Sitting in my bedroom one lonely afternoon, I found myself dreaming of far off destinations to be transported to. A quick Google search taught me that flights from my hometown of Omaha, to Brussels, were a mere $500 for a roundtrip ticket. Without thinking I purchased the ticket and two months later was en route to what would be one of my favorite trips to date. A week spent traveling by train through Belgium.
Antwerp was the last stop on my Belgian adventures. I spent 24 hours discovering the things to do in Antwerp, which happens to be the second-largest city in Belgium and the diamond capital of the world! More than 70% of all diamonds in the world are traded in Antwerp. Besides boasting diamonds, Antwerp also has world-class shopping, a trendy dining scene, and giving off a small town Belgian feel while being a big city. And the best part? Antwerp is a walkable city that you can explore on foot!
What to Do in Antwerp (in 24 Hours!)
Spending the Day in Antwerp – Morning
My favorite thing about walkable European cities is that you truly get a feel for the culture as you mosey your way through small alleyways and navigate the cobblestone streets. You pass both locals getting their day started and other tourists eager to explore the city! With fewer crowds you’re able to notice window fronts better and take in the outdoor cafés that line the streets.
Waking up early in a new city is truly one of the best ways to explore, the streets are usually quieter, and you’re able to watch as people start their day. In Antwerp, the best place to do this is Caffènation. A homey cafe in the thick of the city, choose a spot outdoors or by the window for the best people-watching.
Once you’ve gotten your caffeine fix, a quick, 20-minute walk will place you in the city center – Grote Markt. At the Grote Markt you’ll find elaborate facades, buildings dating back to the 16th-century, restaurants, hotels, and more! Of all of the Antwerp tourist attractions, leisurely wandering throughout the Grote Market should be high on your “to-do” list.
Spending the Day in Antwerp – Noon
Once mid-day hits, stop at an outdoor café for lunch near the city center. Take a seat outside and watch the world go by, observing how Belgians spend their day. If you’re in the mood for a hearty, old fashioned dish, head to Restaurant De Bomma where you can enjoy “Grandma’s cooking”. I particularly enjoyed it for their outdoor patio and location.
Once you’re ready to move on discover why shopping is one of the biggest Antwerp attractions. Hit Kloosterstraat Street or the trendy (and famous) Meir Street for world-class shopping! For a learning opportunity visit the well known Museum aan de Stroom (MAS), which also has a rooftop offering sweeping views over the city of Antwerp. Closed on Mondays, the museum is open 10 am-5 pm every other day of the week.
Spending the Day in Antwerp – Night
Once nightfall hits head to the lively Marnixplaats to see how the Belgians unwind after a long day. At Marnixplaats you’ll find crowded bars, restaurants, and outdoor patios to enjoy people watching. For dinner head to the Asian noodle restaurant, Lucy Chang. And the only proper way to end your 24-hours in Antwerp? Flaky, warm, melt in your mouth, traditional Belgian waffles from Desire de Lille.
And with that, a full day of adventures in this Belgium city is over. With many things to do in Antwerp, if you have limited time you’ll still be able to hit some of the best Antwerp attractions.
If you’re looking for more “things to do” in Belgium, check out the following posts:
Things to do in Ghent – 24 Hours in Ghent
Things to do in Bruges – Discovering Bruges in 48 Hours
Things to do in Brussels – 48 Hours in Brussels