I can’t believe two years have passed since I took my first trip to Belgium which also was my first urban orienteering event outside my home country. The Antwerp Sprint Orienteering Meeting (ASOM for short) in 2017 was also my first City Race Euro Tour event. A lot of firsts, I know…
Antwerp couldn’t have been the best place for this debut.
This city is amazing, and it has lots of things to see and to do and if you ever go to Belgium and if you have time, go to Antwerp. I was there for 4 days and didn’t have time to see everything… ok, there was some orienteering involved that may have taken a bit of my time, but still 4 day may be short if you want to experience this city to its fullest.
The best way to get there is by train. Take my advice. The minute you walk out of the train and into Antwerp Central Station you just go WOW!! I have to say I don’t usually do much train traveling and rather tend to rent a car, but in this case, this is hands down the best choice to enter the city.
Antwerp is a vibrant city, full of life and color almost everywhere. A friend of mine, who lives and works in Belgium and knows the country better than me, says this city stands out from the rest of the country and has a “feel good” aura that you don’t see in other Belgian cities (his words).
If you’re into shopping, you won’t get bored. If you’re into museums, you won’t get bored. If you’re into architecture new or old, guess what… you won’t get bored either! It has something for every taste.
One of the places I did get to see and recommend you visit is the cathedral. It’s humongous! I’m not a religious person but cathedral’s architecture always draws me in. I just love to see them from the inside and admire the work and sometimes genius that was put in place to build these temples… synagogues and mosques will have the same effect on me. I’m a fan of architecture if you haven’t noticed.
The Grote Markt or Great Market is another must see. It’s the square that marks the center of Antwerp and it’s beautiful. PS: Take a close look at all the shiny gold statues on top of the building around the square… They’re great too.
For shopping the first place to go is Meir Street but don’t stop there. Take a long tour around Antwerp with all its street and alleys and there are always shops that will entice you to take a peek inside.
If you set your dates and have a Saturday in Antwerp, the local market must be on your “to go” list. I love visiting markets and usually I get to buy something… if I’m hungry at the time I get to buy a lot of somethings, not necessarily all healthy somethings 🙂 . This market I’m suggesting is at Theatreplein (be sure to look it up) but there will be probably others in the city.
Other places to see is the Port Authority Building that mixes an old building (it was an old fire house) with an impressive new structure on top (again for that architectural eye of mine), the Museum Aan de Stroom (another iconic building) and the surrounding area, and the Het Steen Castle which I had the chance to go into during my orienteering city race that year. To relax a bit and just stroll for a while, the StadsPark is the place to go.
Moving around the city is easy. For me the best option is, by far, to use the city’s bike sharing system (Velo Antwerpen). The bikes are heavy as hell (!!) but they work well and after using for a while you kinda forget about that first impression. There are bike stations everywhere (and I do mean everywhere) so there is always plenty of options to quickly go from one side of the city to the other, when you’re short for time or just don´t feel like walking. They also have an app you can install in your phone to help you find nearby stations and which ones have available bikes. It’s not expensive and allows you to cruise around town, cover more ground and see more of Antwerp than you would just by walking around.
I’m not much of a guided tour or bus tour kind of person/tourist, but I’m sure there are plenty of those available if you search the net before you head out to Antwerp.
As far as food is concerned, in my opinion Belgian cuisine isn’t one that stands out as others. They do love their fries though, if you’re into that. Anyway, in Antwerp you will find all types of restaurants so don’t worry too much about what or where to eat. You’ll have choices all over the place from local food to Italian, Japanese, Thai, Middle Eastern, Burger houses, Vegetarian, Vegan and so on.
There are still a lot more things to see and to talk about in Antwerp, a lot that I myself didn’t have a chance to explore. All I can say is that you must visit this city and surely you will find so much more to see and to do. Believe me, Antwerp has that great vibe that will not disappoint you.
PS: Don’t forget the chocolates! Belgians do it best!!