A Design Lovers Guide to Antwerp
As far as I’m concerned a city break is not worth doing if there isn’t an interiors angle, or some pretty buildings to look at. Antwerp just happens to be a mecca for both these things, so it was a no brainer when Hotel Indigo got in touch to ask me if I’d like to go and stay in their Antwerp branch and put together a design lovers guide to the city. Yes I would.
Instead of asking my mum to look after the kids, I thought it would be a lovely opportunity for us to spend some rare quality mum and daughter time together, and so off we trotted on the Eurostar to Antwerp, via Brussels. It’s around a four-hour journey in total from London St Pancras.
Our hotel was just five minutes walk from the beautiful Grand Centraal train station so we headed straight there to drop our bags and freshen up after a very early morning.
We were off to a good start on the design front, because the hotel reception is a quirky mix of mid-century vintage furniture, kitsch tropical prints and loads of plants. I like it here already.
Unfortunately it was raining when we arrived but I wasn’t going to let that get in the way of our interior design hunt, plus the hotel’s pink palm tree adorned lifts did a great job at bringing the tropical vibes, come rain or shine.
Our room was thoughtfully styled with a cool, industrial feel. The bed was topped with a tan leather quilted headboard, there was a cosy window seat and lots of industrial style accent lighting. Meanwhile the bathroom was a playful mix of green and harlequin style tiles.
This was a flying visit and we had lots to cram in so we dropped our things and headed out to hit the shops. It’s a shame it was January and bank balances were feeling depleted because Antwerp is a great city to go shopping in. As we were tight on time, we decided to mainly stick to the interiors and lifestyle shops, of which there are many.
Antwerp isn’t all that big and you can walk to most places, however we did cover a lot of ground so I’d definitely recommend comfy, sensible shoes. We started our tour at Graanmarkt 13, an interiors, fashion and lifestyle store with a very good restaurant in the basement (more on which later).
The store itself is uber cool and features a small selection of carefully curated homewares and home fragrances, sitting alongside cool fashion brands such as Ancient Greek sandals and Mansur Gavriel handbags.
Then we walked a little further to St Vincents, another super stylish concept store incorporating fashion and homewares (including some vintage pieces) only this one had a plant based café smack bang in the middle as a bonus. It’s a beautiful space and the food looked yummy but unfortunately there were no tables when we were there so we popped over the road to the cute as a button little Cafématic instead, which was a lovely lunch spot. It was also very busy but we managed to bag the last table.
Having warmed up and dried out a little, we hit the streets again and immediately came across the most stylish biscuit shop I’ve ever seen. Maison Dandoy specialises in the Belgian biscuits Speculoos, which I’m sure are delicious but let’s be honest, we all know why I was really here, just look at that curvy terrazzo counter.
From there we headed to Kloosterstraat aka interiors heaven. This street, right the way up to Oever, is packed to the gills with furniture and homewares stores. We spent well over an hour dipping in and out of the shops, and there is something to appeal to every taste from Espoo, which stocks contemporary design brands such as Hay, Ferm Living and Muuto; to Monique Stam, a maximalist heaven packed full of colour, pattern, texture…and a whole room clad in floor to ceiling leopard print. Oh yes!
One of my favourite store finds was Monday, which stocked an eclectic mix of vintage and new finds, including these colourful resin bowls and side plates. No, I didn’t buy one. And yes, I’m still kicking myself. Another fab independent store worth checking out was The Recollection.
Another great street for interiors inspo is Sint Jorispoort, however we didn’t make it there until the Sunday when everything was closed. But I would definitely try and factor this in to your shopping route.
The children of Antwerp must be some of the coolest kids in Europe because there are so many brilliant kids shops. Play had absolutely everything including all the hippest childrens wear brands, and the bed linen to match. And Filou and Friends is a must-visit for beautiful, classic childrenswear with a playful twist.
After all that walking and shopping, we were absolutely ready for some food (and a well earned G&T) so we headed back to the Hotel Indigo Antwerp - City Centre to shower and freshen up for dinner.
I’d done some research and was recommended Graanmarkt 13 by my friend and fellow blogger Ruthie Matthews of Design Soda. It’s very hip and very popular so you need to book in advance. The restaurant was in the basement of the store we visited earlier in the day and it offers a simple, pared back menu concept which I loved. It’s a three-course menu which changes weekly and your only choice is whether you want meat or fish. When we went the choice was between veal and seabass. These then come with a selection of vegetable side dishes. It was one of the most interesting and delicious meals I have had in a very long time and I would definitely recommend booking as a special treat.
That night we both slept like babies and woke up at 9am!! Which never happens but we had done A LOT of walking and eating the previous day so I can only put it down to that. This mama’s never going to complain about getting more sleep, however we did have lots more to pack in before catching our train back to Brussels and so we rushed down to breakfast at Queen A’s Kitchen, within the hotel. Tempted as I was by the chance to make my own fresh waffles, I was still digesting the previous night’s dinner so I resisted and stuck to fruit, yoghurt and coffee. But god, did they smell and look good!
The plan for today was to head out of the centre a short distance to Cogels Osylei in the Bercham district. It’s around a 45-minute walk, but as we were short on time we decided to take the train instead, which took five minutes.
Cogels Osylei is nothing short of spectacular, especially if you’re into buildings like I am. It’s one street, plus a few side streets, full of majestic mansions ranging in style from Art Deco, Neo-Gothic, Neo-Classical and even Tudor in style.
It sounds a bit bonkers, and in a way it is, but it’s stunning. We felt like we had stepped onto a film set. It’s well worth a visit and you could drop in at Maurice coffee shop to refuel while you’re there. We didn’t go in but it looked lovely and was buzzing with people having their breakfast.
This is also where we just happened upon the Instagram friendly rainbow crossing of dreams, and I had to keep dodging traffic while I got my mum to get a pic.
After walking round and gawping up at the insanely gorgeous architecture for a while, we hopped back on the train and the plan was to walk to the Sunday Flea Market which usually sets up outside the entrance to St Anna’s tunnel. We stopped on the way for coffee at the pretty Mirlo’s café, with its pastel palette of mint green, and rose pink beetroot lattes.
Unfortunately the Flea Market had been rained off that day, but we did have a lot of laughs discovering the Art Deco lifts and escalators which take you down to the tunnel. As it was a rainy Sunday no-one was around and all the information was in Belgian, so mum was more than a little concerned when I bundled her into a random lift with no idea where it was going and what was going to be at the bottom.
Luckily at the bottom we discovered the rare wooden Art Deco escalators, which is one of the most #accidentallywesanderson locations I’ve ever seen. So no flea market, but all was not lost.
Finally, with just an hour left we squeezed in a quick browse around the more traditional tourist sights of the historic Grotemarkt and cathedral, before heading back to our hotel to collect our bags and catch our train home.
In total we were in Antwerp for less than 48 hours but it really is the perfect city break. We loved its cool, chilled out and friendly vibe. It’s small enough to explore on foot, stunning architecture, fab shopping, great cafés, bars and restaurant and our hotel was the perfect base for our trip.
*This is a paid post in collaboration with Intercontinental Hotel Group who also paid for my hotel and transport. However all words and thoughts are my own and I planned and decided upon our itinerary myself.
If you’d like to book Hotel Indigo Antwerp - City Centre, prices start at 111 Euros per night. You can book here.