Only one day in Antwerp?
That’s okay because even if you only spend a day in Antwerp, there are still a ton of things that you can see and do.
Because Contrary to Popular Belief:
Antwerp is not some gross and gloomy, drab, industrial city that has nothing to offer anyone looking for things to do in Antwerp.
This historic city is a beautiful, capital of culture that has many different Antwerp points of interest for visitors to explore.
From the charming Old Town to the grandeur of the Cathedral of Our Lady to the wealth of exquisite art found in MAS Museum Aan de Stroom, you definitely won’t run out of fun things to do in Antwerp.
You may be wondering how you’ll ever experience all the fun things to visit in Antwerp in just a single day.
Read on and discover a plethora of Antwerp travel tips and tricks to help you make the most out of your 24 hours in Antwerp, Belgium.
***Before you visit Antwerp, try and purchase the Antwerp City Card! The is the best way to see all the top attractions in Antwerp for less since this card gives you free admission to most of Antwerp’s must-see sights. With this card, you also get free public transportation and receive discounts at some attractions and stores. Depending on how long you stay in Antwerp, you can purchase a 24, 48 or 72-hour card. ***
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One Day in Antwerp: How to Create the Perfect 24 Hour Antwerp Itinerary
Now, I am not Madam Cleo or anything (aka a psychic):
But odds are that if you’re visiting Antwerp, Belgium, then you’ll be arriving by train. If you are, then make sure that Antwerp Central Station is your final destination (Antwerpen-Centraal) since this building is routinely rated as one of the five most beautiful train stations in the entire world.
As you pull into the station, you’ll see gobs and gobs of fab street art. Just be quick when snapping those photos because man does that train move fast (almost as fast as me grabbing food at a buffet).
Once You Arrive:
Take some time to admire the Neo-Gothic style of the building facade, from 1905, and Instagram it up in the spacious main hall, under the ornately decorated, domed roof.
The historic charm of this building extends only to the exquisite decor since the Central Station has received a fully modern makeover, with multilevel platforms that help travelers easily enter and exit this epicenter of public transportation.
***The diamond district has been around since the 15th century and is conveniently located right next door to the station.***
***Hungry after your journey? Then stop by Kleinblatt, an old-school, Jewish bakery where everything is homemade and absolutely delicious. Plus, the service is fast and the food is affordable, making this the perfect stop for any traveler on the go. Everything is delicious but my faves are the round raisin bread covered in powdered sugar, cheese danishes, and chocolate croissants. ***
When Leaving Antwerp Central Station:
Go out the main entrance and walk straight ahead for a minute or two, until you see the Diamant station. Once there, board the 9 train, get off at the Meir station, and walk towards the amazing Rubens House Museum.
***In Antwerp, metro ticket machines can be hard to find. So if you don’t have a ticket, don’t freak out since transportation workers rarely check tickets, or so I’ve been told.***
When Visiting Antwerp for the Day:
I really thought that the Ruben they were all talking about was the sandwich. But alas, no. Antwerp does not have an entire museum dedicated to a sandwich (they do have a Red Star Line Museum that is dedicated to telling the stories of over 3 million immigrants who moved to Antwerp).
Rubenhuis is the former home and studio of the acclaimed painter, Pieter Paul Rubens, who lived and worked here from 1616-1640.
And when I say home, I mean a baller mansion that dates all the way back to 1611.
Like most buildings, this exquisite residence fell into disrepair and was expertly refurbished and redecorated with period-appropriate furniture and a priceless, 17th-century art collection. Just make sure that you grab a free copy of the museum highlights booklet so that you can better appreciate the works on display here.
Be sure to venture outside and explore the lovely baroque portico that leads out, onto a quietly charming, well-manicured garden.
***I’m not a shopper but I’ve heard that Meier Street is the place to go if you like shopping (and it’s literally next door to Rubenhuis). Throughout this shopping mecca, you’ll find stylish boutiques and icons of fashion like Flanders Fashion Institute (FFI), the Fashion Museum (MOMU) and the Fashion Academy. You can also gape in awe at the amazing architecture of buildings like Stadsfeestzaa and the royal palace***
Once You’ve Finished Marveling at the Home of an Artistic Genius:
It’s a hop, skip, or a ten-minute walk to our next stop, Museum Plantin-Moretus.
A true book lover’s paradise since this fantastic museum is home to, wait for it, the world’s OLDEST printing press! I mean for real, how cool is that?
I might have squealed with delight more than once.
But that’s not all that this medieval building has to offer. If that was all this museum had then no way would this place have UNESCO World Heritage Status.
In addition to a badass printing press:
This museum houses priceless manuscripts, original type sets, a library that dates back to 1640, and a bookshop that’s from 1700! There are even some Moretus-published books that are illustrated by Pieter Paul (nerd alert, nerd alert)!
All that and we haven’t even discussed the priceless works of art from masters like Rubens, Jan Moretus, etc.
A Magnificent Stop for Anyone who has the Slightest Interest in History.
After all that touring, you must be starving, right?
That’s great because our next stop is literally on the way to Groenplaats, a vivacious and historic public square, in Antwerp’s historic city center, that is full of delicious restaurants and lively cafes.
On the way, don’t forget to say hi to the statue of Antwerp’s one and only…Rubens!
Once you’ve enjoyed your surroundings and taken enough pictures, stroll on over to Chickpea; a reasonably priced, vegan-friendly, casual restaurant, that serves up great hummus fast!
But you’ve been doing a lot of sightseeing in Antwerp so maybe sit down, relax, and enjoy some hummus, warm pita, beetroot carpaccio, and homemade iced tea!
A lovely spot for anyone but especially for a veg like me.
Wait, I Almost Forgot!
The bread is free so you can order as much as you want. Just skip the falafel. You can get better falafel at basically any mom and pop halal restaurant in Antwerp (I went to one and no joke, best falafel of my life. I may or may not have ordered two).
Once You’ve Recovered from your Hummus Induced Coma:
It’s church hunting time since the Cathedral of Our Lady is just a short walk away. No, I swear, this isn’t your run of the mill church!
Believe it or Not:
The Cathedral of Our Lady is the most beautiful Gothic Church in Belgium and took over 169 years to complete! And I mean really, no one’s gonna spend that kind of time on something hideous.
Before you go inside though, try and snag a lovely shot of the church’s iconic spire as you look up Pelgrimstraat.
Head inside and stand in awe of the multiple treasures here since the interior is way more impressive than the exterior, at least in my humble opinion.
Not only is the interior lavishly adorned with late-baroque style decor, but there are four intriguing, early Rubens paintings that you need to see!
The church also has stunning, stained glass windows and an assortment of historic and modern statuary (representing various religious motifs) that you can enjoy.
Churched Out Yet?
I get it. I’m not a huge church person myself. No worries though because there will be no more churches featured on your 1 day in Antwerp itinerary and very few are on this 2 day Brussels itinerary. .
(Insert Sigh of Relief Here)
Instead, let’s spend some time exploring the architectural beauty of none other than Grote Markt.
No Idea What This Is?
Guess I better slow my roll and explain.
See, like all great Flemish cities, Antwerp has a medieval center known as Grote Markt, or market square for the linguistically disinclined like me.
Throughout the Square:
You’ll find a pedestrianized center that is flanked by impressive guildhalls and a Renaissance style Stadhuis (city hall) that is currently not so impressive since it’s hidden under a huge pile of scaffolding.
In the Center of the Square:
You’ll see a beautiful, baroque style, Brabo Fountain that celebrates the city’s great, mythical hero, who slew all the evil giants and saved the city from impending doom. Feel free to ooh and ah at will.
Once You’ve Been Adequately Astounded:
It’s a fifteen-minute walk to the MAS Museum Aan de Stroom, a relatively new museum that gives you a fresh look at and a better understanding of the city of Antwerp.
While exploring the 500,000 artifacts in the museum’s collection (most are kept in the second-floor repository that is open to the public), you’ll get a better understanding of the city’s modern identity, and how it fits into the outside world.
Throughout the building’s ten floors, you’ll find impressive and informative, big-theme exhibitions that use the museum’s artifacts to educate the public and tell a story about a particular topic of interest.
But they Saved the Best for Last!
Once you ascend the final escalator to the tenth floor, you’ll be treated to a stunning, 360-degree, sweeping, panoramic view of the entire city and river; a truly magical way to end a fantastic day in Antwerp.
If you’re SUPER fancy (and I never will be), you can check out the Jane, a two Michelin Star restaurant that is set in the modernized and lavishly redecorated chapel of a former military hospital.
But as you can imagine:
This gastronomic experience of fabulousness is pretty popular, so be sure to book your reservation at least three months in advance.
***If you’re a foodie on a budget, you can also try a fantastic three hour food tour in Old Town Antwerp. Not only do you get to try an assortment of amazing food, but you also get to tour the historic center of Antwerp too!***
For the Less Fancy Folk in the Audience:
Walk back to Grote Markt, where you will find a diverse selection of lively restaurants that meet the culinary needs of almost every type of foodie.
But if I had to Pick One Restaurant to Enjoy:
It would be Rosenobel, a delicious vegetarian restaurant, in the historic center of Antwerp, that is open for dinner daily.
Hidden among the historic squares and ancient churches of Antwerp, this restaurant has an entire buffet dedicated to vegan or vegetarian-friendly foods.
Simply pick up a plate and indulge in anything from salad to pad thai to tortellini to delicious desserts.
Just be sure to weigh your plate before you sit down since the price of your meal is determined by the weight of your plate (or plates).