A day in Antwerp

Tuesday 13 June 2017

Last month, armed with a packed lunch (and snacks, and dinner), I jumped on the nine-hour coach for a little solo trip to Antwerp, to visit one of the museums that's been on my list for a long time. After arriving in the city in the evening, I walked from the bus stop across to Antwerp Old Town, winding through the smaller streets to the city's main square. I stayed at Antwerp City Hostel (Grote Markt 40); like in most hostels, in you'll be sharing a room with a dozen strangers, so it's not always the most restful; but at as little as €21 including breakfast, it's pretty unbeatable value. I set up my top bunk, had a look at my map and headed straight back out to have a wander around the streets. 

After a couple of hours, I took myself on to the riverside, sitting for a while in the sunshine and watching people go by. By the time I got back to the main square, the sun was setting and I stopped into a little Italian restaurant for a quick dinner. Around the square, restaurants are expensive and I had no signal to look up anywhere recommended, so I initially chose Pizzeria da Antonio (Grote Markt 6) because it was much more reasonably priced. However it had a real atmosphere, and great pasta; they even whipped up an off-the-menu authentic aglio e olio for the multi-lingual businessman eating next to me. The next morning I headed off early, heading up to the Museum aan de Stroom - I didn't have time for a visit, but I wanted to at least get a look at the building. The collections sound fascinating, so it's on my list for next time. Then it was time for the main focus of my trip: the Plantin-Moretus Museum, which for a book history lover like me was virtually paradise! After a few hours there, I made a whirlwind trip round the Rubenshuis, once home to the most famous of Flemish painters, Peter Rubens. My final stop in Antwerp was the Antwerpen-Centraal Station, a sightseeing spot in its own right for its beautiful architecture, to catch the train to my next city!

FAVOURITES: I initially popped into Nello Chocolates (Handschoenmarkt 10) for a hot chocolate, but tried an almond florentine and ended up going back for a whole box. If you're looking for gifts, Superet (Wijngaardstraat 21) is chock full of beautiful accessories, homeware and stationery, and Wunderkammer (Steenhouwersvest 13) stocks jewellery and beauty products alongside interiors accessories and kitchenware. On the same street is Wunderkammer's lovely sister store bookshop, 't Stat Leest (Steenhouwersvest 16), and further up towards the square the International Magazine Store (Melkmarkt 17) has an incredible selection of magazines of all genres and multiple languages. For antiques and vintage, Minderbroederstraat had several shops which looked great, and I had flashbacks to buying vintage denim in Camden when I walked past the well-stocked Episode (Reyndersstraat 26-28). Foodwise, I mainly ate the remnants of my coach food, but Normo Coffee (Minderboederstraat 30) looked like a good bet, and veggie bistro Wild Project (Grote Pieter Potstraat 21) is a place I'd like to try next time round, especially after learning of their collaboration with local zero waste shop Robuust (Reynderstraat 2/1). Hendrik Conscienceplein, flanked by the Sint-Carolus Borromeuskerk and the Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library, was my favourite spot in the city.

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