HOW TO DO AN­TWERP IN A WEEK­END

Condé Nast Traveller Middle East - - Agenda -

TAKE A STROLL

This is a to­tally walk-able city, and you’ll be on your feet from the minute you ar­rive, which will likely be by train from

Am­s­ter­dam or Paris. Give your­self sev­eral hours to stroll An­twerp’s 16th-cen­tury Old Town, hit­ting the cathe­dral, Grote Markt and Vlaeykens­gang, a hid­den ivy-cov­ered al­ley with great an­tiques shops (it’s just a few hun­dred feet from Grote; ask a lo­cal to point you in the right di­rec­tion).

From there, walk 15 min­utes north along the Scheldt River to Het Ei­landje, a once-gritty ma­rina whose Port Au­thor­ity build­ing was de­signed by Zaha Ha­did. Next door at Mu­seum Aan De St­room

( en­try AED 33; 0032-3338 4400, mas.be), a mu­seum that goes deep into An­twerp’s port his­tory, skip the exhibits and head straight to the rooftop – it’s free and has the great­est views of the city, in­clud­ing the cathe­dral spires.

WHERE TO STAY

For 18 years, the in­ti­mate Ho­tel Julien ( dou­bles from AED 790; 0032-3229 0600, ho­tel-julien.com) in­side two cen­tral 16th-cen­tury town­houses, ruled An­twerp’s ho­tel scene. It still does, though now it has more com­pe­ti­tion from two new­bies. In 2017, the Ho­tel Franq

( dou­bles from AED 690; 0032-3555 3180, hotel­franq.com) opened in­side a for­mer bank with 42 cosy rooms and a fab­u­lous Bel­gian-French restau­rant from the star chef Tim Meu­leneire, fol­lowed by Ho­tel

Pi­lar ( dou­bles from AED 690; 0032-3292 6510, hotelpi­lar.be), an artsy bou­tique prop­erty with a de­sign shop worth check­ing out even if you’re not check­ing in.

THE BEST SHOPS

The high-end con­sign­ment store Rosier 41 ( 0032-3225 5303, rosier41. be), in Theater­bu­urt, is where you’ll find vin­tage Raf Si­mons and Haider Ack­er­mann hang­ing along­side new col­lec­tions from Jil San­der (they re­plen­ish their stock daily). Around the cor­ner in the river­front shop­ping area Sint-Andries, look for Chris­tian Wi­j­nants’ ( 0032-3284 4176, chris­tian­wi­j­nants.com) trade­mark knits and ex­otic Dries Van Noten ( 0032-3470 2510, dries­van­noten.be) prints at their name­sake bou­tiques. Ann De­meule­meester’s flag­ship ( 0032-3216 0133, an­nde­meule­meester. com) is on the main road, Na­tionalestraat.

WHERE TO DO LUNCH

The cen­tral theatre dis­trict is home to cafés and high-end restau­rants with ta­bles that spill on to the streets. Sit on the ter­race at Bourla ( 00323232 1632, bourla.be) fac­ing the neo­clas­si­cal theatre of the same name. Their take on Bel­gium’s clas­sic steak frites, done with thick Bel­gian rib eye and twice-cooked fries with mayo on the side, is the city’s best.

THE DE­SIGN SCENE IS STILL SO STRONG

One of the first things to do here: Visit Axel Ver­vo­ordt’s sig­na­ture moody, min­i­mal­ist in­te­ri­ors at his year-old gallery in­side Kanaal ( 0032-3355 3800, kanaal.be), a 15-minute tram ride from the main train sta­tion.

MU­SEUM HOP

An­twerp was an epi­cen­tre of the Flem­ish Re­nais­sance; check out the works of Old Mas­ter Peter Paul Rubens at his palace,

Ruben­shuis ( en­try AED 42; 0032-3201 1555, ruben­shuis.be). For mod­ern art, take a bike as the lo­cals do to the Mid­del­heim Mu­seum ( en­try free; 0032-3288 3360, mid­del­heim­mu­seum.be), home to Rodins and Calders. DIVA mu­seum ( en­try AED 42; 0032-3360 5252, di­vaantwerp.be) opened in May this year, spot­light­ing An­twerp’s 500-year-old, highly se­cre­tive di­a­mond trade.

EAT & DRINK LO­CAL

Be­cause of cli­mate change, the ter­roir in the south of Bel­gium now has sim­i­lar traits to the ter­roir in French bub­bly, which means it’s pro­duc­ing some ex­cel­lent whites. Try the grape Clos D’Opleeuw at the in­ti­mate bar Bel­gian Wines ( 0032-3755 8755, bel­gian­wines.com), which sup­plies top restau­rants like the fine­din­ing mecca The Jane ( 0032-3808 4465, the­janeantwerp.com), in the Green Quar­ter, where reser­va­tions are re­quired (and must be booked three months ahead). If you don’t snag one, head next door for sour­dough piz­zas from year-old Stan­dard ( 0032-3230 1341, stan­dard­pizza.be).

Clock­wise from far left: An­twerp’s Grote Markt; plates of steak tartare at Bourla; the bou­tique Ho­tel Pi­lar; shop Dries Van Noten; the Ruben­shuis mu­seum; stroll the city’s pretty me­dieval al­leys

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