Spending a weekend in Antwerp in winter is like taking a tonic. If you suffer from the winter blues like us, this Flemish city is an inspiring and uplifting place to be. Regardless of the weather, the locals exude energy and an appetite for good living. It’s contagious.
Antwerp is also a port city, home to 168 different nationalities. For hundreds of years, people have been migrating to and through Antwerp. As a result, Belgium’s second-largest city feels like a gateway to the rest of the world. There’s an openness here that is almost palpable.
During your weekend in Antwerp, I recommend visiting a brewery, unwinding in a beer café, shopping on Kloosterstraat and Nationalestraat, ambling through a weekend market, and visiting a museum.
Though I wouldn’t get too caught up in “seeing the sights,” please don’t miss the Antwerp Central Station and the Grote Markt. Rain or shine, there’s always something to do in Antwerp in winter. Bring your winter coat, waterproof boots, beanie, and umbrella, and you’ll have a marvelous time.
How to Spend a Weekend in Antwerp in Winter
- Pick Your Perfect Base: August, Maison Nationale City Flats & Suites, De Baron B&B
- Visit a Brewery: De Koninck and Antwerpse Brouw Compagnie
- Unwind in a Beer Café: Witzli-Poetzli and Het Elfde Gebod
- Go Boutique Shopping on Kloosterstraat and Nationalestraat
- Learn about Antwerp’s Port history: Red Star Line Museum and MAS
- Expand Your Palate: Black Smoke, Bourla, Tartine, Poke Tiki, Salade Sociale
- Visit a Weekend Market: Antiques Market, Exotic Market, Birds Market
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Antwerp City Map
1. Pick Your Perfect Base
Here are three places we’ve stayed in Antwerp. Each accommodation offers something unique and caters to different tastes and travel styles.
August is a contemporary hotel located in a former Augustinian cloister. Though certainly not a religious building anymore, August feels like a sanctuary. If you want to have a slow and rejuvenating weekend in Antwerp, stay here. Or, if you’ve already visited Antwerp, and want to discover a new neighborhood, August is a great base. From here, you can walk to the De Koninck Brewery and Black Smoke. You can also explore the PAKT (2 minutes away).
Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen designed every element of August (ceramics, furniture, interior, etc…), creating a singular, and cohesive design concept that feels sophisticated.
Highlights of our stay included the elegant restaurant bar, the buffet breakfast, our comfortable room with cookies, chocolates and a Nespresso machine, the curated city guide (in-room tablet), our luxurious bathtub, and the frankincense-smelling library.
Maison Nationale City Flats & Suites
Situated on Nationalestraat and surrounded by countless boutiques and cafés, Maison Nationale City Flats & Suites is the perfect base for shopping and exploring Central Antwerp. Amidst all the bustle, Maison provides a secret oasis. So, if you want easy access to the most charming streets in Antwerp, but you also value solitude, this is a great place to stay. Furthermore, we really enjoyed coming back to our suite in the middle of the day to rest and drink tea/coffee.
The Maison suites Nationale are bright and airy and feature high ceilings, minimalist designs, ample living room space, a luxurious bathroom (bathtub and open shower), and extra touches like a Nespresso machine, water cooker, fridge, microwave, plates, and cutlery.
Another reason to stay here is the simplicity of the check-in process. You can decide between a self-check-in and a personal check-in. If you’re feeling anti-social and you don’t want to communicate your arrival time, go for self-check-in. If you love getting insider tips and connecting with a local, go for the personal check-in.
De Baron Bed & Breakfast
Set in a baroque mansion, De Baron is a unique accommodation that seems like a great setting for the next BBC period-piece or mystery series. It’s full of character and dates back to the 19th century.
Each suite is uniquely decorated with art, nicknacks, and furniture that manages to collide in perfect harmony. If you love visiting antique markets and imaginative places, stay here.
Breakfast is served in a charming room that evokes times of yesteryear. As you start your morning in De Baron’s historic breakfast room, you’ll feel royal, a touch nostalgic, and definitely excited to explore the treasures of Antwerp.
Location wise, De Baron is a quick walk from the Central Station, Meir (Antwerp’s main shopping street), and the Diamond District.
2. Visit a Brewery
De Koninck – Antwerp City Brewery
De Koninck Brewery brews Antwerp’s favorite beer. All around the city, you’ll see people drinking the amber-colored Bolleke and the golden Tripel d’Anvers. If you want to learn more about the brewery, you can take a tour. Otherwise, simply visit the on-site bar for a tasting. After your tasting, head to Black Smoke for American-style BBQ (Wednesday – Sunday: opening times).
Address: Mechelsesteenweg 291, 2018 Antwerpen, Belgium
Antwerpse Brouw Compagnie
Occupying a warehouse, this local independent brewery sits on the outskirts of the city center close to the Red Star Line Museum. Their friendly brewpub (ABC Taproom & Resto) is located directly in the brewery. Order a tasting flight and something to eat. Start with their iconic Seef beer (Seefbier). Seef was a 19th century Antwerp beer that was sold until the 1930s. In 2012, Antwerpse Brouw Compagnie started brewing the cloudy blond beer once again.
Address: Indiestraat 21, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
3. Unwind in a Beer Café
Visiting Antwerp in winter gives you automatic permission to warm up (for long periods of time) in cozy beer cafés. As you’re reading this, you might assume that I’m a huge beer enthusiast and love drinking beer. False! I rarely drink beer. The exception is Belgian beer.
When you drink beer in Belgium, you’re experiencing the culture. Each beer is served in its unique glass. Beers are savored and enjoyed, not pounded or chugged. The atmosphere of a beer café is distinctly civilized and refined.
Located alongside the Cathedral of our Lady, this down-to-earth beer café is a nice spot to sample some excellent Trappist beers like Chimay Blauw and Trappistes Rochefort 8.
Address: Blauwmoezelstraat 8, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
Het Elfde Gebod
Directly next to Witzli-Poetzli, you’ll find Elfde Gebod. Stuffed with religious statues representing Catholic saints, Elfde Gebod is another great place for drinking beer. Surrounded by religious memorabilia, it almost feels like sanctified drinking. You can order your beverage of choice (and free tap water) from your table’s tablet.
Address: Torfbrug 10, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
Take 5 Minutes in Paris
This café on Kloosterstraat is a cozy place to warm up on a cold day. They have a selection of daily soups, including a delicious (and light) fish soup. Whether you’re here for a beer or a light lunch, you’ll feel quite at home. On warm days, you can enjoy their secret bamboo garden.
Address: Kloosterstraat 50, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium | Tripadvisor
4. Shop on Kloosterstraat and Nationalestraat
Antwerp is known for many things: diamonds, giants, Madonna statues, and fashion. When it comes to fashion, you’ll quickly notice how stylish the locals are. Though we didn’t come to Antwerp to shop, we certainly didn’t leave empty-handed. In the heart of the city, you’ll find a huge concentration of boutiques and design shops along Kloosterstraat, Nationalestraat, and Kammenstraat.
Another shopping street you shouldn’t miss is Meir. Though the shops aren’t very special (H&M, Zara, etc…), the buildings are absolutely gorgeous. As you walk along Antwerp’s main shopping street, try to spot all the Madonna statues. Depending on who you ask, you’ll either learn that statues of the Virgin Mary were used to ward off giants or as a tax evasion strategy. You can learn more about Antwerp’s relationship with giants in our Belgium Travel Guide.
5. Learn about Antwerp’s History in a Museum
Red Star Line Museum
The Red Star Line Museum is dedicated to telling the stories of the people who emigrated to the USA and Canada from Antwerp using the historic shipping line. As you follow in the footsteps of passengers, you’ll learn about their journey to Antwerp and ultimately to their new home. You’ll listen to their hopes, dreams, and struggles via a series of video interviews and audio recordings. We needed 2 hours in this museum.
Address: Montevideostraat 3, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
Museum aan de Stroom (MAS)
“Thanks to the port, the world has been sailing into Antwerp, and Antwerp has been sailing out into the world.“— Museum aan de Stroom (MAS), World Port on Trade and Shipping Exhibit
The 10-stories-high MAS is impossible to miss. With its distinct design and size, you’ll be walking towards this museum whether you intended to, or not. Luckily, the tenth floor is open to the public. From here, you can enjoy a 360-degree panorama of the city, the port, and the river.
MAS houses a number of permanent and temporary exhibits. The 6th floor is dedicated to the history and development of Antwerp’s port.
We visited right after the Red Star Line Museum and were a bit maxed out. So, we’d recommend choosing one, or visiting the museums on different days.
Address: Hanzestedenplaats 1, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
If you’re planning on visiting both the Red Star Line Museum and MAS, you can purchase a combi-ticket.
6. Expand Your Palate
Home to such a diverse population, it’s no surprise that Antwerp’s culinary scene is inventive and curious. Chefs and restauranteers are ready and willing to import new culinary ideas. And, the people of Antwerp seem willing to try new cuisine from all over the world. I used to take this for granted when I lived in the States. But, now I see that it’s not commonplace in many parts of Europe.
Here are a few places we enjoyed during our time in Antwerp.
Housed in an industrial low-lit space, this restaurant features American BBQ specialties. In case you have any doubt, I can assure you that they know exactly what they’re doing! We loved their Kansas City ribs and ‘9 TO 1’ Texas Style Brisket. Come here for lunch, or dinner after visiting De Koninck Brewery (Open: Wednesday – Sunday). Reservation recommended.
Address: Boomgaardstraat 1, 2018 Antwerpen, Belgium
Located at Graanmarkt, Bourla is a local’s favorite. Come here for a relaxed lunch, when you’re in the mood for classic dishes likes salad niçoise, steak tartare, Belgian rib steak, artichoke ravioli, grilled trout, etc…
Address: Graanmarkt 7, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
Maison Tartine’s menu features an enticing selection of grilled and open-faced tartine sandwiches. This is a simple, but delightful café to visit when you’re hungry (not starving).
Address: Minderbroedersrui 60, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
Close to the Antwerp Central Station, this hidden gem is the perfect place to eat before, or after your train journey. Come here for healthy, artisan salads and soups. Salade Sociale is also a great business to support because it’s actively supporting vulnerable and impoverished communities in Antwerp. When you order a meal, you can add a 1 EUR donation, which goes to charity. Furthermore, Arni, the owner, works with VDAB and OCMW to hire refugees. He’s committed to helping his employees learn Dutch and provide them with a productive, learning environment.
Address: Van Immerseelstraat 7 A, 2018 Antwerpen, Belgium
Poke Tiki is a “make-your-own” poké bowl eatery on Nationalestraat (one of those really great shopping streets). With its cheerful, surfing-themed interior, this tiny spot reminds you that great things come in small packages.
Address: Nationalestraat 105, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
You can’t visit Belgium without indulging in fries. Centrally located and easy to find, Frituur n°1 is a no-frills eatery serving up some of Antwerp’s best Belgian – never say French – fries.
Address: Hoogstraat 1, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
7. Visit a Weekend Market
Antwerp is famous for its weekend markets. Check out these markets:
Antiques market Saturday: Lijnwaadmarkt
Saturday: from 9 am to 5 pm (except on public holidays)
Antiques market Sunday: Sint-Jansvliet
Sunday: from 9 am to 5 pm (also on public holidays)
Exotic market (Food): Oudevaartplaats, Theaterplein and surroundings
Saturday: from 8 am to 4 pm (except on public holidays)
Vogelenmarkt (Birds market): Oudevaartplaats, Theaterplein and surroundings
Sunday: from 8 am to 1 pm (also on public holidays)
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