9 must-dos in the province of Antwerp

So that the « Grand Places » no longer hold any secrets for you, here are the 9 must-do things to do in the province of Antwerp!

Welcome to the province of Flanders, where architecture reigns supreme. Led by Antwerp, the country’s most populous city with an international reputation, the province is home to a number of treasures that would be regrettable to miss. Making a selection for the photo album may prove difficult, as there are so many exceptional places to visit.

As for your taste buds, there’s no shortage of Trappist beer tasting and local specialities. And that’s not even mentioning the museums with their varied themes. Your vacation will be a cultural one. We’ll help you organize it with these 9 must-sees in the province of Antwerp.

1. Antwerp

Spelled Antwerpen in Flemish, Antwerp has all the hallmarks of the ideal city and is Belgium’s second largest. Here’s a quick overview of what you can do here.

For history buffs


Photo credit: Shutterstock – Piith Hant

Like all Northern European cities, Antwerp has a particularly impressive Grand Place. In the Middle Ages, Antwerp was one of the great Hanseatic cities, the crossroads of European trade. Space was needed to accommodate merchants from the 4 corners of the continent. The Unesco-listed Town Hall watches over the old gilded houses.

The old town is also the Rubens house, where the painter lived and worked. More unusual, you can take a boat trip through the bowels of Antwerp on the city’s underground sewers and canals. The secret 16th-century Vlaeykensgang passage may also charm you, not forgetting the university district, the beguinage and the famous Central Station.

For fashion victims


Photo credit: Shutterstock – Adam Kipris

The « Antwerp Six » have made the city’s reputation. They include Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten. Since their rise, Antwerp’s fashion reputation has not wavered, and the finest designers have their studios here. To discover their creations, it’s in and around the Nationalestraat that you should go. This is also where you can visit the ModeMuseum.

Other trendy boutiques open in the theater district. For mainstream fashion, head for the Meir, the largest shopping street.

For contemporary architecture


Photo credit: Shutterstock – MartineDF

That’s the beauty of Antwerp. Bold, eye-catching buildings rise up alongside old buildings.

To see the finest specimens, head for the Eilandje district, aka the old port of Antwerp. For an exceptional view, climb to the top of the Museum aan de Stroom. Next door, on a former warehouse, is the sculpture ensemble entitled « The Antwerp Blower », which you can actually whisper a message to via an app.

If you want to be dazzled like a diamond, the Port House is the place to go. The lower part is a former fire station, while the upper part is futuristic and diamond-cut. A typical example of « starchitecture », it was designed by the Hadid firm.

Another interesting district to visit is the Zuid, with the Palace of Justice and its immense spines of steel and glass. See also the FOMU and the Antwerp Museum of Contemporary Art.

2. Fort Lillo


Photo credit: Shutterstock – Peter Braakmann

Nestled on the banks of the Scheldt between the port’s enormous infrastructure, Fort Lillo is the last village fort in the Province of Antwerp to be visited. Here you can visit the old military fortifications and stroll around the few preserved houses.

The whole area is charming and quite unusual among the surrounding industries. You’ll find a few breweries, a quay to stroll along and even a nature reserve, the Potpolder, right next door. Here, calm reigns, a little enchanted interlude.

3. Westmalle Abbey


Photo credit: Shutterstock – Alexandros Michailidis

It’s not possible to visit the abbey due to the activity of the monks who still live there. But it’s worth visiting anyway, if only to visit the Trappisten café. Indeed, this is not just any abbey, but the oldest active Trappist brewery, the origin of the « double » and « tripel » beers.

At the café, you can sample products made directly at the abbey, including beer, and watch a film on the abbey’s history. A walk with strategic stops is also laid out around the buildings.

Alternatively, if you’d like to find out more, the monks welcome guests who wish to meditate for a few days. However, you must be willing to take part in a few liturgical moments.

4. Ivy


Photo credit: Shutterstock – Daniel Leppens

Hush, we’re letting you in on a secret. You can visit Bruges’ little sister in the Province of Antwerp, but without the crowds. It’s Lierre, just 40 minutes from Brussels, built on the banks of the River Nèthe. The old fishermen’s boats have been refitted for canal cruises, making it the ideal place to discover the city.

One of the town’s most emblematic monuments is the Zimmer Tower, part of the ancient ramparts. Today, it’s an unusual museum on time and space, the work of artist Louis Zimmer. If you don’t want to visit it, just look up to see the surprises of the clock and the automatons.

Another work of art not to be missed is that of Joachim Lambrechts, a street artist who embellishes the city’s walls. Needless to say, the town also boasts a belfry, a beguinage, a superb park and some charming old buildings? And to recover from all these discoveries, seek out one of the label pastry shops to sample a vlaaike, aka an ivy tartlet.

5. Boekenberg Park


Photo credit: Facebook – Amazing Architecture

With heatwaves on the increase, it’s a good idea to know which park to visit in the province of Antwerp to cool off. This one, in Deurn, is home to Europe’s largest ecological swimming pool. In fact, it’s not so much a swimming pool as a pond whose water is filtered by plants.

What’s more, the 73-meter-long pool is regularly rotated to regulate attendance, so there’s no problem swimming around. Last but not least, it’s free, and the pool’s perimeter is embellished with beautiful designer buildings housing the changing rooms.

6. Hoogstraten


Photo credit: Shutterstock – Taras Garkusha

Northeast of Antwerp, on the Dutch border, lies this strawberry paradise. Yes, because while the town has plenty of charm and historic buildings, it’s best known worldwide for its strawberry production. In all, the delicious red fruit is grown by more than 200 family businesses, and sales at the local strawberry auction run into millions of tons.

There’s even a « strawberry road » in Hoogstraten, which starts behind St. Catherine’s Church. The walk through the fields is lined with vending machines. Thanks to a barcode on your tray, you can even find the producer of your delicacies.

7. Mechelen


Photo credit: Shutterstock – Paul Daniels

Look out for a romantic getaway in Mechelen! Let’s start with a few figures. The city has been listed 4 times by Unesco, and over 300 buildings are listed. In short, the camera won’t go unused. To discover the historic heart of the city, there’s nothing better than letting yourself be guided through the narrow streets as you please.

Unlike other cities, Mechelen has managed to preserve a few wooden houses. They proudly stand the test of time among the gabled roofs. For a superb view, you need to climb the 97-meter tower of Saint-Rombaut Cathedral. It’s a hard cardio workout, but an unforgettable experience.

Another delightfully relaxing walk is along the Dyle River, on a floating footbridge. History buffs won’t want to miss the Palace of Margaret of Austria and the ruins of the Palace of Margaret of York. Foodistas can visit the Het Anker brewery before sampling one of the city’s many fine restaurants.

The small squares also boast some great boutiques for shopping. There’s so much to do in Mechelen that it would take much more than a paragraph to talk about it, so the best thing to do is to go!

8. Hugo Voeten Art Center

centre d'art Hugo Voeten

Photo credit: Facebook – Hugo Voeten Collection

This is a well-hidden contemporary art spot to visit in the province of Antwerp. More precisely, it’s on the banks of the Campinois canal in the town of Herentals. It’s housed in a huge industrial building, with works displayed over 9 floors.

In fact, walking through the building is a visit in itself. The history of the collection is equally original. As the name suggests, it was assembled by Hugo Voeten, who owned a chain of supermarkets. The current collection features a mix of Belgian and international contemporary art.

There are also works of art from the early and first half of the 20th century. The center also focuses on current artists and exhibits new projects. Finally, a section is dedicated to Bulgarian art, including an installation, The Slings, which has become an integral part of the center’s identity.

9. Turnhout

château des ducs du Brabant - turnout

Photo credit: Shutterstock – travelfoto

If you’re a card player, perhaps you’ve heard of Carta Mundi games? If so, you should know that this is where the company was founded. If not, you’ll learn plenty about the subject in this must-visit town in the province of Antwerp.

Turnhout has been the capital of playing cards since the 19th century, and even has a museum dedicated to them. Far from being a mere exhibition center for card games, it allows visitors to discover the evolution of printing techniques through demonstrations and the little stories behind the cards.

Another interesting place to visit is the courthouse, housed in the superb castle of the Dukes of Brabant. Finish your visit with a stroll around town to admire the listed beguinage and the Grand Place. You can even take a poetic stroll through the surrounding countryside.

How to get to Antwerp province?

By car

It’s easy to visit the province of Antwerp by car from France. It is well served by the motorway network. Directions are clearly indicated from the border to take theE17 orE19.

By train

Depending on what you want to visit in the province of Antwerp, you can travel via Brussels or Antwerp stations. For example, Mechelen is only 20 minutes by train from the Belgian capital. Turnhout, on the other hand, is more easily reached via Antwerp. There are a number of regional rail links to points of interest, as well as bus services.

By plane

Antwerp has an international airport, but no direct flights to France. Destinations are concentrated in southern Europe. For connections from France, we recommend Brussels airport. Compare the available offers on a flight comparison site like Skyscanner , for example.

Where to stay in Antwerp province?

Many tourists choose to visit the province of Antwerp because of its many attractions. Thanks to its picturesque towns, you can find all types of accommodation. The Airbnb offer is substantial, and many hotels have been converted into beautiful historic buildings.

There are even unusual hotels like Martin’s Patershof in Mechelen. You can find all the available offers on a hotel comparison website, for example.

Map of hotels and accommodations – Antwerp, Belgium