Travel: Give me a break: Antwerp on pounds 250

It is noon on Friday and you are in central London in desperate need of a weekend getaway. Clare Thomson prescribes a Belgian break

Down payment

Fly Air Flanders (0171-646 0755) from City Airport to Deurne. The trip takes 50 minutes and a weekend return will set you back pounds 105. A 20-minute bus ride (50 BF) brings you to the bustling heart of Antwerp. If you simply must arrive in style, catch the Eurostar (0123 3617575) from Waterloo to Brussels and a train to Antwerp Central, a stunningly flamboyant neo- Baroque station-cum-cathedral of commerce. The three-and-a-half-hour journey costs pounds 75 (if you reserve a week in advance) or pounds 119, plus 250 BF (around pounds 4) for a return ticket to Antwerp.

Instant briefing

Head straight for the tourist office in the historic town (15 Grote Markt, telephone 03/232.01.03). It's a 10-minute walk from the bus and railway stations up the crowded central shopping street, the Meir. Grab a map and the Antwerp Bulletin, a free cultural listings magazine, or buy the English-language weekly The Bulletin for up-to-date arts and events listings.

Rest assured

Cash-strapped romantics should book into the 17th-century Postiljon hotel on Blauwemoezelstraat (03/232.14.13), a cobbled, bar-lined street facing the cathedral and within spitting distance of the Grote Markt. Prices are low (about pounds 35 for a double and pounds 17 for a single room, both with shower but with shared toilet) and won't make single travellers feel like a burden on society.

If the prospect of clanging cathedral bells strikes a discordant note, try the cosy Pension Cammerpoorte near the De Wilde Zee shopping district, where sleek boutiques offer the best of the city's celebrated designers: Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester and Raf Simons. Single rooms start at about pounds 31, doubles at pounds 39.

Must see

Must buy

For 200BF (about pounds 3), snap up pioneering Renaissance printer Christope Plantin's sonnet "Joys of the World" printed on a 16th-century press. It's available at the leather-panelled, marble-floored Plantin-Moretus Museum, which has a cobbled central courtyard, maps by explorer Mercator and a Bible once owned by Good King Wenceslas.

Your budget may not allow you to invest in diamonds, although prices here are the lowest in the world (over 70 per cent of the world's diamonds pass through the city). But you can easily afford a box of chocolate diamonds (for those with "good taste but no money to waste"). Or choose from nearly 300 Belgian beers and buy a credibility-enhancing vintage beer glass from the Sunday junk market on St Jansvliet. The strong pound means penny-pinching fashion victims can splash out on a Dries Van Noten T-shirt.

Must eat

Plan your weekend around brunch at the renovated 18th-century Bourla theatre cafe, De Foyer (03/233.55.17), which has an ornate high-ceilinged brasserie, rich crimson curtains and attentive, white-aproned waiters. Reservations for the feast, which includes breads, fruits, cheese, charcuterie, bacon, sausages and cardiac desserts, should be made three weeks in advance.

Local eating habits would make Gargantua blanch. Try earthy specialities like rabbit or beef stewed in beer, or fresh fish dishes - lobster soup (kreeft soep), eel (paling) or mussels (mosselen) - opt for a cosy Flemish tavern or hip, minimalist decor at the ship-shaped Zuiderterass, by the river. Wijngardstraat and its neighbourhood are packed with fashionable, inexpensive dining delights. Zout & Peper, with African-style painted walls and the ubiquitous sparkling chandelier, offers a generous 995 BF menu including an aperitif and a two-glass carafe of wine. Sticky, warm waffles, chocolate hands and frieten provide sustenance between sights, or try lobster soup at the Van Bladel stall in De Wilde Zee.

Night moves

Antwerp has around 2,500 bars, but beer-lovers won't want to leave Kulminator, which has more than 500 beers on the menu, including vintage Trappist beers and a selection of Seventies bottled English ales (try a 1978 Fuller's Golden Pride).

Trendy locals hang out on the filled-in canal square between the Waalse Kaai and Vlaamse Kaai, south of the centre. Try the mellow Le Routier, Bar Tabac (Gallic-tinged inverted snobbery with chipped chairs and seedy lighting) or The Heming Way (heaving and sociable). Check out the glistening vats at restaurant/microbrewery Pakhuis, and try the excellent Antwerp Blond brew while you're there. Kaai Man attracts a self-conscious young crowd who lounge about on old-fashioned sofas to a soundtrack of hip-hop and chemical beats, leaving the frantically grooving bar staff to create the atmosphere. For undemanding clubbing, try Cafe Local, where the bar is a pseudo-Cuban coffee-and-sugar-lined warehouse setting and the music is non-stop garage-lite (hardcore clubbers should try Cafe d'Anvers, in the red-light district). Cafe Hopper attracts top-class jazz acts, but if you'd rather try traditional Flemish oom-pah, brave the gaze of elderly locals at the riverside Beveren bar.

Suggested Topics


Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.


Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing