It is grey outside. I have the flu'. With it comes a moodiness that I know not how to temper. Never mind. Luckily here is a list I made up recently upon request of an out of town visitor. Since we have received similar requests via this blog I thought I might as well share it here. Many things could be added to this list, but hey, it's somewhere to begin. Trust you both had a healthy happy homecoming, shall visit you both, and soon.
S2's Antwerp Top Ten.
1. Visit Saturday Market on the Theaterplein. There is a Moroccan stand where there are usually very long queues for the delicious pancakes. It works like this: they ask you (in French or Dutch or whatever language works for you) what you would like in it: “alles” (everything) gets you a filling of feta cheese, chilli’s, olives, figs, dripping with honey. Then you buy a mint tea. There are tables to sit at.
2. Opera: Antwerp has a fantastic opera house and the productions are world class. They also do concerts and lunchtime concerts. It is a lovely way to spend an evening and they have an elaborate foyer where you can enjoy a glass of something during the intermission. It is great to dress up for, but people also go casually dressed. You can usually get standby tickets for very modest prices.
3. Around the corner Brasserie Gustav, the opera café near Central Station, is a super place to have dinner before the performance, or a drink afterwards. The interior is European continental with little booths and sometimes live music. They serve an excellent Caesar salad. If you are passing in the middle of the day, they also have very good coffee; but the HOT CHOCOLATE is something to die for: you get chocolate seeds to stir into piping hot milk. The Chicken Club sandwich is a full meal. The onion soup with toast and cheese at 8 Euros is a great deal and delicious too. Gustav belongs to the same owners as Berlin (more central), Canal and Zurich (both in the South neighbourhood near fashion stores and galleries)
4. Rubenshuis and Rockox huis: for beginners, Rubens’ Palazzo and huge atelier is well worth a visit to get a whiff of Antwerp’s illustrious past. They also have works by Rubens’ contemporaries. I love the leather-wallpapered walls and the majolica tiles in some of the rooms. The chapel is really lovely with a host of smaller artworks in it. They frequently put on excellent temporary exhibitions. A rare, more silent counterpart (fewer tourists) is the Rockox house. He was Mayor of Antwerp and a friend of Rubens; his house is filled with artefacts from the period, very diverse, some tapestries, lovely treasure cabinets etc. On your way to the Rockox house you may encounter the Conscience Plein and the Baroque Carolus Boromeus (also worth taking a peak). You can get a nice coffee on the square. Be careful, at the exit of the square at the bottom (in the little street to the left of the church) there is an amazing new second hand bookshop. If you have a weakness for such things you may not move on from there empty-handed (they have a number of books in a number of languages, all high quality). The prices are reasonable. Literature, philosophy, history, and notably some gorgeous art books.
5. Plantijn Moretusmuseum, Vrijdagmarkt. This museum is the somehow miraculously preserved printing press which formed one of the world’s first centres of spreading information worldwide. Some of the first atlases were printed here. I just find walking in its spaces (and the interior garden with ivy clad walls) a treat because of the atmosphere. It is a jewel in the centre of town. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and you can understand why.
6. MoMu Fashion Museum + Fashion walk. I always tell people this is one of the best things Antwerp has to offer. Exhibitions are usually a fantastic visual treat. For those who are sensitive to beauty. You will appreciate the way they approach exhibitions as if it were a fashion show production, careful attention to lighting and thematic displays. The accompanying fashion walk (a little book for 4-6 Euros (available for purchase in Copyright, the museum’s bookshop) is great fun: it takes you around some key Antwerp fashion points and stores; giving insight into the buzz around Antwerp fashion. It makes you feel how everything is sort of within walking distance: for example near the MoMu is Dries Van Noten’s flagship store: the window designs are worth a peek. Opposite is Boonen (?) the Glove Shop. It’s a real beauty. The book will guide you and give you ideas about where to shop! For high street stores there is Antwerp’s MEIR pedestrian shopping street. Worth a visit is the Stadsfeestzaal now developed into a mall. The building actually is great. Inside there is a Champagne POD. If you have something to celebrate, go there! They even give you a free glass if it is your birthday (upon showing ID). The view up there is great and it is a real treat.
7. Walk along the river Scheldt: before the developers get in, enjoy the waste land along the quays, running from Antwerp South (approx. at height of Muhka museum for contemporary art) until you reach the centre with the raised promenade. Depending on where you are staying it is a great place to see the sunset. The ZUIDERTERRAS is a good place to eat, if you ask them nicely they will also let you simply have a drink and contemplate the view of the river. There is also the pedestrian tunnel taking you to the left bank (Linkeroever) if you are feeling courageous and like a walk. The tunnel is Art Deco science fiction. Across the water you have a great view of the city and cafés for sustenance. (that’s if you really feel like a trek).
8. At the end of the quays (on the right bank, city-side), you see the river turns, and a big red building called the MAS. If it is open, you can experience the incredible 1600 M2 Luc Tuymans mosaic, “Dead Skull”. It depicts a memorial stone to Quentin Metsys which is to the left of the entrance to Antwerp Cathedral of Our Lady. Which is definitely worth a visit. If you are standing facing the entrance there is a street to the left where you will find the Witzli Puzli where they also have amazing hot chocolate, beers, port, chess, newspapers and good jazz music. Near the Cathedral there are several places for eating Mussels. If you like this food I recommend it. I try to eat them at least once a year. ☺
9. Hopper This jazz café owned by Dutch jazz musician from Suriname, Mary Hehuat, is not to be missed. In the evening you go there for a Demi-Demi, half cava and half white wine. The bubbles instantly go to your head. On some evenings they have good jazz concerts, also Sunday afternoons, depending on the season. I love this place. Writers, actors, lawyers and other strays go there to hang out. In the afternoon it is really good for a latte and a newspaper (they have several on the piano). It is also a good place after a night of too much partying, to have a pretty basic continental breakfast. You get bread rolls and croissants (according to your choice) and the service is extremely friendly. ☺
10. Pierre Marcolini Chocolates. Next to the Bourla Theatre. Eat some of these amazing work of art chocolates and go to heaven.