Looking for the most beautiful places to visit in Antwerp? Well look no further! In this article I will show you all of the stunning secrets of one of my favourite cities in Belgium.
There’s nothing I love more than to stroll through Antwerp on a sunny day. It feels like every time that I walk through this city I discover a new hidden gem. Antwerp is a true work of art when it comes to architecture, a city where old and new are flawlessly combined.
In this guide I will show you my favourite hidden gems and the most beautiful places to visit in Antwerp. Plus I also threw in some of my favourite restaurants!
There are also a ton of castles around Antwerp and if you’re into photography you’ll love these hidden gems in Belgium!
12 Stunningly Beautiful Places to Visit in Antwerp
Let’s start off with one of my favourite areas in Antwerp: t’Zuid. Most tourists will stay and wander around in the old city district and actually miss this amazing place. It holds three museums, numerous art galleries and so many fashionable cafés and restaurants. t’Zuid is the perfect place to unwind after a busy day of city tripping. During the warmer months this place will be lined with terraces and the locals love to come here after work to enjoy a drink (or two).
Some of my favourite places to have lunch and dinner are:
Fiskebar – Where they have the best seafood platter I have ever tasted
Den Artist – Perfect to enjoy some delicious shrimp croquettes and in the meantime enjoy the cosy wooden interior with red leather sofas.
Charlie’s – To start of your day with a healthy brunch or avocado toast.
Go and have a look at one of Antwerps most modern buildings: The Justice Palace also called the butterfly palace. The building was designed by Richard Rogers who also designed the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
Besides this modern building t’Zuid also holds some of the most beautiful residential buildings. I love to wander around here and simply marvel at their beauty. And yes, I sometimes picture myself sipping a coffee (or a mimosa, let’s be honest) from one of those balconies.
2. The House of the Five Continents
This is one of the most beautiful houses in entire Antwerp. It is in true Art Nouveau style and was even rewarded the nickname “The little boat” because of its original architecture. It was built in 1901 and can be found on the corner of the Schilderstraat and Plaatsnijdersstraat.
While most people know Brussels is famous for its Art Nouveau architecture, not everyone realises Antwerp also offers some stunning examples. Art Nouveau in Antwerp can be seen in all its variations but is mostly confined to just 1 district called Zurenborg. This area is located a little outside of the city center but is super easy to reach by train! Simply get off at the train station in Berchem and start walking North. You’ll soon bump into the Cogels-Osylei which holds the most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings in the area.
4. Port Authority
Another stunning place to visit is a beautiful piece of architecture that can be found a little outside of the city. The new Port Authority was designed by the late Zaha Hadid. She designed only one government building: these offices for the port authority in Antwerp who were completed in 2016.
The Port Authority is a ship-like structure of glass and steel and seems to have landed atop the old port building constructed in 1922.
The faceted glass structure also resembles a diamond, one of the symbols of Antwerp.
It was one of the last works of Hadid, who died in 2016 on the year it opened. The square in front of the building was renamed the Zaha Hadidplein (Zaha Hadidsquare) to honour her death.
5. Het Eilandje
While you’re in this area definitely check out the northern district of Antwerp where you will find “Het Eilandje”. This place earned it’s name of “Little Island” because it was surrounded by streams and little ditches in the past and now by the Scheldt, docks and old harbours. In the past it was an almost rundown neighbourhood, a forgotten corner of Antwerp. Today, however, it has been greatly upgraded and the townspeople have come to known and appreciate the picturesque area, with its old historic docks.
During the reconstruction of the Eilandje around the docks, the streets were narrowed, but the footpaths widened and relaid. The bars and restaurants benefit from this in order to display their wide terraces in the summer. In the middle of all of this is the MAS or Museum aan de Stroom. If you want to experience a panoramic view of the entire city you can go up the escalators inside for free and enjoy this spectacular site from it’s rooftop.
One of my favourite places in this area is Felix Pakhuis. In the nineteenth century large warehouses were built and one of the most impressive ones is the Felix Pakhuis. In 1861, just three year after it opened, the warehouse burned down. It was immediately reconstructed, reusing material that was recovered from the rubble, but now with six floors instead of the original seven and with the addition of a wide central arcade. This arcade, 77 meters long and more than 6 meters wide, divides the building in two and is covered with a glass roof.
Another stunning place right in the centre of Antwerp is the Vlaeykensgang. It’s a unique location hidden between two streets close to the Antwerp cathedral and dates since 1591. You can find this little alley by going through the gate at Oude Koornmarkt 16. Enter and step into a different era. It used to be the shoemakers area but these days you’ll find little galleries, antique shops and a famous restaurant.
7. Hendrik Consciencesquare
Not far from here you will find the St.-Carolus Borromeuschurch on the Hendrik Consciencesquare. The church was formerly known for its 39 ceiling pieces by Rubens that were lost in a fire when it was struck by lightning on 18 July 1718. The church was later on rebuilt and opened its doors again to the public. Sketches of about half of the ceiling paintings by Rubens have been preserved and are distributed in various art collections around the world.
8. Antwerp Central Station – The Most Beautiful Train Station in the World
Antwerp Central Station was built between 1895 and 1905 and suffered huge destruction during World War II. At one point it got so bad that they were even considering demolishing it for safety reasons. Luckily renovation started a little later and ensured that this beautiful place in Antwerp exists to this very day.
In 2009 the American magazine Newsweek judged Antwerp-Central the world’s fourth greatest train station. In 2014 the British-American magazine Mashable awarded Antwerp-Central first place for the most beautiful railway station in the world. And I can only agree with these nominations.
9. Cathedral of Our Lady
The Cathedral of Our Lady is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the centre of Antwerp and it took over 170 years to build this masterpiece. It’s the tallest building in the city of Antwerp, although chances are high that’s the case due to building restrictions.
In front of the cathedral there is a beautiful and rather new statue, that of Nello and Patrasche. Their sad story is world famous and takes place in the city of Antwerp.
The Cathedral of Our Lady is currently under construction so it’s beautiful tower is currently not visible unfortunately. You can however still visit it and admire the impressive collection of artwork that’s inside.
Opening hours – 10am to 5pm
Entrance fee – €8
10. Great Market Square
Welcome to the heart of Antwerp city and one of the most beautiful places to visit. The Great Market Square is in the middle of the old city district and hosts the extravagant city hall and a ton of 16th century guildhalls.
The city hall is currently under construction as well (hell sometimes it feels entire Belgium is under construction :p), but that’s no reason not to visit this place! The Great Market Square is surrounded by a ton of restaurants and cafes. I will list some of my favourites below!
- Roji – If you like sushi you have to eat here. It’s rather on the more expensive side but soooo worth it. Whenever I have something to celebrate I love coming here.
- De Peerdestal – If you’re a meat lover then this is your restaurant! I went here a couple of years ago for my birthday and the food (and interior) was amazing.
- Maritime – Hands down the best mussels in the center of Antwerp
11. Saint Anna’s Tunnel
For those that don’t know it, Antwerp is divided up into two parts by the river Scheldt. The right and left bank are connected to each other by the beautiful Saint Anna’s Tunnel. It opened in 1933 and to this day holds all of its original elements from the entrance buildings to the beautiful wooden escalators.
It’s by far the fastest way to go from one bank to the other and it’s totally worth crossing a little before sunset. From the left bank you will be greeted with an amazing view over the Antwerp skyline.
12. Park Bridge
The best way to explore the city of Antwerp is on foot or by bicycle. Did you know that the city of Antwerp has a ton of city bicycles spread throughout the entire city? You can quickly rent one out and at the end of the day put it back in one of the other docks. The Park Bridge near the MAS is rather new and is one of those bridges that is only accessible on foot or by bicycle.
If you’re into modern architecture then you have to see this bridge! It’s 67 meters long and completely made out of steel.
I hope you will enjoy these beautiful places as much as I do when you’re visiting Antwerp! If you have any more questions or you need more information simply drop me a comment below!
Hi Charlotte – loving your photo’s and idea’s on things to do in Belgium. We are from New Zealand and finishing a River Cruise in Antwerp in August. We have a week to spend in Belgium but are not fans on staying just one or two nights somewhere and having to shift somewhere and carry our suitcases with us until check in at the next place. We are not confident to hire a car and drive on the other side of the road. Could you advise if we should stay the whole time in one place ie Brussels and train to other places we want to visit ie Bruge Ghent etc or split the time? Many thanks
Hi! I wouldn’t just stay in Brussels, you can also stay in Antwerp or Ghent and go from there. 🙂