15 TOP Things to do in Antwerp

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Antwerp is the largest city in the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium, which is found in the north of this small European country, on the border with Holland.

Overall, it’s the second-largest city in Belgium, it’s the cultural center of Flanders, it’s one of the most economically important locations in the country, and it’s home to one of the busiest harbors in the world.

For the tourist, Antwerp is a fascinating place to visit, with a unique heritage and culture, mixing French, Dutch and other European influences, that’s just waiting to be discovered.

You can explore the historic streets of the Old Town, visiting medieval legacies such as the Grote Markt and the Cathedral of Our Lady, before delving into the city’s maritime history at the Red Star Line Museum.

The city is a cultural and historic feast, and to inspire your trip to Flanders, here are our favorite things to do in Antwerp.

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15 Things to do in Antwerp, Belgium

Grote Markt - Things to do in Antwerp

1. Grote Markt

Grote Markt is the most historic place in Antwerp, and for centuries it’s been the main central square in the city. That makes a visit here one of the best things to do in Antwerp, as it’s the heart of the Old Town.

The Grote Markt is surrounded by medieval-era structures, which are not only just standing still but are very much in use! At the Grote Markt, you can find the grand Antwerp City Hall, alongside such iconic features as the Brado Fountain.

It’s a great place to meet travelers and locals alike, to people watch, to delve into the city’s past and to enjoy these historic surroundings in all their glory.

Our top recommended tours of Grote Markt:

Antwerp City Hall, Belgium

2. Antwerp City Hall

Antwerp City Hall is the most striking building that’s located in the Grote Markt, and it’s a real marvel of 16th-century architecture. The building is distinctly Renaissance in style and shape, as the Flemish designers took heavy influences from Italian works of the time which were popular across Europe.

Known in Flemish as the Stadhuis, even in a city with as much history and as many grandiose structures as Antwerp, few others can rival the City Hall for flair and mastery.

You can check in with the tourist office while you in the city to see if they are running any of their periodic tours which take visitors through the even more opulent interior!

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Cathedral of our lady in Antwerp, Belgium

3. Cathedral of Our Lady

The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady is the most iconic church to be found in the city. It’s always high up on any list of the best things to do in Antwerp because quite simply, it’s impressive. Very impressive!

The cathedral itself dates back to 1521, however, the same site it still occupies today had been a place of religious importance for centuries prior to its construction.

The cathedral is important enough to be included in UNESCO World Heritage listings, and you’ll enjoy exploring the magnificent interior and admiring the rather Gothic outlook of the exterior.

Rubenshuis in Antwerp Belgium

4. Rubenshuis

A visit to the Rubenshuis is one of the best things to do in Antwerp because here you can learn more about the life and times of famous local artist Paul Peter Rubens, who lived and worked in the city during the 16th century.

Rubens is somewhat of a local legend, as his works contributed to a sense of Flemish national identity while being admired across all of Europe. The Rubenshuis in Antwerp was his home and studio, and today it’s an impressive museum that’s full of his works of arts.

Our top recommended tours for Rubenshuis:

Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp Belgium

5. Plantin-Moretus Museum

Another intriguing local museum to explore when you are in the city is the fascinating Plantin-Moretus Museum, which is dedicated to the work of two Antwerp printers, Plantin and Moretus, who pioneered the spread of the printing press in Flanders.

Their work would prove integral to the modernization and development of the city and its people, and even today they are revered as heroes for their efforts in the field.

You can visit the museum which is housed in their workshop and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to see original printing presses first hand and to learn more about the importance of their work in Antwerp.

Museum Vleeshuis in Antwerp Belgium

6. Museum Vleeshuis

For a look inside one of the city’s magnificent, medieval buildings, then one of the best things to do in Antwerp is to visit the Museum Vleeshuis. This is an old Guildhall, and it literally translates to English as ‘Meat House’, as this is where the city’s butchers would meet to discuss business.

The magnificent building you see today, with its wonderful facade, was constructed in the early 1500s, but now, it’s no longer a guildhall but is used as a museum space, with a huge collection of antiquities stored here that you can browse through.

The main focus of the museum is music and instruments, but you’ll find that there’s much more waiting to be discovered too.

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Museum aan de Stroom in Antwerp Belgium

7. Museum aan de Stroom

Located on the river, the tall, modernist designs of the enormous Museum aan de Stroom are hard to miss. Known simply as the MAS, this is an enormous museum that tries to focus on almost everything that can be in some way connected to the city.

It’s one of the best things to do in Antwerp if you want to learn more about the city’s long history, as MAS takes you on a long journey far back in time, and touches on topics and events from across the world that helped to form the city’s identity.

Our top recommended tours of Museum aan de Stroom:

Things to do in Antwerp Belgium

8. Harbour and River Cruises

Antwerp is a city that has been defined over time through its harbor, as its location on the River Scheldt, and access to the open ocean has allowed it to flourish and grow into one of the largest ports in the world.

To see the river and the harbor up close, then take a boat cruise along the Scheldt and into the port itself to learn more!

Antwerp Belgium waterfront

9. Red Star Line Museum

Another intriguing piece of maritime history – and one of the best things to do in Antwerp – is the Red Star Line Museum. Found in an unassuming old warehouse by the docks, this is a tribute to the millions of Europeans who used the Red Star Line shipping company to leave the continent for the Americas.

Antwerp became one of the most important departure points for emigration to the New World in the 19th century, and the museum collates some of the most fascinating life stories of those that braved the oceans to start a new life abroad.

Antwerp Central Station

10. Antwerp Central Station

Another important place in transport history is Antwerp Central Station, which also happens to be one of the most architecturally beautiful locations in the city. It’s worth making a train journey from Antwerp just to admire the glorious designs of this early 20th-century construction.

Given the country’s excellent rail network, chances are high that you may well be arriving or departing the city from the Central Station, and when you do, you’ll soon realize how spectacular it is!

Our top recommended tours of Antwerp Central Station:

Steen Castle in Antwerp

11. Steen Castle

Steen Castle is an ancient fortification that’s located within Antwerp. It was originally designed to defend against ever-increasing Viking invasions during the medieval era and has the distinction of being the oldest building in the city.

It’s an iconic symbol of the city’s heritage and history, and a great place to immerse yourself in the ancient origins of Antwerp.

MoMu Fashion Museum in Antwerp

12. MoMu Fashion Museum

If you have more of an interest in fashion history rather than ancient history, then call into the excellent MoMu Fashion Museum.

The museum focuses on contemporary fashion in Antwerp and the local designers who have put the city on the international map due to their efforts in the field of design and innovation.

Den Botaniek in Antwerp

13. Den Botaniek

If you’re looking for an escape from the city within the city itself, then look no further than Den Botaniek, Antwerp’s excellent botanic gardens. The gardens have been here since the early 19th century, and are now a much loved local attraction.

There are some lovely collections of plant species from around the world to be seen here, and it makes for a pleasant oasis in the concrete metropolis!

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Middelheim Museum in Antwerp

14. Middelheim Museum

Located outside of the city, the Middelheim Museum is an open-air museum dedicated to sculptures and statues. The art pieces collected and displayed here are primarily contemporary in nature, and it makes for a wonderful place to stroll through on a sunny day.

Many of the works are from world-renowned artists, including the likes of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.  

Things to do in Antwerp

15. De Koninck Brewery

If you need a break from all that sightseeing, then luckily, Antwerp has plenty of solutions! One of the best stops to make is at the De Koninck Brewery, where you can enjoy firsthand one of the city’s most iconic beers.

For just under two hundred years, the company has been brewing local favorites in Antwerp, and today, you can tour through the brewery and taste some of the freshest beer in the city!

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15 TOP Things to do in Antwerp


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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA

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