Ah, the experience of studying abroad! It leaves you feeling tired but enlightened – regardless of whether you spent your time partying at local clubs, exploring the city or visiting museums. Having been on two Erasmus exchange programs myself (Spain and Antwerp), I observed that every person’s experience is a little different, depending mostly on what they are looking for. The sad truth is that you can’t manage to do everything, especially if your exchange lasts for only one semester, so unfortunately you have to prioritize. In this article I am passing on the knowledge obtained during my exchange of what are, in my opinion, the must-see spots in Antwerp. I divided my list depending on what kind of person you are – there is a place for everyone!
for the foodie – Frites Atelier
Antwerp is well-known for it’s fries – and although the infamous student spot at Ossenmarkt represents typical “cheap” ones, if you want to try something more delicious go to Frites Atelier – this small place in the southern part of the city center offers affordable fries that are more like potatoes than actual fries. They still taste amazing, though! My personal tip is to try them with pulled pork and jalapeños – even more delicious!
for the alternative music guys and gals – Club Vaag
While clubs like Café d’Anvers and Plein Publiek are more common hangout spots, club Vaag is where all the “cool kids” hang out. It is located in the northern part of the city, and offers more underground EDM music than other clubs, leaning more towards tech house than commercial techno.
for sentimental souls and photographers – see the sunset from the MAS museum
The MAS museum is probably the most well-known museum in Antwerp. However, what makes it special are not the exhibitions taking place there, but instead the breathtaking view that this building's rooftop panorama offers. I recommend going during sunset – perfect for taking pictures!
for those "free food people" – Exotic market
The Exotic market takes place right next to Meir, on the Theaterplein (the Theatre Square). It is a place with many delicious foods and goods from all corners of the world – and some freebies as well! Many stands offer free samples of olives, spreads, hummus, or dried fruits – perfect for a quick snack while shopping!
for the ones who want to blend in with the local community (and for football fans) – De Hovelier
De Hovelier is located near the student area, but the bar is mostly populated by local football fans. What makes this spot special is a homey atmosphere and friendly staff – if you order chocolate milk, there is a good chance it will come in a mug with the owner’s photo on it! Also, chocolate milk tastes different in Belgium than anywhere else. It is also the perfect place to grab some dinner, since you won’t find better chili con carne in Antwerp.
for lovers of all things British – live music at Irish pubs – Kelly's and Irish Times Pub
Since I come from eastern Europe, what I felt in Antwerp that others maybe wouldn’t notice is the British vibe that is present to a certain extent. The brick houses, stony pubs and stormy sky all look like they have come straight from the British Isles — and in case of a stormy sky, it probably did. As an avid music fan, whenever I felt more like having a chill evening than like partying, I went to the Irish pub and listened to live music. A personal favorite is Steve Jones, since his repertoire covers all British classics as well as some big rock hits ('Thunderstruck', anyone?).
for fashion bloggers – Nationalestraat and literally every other place in Antwerp
Antwerp is the city of fashion – the style here has a bit of Swedish coldness in it, but it is softened by French influence – classics are worn here mixed with the latest trends – and it’s all about ladylike silhouettes and elegance. Basically, the whole city looks like the cover of Vogue.
The most common place to shop is the Meir, where you can find shops such as Zara and Mango. However, if you want something more interesting and more genuine, go to the Nationalestraat. Shops here are mostly local and smaller, and therefore more interesting. For example, Clouds of Fashion is a store that was based on a blog!
for chocaholics – chocolate stare at Meir, Galler, and Quetzal
The chocolate store on the Meir is the most expensive one, which is why I recommend treating it only as a chocolate museum: the decorations are beautiful and you can see how they make chocolates as well. The best chocolate I found in Antwerp was at Galler— the ladies working there are really nice and let you taste some chocolate for free! If you’re in need of a hot beverage, go to Quetzal! It's a so-called chocolate bar, where you can choose the flavor and type of chocolate you want to put in your hot milk.
for funky people who are not afraid to spice it up – Tae Bo lessons
The UAntwerpen Plus Pass is a must-have for every student who wants to stay in shape for a reasonable price. The university offers a variety of courses, from yoga to swimming to basketball. However, if you want to have some 70s fun, try Tae Bo lessons – the teacher is super nice, and who wouldn’t like to do a choreography to an Ice Ice Baby remix?
for coffeeshop hipsters – Caffenation
One of my favorite hobbies is spending my leisure time in cafés reading, writing or just people watching while sipping a drink. I visited a fair number of cafés in Antwerp, but nothing beats Caffenation. This spot is frequented by people of all ages; hence it is a perfect place to draw some inspiration and rest. The coffee is delicious, and they offer free biscuits as well! The best thing on the menu? So-called ginger spice – cappuccino mixed with ginger and a piece of white chocolate at the bottom. Delicious!