A few days ago, the city of Antwerp invited us to get to know the city from a creative standpoint. The plan couldn’t be better: five days in the Belgian city with 11 journalists from around the world, a creative melting pot that produced great moments. Representing Barcelona and Good2b, I joined jeweler Malin Henningsson from Stockholm, New York photographer Nicole Franzen, Reynald Feracci from Paris-based brand Mamama, James Greig from the London blog CycleLove, Ebony Bizys from the highly visited Japanese website Hello Sandwich; Zsuzsanna Toth, the Australian-born editor of Berlin-based online magazine Freunden Von Freunden; Robin Cox, the creator of of the Amsterdam Citinerary guide; Madrid Instagramer Adrián Cano; Itay Blaish, the creator of the Israeli blog Tel Avivian; Jerone Smeets, the creator of the artistic project The Jaunt, located in Amsterdam, and the owner of the art agency Your Own Agency; and Rotterdam-born Sander van Loon, the manager of the creative co-working The Mesh Print Club, where he also runs a silk-screen print company. A dream team perfecto for tons of workshops, routes and discoveries!
The first place we were taken to was a pop up restaurant. We were very excited about it because, as most of you know, Good2b was one of the organizers of We Pop, Spain’s first pop up. So when we were told we would eat at one, I realized this visit was going to be ace! We visited the Urban Kitchen Squad collective at the back of a furniture restoration workshop. Three courses and dessert among Emmanuelle chairs and tea credenza furniture pieces do really feel good!
We devoted our second day to ride our bikes around the city. Although the public bike system Velo Antwerp works very well—it’s similar to the one in Barcelona—we opted for Cyclant, a young company that organizes the best tours around the city. We rode our bikes around the city center and marveled at Belgian classic buildings that express the grandeur of early 20th century Antwerp (don’t miss the Royal Café at Central Station and their classic croque monsieur and handmade apple pie), and the incredible views of the city from the other side of the river, reached through a genuinely photogenic underground tunnel, as disturbing as it is bucolic.
We reached the south of the city, a hype area better known as Het Zuid that soon became our favourite place in the city, with lots of cafes, bars and shops. We recommend a visit to
BuchCafé, a café-bookshop that is perfect to shelter from the cold—it was early November and it was only 5ºC!—and have delicious cakes. We also dropped by 3dee, a sort of Silicon Valley devoted to 3D printing, something we’re hearing a lot about as of late. Following a practical session, we understood what all is about and even printed our logo in 3D. This was a very interesting day in which we learned Antwerp is Europe’s largest 3D printing center. The day finished with dinner at FelixPakhuis, a correct restaurant where we tasted typical Belgian stews with locals.
On the third day we discovered one of Antwerp’s best kept secrets. We visited the concept store Graanmarkt13, which boasts a boutique with clothes byIsabel Marant or Kenzo, to name just two; a restaurant downstairs (word has it it will soon get a Michelon star), an art gallery and an apartment for rent upstairs. A must if you happen to be in Antwerp. Then we want to the Urban Outfitters store. At first thought this can come across as a random follow-up, but it just so happened we met the person responsible for the brand’s furniture department for Europe. Nick Bal, a clever young man with lots of skills and good taste, is responsible for the store’s shelves and showcases. But this is not all: a good number of small businesses in Antwerp hava Bal’s signature style, among which is Caffènation, our favourite, a temple of coffee with its own brand. The day finished with the presentation of Freunden Von Freunden’s second book at Copyright, MoMu’s bookshop. MoMu is Antwerp fashion museum with a clothing collection that would make Anna Wintour’s closet blush. A must for lovers of art bookshops.
There are many museums in Antwerp. During our stay, we visited three of them. The first one, the MAS, is perfect for people who want to learn more about the city. The building and the surrounding area are essential to understand how Antwerp has evolved as it is located by the docks, which was still operational until recently. The museum has a rooftop open until 9:30pm with spectacular views of the city, including a cathedral, a night gym or the city’s Red Light District.
The second museum we visited was the MUHKA (Modern Art Museum), which shows what’s cooking today in the city’s arty scene. The third most interesting museum in our opinión is the MoMu, the city’s fashion museum, which is now showcasing the travelling exhibition MoMu Now, with some of 25,000 pieces belonging to the museum’s collection, including fashion masters Balenciaga and Helmut Lang, among others; clothes by Antwerp’s designers such as Raf Simons, Haider Ackermann, Walter van Beierendonck, Veronique Branquinho, AF Vandevorst or Ann Demeulemeester, and the work of young talents including Peter Pilotto and Christian Wijnants.
It’s impossible to talk about Antwerp without a mentioning its shops. On the fourth day, we discovered a bit more about the city—before coming we were familiar with the Six of Antwerp (Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk Bikkembergs, Marina Yee, Dirk Van Saene, Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten), a team of designers that revolutionized the international design scene. Don’t miss a walk along Steenhouwersvest, a street brimming with beautiful vintage furniture stores. But there are others, like Magazyn, devoted to contemporary design that also deserve a special mention. This is an area perfect to wander about and find little surprises at every step.
And of course, the trip wouldn’t have been the same without the company of the other 11 guests; of Walkie Talkie, the organizers (Marie, Andres and Natalie were utterly nice), and This Is Antwerp, the trendy side of Antwerp’s tourist office, which took an interest in our profiles and treated us wonderfully. Another street worth walking along is Lombardenvest, with boutiques like Acne and APC, as well as multi-brand stores such as Step by Step. We finished our tour atRenaissance, a spectacular space selling clothes by Alexander Wang, Kenzo, Moschino and Moncler, among others. The best about our visit to Antwerp is that we were lucky to attend many stock sales with clothes by designers of the caliber of Dries Van Noten, who has a boutique right in front of the MAS museum.
As you could imagine, I didn’t waste my time in Antwerp and went running a couple of times. The city boasts spacious parks like Stadspark or Koning Albertpark. However, my favourite by far is the Rivierenhof. If you manage to cross the few kilometers between the park and the city centre, you will touch the heaven of running. Our adventure in Antwerp finished with interesting visits to Coffeelabs (a space to work, eat well and drink great coffee) and the Red Fish Factory, a multidisciplinary space for organizing events, caterings, showrooms, etc. In our case, our last dinner in the city was made by Maeltijd, a chef with a rather succulent trajectory who does private cooking.
Stepping into a bar and have croquettes, eat Belgian chocolate or drink Grimbergen and Leffe are some of the things you should indulge in before leaving Antwerp.
Our veredict? We will go back to Antwerp very soon!