Things to do in Antwerp

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.

To stay 

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.

To eat

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.

To drink

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.

To do

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.

To shop

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.

Hotel O, Antwerp

Hotel O is a sensual and stylish place to stay in Antwerp. Located on the trendy south side of the city, often called ‘T Zuid, this 3 star boutique hotel is surrounded by chic eateries and bars, and impressive cultural venues like the nearby Museum of Fine Arts.

We were allocated a room on the second floor, overlooking the street below. Everything was black, sleek and design orientated. Sheer curtains draped from the windows to give privacy but allow light in. The multi-light bulb construction on the ceiling gave out a warm golden glow over the room, and could be operated by an efficient dimmer switch system. The room felt a little squashed with the double bed taking up the majority of the space, but we excused this as it was extremely comfortable. The cupboard and desk were awkwardly placed and hard to use, I definitely felt the room was more for pleasure than business.

After a busy day of sightseeing, I was relieved to try the giant black freestanding bath. It was the ultimate indulgence to relax in a hot soapy bath whilst watching night descend over the city from the window. There was a separate rain shower wet room and toilet, fully stocked with toiletries by Rituals.

If you feel a little peckish you can head down to the ground floor, where the restaurant Brasserie Nero serves up Belgian beer and regional cuisine. Continental breakfast is also found here in the mornings, it is a pleasant room with natural light streaming in the large windows.

We checked out early to catch a train to Bruges, so missed out of on breakfast, but instead witnessed a wonderful fresh sunrise in this pretty area of the city. Hotel O is a glamorous and affordable option for style conscious tourists visiting Belgium’s most fashionable city.

More information and book here.

Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled to Belgium with Eurostar.

·         Eurostar operates up to 9 daily services from London St Pancras International to Brussels with return fares from £69.

·         Tickets to any Belgium station start from £79.

·         Fastest London-Brussels journey time is 2 hours.

·         Tickets are available from or 03432 186 186.

Hotel Julien, Antwerp

The Julien Hotel is not easy to find. The unassuming exterior offers no indicator of the style conscious rooms inside. It is situated within two historic buildings and has a surprisingly quiet atmosphere considering its central position in Antwerp. This hotel is a trendsetter opening in 2004 as one of the first boutique accommodation options in the city.

There are twenty-one rooms, each unique in its layout and feel, some are more rustic than others. Our room was extremely photogenic, I spent the first fifteen minutes observing every detail and snapping away eager to catch the charm through my lens. With a high ceiling and infinite floor space, the room felt airy and spacious. The original features are kept intact which gives the rooms a touch of tradition, but cutting edge modern amenities and luxuries ensure guests feel pampered.

Little details make this hotel special. Tall windows have chic wooden blinds, a monochrome striped carpet adds pattern to the floor, and the bed is topped with fluffy pillows and soft linen. The bathroom was a haven, clad in grey marble with an oversized bathtub and rainshower and expensive Ren toiletries.

Whimsical modern art adds some colour to the walls. Outside our room I noticed a Michael Wolf photograph depicting a building in downtown Chicago. The clever combination of eclectic art and design features makes Hotel Julien a fascinating place for culture enthusiasts.

Breakfast was a highlight of our stay. Pastries come direct from Domestic – the city’s finest boulangerie. The croissants are light and flaky, buttery and divine… I couldn’t resist a second, and we even paid the bakery a visit to see the place where these magical delicacies are made. Also on offer are sweet fresh juices, jewel like chopped fruit and homemade jams and honey.

Should you need it, Hotel Julien has a glamorous but casual bar which is cosy and perfect for a nightcap, and gorgeous meeting rooms which are blessed with good light and kitted out with essential equipment. The décor is minimalist and design conscious and would inspire creative minds at work.

Hotel Julien is more home than hotel, combining character and style in perfect measure, to create a place you’ll never want to leave.

More information and book a stay here.

Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled to Belgium with Eurostar.

·         Eurostar operates up to 9 daily services from London St Pancras International to Brussels with return fares from £69.

·         Tickets to any Belgium station start from £79.

·         Fastest London-Brussels journey time is 2 hours.

·         Tickets are available from or 03432 186 186.