Despite not being the most famous of cities, compared with the likes of Paris, Budapest or Berlin, this stunning Belgian city is full of surprises, and with flights to Brussels taking little more than 45 minutes, Antwerp is a tempting alternative to some of the more mainstream city break locations. Follow these simple guidelines to ensure you get the most out of your trip and you can’t go far wrong.
- DO: Ditch the map
The relatively small area Antwerp covers means walking between its various areas is incredibly easy, making it hard to go far wrong if you leave your travel guide at home and simply follow your senses- this is how we discovered some of our favourite spots full of locals and away from the busier more tourist-oriented central area.
- DON’T: Try and be a wise guy
Speaking French in Flanders, the Flemish speaking area of the country, will not lead to a better cultural understanding or locals appreciating you more- painful as it is, unless you are blessed enough to have perfected the art of chatting away in Flemish, embrace how touristy it’ll make you feel and just speak English.
- DO: Pause
Antwerp is full of gorgeous independent coffee shops, especially in the beautiful ‘t Zuid area to the south, where it’s well worth your time spending a good while people watching and marvelling at the talent of the local baristas.
- DON’T: Hold back
Meeting locals in any city is the best way to find out what‘s really worth doing, and discover some of the place’s best kept secrets, but this can initially seem tougher in places like Antwerp with less obviously forward and chatty locals, especially for travellers used to more boisterous inhabitants of southern Europe. However, making the effort really pays off, and once you’ve made the first move many young people are more than happy to get to know you. Failing that, guides like this written by students are incredibly useful and the closest thing you’ll get to having a local folded up in your back pocket.
- DO: Mind the red lights
Despite extensive reading of travel guides, blogs and other supposedly helpful resources, it somehow managed to escape our notice that the most highly recommended club in the city was also right in the middle of the city’s red light district. While locals claim it is in fact a remarkably safe area, suddenly finding yourself on a street glowing bright red and full of cat-calling men leering at girls in shop windows at midnight is quite a shock if you’re not expecting it (as we weren’t).
- DON’T: Look at your watch
Many of the city’s most popular bars and especially clubs boast 7.30am closing times that put our night-time favourites to shame, and while surviving all that time may seem a big ask, it’s the best way to guarantee value for money at some of the pricier clubs if you’re not there on a Thursday student night when entry is free.