You may be wondering, “Is Antwerp worth visiting?” Well, spoiler alert, it is!
Sure, it has been long overlooked in favor of its more famous brother, Brussels. But, Antwerp has a lot to offer. So much so that I am always left coming back for more.
It’s a stunning, coastal city that is filled with incredible history, amazing architecture, and delicious food.
Just step out into the train station and you’ll quickly see why Antwerp is so hella amazing.
But, if you need a bit more convincing and are still asking, “Is Antwerp worth a visit?” then give this article a look.
It details twelve epic reasons why you need to visit Antwerp right now. So, stop what you’re doing and give this article a look.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
1. Beautiful Architecture
Firstly, is Antwerp worth visiting for architecture?
Let’s just say, if you go weak at the knees over guild houses, can’t resist sneaking a peek into church naves, and are blown away by modern designs, you’ll be happy in Antwerp.
See, Belgium’s second city has a strong base of stunning buildings dating from the 16th century, which makes planning at least one day in Antwerp essential to your Belgium itinerary.
Renaissance, Baroque, Gothic, Art Nouveau, and Modernism are all represented in this photogenic, highly walkable, port city.
Feast your eyes on the splendid Antwerp Central Train Station. Constructed in 1905, it’s one of the most beautiful train stations in the world.
Next, wander over to the medieval fortress of Het Steen. Once used to keep watch for invaders, its sole purpose now is to dazzle travelers.
Then there is Het Bootje which is one of the kookiest buildings in the city. This Art Nouveau beauty has a wooden ship poking out of the side.
I love looking at the architecture here because it’s also one of the best free things to do in Antwerp.
2. Fascinating History
Hungry for history? Or just enjoy snacking on new trivia while on the road?
In either case, Antwerp is worth visiting for history.
Back in the 16th century, Antwerp was the epicenter for commercial goings-on and trade in Europe. It is still the second-largest port city in Europe and the diamond capital of the world.
Later, Antwerp flourished as a hub for creativity, crafts, and intellectual pursuits.
However, you can get a great overview of Antwerp’s role in history at the Museum aan de Stroom (MAS). Each exhibit is like it;s own mini-museum and spotlights a different period or movement.
Seeing the oldest printing presses in the world at the Plantin-Moretus Museum is another one of the top things to do in Antwerp for history lovers.
Plus, you can learn about the city’s musical lineage at the Museum Vleeshuis. Even better – you’ll get to play with the instruments on display at this immersive museum.
3. Marvel at Art Through the Ages
Is Antwerp worth visiting for arts and culture? Well, you can rest assured that any European city delivers the goods when it comes to culture – this is why you need at least 2 days in Brussels.
Now, Peter Paul Rubens is the most famous Flemish painter of the 17th century. He called Antwerp home and left more than doodles behind.
Much of his work is exhibited at his former lodging, now the Rubens House Museum, and in various other institutions around town.
That includes Antwerp Cathedral where Rubens was commissioned to depict the Assumption of the Virgin on the altarpiece.
There’s also the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (KMSKA). Here he’s joined by fellow old masters.
However, contemporary art lovers should go to the Museum of Modern Art (HKA). Visit for the roof terrace even if you’re not an artsy traveler.
Furthermore, you’ll find vibrant street murals dotted all around the city center.
So, Antwerp is one gigantic open-air art gallery with traditional museums that you’ll love visiting on a rainy day. Talk about an epic win.
4. See the Hands of Antwerp
A little peeing boy is the symbol of Brussels – and a must-see during any 24 hours in Brussels.
In Antwerp, it’s a pair of hands. The story behind the motif is reason enough to make Antwerp worth a visit.
Supposedly, a young boy chopped off the hands of a giant who was causing trouble. Then, he threw them into the river.
Hence, “hand werpen” – to throw a hand – became Antwerpen.
A statue (Brabofontein) in honor of Silvius Brabo stands in tribute in front of City Hall. Furthermore, there are depictions of hands all over the city.
And, this also explains why you’ll see so many hand motifs in tourist shops while you’re shopping for incredible Belgian souvenirs.
5. Affordable Diamonds
Now, this is a nice tidbit for you. Antwerp is the world capital of diamonds.
And, if you’re a budget traveler – you should note that they’re pretty cheap. You know, for diamonds.
Diamonds first sailed through Antwerp at the end of the 15th century.
See, the strategic location is why the city became a financial hotbed and is also why most of the mined diamonds passed through this spot.
Today, around 85% of the world’s rough diamonds and 50% of cut diamonds pass through Antwerp.
Psst – the rough diamonds are a little cheaper. That’s because they haven’t undergone the full cutting and polishing process. As such, all that natural beauty shines through.
Again, diamonds in Antwerp aren’t cheap cheap. But, they’re much more wallet-friendly than anywhere else.
However, do be mindful of scams and only buy them at reputable shops.
6. Premium Belgian Chocolate
Wait, do you go to get the best Belgian chocolate in Brussels?
No – the entire country is awash with chocolate ateliers where you can pick up the creamiest, most velvety pralines.
Many stores are located off Reyndersstraat. That includes Neuhaus. FYI, this is the company that launched the humble praline!
Elsewhere, the minimalist-style Sjokolat is a good pick if you want to create a gift box filled with different flavored chocs.
Plus, Elisa’s is the number one provider of bonbons and Mads is where you can go for posh boxes of chocolate.
Just don’t forget to grab a cup of delicious hot chocolate on a chilly winter’s day in Antwerp.
7. Boutique and Designer Shopping
Now, if you’re not in the market for bling, you still have plenty of other options for spending your hard-earned dough on in Antwerp.
All in all, the city is a cosmopolitan spot where you’ll find a mix of high-street fashion brands and designer goods.
If you’re looking to reboot your closet, head to the Fashion District.
Essentially, this includes the streets around the Fashion Museum (MoMu). Here, you’ll even find a couple of thrift stores such as Think Twice.
The Other Shop is also a cool place to browse books, gadgets, and gifts.
8. Bolleke Beer and De Koninck Brewery
Belgium is the realm of beer. In Antwerp, Bolleke is the beer to order.
See, it’s brewed right in the heart of the city. Now, you can visit De Koninck Brewery and sample it straight from the barrel or buy it in literally any other bar or restaurant.
Now, tours operate at the brewery and their museum explains the history of Bolleke-brewing in relation to the development of Antwerp.
The tasting room also has a variety of fruity, hoppy, and crisp beers that include IPAa, APAs, blondes, sours, and more.
So, if you’re partial to a beer, Antwerp is worth a visit purely to satisfy your tastebuds.
9. Diverse Food in Antwerp
Is Antwerp worth visiting for food?
That’s a yes. This city is a treasure trove of traditional Belgian, European, and international restaurants.
Therefore, if you want to spend more time in the city while cruising around Diamond District, you can enjoy all kinds of cuisines and find your personal faves in this cosmopolitan city.
Check out Sonseveria for casual, health-conscious dining. FYI, this is a rad spot to know about if you’re a vegetarian.
Stop for epic brunch in Belgium at Goodie Food where the menu includes pancakes and bagels. They even have awesome sidewalk tables too.
Black Smoke is where to go for grills and steaks and they get brownie points for an awesome rooftop terrace.
But, be sure to stop by De Troubadour for Belgian-French fusion eats.
And for a special occasion, book a table at the fine dining restaurant De Harmonie where the food looks almost too beautiful to eat.
10. Belgian Frites
They’re known to the world as French fries. But, technically, they’re Belgian fries.
Politics aside, eating frites is a rite of passage to any traveler in Belgium, and Antwerp is no different.
Now, you’ll find frites on the menu at any restaurant. However, you’ll want to order them from a frituur.
These are kiosks that sell only frites (plus a few other fast food staples for larger appetites) and you can find them in Antwerp as well as some of the best frites shops in Brussels.
And, they’re easy to find. See, you’ll be able to detect the fried, crunchy potato smell wafting through the streets.
There are a couple of frituur kiosks scattered around the cathedral. Otherwise, you can pick up posh frites with artisanal toppings at the sophisticated Frites Atelier.
11. Outdoor Terraces
Of course, we naturally think of Mediterranean Europe for al fresco dining.
However, Antwerp has muscled in on this trend and you’ll find scores of outdoor terraces all over the city.
These are epic for a morning coffee in a Belgian cafe as the city wakes up, a cheeky glass of wine with lunch, and a cold beer to toast to a fun day out in Antwerp.
Sure, these places can feel a bit “touristy” but nothing compares to eating outside when the weather is warm and the sun is high.
However, do check out the prices and check for sneaky service charges before grabbing a seat.
But, Brasserie De Zon is a reliable choice near the cathedral with loads of beers and a mix of European and North American dishes.
12. Excellent Coffee
Last but in no way least, is Antwerp worth visiting for coffee?
Absolutely! The streets run amok with tasty coffee shops where you can find a classic cup of Joe and specialty brews.
This port city has the largest coffee storage facility in the world! However, those beans are off-limits.
Anyway, it’s hard to go wrong when searching for the best cafes in Antwerp. However, do check out the Yellow Window Coffee House for cozy vibes.
Tartoer is a neat spot to sit out on the terrace and people-watch over a latte.
And, Kaffeenini is an old-timer with an experimental and expansive menu. Order the cookie crumble cappuccino.
Is Antwerp Worth Visiting FAQs
Is it Better to go to Brussels or Antwerp?
Go to Antwerp if you like a vibrant city with lots of energy. Enjoy all of the unusual things to do in Brussels if you like a historically, culturally, and politically important city.
Should I go to Ghent or Antwerp?
If you like a small, picturesque city then visit Ghent. However, if you prefer big cities with lots of things to do then try visiting Antwerp.
How Many Days Do You Need in Antwerp?
If you’re short on time then you can enjoy some of the best things to do in Antwerp in just two days.
However, if you really want to experience all that this magical city has to offer than plan to spend between three and four days her.
Which is Better to Visit Antwerp or Bruges?
Go to Bruges if you want to visit a city that feels like a fairytale. It’s a pretty place where you can explore the canals (very much like the canals of Amsterdam) and the stunning Old Town.
In contrast, go to Antwerp if you like a port city with amazing architecture and lots of cool things to do.