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Antwerp is a buzzing portside city in the North of Belgium. It might not be the first choice for visitors traveling to Belgium, as some may think Antwerp is a gloomy industrial port city, but that is not the case.
Antwerp is a beautiful city with a picturesque old town, great architecture, lots of art, the best shopping in Belgium, and first-class food.
Figuring out what to do in Antwerp shouldn’t be stressful. Figure out your travel dates, and then check out the things to do in Antwerp below.
If you only have one day in Antwerp, I suggest the following itinerary:
- Central Station
- Shopping on Meier Street
- Rubens House (Rubenshuis)
- Cathedral of our Lady
- Grote Markt
- Het Steen Castle
- MAS Museum Aan de Stroom
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Things to do in Antwerp in one day
The best way to arrive in Antwerp is by train; it also gives you a chance to admire Antwerp’s central station, which is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. The station operates since 1905 and was transformed to its former glory in the late 19th century by Louis Delacenserie and Clément Van Bogaert.
It cannot be defined to a particular architectural style, as a lot of styles were used in its construction. The station has four levels, 2 of which are underground.
Adjacent to the station is the Diamond district; after all, Antwerp is called the city of diamonds. Diamonds were being traded in Antwerp from the 15th century.
In the 19th century, the city became a hub for the diamond trade. About 84% percent of the world’s rough diamonds pass through Antwerp, and more than 1700 diamond companies are based here.
As you exit the main central station and head towards the city center, you will meet Meier Street, Antwerp’s main shopping street.
Meier is considered one of the most important shopping streets for Antwerp and the whole of Belgium.
Shoppers from all around Belgium and the neighboring countries come here to shop. Shopping is one of the main things to do in Antwerp.
Antwerp is also called the city of fashion; apart from the many boutiques and designer shops, it is home to the Flanders Fashion Institute (FFI), the Fashion Museum (MOMU), and the Fashion Academy.
Meier street has many impressive buildings besides the shops, like the Royal Palace and the Stadsfeestzaal.
If you love shopping, Antwerp is the best place to shop. Most stores are open from Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm.
On Sundays, you will find shops open mostly on Hoogstraat and Kloosterstraat. All the shops are open on the 1st Sunday of the month.
You might also be interested in exploring the Zurenborg neighborhood in Antwerp.
Rubenshuis/ Rubens House
As you walk Meier street, turn left before the Royal Palace, and you will find yourself in Rubens House, one of Antwerp’s highlights.
Here is where Rubens lived and worked from 1616 until he died in 1640. After his death, the new owners made considerable changes to the building until the city of Antwerp obtained it in 1937. The city restored many parts of the house to its former state.
The museum houses many paintings from Rubens and his pupils, including works of Anthony Van Dyck. Many furniture and other works of art from the 17th century are also on display. There is also a charming garden worth visiting.
Address: Wapper 9-11
Opening Hours: Daily 10 a.m. until 5 p.m, closed on Mondays
Admission: 12 € Adults 26-65 yrs, 8 € Visitors 12- 25 yrs and Adults + 65 yrs
More information: http://www.rubenshuis.be/en
Selected Tours in Antwerp
- Antwerp Highlights Bike Tour. Visit the main attractions in Antwerp with this 2-hour bike tour.
- Private walking tour with a local. Become a local in Antwerp with this private guided tour..
Cathedral of our Lady
Antwerp’s Cathedral is the biggest gothic building in the Dutch-speaking world and has the tallest bell tower (123 m.) in Belgium. It took 169 years for the cathedral to be built, and it’s now a UNESCO heritage site.
The cathedral is very impressive, but what makes it so unique are the seven aisles and the four Ruben masterpieces that can be found inside it, along with other pieces of art.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 10:00 – 17:00, Saturdays 10:00 – 15:00, Sundays and public holidays 13:00 – 16:00
Admission: 12 € adults, 10 € students and adults +65, Free children and young adults up to 18yrs.
For more information, click here.
This buzzing square full of cafes and restaurants is located at Antwerp’s historical center near the Cathedral.
In the middle of the square stands the statue of the city’s most prominent residence Rubens.
The impressive building of the city hall (Stadhuis) built in the Flemish Renaissance style, dominates the square. Other famous buildings are the Houses of the Guilds and even though they were destroyed in a fire, they were restored to their original form.
In the middle of the square is the Brabo fountain. According to the legend, there was a giant in the city that used to cut and throw the hands of the sailors into river Scheldt if they refused to pay a toll until Silvius Brabo killed it and threw his hand into the river.
The fountain depicts Brabo as he throws the giant’s hand into the river. It is said that Antwerp owns its name to that story as Hand werpen means in Dutch “to throw a hand.”
The symbol of the hand can be seen throughout the city. There are even biscuits sold with the hand shape.
Walk down Grote Markt, and you will find yourself at the banks of river Scheldt and the imposing Het Steen, a medieval fortress dating from the 13th century.
It is the first building made of stone in Antwerp and what stands today is only a small part of what it used to be.
In the past, the castle was a prison and, until recently, was part of the Maritime Museum.
MAS Museum Aan de Stroom
We walked at the banks of river Scheldt until we arrived at the Mas Museum Aan de Stroom. On the way, we also saw the beautiful Pilotage, a public administration building built in 1895.
The Mas is a new museum that tells the story of Antwerp in connection with the rest of the world. The museum has a collection of more than 470.000 items, but not all are on display.
Some are kept on the second floor in the Visible Storage Area. Before you leave the museum, don’t forget to check the view from the top floor.
In front of the Museums, you will find four very interesting pavilions, the Diamond Pavilion, the Port Pavilion, the Silver Pavilion, and the MASshop.
For opening times and more information, you can check here.
Explore Antwerp’s food scene
Antwerp’s food scene has everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to seafood restaurants, bistros, beer houses, and lively bars. Eating is one of the best things to do in Antwerp.
Indulge in some waffles, Belgian chocolates, Moules Frites, and Belgian Beers, among other specialties. For more inspiration, have a look here.
Another great option is a food tour around the historical town of Antwerp.
Antwerp is such a fascinating city with many things to do and see. Unfortunately, my time there was short, but if I had been there for more days, I would have visited the following:
- The Plantin Moretus Museum is a printing museum. It is also a UNESCO heritage site.
- The Butcher’s Hall
- Vlaeykensgang, a small alley near Grote Mark, still looks how it used to be in the 16th century.
- St. Anna Tunnel is a 572 meters long pedestrian and bicycle tunnel that runs under the river. From the other side of the Scheldt, you can enjoy a beautiful view of Antwerp.
Where to stay in Antwerp
We stayed at the Lindner Hotel and City Lounge, a modern hotel very centrally located next to the train station.
Our room had all the amenities you would expect from a 4-star hotel, including Wi-Fi, air conditioning, safe, and toiletries. Everything was very clean, and the bed was very comfortable. The highlight of our stay was the amazing breakfast buffet and the friendly and helpful staff.
Other great choices include:
The Hotel Julien is near many attractions like Groenplaats Square, Antwerp Cathedral, and the De Meir shopping street.
Its spa is located in the 16th-century cellar, but the rest of the hotel is delightfully modern. Rooms are spacious and equipped with an ensuite bathroom and various seating options.
Do not forget to enjoy the common spaces, like the library and terrace, or the roof terrace and bar.
The Hotel De Witte Lelie is in the same area, 8 minutes from Groenplaats and 5 from the Grote Markt. This small, luxury boutique hotel is tastefully decorated with comfortable, modern furnishings in a historic building.
The nearby Hotel Rubens, a one-minute walk from the Grote Markt, offers spacious rooms with large windows. The light and airy rooms are great for couples or even families, as the beds are large.
Weather permitting, the hotel breakfast is served on the 16th-century tower.
I had a really hard time choosing the photos for this post as Antwerp is so photogenic, and I took hundreds of photographs in one day.
If you are visiting Belgium, I suggest you put Antwerp on your itinerary.
FAQS About Your One Day in Antwerp
Is Antwerp worth visiting?
Absolutely. It’s not only rich in history and culture but there is something to do for everyone. Planning a trip to Antwerp is an experience that everyone needs to have, and spend as much time as possible there.
If you can only spend 24 hours in Antwerp, enjoy that day to the fullest. Find all the unique things to do in Antwerp, and make those memories.
Is Antwerp expensive to visit?
This depends on your budget. It’s not the most expensive place to visit, but it’s not the cheapest, either. Most would say that it’s a medium-budget trip that can have expensive and discount options discovered everywhere.
What are the best things to do in Antwerp at night?
Taking tours is always fun. There are food tours, beer-tasting tours, and even bike tours to join in on.
For the nightlife scene, you will find bars and pubs scattered about that offer a great place to put up your feet and relax and talk to some of the locals.
If you want to have a different nighttime experience than bars and social aspects, some museums are fun to explore and visit as well. Just look up the hours and make sure that things are open before going.
Top Travel Tips for your trip to Antwerp
- Traveling with a friend is always a good idea. Being with a company is a good idea for safety if you’re out at night.
- If you have special diet needs, research restaurants ahead of time and find ones that suit you.
- Book and call ahead for tours. They might be popular, and you don’t want to miss out!
- Check the weather before heading out for the day. Pack a light bag with a jacket, sunscreen, and plenty of water.
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Have you ever been to Antwerp? What did you enjoy the most? What were your favorite things to do in Antwerp?
I was a guest of Visit Antwerp and Visit Flanders. As always, my opinion expressed here is entirely my own.