Antwerp’s small size and close proximity to several European countries make it easy to explore in just a day. Whether you want to wander the historic Old Town, browse jewelry shops for dazzling diamonds, or indulge in Belgian chocolate and beer, here’s how to get the most out of 24 hours in Belgium’s capital of cool.
Orient yourself in the historic center of the city on a hop-on hop-off bus tour, which gives you the freedom to disembark at attractions of your choice. Jump off at Grand Market Place (Grote Markt van Antwerpen), a triangular-shaped marketplace surrounded by grand, 16th-century buildings. Head inside the Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedraal), home to two famous paintings by Flemish baroque master Peter Paul Rubens. Pose for a photograph beside the Brabo Fountain, which represents the legend of Antwerp’s conception, and admire the candy-striped facade of Butcher’s Hall (Vleeshuis), a former meat market turned music history museum.
Begin by admiring the interior and exterior of Central Station, a transit hub so grand that it’s nicknamed the Railway Cathedral by locals. From here, board the dedicated diamond bus and spend the afternoon exploring Antwerp’s Diamond District, through which 84% of the world’s uncut diamonds pass every year. Soak up the multicultural atmosphere created by Indian, Lebanese, Russian, and Chinese gem dealers, and take a guided tour of Diamondland, the largest diamond showroom in Antwerp. Guided tours offer a glimpse into the workshop, where you’ll see craftspeople polishing gems and creating diamond jewelry.
No visit to Belgium would be complete without sampling some of the country’s world-famous beer. Kick-start your evening in Antwerp on a beer-tasting tour led by a local, during which you’ll visit several bars and taste distinctive beer types. You can also add a stop at the De Koninck Brewery to the start of your tour to get the inside scoop on how Belgian beers are brewed and manufactured. For dinner, be sure to sample local classics such as crispy french fries smothered in mayonnaise and fluffy waffles drizzled with Belgian chocolate.