TRAVEL / A weekend in Antwerp
Do you ever come home from another city so charmed that you immediately start looking at house prices online? I do and I have fallen in love with Antwerp. It's got that perfect mix of historic charm and buzzing newness, where the ornate ironwork and stepped brick gables of centuries-old clockmakers abut the concrete and double glazing housing the latest gallery, fashion PR studio or uber-trendy coffee shop. I love the shopping and food, it's cosy neighbourhood feel, and that style seems to flow through the veins of it's super-friendly people. Here are my top picks from Antwerp:
Antwerp has a thriving healthy food scene and we had the best avocado on toast we've ever eaten at Moss. Indoor street food market Mercado is not unlike London's Streetfeast, and although we turned up mid-afternoon, peckish after our train journey in, I can imagine it gets pretty buzzy in the evenings. We couldn't resist a doughnut from Hoeked, which was dreamily fluffy, and the shop branding is great too. Wanting to try some local Belgian dishes, we dined at Bourla, a traditional Belgian bistro in an opulent and ornate setting. We'd highly recommend the melt-in-the-mouth stews. Our second night took us to Non Solo Te, a remarkable 5-table restaurant where the chef is also the waiter, maitre d'. The two options for each course are inspired by traditional Belgian dishes but with a modern twist, and everything we had was absolutely delicious, well-sourced and paired with some incredible wine recommendations.
ABOVE: Mocha doughnut of dreams at Hoeked
Oh the shopping! Every new neighbourhood we discovered seemed to house a selection of hip boutiques, interiors stores and specialist ateliers to ogle at. I particularly loved discovering the original Stephan Schneider boutique, a label that I discovered in London a few years ago. The atelier used to be the designer's home and the mid-century wood-filled interiors are a dream. And of course you have to stop in at the Dries van Noten store, if not for the clothes than for the interiors (plus I loved the calligraphy detail on all the signage!) Essential Antwerp has a great outlet store in the centre of town, and there are heaps of vintage shops too.
ABOVE: Stephan Scheider boutique and his SS18 foam-inspired collection
ABOVE: Calligraphy details at the Dries van Noten store
Antwerp is such a great city for wandering, people-watching and happening upon things. But I'd add the Modern Art Museum to your list of things to plan into your trip, which has a well-curated small permanent collection that's free to visit if you fancy a quick dose of art without investing several hours. MoMu is the city's well-respected fashion museum and the harbour is worth a visit for a post-brunch walk and to see the Museum aan de Stroon, which has a great viewing platform at the top.