Maybe the following situation sounds familiar to you: Previous to a trip into a new city you will meticulously research the internet for pictures, places, and ideas, and thus paint a certain picture in your head.
You will create your own image, which in my case – I do have to admit – ends up being very romantic, due to the countless wonderful coffee pictures on instagram and pins on pinterest.
And all of a sudden you are there – in real life. And with a blast, the image in your head clashes with reality. You’ll earn new insights – “That café seemed so spacious on the pictures. They must have used a good lens!” It could be that your imagination will be 100% confirmed. Or that you’ll get disappointed. For disappointments also belong to life and are very natural. Without Downs there would be no Ups.
Why do I tell you about this? Because today, I will take you on a journey to Antwerp, a city that I somehow imagined differently… Love at first sight it was definitely not. But that this city does have several special places to offer I do not doubt anymore. And of course, I wouldn’t want to keep them from you.
That no sparks were flying between Antwerp and me might have a few other reasons. For one, several of the cafés I planned to visit were closed during my time in Antwerp. The reason: vacation.
That is why, this guide will only be a small Antwerp guide, to which – who knows – I might add a second part at some point in the future. Love at second sight maybe… And the fact that I did not see as much I had intended to, does indeed have an advantage: You’ll be able to visit all my recommended places in Antwerp within one day!
The best way to begin the day is at Café Normo. Here you’ll not only find a cosy interior but also several nice places right out front. And on top of that: very good coffee (the café has its own roasting facility) and Wifi – perfect in order to comfortably plan your further journey. And lucky me, the man behind the coffee was a German barista who mentioned the holidays and with it the large amount of closed cafés to me. Moreover, he gave me a few insights into Antwerp’s nightlife, that I would not have discovered otherwise.
After a walk through the city, for example to Bar Paniek (see bottom of the page), and a stop at the MAS (a museum, which offers a wonderful view over Antwerp for free), I can recommend a break at TINSEL. A small restaurant with an excellent lunchmenu, just as well for breakfast. But be aware: don’t fall asleep on the comfy couch!
Just a few blocks from TINSEL, you’ll find another recommandation of mine: the Buchbar – a combination of bookstore and café. A simple concept, that has here been realized with great attention to detail. What made me like this place even more was the fact that their cake was prepared and delivered by the owner of TINSEL and their coffee by Normo.
When it comes to shopping, I do have to say that I did not do much of it. But I did manage to provide you with one good tip, as it were, by window-shopping: Superet. The shop sells designer objects and local artists’ products. Had I not held my purse so tight in view of the upcoming days in Paris and the rest of my roadtrip, then I surely would have treated myself to an Antwerp souvenir in this store.
Another sweet and small restaurant in the heart of Antwerp is the NATIVE. It offers an organic kitchen, that means dishes with or without meat supplied only by organic farmers. It even has several vegan options on the menu. And all that in a very special, and foremost authentic and natural atmosphere. I had the salad with feta cheese, quinoa and caramalized pumpkin – to die for!
At last I have two suggestions for Antwerp’s nightlife for you, more precisely two bars. Both of them differ strongly from the usual places, reason enough to go and see yourself even if you are not the one to party!
The first ist called Bar Paniek and is in the harbour district (not far from the above mentioned MAS). Inside and in front of a huge warehouse, Bar Paniek consists of randomly put together chairs and tables, two bar counters and a big stage on the inside, which offers a changing cultural programme. Bar Paniek also has a photo exhibition to offer.
The second bar is Plein Publiek. It lies in the courtyard of an empty block of buildings. The location being build like a greenhouse offers an outstanding contrast to the grey concrete buildungs surrounding it. Alternating events like concerts, markets, art exhibitions, and partys, are reason enough to have a look!
Even though this post is quite old I’m curious to know what exactly you expectated and what made you feel disappointed.
oh yes, this post is already two years old, but I try to remember. I think it wasn’t a single place, it was just my imagination of the whole city in general. Oh and maybe it was Caffeenation what I thought would be more like the one in Amsterdam, but thats just a sidenote.
Do you live there? What is your favorite spot in Antwerp?
Sorry for the late reaction, I live near Antwerp. I think it’s important to keep in mind that Antwerp is significantly smaller and less known than most cities in your blog. Relative to its size, I think the city has quite a few nice places and as a rising fashion city, it might get more famous. It’s for sure not as glamorous as Paris or vibrant as Amsterdam because of its size and the fact that it’s got a raw side to it which might not get appreciated by everyone. My favourite places are Normo, Black&Yellow, Caffenation PAKT (the one in ‘t Groen Kwartier), the Zurenborg neighbourhood (Art Nouveau), ‘t Eilandje, ‘t Zuid. I also like the contrast between the medieval centre and the recent developments.
I’m not going to say Antwerp is star spangled awesome and is a must visit, but I think there’s a lot of potential to make the city more attractive. The quays along the river for example will be renewed which will make a huge improvement. I’m looking forward to a few other projects and hopefully it will change the city for the better. Until then I’ll be enjoying my latte in my small (kind of) hometown.
If you ever decide to come back, I hope you’ll have a better experience.
*also pardon me for the typo in my first comment and the long reply