Thursday, March 12, 2015

Antwerp Guide/Favourites

As promised, here's a guide (mostly my favourites) to Antwerp. I'd like to think I have tried most places during my 5 months there but I'd be lying to myself if I did so I'm just giving you the ones that I have tried and would recommend myself.
So if ever you are visiting the city then I hope this guide can help you.
WHERE TO STAY:

1.) Antwerp Student Hostel (ASH) - This is where I stayed for the 5 month duration I was in Belgium. The building is very modern with not even being 1 year old yet. It has what you'd expect from a hostel and more: a main kitchen, common room, laundry area, silent study room and most importantly wifi. The hostel also has big rooms from a 4 bed room to 12 people room (perfect for groups). Then of course there's the long stay residents' rooms. Prices range from which room type you prefer and how many nights (check website for details). It's located right on the main street and right next to the bus and tram stations and not very far from the Central Station either so public access is really easy. The City Centre is also only about a 10-15 minute walk.

My say: ASH is a great place especially for meeting new people because of the common room. It's normally where people socialise in the weekends, pre-party (pretty much what we used it for for 5 months), eat and it also has a Foosball and pool table so it's really fab I say.
(Scandic Hotel)
2.) Scandic Hotel - Again I am biased with this one because Scandic was my work placement for 4 months but it was a really good 4 month placement so just trust my word on this. The hotel firstly, already includes breakfast when you book a room with them and their breakfast buffet has a huge selection to choose from (yes, even for you veggie people). Secondly, the city is easily accessible with the tram, the stop is about 5 minutes walk from the hotel and the tram takes around 15 minutes to get to the City Centre. 
The staff (oh how I miss them) are really friendly and nice and all of them speaks English, most of them will know French and German too (such talented people they are) so you're guaranteed great customer service.
Like ASH, the prices on the rooms vary with which type it is, how long you're staying for, etc, etc. so just click on the link to check but overall, their prices are reasonable especially since their beds are SO comfy!

My say: The hotel also has a gym, swimming pool and gosh they even have ice and shoe shine stations on every other floor (hello polished shoes). And of course there's wifi, don't panic people!

Alternatives: Google, my friends, There are loads of other hotels in the city so Google is definitely your number 1 best friend.

WHERE TO EAT:

1.) Kelly's Irish Pub - Located 2 minutes away from the Central Station, this pub offers a menu with the classic Irish and English that you might crave from English breakfast to Fish & Chips to Irish stew. The menu also has the pub grubs of burgers, chips, potato wedges and more. Then there's of course the Belgian area to the menu from Belgian stew to meatballs, etc. 
The pub is also a great place if you're just drinking as their menu offers a wide range of choices with your must need Belgian beers, Irish whiskeys, cocktails and and many more.

My say: We normally visit Kelly's for food only because their wifi doesn't seem to be working and at this day and age that is just unacceptable. But! The pub also shows sports and they have a big screen too (perfect for sport enthusiasts) and sometimes live music is on action as well.
(steak at De Bomma)
2.) De Bomma - I first dined here with my program mates and our tutor and then I decided to take my sister here for her late birthday meal. Yep, its quite nice. The restaurant is supposedly a Belgian themed one. However, the menu is quite strange as you have to choose your sides, sauces and vegetables all separately (it's good if you want to choose it yourself and not have it fixed for you) and also have to pay for those extra too. It's located right in the city centre, 2 minutes away from the Town Hall so it's perfect for an after-tourist-exploration meal.

My say: The steak and the Belgian stew are divine!

3.) Yami-Yami - Being the Asian that I am, I had to look for an Asian restaurant that would fulfill my Asian appetite needs and Yami-Yami was just that. From ramen to your typical Asian food and also some really tasty bubble tea, this place became one of my favourites instantly. It's right before you enter China Town and about 3 minutes from the Central Station, it's quaint and I love it.

My say: I ate here almost every week and tried the whole bento set menu. The coconut bubble tea is EVERYTHING. *heart eyes emoji*
(Waffle Factory sign & waffle and drink )
4.) Waffle Factory - right in the Centre 2 minutes away from the Town Hall. Here you can try the famous Belgian waffles and other sorts. You can choose from sweet to savoury and choose your own toppings too.

My say: Top your waffle with cream, bananas and strawberry...it's gonna be a messy job so make sure you have loads of napkins ready.

Alternatives: Oude Koornmarkt - is a street in the City Centre near the Town Hall full of restaurants of different sorts from Italian to Greek to Japanese and many more. De Keyserlei - also another street filled with restaurants of all sorts near the Central Station.
(restaurants in Oude Koornmarkt)

WHERE TO DRINK:
(Irish Times Pub)
1.) Irish Times Pub (night) - Our preferred alternative to Kelly's for drinking as there's working wifi. They have a pretty basic drinks menu with your must need Belgian beers, Irish whiskeys and only a select few ciders. Its right in the centre at Grote Markt where the Town Hall is. Most of the time they have live music on weekends so it's a good place to go with friends.

My say: The pub also has a big screen and a number of TVs for your must watch sports.

2.) Barracuda (night) - A small bar with a basic drinks menu, the perfect place for drinking on weekdays with friends. They also offer some cocktails unlike some bars but how good they are depends on the bartender you have (silly I know). 

My say: Go bar hopping to the neighbouring bars in the square after a few drinks..it's the perfect place to do it.
(Caffe Mundi) 
3.) Caffe Mundi (day) - A really cool cafe with coffee beans from all over the world which they also sell. There's also homemade drinks such as lemonade and snacks like cake and crisps. It's right in the centre, 2 minutes from the Town Hall.

My say: Go to the cafe with a book. Order your hot drink from the friendly staff, sit and enjoy it with a good read on your hand.

4.) The Chocolate Box (day) - one of the first places I visited in Antwerp, a really cute cafe that also sells your must need Belgian sweets and chocolates. They also serve breakfast and lunch (both of which I haven't tried so I couldn't vouch for). Located in the centre near the Town Hall approximately 5 minutes away in a more secluded street.

My say: Try their milkshake selection with their sweets products, it's gonna keep you on a sugar high all day! So worth it!
(The Chocolate Box)
5.) 8tea5 (day) - A bubble tea bar, my alternative to Yami-Yami but still not as good. The menu is bigger though with more choices of flavours and also you can choose which topping you want. The bar is also pretty cool, they sell lomography cameras, pretty salivating cakes and the bar's design is just all around cool with lomography photos on the wall and a colourful get-up. Located on a side street from the main shopping street, Mier, there's a sign so you won't miss it.

My say: They have the funniest take on people's names, if you think Starbucks staff are good with names think twice again because 8tea5's are here to steal the crown.
(8tea5)
6.) Dogma (night) - First and foremost I would like to make it known that Belgium is not a cocktail friendly country. They are known and loved for their beers and that's precisely why you won't find many cocktail bars or bars with cocktails in their menu so it was a task to find one.
Dogma THE cocktail bar and the only one you should ever consider for your cocktail need but hold onto your excitement because it's no usual cocktail bar. In Dogma you won't find your normal cocktails of Long Island, Cosmopolitan, Margarita, etc, etc. It's more the classics and original flavoured with ingredients so complex I don't even want to delve into trying to understand it. 
The menu was worked on from trial and error, mixing and testing (I can't imagine how drunk they got making it) so you can guarantee only the best of the best made it to their hand written/drawn, cool and weird menu.
It's also located on the street the Chocolate Box is at. The bar also has a very classic feel to it and the staff's uniform 1940s working class men's style..it's all very rustic and awesome.

My say: Since this is not your typical cocktail bar, the cocktails are more expensive with the cheapest one at €9. They also take longer to make as they have to be precise (think luxury designer clothes but in cocktail form) to be perfect. But i's all worth the wait & worth every penny!
(Dogma cocktail & menu)

WHAT TO SEE:

1.) Antwerp Zoo - Located right next to the Central Station, one would never have thought there's a zoo there. I really don't know how I feel about these animals being in a city and not in their wildlife but I still wanted to visit because animals...gotta love them.
From the aquatic building full of different wonders from the sea to the big ones: elephants, giraffes, zebra, you name it.

My say: Visit on a sunny day since most of these animals are outdoors and make sure to wear comfy shoes.
(Het Steen, photobooth strip & wall)
2.) Het Steen - the oldest building in Antwerp, full of history from being used as a fortress to control access to the river to becoming a prison. The building is now used as a leisure area for kids and some areas as historical/science educational areas for everybody. Inside there's a cafe with a photobooth by the entrance. Entrance to the building is free but it's only open on Wednesday and Sunday from 12pm -8pm.

My say: Take a photo in the booth (costs €2) and leave one strip behind, they put up the strips behind on their wall of photos.

3.) Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) - the largest museum of Antwerp housing a collection of themes from Antwerp's history of being an international port city to themes of life and death. The museum also allows access to the roof top for a panoramic view of the city. Located along the river, it is only walking distance away from Het Steen.

My say: Visit on a clear sunny day to get a clear view of the city.
(MAS)
4.) Cathedral of Our Lady - towering from all the surrounding buildings and the rest of the city, the Cathedral is the main attraction of the city. A gothic and magnificent beauty, housing the works of Rubens and many other artisits. Located right in the heart of Antwerp, it's a must visit...a definite must see.

My say: Go across the river to the other side Linkeroever, of the river Scheldt via Sint Anna pedestrian tunnel to get the full skyline view of Antwerp including the Cathedral and the surrounding buildings along the river.
(Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp)
5.) Antwerp Central Station - Included in the list of the top most beautiful railway stations in the world..it's a definite must see. Both exterior and interior are architecturally impressive and with being next to the zoo, it really is striking 2 birds with 1 stone. From the station you can walk to the other places mentioned in this guide or take the trams or bus, most of which are right outside the station. China Town is also directly across the station. There are also some hotels around the station's square.

My say: The station has 14 tracks and over 10 platforms, go up to the top level and bask in the beauty of how vast this station is and also admire the upper level and entrance hall.

Alternatives: Get a map of the city, other main attractions will be shown on the map. Google and planning are also your handy friends when visiting, if you want to see more.
(Antwerp Central Station)

WHERE TO GO SHOPPING:

1.) Meir - I've touched on this shopping street in my previous posts about Antwerp so I won't say too much only that it is the main shopping street for your household high street brands. This street also connects the Central Station to the other end of the city centre the Town Hall end.

My say: Visit Stadsfeestzaal which is also located in the Meir and revel in the glamour and splendour of the building.
 (buildings on the Meir)
(interior of Stadsfeestzaal)
2.) Grand Bazar - at the end of the Meir is this shopping centre with shops like: Mango, Accesorize, Hema and many more. There are also special events in Grand Bazaar so check the website for updates.

3.) Wijnegem Shopping Center - now this is the only place in this guide that I actually haven't been to and it was all just down to pure laziness but I had to include it in this guide because it's one of the main places for shopping and you really have to know about those. 

WHERE TO GO...NIGHTLIFE:

1.) Cafe de Prof - if there's only one place I could visit when I'm back in Antwerp that would be this bar. It's a student bar mainly but everyone even the older people know it. It's a small bar, yes but I suppose that's what makes it even more lovable than any other place. You can meet people easily, you meet them again a week later and then maybe again a month later if God's really messing with you. The dance floor is small and there's barely any room, the music is what's on the top 100 currently and then a few years back and overall it's just a fun place really.

My say: They have themed evenings too and also drinks on offer so definitely check the website for details. P.S. No entrance fee required unless stated on website; no coat/bag storage available; toilets are free.
(Noxx)
2.) Noxx - a club with 3 different rooms, with themed evenings and different DJs and music types from House music to RnB to HipHop. The main room can get really crowded and hard to dance. People can smoke inside so don't smell your hair afterwards instead just jump straight in the shower.

My say: Themed evenings are really fun. One of my best nights out was in this club but beware as with every club people can be rowdy and violent so be careful. P.S. Entrance fee required, coat and bag storage area for €1 and tables have to be booked in advance; entrance for toilets = 50 cent,

3.) De Kaai - a restaurant and a club..yep, weird I know but you'll never know it's both. If you're after House music then this is your place. With free entry and more room than De Prof and if you're a non-smoker then you'll be glad to know that there's no smoking inside so you can smell your hair after.

My say: The drinks are definitely not worth the money you pay for (that's if you're drinking spirits) so I'd recommend pre-drinking before hand if you don't want to spend a fortune on drinks. P.S. Coat and bag storgae area available. Only open for nightlife on Saturday night. Entrance to toilets = 50 cent.

4.) Cafe d'Anvers - if you ask anyone from Antwerp which club is best to go to for nightlife, most of them will answer you with Cafe d'Anvers. I, on the other hand am not a fan of the place but I will tell you facts. The club has plenty of room to dance and the set up is really cool, it's like an underground rave party den. The music is techno and that's why I'm not a fan (sorry techno lovers), I just can't! It's located in the Red Light District of Antwerp to make things even more interesting. 

My say: It's the most famous club in the city but if you're not a fan of techno then don't even bother as you won't enjoy your night. Otherwise, if you are then you will have a blast. P.S. Entrance fee required; coat and bag storage area available. Entrance to toilet = 50 cent.

Alternative: There are many other places to go to for nightlife in the city, the best way to find out is through Google or asking locals.

So that it, finally! I know this guide is packed full load of information and I seriously enjoyed making it. It gave me a flashback of the times I was in these places and they were all good times so I hope that you enjoy them too if ever you visit them. 

6 comments :

  1. Great and useful tips!


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  2. Looks so lovely! Maybe I should change my plans and visit not only Holland!

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  3. The food pics look yummy :)

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  4. Yes! Thank you for this! Bookmarking for whenever I eventually go over there... one day ;)

    Elleosophy

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A Melody of your Lovely Comments. Thank You ♥ ❤ ♥ ❤

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