Similar to majority of Western European cities, Antwerp doesn’t ask for thorough preparation prior your visit. The city is pretty advanced and tolerant of all customs and traditions. However, knowing a few things about Antwerp beforehand helps better understand the city and make the most of your visit.
Things to Know before you Visit Antwerp
I was lucky to visit Antwerp during my five-day trip to Amsterdam. Knowing how close the city is to the capital of the Netherlands, I didn’t expect to find anything way too different from Holland. Moreover, my knowledge and understanding of Belgium and Antwerp were very limited. I certainly expected to find world-famous Belgian chocolate during my visit to Antwerp. And that was it.
I say it often, but Antwerp surprised me tremendously. It charmed me not only with its remarkable sites and beautiful architecture, but also its customs and unspoken rules. Wandering the streets of Antwerp, I only wish I knew more about the city before my visit. And therefore, I’ve compiled a list of things to know before your visit to Antwerp.
HERE IS WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU VISIT ANTWERP:
1. One day is enough
While slow travel is always preferable, Antwerp doesn’t require a lot of time for your visit. On top of being absolutely charming, the city is small and compact. It’s a perfect destination for those who want to explore something knew, but are pressed by time. You can visit major attractions of Antwerp in one day. However, if time permits, spend at least a couple of days here to get a better feel of the city.
2. Walk or ride a bike
The compact size of Antwerp has another advantage. You can walk everywhere you want without spending money on taxi. The second popular way of moving around the city is riding a bike. But if none of these is your cup of tea, public transportation offers its reliable services for your visit and stay in Antwerp.
3. Starbucks… Why not to try local cafes?
A few days before my short visit to Antwerp, I met an elderly couple from California in Amsterdam. They saw Starbucks through the window of a bus and ask driver how to get back to that coffee shop. The young man assured them that Amsterdam had Starbucks on every corner. There was no need for them to go back.
In Antwerp though things go a bit different. I won’t deny that the city doesn’t have any Starbucks stores. But even your first visit to Antwerp makes it clear that the city doesn’t oversaturate this branded coffee shop. Antwerp prefers to eliminate your temptations and give you a chance to check out its local cafes. Therefore if you are an avid Starbucks coffee lover, buy your favorite drink as soon as you see a Starbucks cafe. (You won’t find another one anywhere close by.) Or, better yet, visit some local cafes.
4. Indulge in Belgian chocolate when you visit Antwerp
It’s simple as it can be. Belgian chocolate along with Belgian waffles is a must when visiting Antwerp. Like a sign on entrance door of one of the local cafes says, “Life is too short, make it sweet.”
5. Restrooms are not free
During your visit to Antwerp, you have to pay for the privilege of using public restroom. This applies even to some of the fast-food restaurants. On the bright side, the restrooms are almost always clean, and there are no lines (speaking about women’s restrooms in the US).
6. Italian waiters are not rude. They just do their job
I was on my way to make the best out of my visit to Antwerp, when I overheard two ladies discussing “rude Italians”. They were passing by Italian restaurant and pizzeria, when two young waiters started loudly inviting them to dine inside. The ladies were startled. I, on the other hand, walking just a few steps behind them, didn’t find anything appalling in this situation. Yes, the men were loud. And yes, they didn’t want you to pass by without stepping inside. But they were just doing their job. No offense here.
7. Visit Antwerp on Sundays to escape crowds
If you like to sleep in, but still want to explore the city with fewer people on the streets, visit Antwerp on a Sunday. The last day of the week is usually slow. Many places stay closed or open later in the day. So, you have the city almost to yourself until nearly noon. It gets crowded in the afternoon.
8. Don’t walk around hungry especially if you watch your weight
They say you can forget about diet on vacation or when you travel to a new place. I agree, but further say, make sure not to visit Antwerp especially its main shopping street, Meir, hungry. This place smells like freshly baked pastries and waffles. If you’re like me and can’t say no to bread, try to stay away from this area until you eat your lunch. But make sure to leave space in your stomach for one, or maybe two sweet Belgian goodies. You’re visiting a new place, after all.
- How to Spend one Day in Antwerp
- 10 Tips for Your First Trip to Amsterdam
- Amsterdam Travel Guide: From Top Attractions to Places to Eat and Stay