22 Unique and Fun Things to do in Antwerp, Belgium

*FYI - this post may contain affiliate links, which means we earn a commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase from them. Also, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Check out our Privacy Policy and Disclosure. for more info.

When it comes to places to frolic in Belgium, often visitors are quick to dash off to the likes of Brussels, Bruges, or Ghent

But today, I’d like to vouch for Antwerp, a fun and beautiful city that has everything from a grandiose train station and main square to museums and art galore. Plus, a strange abundance of hand-themed curiosities… but more on that later!

If you’re wondering what to do in Antwerp, this list will cover all the essentials, whether you’re shopping for chocolate, diamonds or rich cultural experiences. So, read on for a list of the best things to do and see in beautiful Antwerp, Belgium.

Save this list of Things to Do in Antwerp for later!

You’ll be very glad you did.

1. Antwerp Central Station

Let’s start with one of my personal favourite things to do in Antwerp, as a shameless train and architecture nerd. Yes, I’m listing the city’s train station as #1, which to some might seem like an unhinged move, but hear me out…

Hailed by many as THE most beautiful train station in the world, the Grand Hall of the Antwerpen-Centraal is a stone-clad masterpiece of archways, columns, and lovely Art Nouveau flourishes. Little wonder why it’s locally known as the Spoorwegkathedraal, AKA the Railway Cathedral.

And while such a grand title feels a bit… dramatic for a transport hub, one look at its 75m monumental dome and you’ll see why it has been considered a place of worship for train geeks and starry-eyed travel bloggers alike since its inauguration year of 1905.

2. Grote Markt

Another must-see in Antwerp is the city’s stunning main square, Grote Markt.

Maybe it was the lack of crowds but I actually prefer it to Brussels’ Grand Place. Here, you’ll find stacks of glorious 16th century guildhalls squeezed together like dominos, Antwerp’s illustrious city hall, and the fascinating Brabo Fountain, which depicts a local legend about Silvius Brabo, the mythical Roman soldier who (allegedly) founded Antwerp (more on him in the next section).

While many of the guildhalls are actually reconstructions based on Flemish paintings, the Guildhall of Sint-Joris at Grote Markt 7 and De Valk Guildhall at Grote Markt 11 are both originals. The impressive Town Hall is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and well worth having a little look inside.

The Grote Markt is ringed by cafés where you can enjoy some people-watching, plus this is where one of the city’s best Christmas markets is held each year, along with an ice-skating rink. If you visit in summer then you might get to enjoy carillon concerts instead.

3. Unique Chocolate Shopping

Well, it certainly didn’t take me long to mention one of Belgium’s most popular exports: chocolate.

That’s because it’s important, and Antwerp is full of amazing options. One unique offering? A delicious take on a not-so-delicious object: severed hands!

These chocolate hands are an Antwerp staple thanks to the tale of Brabo (the delightful naked guy seen in the fountain) who, according to local legend, saved dwellers of the Schledt River by defeating an evil giant who used to cut off the hands of sailors that refused to pay his toll.

In defeating the giant, Brabo (poetically) sliced off its hand and hurled it into the river, a legend immortalized in this bizarre statue (which I like to call ‘Naked man yeeting dismembered hand into abyss’), along with the hand-shaped chocolates now sold in every shop of the city.

Chocolate hands being sold in an Antwerp chocolate shop

Apart from hands, you can also head to Chocolatier and Confiserie Burie, where every month they display a new chocolate sculpture in their window for customers to gape at. During my visit, there was a giant chocolate snowman! FYI, their hot chocolate is also excellent.

And for more unique creations, don’t miss The Chocolate Line, the prettiest chocolate shop in Antwerp, where you’ll find pretty floral wallpaper, chandeliers, etc. all touting the products of Belgium’s chief choco-bad boy, Dominique Persoone.

Wacky flavours are a starring attraction at the Chocolate Line, whether you want some almond praline with deep fried onions (the “Cebolla”), ganache and marzipan with wasabi (the “Green Tokyo”) or of course, a praline with hemp seeds and a cute lil marijuana leaf decoration (the “Hennep”).

Inside the Chocolate Line shop in Antwerp Belgium

4. The Plantin Moretus Museum

As mentioned in my roundup of unique things you can only do in Belgium, a visit to the Plantin Moretus Museum is another popular Antwerp must-do.

This creaky UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to some of the world’s oldest printing presses and offers insight into the lives and work of legendary 16th-century printers Christophe Plantin and Jan Moretus.

Anyone interested in printing will love exploring this nerdy treasure trove of equipment used to print books, along with an extensive library. The building is also gorgeous, with an interior courtyard garden and richly decorated rooms.

Parts of the museum are set up so you can see what it would have looked like while being used in the 16th century, enabling you to step back in time to see both the home and printing office of the Plantin-Moretus family. There are also rotating temporary exhibitions so you never know what else you might see!

5. Heritage Library Hendrik Conscience, specifically the Nottebohm Room

A delightful hidden gem of Antwerp must-dos can be found in the Hendrik Conscienceplein, one of the prettiest libraries I’ve ever set foot in.

Again, visiting might be tough because the room is only open for special exhibitions and events, but I happened to be in town for one so I threw 5 euros at the woman and enthusiastically leaped up the stairs to one of the best kept secrets of Antwerp: the Nottebohm Room, a book-sniffer’s dream stacked with old books, dark wood and celestial globes.

Originally built in 1936, today this room houses 150,000 items from the deepest depths of the library’s archive. Seriously, if you have the chance, go inside!

6. Saint Carolus Borromeus Church

This might be tough because the church has very random opening hours, but if it’s open, be sure to scope it out. Visiting is free, and wow does this place have a story.

The year was 1718, and Antwerp’s Carolus Borromeus Church was the talk of the town.

About a hundred years prior, local Jesuits had begun work on this effortlessly grand Baroque church, which was built quickly and with grandiose contributions from some seriously famous names… specifically 39 ceiling paintings from Peter Paul Rubens himself, only THE most influential artist of the period. People were stoked.

And while for decades, people came from near and far to admire the work of Rubens (and the beautiful church itself), everything changed on a fateful day in 1718, when a blaze of lightning struck struck the church, creating a devastating fire that resulted in the loss of Rubens’ glorious paintings.

Meaning yes, they are sadly gone.

Nonetheless, the church is a worthwhile sight to behold (if you manage to catch it open to the public). After all, it still does look like this:

7. Vlaaikensgang

This medieval alley dates back to 1591 and granted, there’s not much to do here, but it’s a pretty escape and one of the most photogenic spots in the city.

8. Museum aan de Stroom (MAS)

The Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) is a modern riverside museum that houses hundreds of thousands of artifacts related to Antwerp… spread across ten floors.

Besides being Antwerp’s largest museum, it’s also uniquely covered in… you guessed it: hands! Tiny little silver hands that pay tribute to the legend of Brabo, and also patrons of the museum during its construction phase.

Highlights of the museum collection include the Antwerp á la Carte exhibit, which traces the city’s relationship with food from the 16th century to the future, and the Freight section where you stop at different docks to learn how Antwerp is connected to the rest of the world via shipping.

But honestly, even if you don’t have time to admire the exhibits inside, taking 10 floors worth of escalators up to the top is more than worth it for this (free!) view:

9. The oldest house in Antwerp

On Stoelstraat 11, you’ll find the oldest house in Antwerp, a cool, wooden façade that you can easily visit en route to the MAS. Built in 1500, this wooden house is a truly badass sight when you consider it has survived the horrors of six major wars. Not bad for a simple wooden house.

500 year old wooden house in Antwerp, Belgium

10. St Paul’s Church

From here, you’re not far from another one of Antwerp’s most iconic churches, so be sure to schedule a stop at Saint Paul’s Church if you want to peek at dozens of paintings and hundreds of statues from some of the country’s most renowned masters.

Completed in 1639, this church is known best for its splendid Baroque altars. Sadly, I can’t tell you more than that as it was closed during my visit, but please take a look inside so I can live vicariously through you. I’ve heard it’s beautiful!

11. St Anna’s Pedestrian Tunnel

The St Anna’s Pedestrian Tunnel is a fun old-school underpass below the Scheldt River (again, giant and toll free thanks to Brabo and his choppy chop ways).

It was built in 1933 as a way to traverse the river without needing a ferry. While the tunnel is largely (and monotonously) covered in plain tiles, what makes it unique and interesting is that it transports you underground via a series of wooden escalators.

The walk across to the other side is a bit spooky and takes just under 10 minutes, with ‘accidental Wes Anderson vibes’ guaranteed.

And while the tunnel itself isn’t anything special, once you get to the other side, there’s a wonderful view of the Antwerp skyline that awaits.

12. Het Steen Castle

If it’s not completely covered in scaffolding for restorations (like it was during my visit), a short walk from the St Anna’s tunnel is the Het Steen Castle, which is mostly just a nice spot for a photo.

At the moment, you can’t tour the castle nor is there something inside, but it’s quite pretty to look at… while letting your imagination run wild.

After all, this is Antwerp’s oldest structure, an epic stone fortress that has over the years been all of the following: protection from intruders, an actual prison, a museum of archaeology, a museum of maritime history and today, a photo stop on Christina’s Antwerp Walking Tour.

Fun fact: Het Steen is Flemish for “The Rock”, as in Dwayne “Het Steen” Johnson.

Het Steen Castle in Antwerp
Image by DEZALB from Pixabay

13. Begijnhof Antwerpen

The Begijnhof Antwerpen is one of the most peaceful pockets of the city, originally built centuries ago for Beguines, devout women who lived in semi-monastic communities (but never took official religious vows).

Today, the space is still residential, but open to the public, and oh so pretty to see:

14. The only officially recognized Chinatown in Belgium

Antwerp’s Chinatown is a bustling piece of the city near the Central Station packed with Chinese restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, and even kung fu schools. It’s the only officially recognized Chinatown in all of Belgium, and even has its entrance gate flanked with marble lions.

Luckily, the lions’ hands are all intact.

Chinese gate at Chinatown in Antwerp, Belgium

15. Cathedral of Our Lady

The Cathedral of Our Lady, located in the heart of Antwerp, is a magnificent example of Gothic architecture and one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.

With its towering spires and intricate lace-like stonework, the Cathedral of Our Lady is a prime example of Brabantine Gothic design. Its tallest spire reaches an impressive 123 meters, earning it the title “Giant of Antwerp.” Inside, visitors are greeted by a richly decorated interior adorned with stunning stained glass windows, some dating back to the 16th century.

The cathedral also houses a remarkable collection of art, including masterpieces by the renowned Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens. The cathedral’s crypt also serves as the final resting place of Rubens, along with other notable individuals.

16. Rubenshuis (Rubens House)

The Rubenshuis, or the Rubens House, is the former home and studio of the legendary Flemish Baroque artist, Peter Paul Rubens. In this museum, you can literally step into the world of the 17th-century creative genius!

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) was a Flemish Baroque painter who is widely regarded as one of the most influential artists of his time and one of the great masters of European art history. Rubens was born in Siegen, a city in present-day Germany, but he spent most of his life in Antwerp. He had the home that is now the Rubenshuis renovated after getting married to his first wife and these renovations were greatly influenced by Italian architecture.

As you explore the beautifully preserved rooms and gardens of Rubenshuis, you’ll get a peek into the daily life and creative process of Rubens himself. You’ll find his masterpieces adorning the walls, and you might even stumble upon his paint-splattered easel. The house itself is a work of art, showcasing stunning architecture from the period. The tranquil courtyard garden is a hidden gem, perfect for a peaceful stroll.

17. The Middelheim Museum

The Middelheim Open Air Sculpture Museum offers an open-air experience like no other, where art seamlessly blends with nature.

Strolling through Middelheim Park, you’ll be captivated by the diverse range of sculptures on display, from classic and contemporary works to thought-provoking pieces that challenge the boundaries of art. The setting itself is an integral part of the experience, as sculptures are carefully placed amidst the park’s scenic landscapes.

Beyond the art, the Middelheim Museum frequently hosts exhibitions, events, and workshops, making it an engaging destination for all ages. Visitors can participate in guided tours to gain deeper insights into the sculptures and the artists behind them, or simply enjoy a leisurely picnic in the park’s serene surroundings.

18. Red Star Line Museum

Housed in the historic Red Star Line shipping company’s former warehouses, this museum enables visitors to step back in time to an era when Antwerp was a pivotal departure point for millions of emigrants from Europe seeking passage to North America.

Inside the museum, you’ll discover a wealth of immersive exhibits, personal stories, and authentic artifacts that vividly depict the arduous yet hopeful voyage undertaken by these travelers. The museum brings to life the entire journey, from the initial decision to leave one’s homeland to the rigorous medical and administrative processes at the Red Star Line terminal, and finally, the transatlantic voyage itself.

Visitors can explore the museum at their own pace or opt for guided tours to gain a more in-depth understanding of the historical context and individual experiences. The Red Star Line Museum not only educates but also encourages reflection on themes of migration, identity, and the universal desire for a better life so it’s sure to be interesting to most of us living in this increasingly globalised world.

19. De Koninck Brewery

Buy Tickets

Beer snobs who enjoy a Belgian ale should definitely check out Antwerp’s city brewery De Koninck, which has a popular interactive brewery tour.

De Koninck Brewery was founded in 1833 and is most famous for its flagship pale ale of the same name, but they also make other types of beers using traditional Belgian brewing methods (like open fermentation and ageing the beer in oak casks). Visitors can enjoy fancy beer and food tastings on Sundays as well as the very fun self-guided tour of the brewery any day of the week except Monday.

Of course, you can also just visit the on-site bar if all you really want to do is try their beers, without going through a tour first. The terrace is a lovely spot to relax with a drink if you’ve been doing lots of sightseeing.

20. Het Eilandje

Het Eilandje (which means The Island) is a neighborhood in Antwerp which used to be part of the main port but is now more of a hip and trendy area completely enclosed by docks. This is also where Museum aan de Stroom and the Red Star Line Museum are located.

While most visitors to Antwerp tend to stay in the Old Town area, this part of the city is gaining more popularity since it’s filled with street art, museums, cool cafés, bars and restaurants. Keep an eye out for places like De Konincklijke Snor, which means The Royal Mustache, a fun bar where a yearly award for best mustache is presented and No Worries, a cute café which does all-day breakfast.

And since this is a port city, if you’re looking for good seafood then you have to visit Fiskeskur, a ‘rock & roll fish bar’ in a glass pavilion with outdoor seating looking over the port.

21. Shopping Stadsfeestzaal

Yes, it’s a mall but it’s a ridiculously pretty one that’s all golden and majestic, a big step up from the malls I grew up with, where the most cultured thing was a Jamba Juice.

This former festival hall is a striking piece of neoclassical architecture to behold… especially when you consider much of it was destroyed in a fiery blaze in the year 2000.

Nonetheless, extensive restorations came to the rescue and today, the Shopping Stadsfeestzaal is looking just as fine as in her glory days…. except now there’s an Urban Outfitters.

22. Diamond Shopping

Finally, it has to be said: diamonds are to Antwerp as waffles are to Liège… If you haven’t had a Liège waffle before, what I’m trying to say is they’re delicious. Sorry – I meant important.

Antwerp is the undisputed diamond capital of the world, a status it has rocked for centuries, dating back to when the world’s first stock exchange was created here.

It is said that 84% of all rough diamonds and half of all cut diamonds in the world are traded here, so yes, diamond shopping is an actual Antwerp activity that people enjoy. That said, while the Antwerp ‘Diamond District’ is often hailed as a must-see, from my own personal experience, it’s much less glamorous than it sounds, with stall after stall of not-fancy-looking jewelry shops.

But hey, if your goal is to ball out and shower yourself with diamonds, then it might be worth checking out.

Did I miss any of your favourite things to do in Antwerp?

Let me know in the comments so I can add more unique Antwerp must-dos to the list! Safe and happy travels 🙂

My Go-To Travel Favourites:

🧳 Eagle Creek: My favourite packing cubes

💳 Wise: For FREE travel friendly credit cards

🍯 Airalo: My go-to eSIM

🏨 Booking.com: For searching hotels

📷 Sony A7IV: My (amazing) camera

✈️ Google Flights: For finding flight deals

🌎 WorldNomads: For travel insurance

🎉 GetYourGuide: For booking activities

Leave a Comment