Roeland Vanheesbeke, Vogue Scandinavia's very own designer and resident Belgian, maps out the very best ways to spend 24 hours in the (at times overlooked) European gem that is Antwerp
While it may not sit amongst the European rankings of Paris or Milan, but Antwerp stands on its own as a playground of fashion, gastronomy and general good taste. Come for the innovative design experiences and stay for the unbeatable atmosphere in the Belgian city's very best bars and cafés. Only have 24 hours? From Ann Demeulemeester's flagship to celebrity-favourite Hotel de Witte Lelie, these are the best haunts to make a beeline towards.
Where to stay
"When you close the gate of Hotel Flora behind you, you leave the city life of Antwerp. The beautiful rooms overlooking the spacious city garden make you enter a dream world. Only the sounds of the bells from the cathedral tower can reach the garden and give this dream location an earthly reality.”
Hotel Flora, Korte Nieuwstraat 12, Antwerp
“Meanwhile, closer to the heart of the city, celebrity-favourite Hotel de Witte Lelie is a delight for the senses with individual room decor and works of art. The traditional fabric of the building, including marble fireplaces, high ceilings and exposed beams, stands in stark contrast to bright, bold coloured fabrics, black and white check flooring and pieces of stylish modern furniture."
Hotel De Witte Lelie, Keizerstraat 16, Antwerp
"Tinsel is a charming cafe in the centre of Antwerp, serving a la carte breakfast and lunch. Drop by for flavoursome dishes, refreshing drinks, good coffee and nice vibes. Describing itself as a 'seasonal food cafe', the venue's motto is 'no muss, no fuss', with everything on the menu made on-site. However, what the team can't make themselves is provided by the best Belgian suppliers, including Van Tricht cheese, goods from Bloemberen bakery and free range eggs by Heidi's Hoeve."
Tinsel, Sint-Paulusplaats 30, Antwerp
A dose of culture
“MoMu houses the largest collection of contemporary Belgian fashion in the world and stands out with its immersive fashion exhibitions, focused on Belgian designers and alumni of the Fashion Department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Think Antwerp Six, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, as well as prominent names from the contemporary international fashion world. The exhibition spaces are completely transformed for every exhibition, making each visit a unique experience which immerses you in the world of the designer or theme.”
Momu, Nationalestraat 28/1, Antwerp
“Also worth wandering through is the Gallery District in the south of Antwerp, which has a great collection of contemporary art galleries all within a walking distance including Newchild Gallery, Gallery Sofie Van de Velde, PLUS-ONE Gallery, Everyday Gallery and Tim Van Laere Gallery.”
Time for lunch
“Within the walls of KMSKS (Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp) lies Madonna, a fine dining restaurant and bar which takes its name from the city's patron saint – rendered in statues in streets across the city and the subject of various works of art at the museum itself. In a beautiful setting with an artistic twist, the cuisine at Madonna balances rich tradition and delicious innovation with chef Wesley Debord and his team consistently seeking inspiration in art. It's the perfect stop off before or after a tour of KMSKS, or is worth a dedicated trip just for a table booking. The perfect meeting place for art lovers and food lovers alike."
Madonna, Leopold de Waelplaats 2, Antwerp
An afternoon of shopping
“Nothing could be more synonymous with Belgian fashion than Ann Demeulemeester, so a trip to Antwerp wouldn't be complete without dropping into the house's flagship store. Neighbouring Madonna restaurant, the space captures the deisgner's serene and darkly romantic world – with just the right amount of edge rebellion. Drop in to browse runway pieces, furniture and accessories.”
Ann Demeulemeester, Leopold de Waelplaats, Antwerp
“In the mood for vintage? Make Vrijdagmarkt 6 your destination. This is where you'll find the most covetable selection of vintage garments from both Belgian designers and international brands, including Simons, Dries Van Noten, Margiela, Kris Van Assche, as well as Balenciaga, Gucci and Vivienne Westwood. It's technically menswear, but these pieces will be cherished in any androgynous wardrobe.”
Vrijdagmarkt 6, Antwerp
“Since 2009, Arte Antwerp has been offering up streetwear in homage to its namesake city that shaped the brand founder, Bertony Da Silva. The flagship store was established in 2016 and is well worth a visit for its range of everyday essentials and effortless vibe.”
Arte Antwerp, Kammenstraat 45, Antwerp
To wine and dine
“With the mantra of ‘sipping and sharing’, Cobra is an eclectic concept where culture and hospitality blends together. With a pleasantly surprising selection of drinks and food, this should be your go-to for delicious, fresh fare and an inviting atmosphere.”
Cobra, Leopoldplaats 3, Antwerp
“At Marigold, cinematic decor puts you in a time capsule seemingly separated from the real world. Step into the bar's serene and seductive environment for a quick apertif, a prolonged dinner, or late night drink with a snack.”
Marigold Bar, Vrijdagmarkt 18, Antwerp