Immerse yourself this winter in cozy and atmospheric Antwerp with twinkling lights, radiant decorations and warming fire pits. This city guide will help you make the most out of your city trip filled with culture, art, good coffee and great vegetarian gastronomy. Find all food and travel tips here:
Winter fun in Antwerp
Get in cozy winter mood while skating circles around the statue of master painter Rubens. The ice-skating rink in the heart of Antwerp is bustling with festive energy, shimmering lights and Christmas carols.
Every year during the holidays a wonderful light festival takes place at the Zoo of Antwerp. This years theme is Alice in Wonderland which runs until the 16th of January. Especially children will love to experience this colourful dream world where the impossible is possible.
Impressive views of Antwerp are assured while entering the 55 meters (180 ft) tall Ferris Wheel 'The View'. On one side the historic city stretches out in front of you, and on the other side you can look over the river Scheldt for miles and miles.
In front of the Cathedral of Our Lady stands a life size nativity scene and a tall Christmas tree. The color of the lights match beautifully with the soft and warm light of the cathedral, making it a wonderful whole.
At the Handschoenmarkt you will also find the beautiful statue of Nello & Patrasche, the young orphan boy (Nello) and his stray dog (Patrasche) known from the novel 'A dog of Flanders'. Their world-famous (but unfortunately) sad story ends on Christmas Eve inside the Cathedral. This lovely statue was made by Belgian artist Batist Vermeulen. (I took the photo below during Christmas 2020).
But the climax of all Christmas decorations are for sure the sparkling Christmas tree and radiant City Hall at the Grote Markt. Warm yourself at one of the fire pits, kiss your loved ones under the mistletoe and listen to live broadcasted music from Joe Radio who have set up their Xmas House on this square. Winter magic to the fullest!
See and do in Antwerp
The Visitor Center of Visit Antwerp has recently opened its doors inside the beautifully renovated building 'Het Steen', Here you can experience 'The Antwerp Story', which is the perfect activity to start your city trip. Spread over 11 rooms, you will get a great introduction on Antwerp's neighbourhoods, museums, sights and its inhabitants. There is also a panoramic roof terrace which can be visited for free.
The fashion museum MoMu is not your average fashion museum. With the exhibition E/MOTION, the museum looks back on events from the past three decades and asks questions about how fashion can reinvent itself as an industry, as well as the role that fashion designers can play in the future. To me it was a powerful exhibition where global crisis, politics and society play a major part.
The M HKA (Museum of Contemporary Art) exhibits a large international collection with an emphasis on Eurasia. Here you can find artworks from artists who come from regions where the art scene is still relatively unknown; like for example China, India, Magreb (Northwest Africa) and Central-Asia.
The FOMU (Photo Museum) is one of the most prestigious and leading museums of photography in Europe. It has a permanent collection of 3 million objects, and various changing exhibitions throughout the year.
'Double Bind' by Belgian photographer Max Pinckers is one of the current temporary exhibitions which runs until the 13th of March 2022. Max explores the boundaries of documentary and reveals its manipulative nature.
'Masculinities: liberation through photography' is one of the other current temporary exhibitions, which also can be seen until March the 13th. This group exhibition examines the masculine in all its complexity, touching on themes of queer identity, power and patriarchy, hyper masculine stereotypes, the black body, fatherhood and the female gaze.
Coffee in Antwerp
Buchbar is a cozy bookstore and coffee bar in one, where you can enjoy vegan sweets, a daily soup or several kinds of grilled sandwiches. Their sweets are inspired by the favourite pastries of famous authors. For example, think of a coconut cake based on a recipe from Emily Dickinson or Jack Kerouac's apple pie. Their specialty coffee comes from Antwerp based roastery Normo.
The plant based specialty coffee bar 'Caffénation goes Koco' is the latest addition to the well-known Caffènation 'family'. It shares it roof with the Belgian denim brand 'Eat Dust', therefore the slogan of Koco is 'Eat dust, drink coffee'.
Vegetarian lunch and dinner in Antwerp
Camion is a vegan lunch, dinner, coffee and natural wine bar where it's all about sharing great food. Every time we go there we are surprised by the wide variety of flavours, freshness and the originality of the menu. Does a salad of roasted Jeusalem artichoke, whipped cashew cream with caramelised carrots, buckwheat risotto with marinated mushrooms and vegan steak tartare sounds good to you? Then make sure you book your table here in time!
Grandeux is located in a monumental former bank building with high ceilings and large windows with beautiful wrought iron. This place feels historical and contemporary at the same time because of its modern interior. The Mediterranean inspired menu contains (sharing) dishes ranging from fish to meat, but with lots of tasty vegetable dishes to choose from too. Here great care is taken in selecting quality ingredients from the right suppliers. We truly enjoyed every bite of the ravioli with truffle, straciatella di buffalo with organic vegetables, truffle pie and fresh pasta with porcini mushrooms.
The location of Fiera is probably one of the most striking in Antwerp, as it is adjacent to the 16th century former stock exchange building. A lot of attention and care has been taken down to the smallest detail. And the staff makes you feel truly welcome, while being very friendly and knowledgable about the food and wines. Most of the dishes contain meat or fish, but as a vegetarian you definitely won't be disappointed here. The roasted eggplant with baba ganoush and the pasta with fresh summer truffle and mushrooms were insanely delicious.
Hotel in Antwerp
The charming Hotel 't Sandt is situated in a 17th century patrician house, which radiates a lot of warmth and luxury. Each of the 29 rooms has its own theme and look inspired by exotic faraway places. We've stayed at 'The Raffles' which has features of the famous hotel chain in Asia. The spacious room, spotless bathroom, pleasant lobby and extensive breakfast buffet make this the ideal hotel for a weekend in the historical heart of Antwerp.
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Please note: I was invited by Visit Antwerp to experience 24 hours in Antwerp.