Less than an hour by train from Brussels, Antwerp is a brilliant choice for a design inspired weekend break. Now known as the fashion capital of Belgium, Antwerp has an artistic reputation dating back to the 17th century when renowned painters Rubens and Van Dyck were inhabitants. The city is compact and so it is easy to walk around, so you can see most things in a day. The food on offer is varied and innovative, and the nightlife scene is lively and exciting. We wandered up and down the pretty streets popping into quirky boutiques, admiring architecture and pausing occasionally for traditional raisin bread and hot chocolate.
Hotel Julien - This hotel is a trendsetter and opened in 2004 as one of the first boutique accommodation options in the city. There are 21 rooms, each unique in its layout and feel, some are more rustic than others. Our room was extremely photogenic, with beautiful minimalist décor and lovely stylish furniture. It is thelittle details at Hotel Julien that make this hotel special. The breakfast, with croissants from Domestic bakery, was particularly memorable.
Chez Fred – this local neighbourhood restaurant is perfect for experiencing delicious Belgian food in an authentic setting. We enjoyed a rustic beef stew and wine whilst flicking through our travel guide ready for an afternoon of sightseeing.
The Jane – It is essential to book ahead if you wish to eat out in Antwerp. A situation which we especially encountered with the pompous staff at The Jane. Housed in a former Military Hospital chapel this gorgeous restaurant offers Michelin starred food from Sergio Herman in a chic, rock’n’roll environment.
L’Epicerie du Cirque – sadly this eatery was shut when we visited Antwerp but I have heard wonderful things about the magical cuisine here. The cuisine and dining room are both inspired by the purity of Scandinavia, with innovative seasonal dishes that delight.
Caffenation – Many say this speciality coffee roasters and café serves the best cup of coffee in Antwerp. The black and red exterior sign doesn’t look like much, but inside the drinks don’t disappoint. The warm earthy smell of crushed coffee beans is enough to lure anyone in and the smooth creamy coffee will encourage people back.
Sips – a small and funky cocktail bar, full to the brim on weekends Sips has a long list of concoctions to satisfy every customer. The experienced Sips staff conjure up classic cocktails and their own creations, we tried the sweet Spring Bee and A Pig and a Whistle which uses their own Spring gin.
Normo – an independent coffee bar and micro-roastery with a focus on high quality blends. The café has a light and airy feel, filled with hipsters working away on their laptops. I enjoyed a strong takeaway flat white on our first morning in the city.
Rubens House – this is the former home and studio of Antwerp’s most famous artist, Rubens. Immaculately preserved and restored (since he bought it in 1610), it is a real treat to walk through this house which holds so many spectacular paintings and wonderful pieces of furniture. You will be immersed in his world whilst getting an amazing insight into this great man’s life.
MAS – An abbreviation for ‘Museum aan de Stroom’ this is Antwerp’s largest museum and is located in a picturesque spot along the river Scheldt in the Eilandje district. It opened in May 2011 and holds a varied collection of art and historic objects. It memorable for its impressive architectural structure, a design by architects Neutelings Riedijk. The two Michelin star restaurant ‘t Zilte is found on the ninth floor.
The Recollection – a beautifully curated lifestyle concept store stocking Aesop toiletries, Kaweco stationery, Piet van Eek furniture and other stylish objects of desire.
Huis Boon – Established in 1884 this gorgeous little glove shop has been an institution since opening. Boxes line the walls, filled with every colour of glove you could every wish for. I fell in love with a pair of cashmere lined emerald gloves. For something more delicate Huis Boon also make gloves in other finer materials, like lace.
Hay - this is one of the flagship stores of the successful Danish design brand. The colourful products for desk and home are irresistibly chic, especially when displayed all together.
Goossens Chocolatier – this unassuming chocolate shop is not found in the centre of town but it is worth visiting for their renowned, top-quality chocolates. They are a favourite with royals and presidents around the world, and most excitingly supply the chocolate for the White House.
Loft Styles – we found this shop amongst the antique outlets on Kloosterstraat, though Loft Styles felt special. The retro furniture and ornaments are mostly industrial in style, exhibited in an effective way and priced reasonably. If only I lived closer I would have bought something from the unique collection.
Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled to Belgium with Eurostar.