warmth of her 'bompa' to her coffee shop. With its mismatched furniture and blue wall art, it is definitely my kind of place and it quickly gained itself a spot on my favorites list. Their weekend offer includes six different brunch formulas of which I highly recommend the 'Detox' and the 'Paris Chique'.
Walk on the Cogels-Osylei and around
The Cogels-Osylei is a dream come true for architecture enthusiasts. This elegant street is packed with amazing houses that date back to the Belle Époque (end of the 19th century, beginning of the 20th). Lots of people remember the houses in Art Nouveau style, but there are many other styles present too, from Flemish Renaissance to Byzantine. The facades are dripping with grandeur and delicate ornamentation in every direction. A true feast for the eyes.
But the magic isn't limited to the Cogels-Osylei. Make sure to explore the Waterloostraat and Transvaalstraat as well! It is here that you'll get to see examples of houses that were combined to illustrate a particular theme. The most famous example of this can be found on the intersection of Waterloostraat and Generaal Van Merlenstraat with the four houses on the corners each depicting a season. Simply magnificent!
Both the Transvaalstraat and the Cogels-Osylei lead to the Draakplaats, which is one of the two main squares of this district. On this pleasant square you'll find multiple restaurants, among which El Warda (Draakstraat 4), a Moroccan restaurant that's supposedly very good, and Wattman (Tramplein 3) that I develop later in this city guide.
Street art at Nieuw Zurenborg
Surprisingly this historic, residential neighborhood is also home to some world-class street art! Wandering the Krugerstraat, Minkelersstraat and Vlijstraat you'll discover one of the largest graffiti walls in the world. The ensemble strikes not only for its size, but also for the quality of the creations, turning Nieuw Zurenborg into a true open-air gallery.
Walk in the heart of Zurenborg
Zurenborg has a village-like atmosphere and as such attracts many hipsters. Take your time to get lost in its low-traffic streets, of which Stierstraat and Grotehondstraat house some of the most memorable facades. The street web of Zurenborg is centered around the Dageraadplaats which forms the beating heart of the neighborhood. This is where the hip locals hang out, sitting on one of the many terraces, watching over the kids on the playground and the youngsters on the basketball court, under the tower of the Sint-Norbertuskerk.
Drinks and more at Wattman | Tramplein 3, 2600 Berchem
On a corner of the Draakplaats you'll find Wattman, a down-to-earth café where you can go at all times of the day, whether it is for brunch, dinner or an afternoon snack. The interior complements the district's architecture and the cuisine is simple but tasty! The hot drinks and desserts we had formed the perfect conclusion to our inspiring, city promenade.
This city guide is suited for both Saturday and Sunday (since the above mentioned addresses are open all weekend). If you come by train, get off at the Berchem station (which is located literally in front of the Cogels-Osylei). It will take you approximately 45 min from Brussels to Berchem by train. If you come by car, you should be able to find a parking spot in one of the surrounding streets.