15 Things to Do in Antwerp, Belgium, in 2024

Last Updated on February 12, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Antwerp, Belgium’s second-largest city, is a dazzling showcase of culture, fashion, and exceptional diamonds that sparkle not only in its shops but in the eyes of its visitors. Renowned for being the diamond capital of the world, Antwerp also stands as a beacon of avant-garde fashion and art, making it an essential destination for connoisseurs and enthusiasts alike.

Its streets are a canvas of architectural elegance, ranging from medieval buildings to contemporary design, reflecting a city that respects its past while boldly embracing the future. Antwerp’s vibrant culinary scene, bustling marketplaces, and serene parks offer a kaleidoscope of experiences that cater to all tastes and interests.

From the majestic Antwerp Central Station to the tranquil beauty of the city’s riverside, every corner of Antwerp tells a story of grandeur, innovation, and artistic expression.

S.NoAttractionDescription
1Cathedral of Our LadyA Gothic cathedral with artworks, including Rubens’ triptych.
2Antwerp’s Old TownHistoric area with guildhalls, Grote Markt, shops, and cafes.
3Plantin-Moretus MuseumMuseum showcasing Antwerp’s publishing history and old printing presses.
4Diamond DistrictHub for diamond trading with shops and workshops.
5New Havenland DistrictTrendy area with modern architecture and maritime history.
6Great MuseumsIncludes the Royal Museum of Fine Arts and other notable museums.
7St. Paul’s Abbey DistrictArea with historical architecture and St. Paul’s Church.
8River Scheldt CruiseSightseeing cruise offering views of the city and harbor.
9Parks and GardensGreen spaces like Leopold de Waelplaats and Stadspark.
10Antwerp Zoo and AquatopiaZoo with diverse species and an adjacent water park.
11Street Art SceneAreas with murals and graffiti, offering guided tours.
12DageraadplaatsSquare with outdoor bars, local beers, and vibrant atmosphere.
13Royal Opera HouseVenue for performing arts in a historic setting.
14Christmas MarketsSeasonal markets offering crafts, food, and festive atmosphere.
15Belgian ChocolatesShops offering fine Belgian chocolates.
16Beer or Chocolate Tasting TourGuided tours to explore local beer and chocolate specialties.

This guide aims to unveil 15 diverse activities that embody the spirit of Antwerp, guiding you through a journey of discovery where every moment is an opportunity to be inspired, learn, and indulge in the unique charm of one of Belgium’s most fascinating cities.

Visit the Cathedral of Our Lady

Name and Location: Cathedral of Our Lady, Handschoenmarkt, Antwerp, Belgium

History and Significance: The Cathedral of Our Lady is a Gothic style cathedral located in the heart of Antwerp, Belgium. Construction began in 1352 and it took nearly 170 years to complete. The cathedral features stunning architecture and intricate detailing. It houses several notable artworks including major paintings by Rubens. As one of the tallest buildings in Belgium, it remains an iconic landmark.

What to Expect: Visitors can admire the Cathedral’s soaring vaults, stained glass windows, sculptures and paintings. Highlights include Rubens’ ‘The Descent from the Cross’ and ‘The Assumption of the Virgin’ paintings. Guests can also climb the cathedral tower for panoramic views.

Visitor Information: Open to visitors Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat 10am-3pm, Sun 1pm-4pm. Guided tours available. Entry is free but there is a small fee to access the tower. Proper attire required – no shorts or sleeveless tops.

The Cathedral of Our Lady is one of the top attractions in Antwerp. This Gothic style cathedral was started in the 14th century and features stunning architecture and artworks. Be sure to see Rubens’ famous triptych “The Raising of the Cross” and other Baroque paintings. The cathedral’s 400 ft tower also offers lovely views over the city.

Explore Antwerp’s Old Town

Name and Location: Antwerp Old Town, Historic City Center, Antwerp, Belgium

History and Significance: Antwerp’s Old Town features winding cobblestone streets, architecturally stunning buildings from medieval times to the Renaissance era, and lively city squares. It’s considered the historic heart and origin point of Antwerp. Key landmarks include the Grote Markt main square, 16th century Town Hall, and Gothic style Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal (Cathedral of Our Lady).

What to Expect: Visitors can explore picturesque alleys, architectural marvels, cafes, shops, and museums as they wander through Antwerp’s Old Town. It offers a glimpse into the city’s historic and cultural roots. Don’t miss sights like the medieval Steen Castle by the river.

Visitor Information: The Old Town is compact and walkable. Guided walking tours available. Main tourist office located in Grote Markt. Accessible daily 24 hours as a public space.

Antwerp’s charming Old Town features lovely 16th-century guildhalls and the Grote Markt, the main town square surrounded by colorful guildhalls. Stroll the cobblestone streets, visit the stately City Hall, and stop for Belgian beers and snacks along the way. The area is also full of great shops, cafes, and restaurants tucked away on picturesque lanes.

Visit Plantin-Moretus Museum

Name and Location: Plantin-Moretus Museum, Vrijdag Markt 22, Antwerp, Belgium

History and Significance: The Plantin-Moretus Museum is dedicated to the history of printing and publishing in Antwerp. Occupying the former home of influential 16th century printer Christophe Plantin, it provides a remarkable look at the operations of Europe’s first industrial printing works. The museum features one of the oldest printing presses, priceless manuscripts, thousands of antique typesets and books, and intricate decor. It offers invaluable insights into Antwerp’s pivotal role in spreading ideas during the Renaissance era.

What to Expect: Guests can tour rooms showcasing artifacts that bring Europe’s first printing empire to life. Exhibits cover the plant’s origins, influential publications, evolution of techniques, role of eminent printers like Plantin and his son-in-law Jan Moretus, and more. The building itself is an attraction with original interiors.

Visitor Information: Open Tues-Sun 10am-5pm. Guided tours available in multiple languages. Ticket prices – Adults €8, Ages 19-25 €6, Ages 12-18 €1, Free for under 12s.

This fascinating museum is located in the former home of the Plantin-Moretus printing family and highlights Antwerp’s rich publishing history. See original printing presses from the 16th century, an extensive library, intricate paintings, and stunning architecture. History buffs will love exploring this perfectly intact complex with roots dating back to the Renaissance era.

Go Shopping in the Diamond District

Name and Location: Antwerp Diamond District, Key areas include Hoveniersstraat, Schupstraat, and Rijfstraat in the city center

History and Significance: Antwerp has been a major diamond trade hub since medieval times. Over time it cemented itself as the global center of the diamond industry from mining to retail. About 84% of the world’s rough diamonds and 50% of cut diamonds pass through Antwerp annually. The city’s diamond district features thousands of retail jewelry shops, diamond trading offices, workshops, banks, and more all in a compact pedestrianized area near the Central Station.

What to Expect: Visitors can window shop and browse the glittering stores at leisure without pressure. Prices generally beat other European cities. Key streets to explore include Schupstraat and Hoveniersstraat where diamonds of all kinds can be found. It’s also possible to observe expert diamond cutters at work in specialty shops.

Visitor Information: The diamond district is open daily from around 9am-5pm on weekdays, with more limited hours on Saturdays. Admission is free and casual dress is acceptable. Those looking to purchase diamonds are advised to use trusted referrals.

Antwerp has been an important diamond trading hub since medieval times. Head to the buzzing diamond district to visit one of the many diamond boutiques selling all kinds of glittering jewelry and loose stones. You can also tour workshops and factories to see diamond cutters and polishers practicing their intricate craft firsthand.

Marvel at the New Havenland District

Name and Location: New Havenland District, Brownfield Redevelopment Site in Northern Antwerp

History and Significance: The New Havenland district is a sustianable brownfield redevelopment spanning 86 hectares where Antwerp’s old shipping docks and industrial areas once stood. Initiated in early 2000s, it transformed contaminated empty land into a vibrant new eco-conscious extension of the city with residential zones, commercial areas, parks and nature zones. The project focused on sustainable construction, energy efficiency, densification and integrated green spaces.

What to Expect: Visitors will discover a cutting-edge neighborhood built around concepts of sustainable urban living. Highlights include green spaces like Droogdokpark, LEED certified buildings, pedestrian walkways and bike paths connecting districts, the organic Groenenhoek Park and site specific artworks.

Visitor Information: The New Havenland district is freely accessible to the public year-round. Guided tours available through tourist office. Mostly flat terrain makes exploring by bike or foot easy. Well serviced by tram and metro lines.

The Eilandje or New Havenland district was Antwerp’s bustling old harbor and docklands area. But in recent years it has transformed into a trendy district full of modern architecture, lively bars, cutting-edge fashion boutiques, art galleries, hotels and more. Don’t miss the iconic KBC Tower and red cranes which still speak to the area’s maritime past.

Explore Antwerp’s Great Museums

Name and Location: Antwerp Museums, Located Throughout City Center

History and Significance: As a major European cultural capital, Antwerp is home to world-class museums covering subjects ranging from fine arts, fashion, heritage and history. Must-sees include the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp and the Museum Plantin-Moretus – a UNESCO site honoring the origins of printing and publishing. But there are over 30 museums and heritage sites to take in showcasing everything from Rubens’ works to diamonds and folklore.

What to Expect: Visitors can deep dive into topics meaningful to Antwerp through the ages via these thoughtfully curated museums. Exhibits bring the city’s artistic heritage and history to life through collections of paintings, intricate artifacts, architectural sights and captivating narratives.

Visitor Information: Opening days/hours vary by museum. Combination tickets available. Prebook tickets online where possible to avoid queues. Most museums located in walkable districts. Check individual museum websites for visitor guides.

Some of Antwerp’s top museums include the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, home to works by Belgian masters like Ensor, Magritte and Rubens, as well as Breughel, Van Eyck and Van der Weyden. Photography buffs will enjoy FOMU specializing in Belgian photography. For contemporary art, head to avant-garde gallery Zeno X. Those interested in maritime history will love the National Maritime Museum in the Eilandje district.

Tour St. Paul’s Abbey District

Name and Location: St. Paul’s Abbey District, Historically Affluent District South of Antwerp’s City Center

History and Significance: Dating back to the 7th century, St. Paul’s Abbey was once the oldest and largest Benedictine Abbey in the Low Countries. Though most of the original structures were destroyed in 1579, the surrounding upscale district still bears its name. For centuries it’s been home to impressive architecture, peaceful gardens and Antwerp’s wealthy cultural elite.

What to Expect: Today visitors can stroll through the leafy neighborhood to discover fine examples of preserved architecture spanning many eras from Gothic and Baroque to Neoclassical designs. Sightseeing highlights include the St. Paul’s Church, Middelheim Museum and Museum Mayer Van Den Bergh with its eclectic art collection.

Visitor Information: Located approx 2km south of Antwerp’s city center. Accessible year-round. Quiet and best explored on foot or bike. No admission fees unless visiting ticketed sites like the museums and St. Paul’s Church interior.

Take a peaceful stroll around the Saint Paul’s Abbey District just north of Antwerp’s historic center. This area has lovely architecture and rich history as it was once home to a medieval Benedictine abbey. Today you can visit restored abbey ruins, the magnificent St. Paul’s Church, as well as great cafes and shops on the Kloosterstraat.

Take a Cruise on the River Scheldt

Name and Location: Cruises on the River Scheldt, Offered at Multiple Locations in Central Antwerp

History and Significance: The Scheldt River has long been the lifeline connecting Antwerp to the North Sea. This vital waterway enabled the city to become a bustling maritime trade hub and port starting in the late Middle Ages. Boat tours along the river offer a unique way to relive Antwerp’s history and admire the architecture lining its banks. Popular routes take visitors towards either the harbor or Dutch border.

What to Expect: Passengers can relax on comfortable boats and soak in sights like the iconic skyline pierced by the Cathedral of Our Lady’s towering spires, medieval Steen Castle, 19th century docks and wharfs, industrial port expansion, and more. Some tours include refreshments or meals. Most boats have open top decks and interior cabins.

Visitor Information: Tours typically last 1-2 hours. Offered April-Oct with fewer dates in winter. Book ahead online. Prices from €10-25. Departure points vary, including near Groenplaats and MAS Museum.

Get out onto the water! Boats depart daily for pleasant sightseeing cruises along Antwerp’s River Scheldt. It’s a great way to enjoy views of the city skyline, old harbor, famous landmarks and architecture from a different perspective. You’ll even sail through a unique series of docks and locks.

Wander Through Antwerp’s Parks and Gardens

Name and Location: Antwerp Parks and Gardens, Notable Green Spaces Throughout the City

History and Significance: Antwerp has a longstanding legacy of artistic sensibilities and reverence for nature that’s evident in gorgeous landscaped parks and gardens found across the city. Highlights include 19th century Tour & Taxis Park featuring majestic neo-Gothic architecture, sculptural walking paths and event venues. Middelheim Park offers open air sculpture exhibits amid lush woods. Romantic Stadspark has a castle, water features, theater and cafe.

What to Expect: Visitors can commune with art and nature while exploring Antwerp’s green havens away from bustling city life. The parks present idyllic backdrops for picnics, reading, strolling through gardens and appreciating sculpture collections. Local tips: Visit Grote Markt vicinity for a central urban oasis at Groenplaats. The Seefhoek nature park offers harbor views and cycling trails through marshlands.

Visitor Information: Antwerp’s parks are typically open daily from sunrise to sunset, year-round. Free public entry. Opening hours, amenities and restrictions may vary per park. Easily reached by public transport, bike or foot.

Antwerp has many lush green spaces perfect for taking relaxing walks. Leopold de Waelplaats is centrally located and features statues and a pond. Stadspark near Antwerp Zoo is larger and contains an ornate tea pavilion. Those looking for peace and quiet should visit the beautifully landscaped Nachtegalenpark with its lovely rose garden.

Visit Antwerp Zoo and Aquatopia

Name and Location: Antwerp Zoo and Aquatopia, Koningin Astridplein 26

History and Significance: Open since 1843, Antwerp Zoo is one of the oldest animal parks in the world with an exemplary reputation for animal care and conservation. Home to 5000+ animals across 250 species, it offers immersive biomes and habitats ranging from the Congo Basin to Antarctic coasts. Aquatopia is Antwerp’s spectacular marine life center featuring one of Europe’s largest shark tanks.

What to Expect: Zoo visitors embark on memorable wildlife encounters with exotic creatures like lowland gorillas in naturalized settings. Families especially appreciate child-friendly farms, play areas, feeding sessions and habitats bringing visitors face-to-face with massive sea creatures through underground acrylic tunnels at Aquatopia.

Visitor Information: Antwerp Zoo open daily 10am-5pm. Aquatopia closed Mondays. Combination tickets available. Expect long queues on weekends and holidays. Arrive early or prebook tickets online. Generally 3-4 hours needed to experience both venues.

Families visiting Antwerp should spend time exploring Antwerp Zoo and the adjacent Aquatopia water park. The zoo cares for over 5,000 creatures and aims to protect endangered species through breeding programs. Highlights include the elephant park, big cats section, monkey island exhibit and giant aquatic tunnel. Aquatopia adds water fun with exciting slides, rides, paddling pools and more.

Check Out Antwerp’s Street Art Scene

Name and Location: Antwerp Street Art, Concentrated Areas Include Northern Districts and River Neighborhoods

History and Significance: Antwerp has become one of Europe’s street art capitals with an abundance of captivating large-scale murals found across many neighborhoods. Urban artists are drawn by ample abandoned post-industrial spaces to use as their canvas to create socially-conscious works. Some notable events showcasing street talent include Antwerp’s annual PAUZE Festival and Linkeroever’s Bomb It Street Art Festival.

What to Expect: Visitors can discover stunning photo-worthy outdoor art everywhere from older immigrant communities to up-and-coming development zones near the river. Top areas to view Antwerp’s creative urban artwork include Zuid, the Left Bank, Dam, ‘t Eilandje (The Isle) and Seefhoek docklands.

Visitor Information: Accessible year-round. Grab a street art guide map and explore neighborhoods by foot or bike at your own pace. Avoid interfering with residents’ private property. Exciting to experience both day and night.

Antwerp is known for its many impressive building-sized murals, artistic graffiti tags and creative street art. Urban artists are allowed artistic expression around the city, turning once derelict neighborhoods into lively open-air galleries. Some top areas to spot colorful works include Zuid, Borgerhout and China Town near the river. Guided street art tours are available.

Have a Beer at Dageraadplaats

Name and Location: Dageraadplaats, Dynamic Nightlife Square Near Antwerp Cathedral

History and Significance: Dageraadplaats has developed into one of Antwerp’s most vibrant nightlife hubs. The square features an eclectic mix of bars, clubs, eateries and cafes that appeal to diverse tastes from students to artsy intellectual types. It comes alive after dark when locals and visitors fill the tables spilling into the streets, drawn by the lively yet casual ambience.

What to Expect: Revelers can bar hop between the square’s establishments while mingling with friendly strangers. Popular picks include cozy taverns, trendy cocktail lounges and dance clubs pumping with DJ sets into the wee hours in this pedestrian-only area. Expect reasonable prices and youthful energy.

Visitor Information: Most venues open from 6-7pm onwards daily. Gets busiest late night Thursday-Saturday. No dress code but avoid overly casual wear at clubs. Smoking only permitted on outside terraces. Centrally located making it walkable for visitors.

This lively central square is the perfect place to sample Belgium’s famous brewing tradition. By day it hosts a bustling market, while by night it transforms into a vibrant go-to spot with outdoor bars and restaurants. Pull up a seat, order some snacks like fries or bitterballen, and try local Belgian favorites like Trappist ales, lambics and wheat beers. The atmosphere is always buzzing.

Catch a Show at the Royal Opera House

Name and Location: Royal Opera House, Frankrijklei 1

History and Significance: Home to the Flanders Opera, Royal Ballet of Flanders and Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, Antwerp’s Royal Opera House has hosted dazzling cultural performances since 1834. The neoclassical auditorium was completely restored true to original 19th century style in the 1980s. Today it continues facilitating breathtaking music and dance pieces on par with celebrated venues globally.

What to Expect: From elaborate opera and ballet productions to chamber music recitals, the acclaimed Royal Opera House enthralls audiences in a gorgeous gilded venue. While primarily classical focused, guests may also experience avant garde or modern experimental works from talented local troupes.

Visitor Information: Typically closed mid-July to end August annually. Guided tours and dining packages available. Ticket prices vary widely by show from €15-150+.

Known locally as the Bourla Schouwburg, Antwerp’s ornate 19th century Royal Opera House hosts world-class dance, classical music, opera and theatre performances in an opulent historic setting. See stunning Austrian crystal chandeliers, paintings, tapestries and sweeping marble staircases alongside captivating live entertainment from leading Belgian and international artists.

Visit Antwerp’s Christmas Markets

Name and Location: Antwerp Christmas Markets, Grote Markt and Groenplaats City Center Squares

History and Significance: Antwerp’s renowned Christmas market tradition dates back nearly 500 years. Each winter the main Grote Markt plaza transforms into a magical wonderland for six weeks displaying artisanal crafts, gifts, decor and culinary delights filling the air with irresistible scents. Smaller charming stalls open at Groenplaats too. The holiday markets symbolize Antwerp’s community spirit and artistic heritage.

What to Expect: Beyond shopping, visitors experience heartwarming nostalgia enjoying hot chocolate, sweet and savory Belgian waffles, and festive cultural activities including concerts. Atmospheric lights,abundant greenery and seasonal backgrounds create beloved holiday memories. Don’t miss the monumental Christmas tree spectacle!

Visitor Information: Annual dates mid November-early January. Open daily 10am-9pm, Sundays until 8pm. Easily walkable. Check website for holiday

Throughout the festive season, Antwerp hosts lively Christmas markets where you can shop for handmade crafts and taste warming cups of mulled wine, sweet treats like Belgian waffles, as well as hearty savory snacks. The big main market is located outside the spectacular Gothic city hall, but smaller markets pop up in neighborhoods around the city too. It’s a magical time to visit the city.

Indulge in Belgian Chocolates

Name and Location: Belgian Chocolates, Abundant Across Antwerp

History and Significance: Belgium is famed for producing some of the finest artisanal chocolates thanks to a long history of confectionery mastery plus innovation elevating chocolate to an art form. Antwerp specifically has cultivated award-winning chocolate dynasties for over a century. Local delicacies range from Manon’s golden pralines to Daskalidès Greek recipes and Jitsk’s organic raw bars.

What to Expect: In Antwerp, chocolate boutiques boast eye-catching showpieces while manufacturing kitchens allow visitors to witness couverture tempering and filling enrobing. Guests can sample creative infusions featuring local flavors like speculoos spice, Antwerp handsjes cookies and Belgian waffles augmented by premium cacaos. Beyond pure indulgence, Antwerp’s chocolatiers emphasize sustainable cacao sourcing and artistry.

Visitor Information: Antwerp has over 50 chocolate shops concentrated near the Gross Markt and Meir prime shopping districts. Guided tasting tours available. Prices generally cheaper than Brussels. Check websites for store hours which often close Sundays.

Belgium is famed across the world for producing some of the finest quality chocolates you’ll ever taste. Antwerp has many decadent chocolate shops to choose from, but historic chocolateer Daskalidès is a must with creations crafted using century-old methods. Marques, The Chocolate Line, and Elisa Pralines since 1819 also serve delicious artisan confections derived from secret recipes and premium ingredients.

Join a Beer or Chocolate Tasting Tour

Name and Location: Beer and Chocolate Tasting Tours, Offered Throughout Antwerp by Various Local Companies

History and Significance: As hubs of beer and chocolate production for centuries, paired tastings make perfect sense in Belgium. Antwerp’s tasting tours leverage unique local access to refine the experience whether it’s little known Trappist breweries or 4th generation chocolate ateliers. They provide cultural immersion in Belgian artistry.

What to Expect: Guides usher small groups to curated spots for insider perspectives on time-honored techniques. Guests indulge in 4-6 pairings designed to bring out nuanced flavors in both the beer and chocolate. Tours may focus on contrasting bold versus delicate flavors or complementing ingredients. Expect plenty of tastings plus light snacks.

Visitor Information: Duration around 3-4 hours. Offered daily. Prices approx €55-85 per person. Advance booking essential, private options available. Minimum age 18 years due to alcohol. Walking ability required at some sites.

To help navigate Antwerp’s amazing beer and chocolate culture, consider a guided tasting tour. Expert local guides will take you behind the scenes of breweries, distilleries and chocolate-making workshops where you’ll sample all kinds of unique flavors and learn about time-honored production techniques. It’s a fun way to discover new tastes with insider knowledge.

Conclusion

With its beautiful medieval architecture, vibrant food scene, exciting museums and galleries, and atmospheric Christmas charm, Antwerp makes for an amazing city break at any time of year. In 2024, be sure to check out the top fifteen attractions listed above for history, culture, nature, Belgian beers, chocolate, street art and more – there is something to delight every type of traveler.

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