Antwerp is the largest city in Belgium’s Flemish-speaking region, located near the Dutch border in the country’s northwestern corner.
Overall, it is Belgium’s second-largest city, the cultural centre of Flanders, one of its most economically essential locations. It is home to one of the world’s busiest harbours.
Antwerp is a fascinating place for tourists, with a unique heritage and culture that combines French, Dutch, and other European influences and is just waiting to be discovered.
Explore the Old Town’s historic streets, stopping by medieval legacies like 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 historical feast, and we’ve compiled a list of our favourite Antwerp things to do to help you plan your trip to Flanders.
1. Grote Markt
Grote Markt is Antwerp’s most historic location, and it has served as the city’s main central square for centuries. As the heart of the Old Town, a visit here is one of the best things to do in Antwerp.
The Grote Markt is surrounded by medieval-era structures standing and in use! The grand Antwerp City Hall and iconic features as the Brado Fountain can be found at the Grote Markt.
It’s a great place to meet tourists and locals alike, people watch, learn about the city’s history, and take in the splendour of these historic surroundings.
2. Antwerp City Hall
The most striking building in the Grote Markt is an actual work 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.
The building has a distinct Renaissance style and shape, as the Flemish designers were heavily influenced by Italian works of the time that were popular throughout Europe.
Few rival the City Hall for flair and mastery, even in a city with as much history and magnificent structures as Antwerp.
While in town, check with the tourist office to see if any of their periodic tours that take visitors to the more opulent interior are running!
3. Cathedral of Our Lady
The city’s most recognisable church, it’s always near the top of any list of the best things to do in Antwerp because simply put, it’s spectacular and impressive!
The cathedral itself was built in 1521, but it now had been a place of religious significance for centuries.
The cathedral is significant enough to be listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and you’ll enjoy exploring the magnificent interior and admiring the exterior’s somewhat Gothic appearance.
Antwerp is to visit the Rubenshuis, where you can learn more about the life of famous local artist Paul Peter Rubens, who lived and worked in the city during the 16th century.
Rubens is a local legend, as his works helped foster a sense of Flemish national identity while being admired throughout Europe. The Rubenshuis in Antwerp was his home and studio, and it is now a stunning museum filled with his works of art.
5. Plantin-Moretus Museum
The Plantin-Moretus Museum is another fascinating local museum to visit while in town. It is dedicated to two Antwerp printers, Plantin and Moretus, who were instrumental in spreading the printing press in Flanders.
Their work would be crucial to the modernisation and development of the city and its people, regarded as heroes contributions in the field.
You can visit their museum, which is located in their workshop and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to see original printing presses and learn more about the significance of their work in Antwerp.
6. Museum Vleeshuis
The best thing to do in Antwerp is to go inside one of the city’s magnificent medieval buildings, the Museum Vleeshuis. This is an old Guildhall, and its name translates to ‘Meat House,’ as it was where the city’s butchers would meet the business. The magnificent structure you see today, with its fantastic facade, was built in the early 1500s, but it is now used as a museum space, with an extensive collection of antiquities stored here that you can browse through.
The museum’s primary focus is music and instruments, but there’s a lot more to discover as well.
7. Museum aan de Stroom
The tall, modernist designs of the massive Museum aan de Stroom, located on the river, are challenging to overlook. This enormous museum, known simply as the MAS, attempts to focus on almost everything that is in some way related 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, touching on topics and events from all over the world that helped shape the city’s identity.
8. Harbour and River Cruises
Antwerp has been defined over time by its harbour, as its location on the River Scheldt and access to the open ocean have allowed it to flourish and grow into one of the world’s largest ports. Learn more about the river and the harbour, take a boat cruise along the Scheldt and port itself!
9. Red Star Line Museum
The Red Star Line Museum is another fascinating piece of maritime history – and one of the best things to do in Antwerp. This is a tribute to the millions of Europeans who used the Red Star Line shipping company to leave Europe for the Americas. It was discovered in an unassuming old warehouse near the docks.
Antwerp became one of the most critical departure points for emigration to the New World in the nineteenth century. The museum collects some of the fascinating life stories of those who braved the oceans to start a new life abroad.
10. Antwerp Central Station
Antwerp Central Station, one of the city’s most architecturally beautiful locations, is another significant transportation history. It’s worth taking the train from Antwerp to see the magnificent designs of this early-twentieth-century structure.
Given the country’s excellent rail network, chances are you’ll be arriving or departing from the Central Station, and when you do, you’ll quickly realise how spectacular it is!
11. Steen Castle
Steen Castle is an ancient fortification in the city of Antwerp. It was initially built to defend against ever-increasing Viking invasions during the medieval era and is the city’s oldest structure.
It’s an iconic symbol of heritage and history, and it’s a great place to learn about Antwerp’s ancient origins.
12. MoMu Fashion Museum
If you’re more interested in fashion history than ancient history, stop by the excellent MoMu Fashion Museum.
The museum focuses on contemporary fashion in Antwerp and the local designers who have helped put the city on the international map through their efforts in design and innovation.
13. Den Botaniek
Look no further than Antwerp’s wonderful botanic gardens, Den Botaniek, for an escape from the city within the city. The gardens, which have been around since the early 1800s, are now a popular local attraction.
There are some lovely collections of plant species from all over the world to be found here, making it a pleasant oasis in the concrete jungle!
14. Middelheim Museum
The Middelheim Museum is dedicated to sculptures and statues outside the city. The art pieces collected and displayed here are primarily contemporary, and it’s a lovely place to walk around on a sunny day.
Many of the works are by internationally renowned artists, such as Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
15. De Koninck Brewery
Need a break from all sightseeing? Antwerp has plenty of options! One of the best places to visit is the De Koninck Brewery, where you can sample one of the city’s most famous beers.
For just under two centuries, the company has been brewing local favourites in Antwerp, and today, you can tour the brewery and taste some of the city’s freshest beer!