Mid October I spent a wonderful weekend with seven ladies – all of them good friends and fellow design bloggers from across Europe. We gathered in the Belgian port city of Antwerp as part of the Function + Form event series. Our mission was to discover Belgian design and the vibe of Antwerp – a city often overseen when thinking of design destinations. To be honest I didn’t have any idea of Antwerp in general. And let me tell you one thing: I was absolutely surprised by the cool lifestyle and design scene in Antwerp. See why with these ‘Antwerp Travel Tips’.
Antwerp is a great destination to discover design and art. It brims with inspiring galleries, little shops, makers, design labels, and more. Not to mention good cafés, restaurants, hotels. But let me name just a few that I had the opportunity to visit (a few more will follow in separate blog posts).
Kaffeenini: This cute cafés serves ‘happy coffee’, yummy cakes and good breakfasts. The interior is cool too and it is located on a lively shopping street. Good to kick start your day in Antwerp!
Studio Helder: Studio Helder is a shop, design studio and platform for contemporary design with a lovely focus on local, Belgian design. They also feature a fine selection of international design objects. I brought back a wallet made of paper – the work of a Japanese design label.
Graanmarkt 13: This address should be on your itinerary if you visit Antwerp! Graanmarkt 13 is the name and address of a fantastic restaurant and high-end design shop. Both are highly recommended. And if you travel as a larger group you can even rent a huge penthouse apartment on top – with jacuzzi, refined design and personal concierge included. And you know what: It is not even that expensive if you come as a group of people!
Design Center Winkelhaak: Located close to the Central Train station in Antwerp, this incubator for creative entrepreneurs should not be missed if you are a design aficionado. You can discover a plethora of interesting local designs, from furniture to home accessories. An adjacent café invites you to take a break and indulge before you head out for more design input in the Belgian port town.
Eilandje area / MAS museum: This area is really interesting. Partly it is still being constructed and revived attracting local creatives like designers, architects and artists. This was the old port area before it moved further out of town (and growing to a size bigger than the city itself). We were so lucky to be guided through the area by local architect Hansi Ombregt of p8 Architekten Antwerpen. He not only built his own house right there (that he sold afterwards) but he is also a great connaisseur of the entire area. This part of Antwerp hosts the MAS museum among other places, a great example of modern architecture in Antwerp. You can also go up to the rooftop terrace for free and enjoy a fantastic 360 degrees view all around Antwerp. There are more amazing buildings lining the docks, as well as some good cafés (like Broer Bretel for a good brew or hot chocolate) and restaurants like Felix Pakhuis and Balls & Glory (it’s meatballs hahaha).
Native Bio Bistro: Time for lunch? Then I strongly recommend the fabulous Native restaurant serving scrumptious organic food. This bistro is absolutely adorable – the interior is sort of rustic and lived in, perfectly matching the good, healthy and hearty food. It is small so make sure you book a table. And the location is fab – just opposite of some more great design shops!
Arrangerie 13: Just opposite of the aforementioned restaurant you will find the shop ‘Arrangerie 13’. This is a design paradise featuring beautiful vintage furniture, mid-century classics as well as contemporary furniture design and home accessories. Additionally the entire shop has a warm and inspiring atmosphere being located in an old shop with tiled floors, creaky wooden floors, huge mirrors and raw walls. Go and enjoy!
Sjokolat: No trip to Belgium is complete without buying some good Belgian chocolate! My tip: Stop at the cute little Sjokolat boutique close to the central square in Antwerp’s old town. A delicious choice of good handmade chocolate bars and pralines. It was definitely worth the rebellious stop-over while our guides were waiting for us:-)
Ok, how does Antwerp sound to you now? I think it is a little hidden gem in Belgium as it really offers such a variety and a great lifestyle. Especially the amazing design and art scene were surprising. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post about a wonderful art gallery in Antwerp. And check HERE a great furniture label from Belgium, that is currently exhibited in a cute little shop/showroom called Quatuor (located in Antwerp’s oldest building).
I hope you enjoyed today’s little virtual trip to Antwerp in Belgium. Thanks again to the Function + Form team and Visit Antwerpen for such a wonderful weekend filled with design, sightseeing, good coffee and yummy food. I will see you again, Antwerp!
Photography by Igor Josifovic