Antwerp is one of the biggest and also one of the prettiest cities of Belgium in my personal opinion. But most of all it is an important city for fashion on the rise! Many designers like the Antwerp Six lived and studied in this city at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, one of the leading fashion Academies in Europe, which gave Antwerp a cult status in the fashion world. Since the 80’s many graduates of this Academy became internationally successful as a fashion designer.
Because of this the city has declared itself a world-class fashion centre and tries to compete with London, Milan, New York and Paris, focusing on avant-garde fashion.
You could say that this makes Antwerp an absolute must visit for both fashion and design lovers, with its unique fashion shops, a multitude of brand shops, flagship stores and fashion museums. Next to this I can also highly recommend Antwerp for a city trip to admire the city’s historic architecture, do some lunching, drinks and dining. But especially for the interior and antique shopping in the most authentic streets of the city.
As I live only an hour’s drive away from Antwerp I often go here for a day trip. And of course I always try to combine as many sights and shopping stops in this 1 day as possible…And yes, this is possible in only 1 day by following the right route!
Here are my top picks for the perfect 3 km walking route through the city, passing by the nicest shops and the prettiest sights in only 35 minutes. Just click on below link to follow my custom made Google maps route: Ultimate sightseeing and shopping route
- Start at Parking garage ‘’Brabo’’ behind ‘’the Grote Markt’’ (Big Market, in the historic centre of Antwerp). This is a good central location to park your car and from here you will immediately see the big castle opposite from it facing the water. This is the oldest building of the city called ‘’Het Steen’’ (The Stone). This building is 800 years old and actually only a small part of the castle which used to be 6 times bigger in the 1200’s, and has great views over the water.
- After this I would definitely recommend heading over to the Nationale and Klooster street for some serious shopping, but not without passing by the Grote markt itself first! This is the historic main square of the city, where most big events are held and merchants used to come together and trade. The traditional guild houses around the square are stunning, and the centerpiece Brabo fountain and the impressive 16th century city hall can not be missed!
- Walking towards the Grote Markt you will already see the huge and impressive Cathedral called ‘’Onze Lieve Vrouwe Toren’’ (the Cathedral of Our Lady) in the distance. This 14th century church is renowned and beautifully lit at night. If you have time to spare, get to the top of the Cathedral and enjoy wide views over the city.
- Passing by the Cathedral head over to the beautiful ‘’Groenplaats’’ (Green place). This big square offers great views of the Cathedral and many café’s with big terraces to have a drink and relax before the real shopping begins.
- After regaining some walking strength and shopping appetite, just walk straight on to the ‘’Nationale straat’’ (National street). This street is perfect for designer- and brand shopping, with flagship stores of brands like: Diesel, Gstar, Lee, All Saints, Fred de la Brettoniere and Stills, but also of new and upcoming designers .
- Around here you will also find the ’’MoMu’’ (Fashion Museum), Flanders Institute and the Fashion Academy itself. In the side streets of The Nationale straat, called Steenhouwersvest, Lombardenvest and Drukkerijstraat you will find many shops of fashion design graduates but also of big international designers. This is why they call this area the creative fashion heart of Antwerp.
- For a more authentic and creative experience go to the street adjacent to the Nationale straat, called ‘’Kammenstraat’’, some shops here can be a bit alternative, but if you walk towards the south you will find a few nice side streets with beautiful street art, small courtyards and original shops!
- Make sure you don’t miss this small detour by taking a right at the small alleyway called ‘’Kopstraatje’’. This must be Antwerp’s most colorful street, with beautiful diverse street art and murals from floor to ceiling. It also leads right onto a plaza and another shopping street with a few of my favourite shops: the contemporary interior design store of the Danish brand ’’Hay’’, almost hidden at a small courtyard on the Ijzerenwaag 12. And the Scandinavian concept store Moose in the City almost next to it on Ijzerenwaag nr.10.
- Then head back to the Nationale straat, walk south and take a right at the Augustijnenstraat. Here you walk straight on, about 300 meters all the way to the Muntstraat, after which you arrive at the’’Kloosterstraat’’ (Convent street) on your left.
- This is one of the nicest and most authentic streets I have seen in a while. Especially because I love interior shopping and having to redecorate our new house soon, this street was perfect for me! The facades of the houses are quaint, the shops and café’s diverse and unique, and the offering of merchandise varies from antique to hipster brands, designer ware, furniture and industrial vintage goods.
A few of my top shopping finds in this street were:
- ”Woon Theater’’ on Kloosterstraat 14, a big interior and furniture store with a unique offering of design, vintage and industrial interior. All this is displayed in the beautiful ambiance of this spacious building with an amazing courtyard at the back of the store!
- Across the street from this interior store you will find the The Mercator Ortelius House on Kloosterstraat 11-17, with an entrance on nr.15 which leads to a big surprise! Behind the ancient 15th century façade I found a beautiful courtyard framed by a very special gallery/store. Here they display beautiful designer furniture of the Home Project combined with different photographic art expositions, all for sale in this unique building. The ancient windows, high and decorated ceilings and beautiful décor combined with a wine bar, make it a definite must visit!
- All around the Kloosterstraat you will find small antique-, book shops and quaint café’s.
- The Recollection-Objects of desire on nr.54 is beautiful from both the out-as inside. This shop offers a tastefully combined collection of furniture, objects, pottery, cosmetics, plants, fashion, accessories and art. A must visit for interior-and concept lovers with an appetite for the newest trends.
- Loft Styles-Industrial Objects offers mainly vintage industrial furniture, art and accessories and can be found at nr.79.
- Walking south towards the Vlaamse Kaai, you will also pass by the concept store: ‘’Rewind’’ on Riemstraat 27. Just walk straight on from the Kloosterstraat and you will get to this street where this beautiful store with a combination of unique products is located.
- From here I would recommend walking straight on to the Vlaamse Kaai for drinks and dinner.
- If you still have an appetite for more shopping though, you can also make your way to the ‘’Burbure straat’’, a side street on the left side of the Vlaamse Kaai. Here you will find 2 big leading Belgian multi brand fashion stores called ‘’Hospital’’ and ‘’Clinic’’, located opposite each other in this chique street.
- At the Vlaamse Kaai, but also the Waalse Kaai adjacent to it on the right, you will find many different bars, cafés and restaurants. A variation from high end Michelin star restaurants, famous sushi spots, hipster bars and small tapas restaurants can be found here, just take your pick, there is something here for everyone!
Altogether the perfect place to finish your ultimate Antwerp sightseeing/shopping day during a nice dinner.
If you are staying in Antwerp 2 or more days there are of course many more beautiful sights and shopping areas around. My recommendation then would definitely be to visit the following 2 shopping hotspots as well:
- ‘’Stadsfeestzaal’’ on the prime and popular shopping street ‘’Meir’’. The building alone is already a great attraction because of its architecture. This 20,000 square meters shopping centre houses 40 different shops and combines a marble staircase, mosaic floors, gilded facades and a glass-domed ceiling centrepiece with many modern elements. It is located between the Meir and Hopland, an upscale shopping street, also well worth a visit.
- For luxury shopping a must visit is the chique and spacious designer brand store ‘’Verso’’, including café-restaurant on the Lange Gasthuisstraat 9-11. This luxury concept store in a 16th Century mansion is the most unique and glamorous shop in Antwerp. Here you will find all the well known designer brands with luxury clothing and accessories displayed in a beautiful marble and wooden décor.
But there is of course so much more to be seen in this city…I love city walks and use the self-guided city walks of GPSmyCity for this from time to time. This site offers a free app with city maps and walking routes for all the major cities in the world, including information about the city’s main sights, which I always love to read!
If you want to try a few of their city walks as well, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org with your preferred city and I will send you a free download code for this city to try it yourself! (normally costs $4.99)
By downloading their app you gain access to city maps for major cities all over the world. Available for Android, I-phone and iOS devices.
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