One Day in Antwerp, Belgium: A Practical Guide

What are the main things to do if you only have one day in Antwerp? And is Antwerp worth visiting at all?

Antwerp is Belgium’s second-largest city but not a city many international travelers seem to visit.

And I have to admit I am just as bad: I grew up in Leiden, less than a two hours drive from Antwerp and yet I had only visited the city three times before and didn’t know it well.

But, I decided that had to change. A good friend of mine lives in Antwerp so it was about time to get to know this city better. And, after some exploring I have to say, if you ever make it to Belgium, don’t just visit Brussels. Take at least a day trip to Antwerp as well!

If you only have about one day in Antwerp, these are the highlights I recommend visiting:

One Day in Antwerp – What to See & Do

1. Check out Antwerp Central Station

one day in Antwerp - central station
places to visit if you only have 24 hours in Antwerp

Most likely you will arrive to Antwerp by train and will start your one day in Antwerp at Antwerp Central Station (map). But even if you don’t, this train station is worth visiting.

The Central Station is one of the most impressive railway stations in the world. Dubbed the ‘Railway Cathedral’, it is one of the main landmarks in Antwerp.

Built between 1895 and 1905, its rich interior is lavishly decorated with more than twenty different kinds of marble and stone. The main hall and the railway cafeteria can match the interiors of many palaces. Not a single square meter either inside or outside the building is not decorated.

If you, like me, happen to enter the train station at the modern end, don’t let that put you off, you will spot the historical part immediately and really should walk through it!

For more information about the train station and its facilities: Belgianrail.be

2. Admire the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal (Cathedral of Our Lady)

24 hours in Antwerp: what to see & do - Cathedral of Our Lady
Cathedral of Our Lady as seen from Groenplaats – 24 Hours in Antwerp

The Cathedral of Our Lady or in Dutch the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal (map) is one of the most impressive buildings in Antwerp.

After 169 years of construction, the cathedral of Antwerp finally started dominating the city’s skyline in 1521. With 123 meters (404 feet) it is the highest Gothic building in the Low Countries.

The Cathedral is an iconic treasury, with an impressive collection of major art works, including a series of paintings by Rubens.

General admission: € 6
For more information: Dekathedraal.be

3. Wander Around the Grote Markt (Great Market Square)

One day in Antwerp - Grote Markt (Great Market Square)

The Grote Markt of Antwerp (map) is situated in the heart of the old city. It is a compact main square in front of the magnificent sixteenth-century city hall and surrounded by many guildhalls.

The architecture alone makes this area worth checking out but around the market square you also find many cozy restaurants and cafes, perfect for taking a break from sightseeing.

In winter Grote Markt houses a Christmas market and an ice rink.

4. Fit in Some Shopping

What to do in Antwerp; shopping in Antwerp
source: visitantwerpen.be – one day in Antwerp

Depending on what type of shops you are looking for there are three main areas worth visiting:

  • Meir (map) & Keyserlei (map): for all your mainstream shops including many international chains such as Mango, Timberland, Zara, etc.
  • Hopland (map): if you are looking for more upmarket boutiques you should definitely check out this area.
  • Klooserstraat (map): This is the must visit street when you are looking for antiques in Antwerp

But even if you don’t feel like shopping, walking around these central areas is fun just to people watch and admire some incredible architecture.

5. Belgian Fries, Waffles, Chocolate, and Beer

24 Hours in Antwerp: where to eat the best fries, waffles and chocoloate and drink the best Belgian beer

Belgium is famous for its fries (called “frites”), waffles, Belgian chocolate, and Belgian beer.

There is no city in Belgium where you can’t find good fries, waffles, chocolate, and beer. But if you are spending one day in Antwerp and haven’t tried (enough of) these yet, do try them here!

These are the best places in Antwerp to try the Belgian favorites:

  • Belgian fries: the most famous place to get your Belgian fries in Antwerp and a spot loved by locals is Frituur No.1 on Hoogstraat 1 (map)
  • Belgian waffles: The Smallest Waffle Shop in the World on Meirbrug 1 (map) is without a doubt the cutest waffle shop I have ever seen and the most famous waffle shop in town.
  • Belgian chocolate: there are many great chocolate shops in Antwerp so in 24 hours you will surely pass a few. But, if you only have time to visit one then make it the Chocolate Line at Paleis op de Meir 50 (map)
  • Belgian beer: any bar you go to in Antwerp will have a good selection of Belgian beer. One of the more classical options is Den Engel, on Grote Markt 3 (map). This historic building dates back to the fourteenth century and the cafe has a great atmosphere and good selection of beers.

6. Get Your Culture Fix at the MAS Museum

24 Hours in Antwerp - Visit MAS museum
source: mas.be – what to do in Antwerp in one day

Antwerp has many good museums but if you only have time for one, visit MAS – Museum aan de Stroom (map).

Antwerp is a city on a river with a port, that has provided exotic encounters and exchanges for centuries. The MAS collects traces of those exchanges and tells new stories with them. Stories about the city, the river and the port. Stories about Antwerp’s alliance with the world. Become acquainted with Antwerp in the world and with the world in Antwerp.

Additionally MAS has a great rooftop offering you a beautiful 360° panoramic view of Antwerp.

MAS is closed on Mondays
General admission: depends on exhibitions, maximum €10
For more information: Mas.be

One Final Tip: SKIP the Diamond District!

Antwerp used to be famous for its diamond industry but, judging from the once popular diamond district (map), it has passed its heyday. Many diamond shops are now empty or have long been taken over by general stores.

The area looks a bit run down so unless you are interested in getting a good deal on some diamonds from one of the few remaining diamond stores, this area really isn’t worth visiting anymore, unfortunately.

I hope this guide has given you a good idea of what to do in Antwerp in one day. Enjoy exploring this cute Belgian city!

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#Antwerp is a beautiful city in #Belgium. It's also a compact city that can easily be explored in one or two days. This is a practical guide for what to do in Antwerp in one day. #citybreak #Europeancities #visitEurope

 

Sanne Wesselman

Author: Sanne Wesselman
A traveler, wanderer, digital nomad, and entrepreneur. Owner of marketing company A to Z Marketing.
I spend most of my time living and working abroad and use this website to share "the good, the bad and the ugly" of traveling and living abroad. Visit the About Me page for more info.

23 thoughts on “One Day in Antwerp, Belgium: A Practical Guide”

  1. Thanks for this interesting article. Up to now, I haven’t been to Antwerp, but I think I have to. The Central Station looks amazing and I think I find a lot of beautiful architecture.
    .. and I can’t resist to Belgian Waffles.

    Reply
  2. I love posts on seeing a city in 24 hours! I’m often strapped for time when I am traveling, so I always search for articles like this. Antwerp looks like an absolute gem! I’d love to see it at Christmas time when there is a Christmas market & skating rink! So fun!

    Reply
  3. It looks like you can never go wrong just walking around the city. The place looks amazing! I have skipped this place a few times while in Belgium. Now, I definitely will make sure to stop over next time.

    Reply
  4. Belgium is one of those little countries I always seem to miss when I visit Europe. I’ve heard that Brussels isn’t very interesting but Antwerp looks beautiful, I love the architecture. Gonna keep it in mind for my next trip over the pond!

    Reply
  5. Great food, great views, shopping, museums and markets. What more could you ask for in 24 hours in any city. Haven’t been to Antwerp, but what a magficent city it looks to be judging by your photos.

    Reply
  6. These are some great tips!
    I didn’t get to see much of Antwerp while I was there (was there for a couple of hours before leaving to visit a friend then onto Tomorrowland) but I definitely have to agree that the Central Station is a definite must-see! It’s so grand and beautiful.

    Belgian fries, waffles and beers are amazing – glad you included some tips of where to get the local favourites. Looks like I have to go back to Antwerp now that I’ve got a proper guide of where I should go instead of wandering aimlessly hahah 🙂

    Reply
  7. Some excellent tips here! While I personally have not visited Antwerp the buildings and architecture alone are enough to make me swoon and crave a passport stamp to Belgium. I personally loved the cathedral as we don’t have anything near that glamourous in the United States. You also sold me at beer, waffles, chocolate, and fries. I’d be smuggling that everywhere I went!

    Reply
  8. Very informative post. Belgium is one of the must see countries. I love seeing the architectures, meeting peoples, tasting their foods, and most of all embrace its culture as well. I will definitely look forward to seeing Belgium in my future travels with my boyfriend.

    Reply
  9. Having been to Belgium a number of times, I can honestly say that it is an embarrassment that I have never made it to Antwerp. Certainly, if your photos are anything to go by, it really is a stunning place and the Central Station is an incredible introduction. Anyway, a very thorough post and one that was also very well written. Nice stuff and will most certainly be back for more

    Reply
  10. Antwerp looks like a great city to visit. I’ve been to Brussels and Bruges, but will definitely add this to my list, especially your tips of the best places to eat!

    Reply
  11. It’s been years since we’ve been to Antwerp. Your post makes us want to return. Our mouths are watering remembering the taste of fresh warm waffles. Beautiful photos.

    Reply
  12. I miss Belgian beer and waffles! We’ve been only in Brussels, but Antwerp looks pretty too! Maybe next time we do our tasting there 🙂

    Reply
  13. This guide of Antwerp is so beautiful. It is one of rare blogs describing the food of the place. Isn’t Antwerp a diamond hub too??

    Reply
    • Thanks a lot! And you are correct, Antwerp is known for being a diamond hub. I have however listed the diamond district as the one place not to visit. Unfortunately it has lost its glory: a part of it is not accessible to the general public because of security and the part that is used to be very lively, with tons of diamond shops and hundreds of people trying to get a bargain. These days many of these shops are empty or have been replaced by general shops and the area has lost its vibe

      Reply
  14. We are visiting Belgium soon, and Antwerp is on our itinerary! This post will come in so handy when we come to planning our trip! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

    Reply
  15. We are visiting Belgium in December and this was really helpful! I’m so stoked for Belgian waffles, fries, and beers. Oh, and Christmas markets!!

    Reply
  16. Antwerp is great!! I grew up less than half an hour from Antwerp, visit the city regularly and would definitely state it’s one of the most underrated cities in Belgium… People always talk about Brussels, Ghent, Bruges, etc. but Antwerp is definitely worth visiting as well. The beautiful cathedral alone makes the city worth a visit!

    Reply

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