Where to Stay in Antwerp, Belgium

SD › Best Places to Stay in Antwerp
Updated: January 18, 2023
By Santorini Dave

Our Favorite Antwerp Hotels

• 5-Star Hotel: Botanic Sanctuary
• Boutique Hotel: Hotel ‘t Sandt
• Cheap Hotel: Citybox
• Family Hotel: YAYS Antwerp Opera
• Best Indoor Pool: Botanic Sanctuary
• Best Outdoor Pool: Cabosse
• Near Train Station: NH Collection Antwerp Centre

Train station in central Antwerp.

The iconic and historic Antwerp Centraal railway station.

The Best Area to Stay in Antwerp

Though it’s long been in the shadow of Brussels and Amsterdam, Antwerp is one of the underrated gems of the Low Countries, a historic, lively city with a rich artistic legacy that includes Rubens, Snyders, Anthony van Dyck, and the Bruegels. In the 16th century Antwerp was one of the most important commercial centers in the world, and one of the richest thanks to its sea-going merchants. After the closure of the River Scheldt in 1648 the city fell into a long decline, but today it’s booming again. The city remains an important port and is still at the heart of the world’s diamond trade; it’s also developed a small but creative fashion industry, and a vibrant student population keeps things buzzing at night. Though the city was heavily bombed in World War II, its surviving old streets, churches and distinctive Flemish architecture (with those stepped gables) provides much of the allure, along with a spread of contemporary buildings and excellent bars and restaurants – beer here is superb (and cheap), and it’s also a great place to buy Belgian chocolate.

Antwerp has a huge stock of accommodation, much of it reasonably priced and good quality. You’ll find numerous contemporary budget/midrange hotels here, and lots of B&Bs – just as friendly but cheaper than the more upscale North American version. Most visitors will want to stay in, or at least close to, the Historic Center; this is where most of the attractions are located, as well as most of the shops, restaurants, and bars. The adjoining Theater District and Sint-Andries (St Andrew’s) District offer similar experiences. If you’d rather have the convenience of being close to the train station, the Central Station District offers several relatively cheap options, as well as lots of shopping and family-friendly attractions. Hotels in the University District are also within walking distance of the station. If you’ve been here before or would prefer to stay in a more local, more romantic neighborhood, consider trendy Het Zuid, home of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts and some of the best restaurants in the city, or Zurenborg, known for its beautiful Art Nouveau and fin-de-siècle architecture. Finally, modern Eilandje, north of the old city, occupies the old port district, a largely contemporary zone of offices and apartments around a series of marinas; there are some newish hotels here if staying near the water appeals.

Antwerp Travel Tips

  • Antwerp has a small airport but it serves only a handful of European destinations. Brussels Airport is far more connected and is actually very convenient for Antwerp. You can take express trains direct from the airport terminal to Antwerp in around 45 minutes.
  • Much of Antwerp can be explored on foot; and given the one-way system (with trams), tight parking, and narrow streets, it’s best not to drive in the city center. For longer trips between districts, public transport is efficient and cheap – buses and trams are operated by De Lijn. Single tickets are €2.50, with day passes €7.50 (you can buy online or via the De Lijn app). If you are driving to Antwerp, park your car and leave it there. If your hotel doesn’t offer parking (or it’s too expensive), consider the free Park & Ride parking lots on the outskirts of the city.
  • Antwerp is a rewarding place to ride bikes. There are lots of bike lanes and paths, and the city is pancake-flat. Velo is the city’s bike share program, with day passes (unlimited 30-minute rides) for €5. If you want to use a bike continuously without the hassle of finding Velo docks, just rent a bike for the day: try Antwerp by Bike, Cyclant, or take a tour with Antwerp Bike Tours.
  • Visitors intending to do a lot of sightseeing should consider the Antwerp City Card. You get free entry to 16 museums and several other attractions, plus free travel on city buses and trams. (Cards come in 24hr, 48hr or 72hr units.) As always with these sorts of passes, you need to max out the benefits to save money, so only buy the City Card if you really want to hit those museums.
  • Free wi-fi is offered all over the city center; look for “Antwerp Free Wi-Fi”. Most museums also offer it.
  • Dutch (not French) is the official language in Antwerp, but almost everyone speaks some English – especially in hotels and at tourist sights. In bars and restaurants, younger locals are more likely to speak English than their older counterparts, but you’ll rarely get stuck.
  • The climate in Antwerp (and all of Belgium) is relatively temperate, which means it stays pleasantly mild in summer and cool (and wet) in winter – extreme temperatures are rare. May and June are our favorite times to visit; it’s warm enough to sit outside, but it’s before the summer tourist season really picks up. The fall (September and October) is also a good time to visit, though it can be surprisingly busy at this time.

The Best Places to Stay in Antwerp

Best Neighborhoods in Antwerp for…

  • Best Neighborhood to Stay for First Timers/Sightseeing: Historic Center
    It makes most sense to stay in the Historic Center of Antwerp. You’ll be within walking distance of all the main sights and attractions – the Grote Markt, cathedral, Museum Plantin-Moretus, the Vleeshuis, St-Pauluskerk, the River Scheldt waterfront and Het Steen, and the pedestrianized main shopping street, Meir. This is also where you’ll find Rubenshuis, home of Antwerp’s most famous son, the painter Pieter Paul Rubens. You’ll be able to walk (or take short tram rides) to all the other neighborhoods of interest, including the Central Station (though maybe not with bags). You could, however, also consider the Sint-Andries (St Andrew’s District) or Theater District, which are fairly close to the above attractions, but slightly less touristy neighborhoods. And if you opt to stay in the cheaper University of Central Station neighborhoods, even these are relatively short strolls from the old center.
  • Most Romantic Neighborhood: Het Zuid or Zurenborg
    To escape most of the tourists, aim to stay in one of the romantic B&Bs and boutiques in fashionable Het Zuid, south of the city center. It’s a beautiful neighborhood of leafy boulevards and 19th century mansions, as well as some of the best restaurants in the city. It’s also something of an artistic hub, with several galleries and top art museums such as the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, FOMU–Fotomuseum, and Museum of Contemporary Art. Romantic places to stay include Boutique Hotel Maison Emile, Hotel Lit d’Art, and Mañana Mañana. When it comes to restaurants, Kommilfoo is a good choice for a splurge, as is the intimate Restaurant Signatuur. Watch the sunset from the landscaped promenade along the River Scheldt.

    Zurenborg is another hip neighborhood that feels more like a village, with gorgeous architecture and a vibrant café life. Some of our favorite spots here include the Dôme restaurant, Salt & Mint for breakfast or lunch, and LGBT-friendly Den Draak for coffee or drinks.

  • Best Neighborhood for Nightlife: Eilandje
    Antwerp is a great place to go out at night. There are numerous bars spread all over the city, from historic taverns to sleek modern spots. The local beer is De Koninck, a light ale drunk in a bolleke (a small, stemmed glass) – most locals just order a “bolleke”, which has come to mean the beer itself as much as the glass (you’ll see it written that way on menus). Though you’ll have a good time wherever you go out, Eilandjeis probably the best Antwerp neighborhood overall for nightlife. Beer lovers should start out at the independent Seef brewery, aka Antwerpse Brouw Compagnie, which has its own taproom, or one of the area’s summer terrace bars, where there’s live music and usually waterfront views; Bocadero and SOMMAR are fun examples. Bar Paniek is another favorite spot to watch sunset with a few drinks. Clubs come and go, but you’ll find the best of them in Eilandje: the likes of IKON, The Villa, Club Vaag, Club Lima, and many more.

    There’s also plenty of nightlife in the University district, Het Zuid, and in the Historic Center itself, though in the latter you’ll be mixing with tourists as much as locals. We like the drinks and chilled vibe at Koerwoud, the historic bars at Paters Vaetje, De Duifkens in the Graanmarkt, Elfde Gebod, cocktails at Dogma, and laid-back Den Engel.

    • In addition to local beer, Antwerp produces a digestive liqueur dubbed the “Elixir d’Anvers.” It’s an acquired taste, a bit like gin, made from 32 plants by the De Beukelaer distillery since 1863.

  • Best Neighborhood for Food and Restaurants: Historic Center and Theater District
    As with nightlife, you’ll find great food all over Antwerp, which has developed into something of a foodie destination – there are 11 Michelin-starred restaurants at last count, spread out all over the city, and neighborhoods such as Het Zuid and Eilandje contain some of the best up-and-coming places to eat. Having said that, first-time visitors will find plenty to eat in the Historic Center and adjoining Theater District. At the top end you can splurge on traditional Belgian cuisine from chef Johan Segers at ‘t Fornuis, French-Belgian cuisine at Tim Meuleneire’s FRANQ, and Asian-influenced Restaurant Nathan and Dim Dining. The Botanic Sanctuary hotel contains some exquisite restaurants, notably Hertog Jan and Fine Fleur.

    It’s not just posh restaurants, though. Belgium’s famous potato fries (smothered with sauces) can be sampled at venerable Fritkot Max behind the cathedral, which even has a fries “museum”, or at no-frills Frituur n°1 off Grote Markt (Hoogstraat 1), known for its stoofvleessaus (pot roast gravy). For a bit more class head to Frites Atelier at Korte Gasthuisstraat 32. For a sweet treat, go for dessert at Het Gebaar in a cute “gingerbread house” near the Plantentuin Botanical Garden. For Italian food, try Le Pristine.

    • Central Antwerp is full of gourmet chocolate shops. Some of the best include DelRey, Günther Watté’, Chocolaterie Sweertvaegher, and the wonderful Chocolate Line in the lavish Paleis op de Meir.

    • Another local sweet treat to try is Antwerpse Handjes, chocolates or biscuits, sometimes with a marzipan filling, and dipped in Elixir d’Anvers, made here since 1934 (traditionally in the shape of a hand).

    • Look out also for packets of “Caramella Mokatine”, a coffee-flavored toffee candy made by Confiserie Roodthooft, a local sweet shop founded in 1925.

  • Best Neighborhood for Shopping: Meir (Historic Center); Sint-Andries; Theater District; Central Station District
    The good news is that all the best shopping can be found in central Antwerp – there’s no need to hit the suburbs or shopping malls on the outskirts. The main targets are spread between four adjoining neighborhoods; the Historic Center (principally along Meir, the main shopping street), Theater District, Sint-Andries (St Andrew’s District) and the Central Station District. Highlights include the Grand Bazar Shopping Center in Groenplaats, which hasaround 50 shops inside, the antique and vintage shops on Kloosterstraat and Lange Koepoortstraat, and the vast range of chain and boutique shops all along the Meir corridor, where you can check out the exclusive Shopping Stadsfeestzaal mall. Further south, Schuttershofstraat and Lange Gasthuisstraatare lined with posh boutiques, the latter home to cult ladies’ fashion favorite Princess. The Wilde Zee district at the western end of Meir is another fun place to shop, with five lively pedestrian shopping streets fanning out from a central plaza. Dedicated shoppers should also check out the antique market near the cathedral on Lijnwaadmarkt (every Sat, in summer only), and the Saturday food market and Sunday Vogelenmarkt (more like a flea market) on Theaterplein.

    Sint-Andries encompasses the city’s Fashion District, with most of the top Belgian designers (like Dries van Noten, Christian Wijnants, and Stephan Schneider) running boutiques on Nationalestraat, Kammenstraatand, the surrounding streets. Finally, anyone interested in buying diamonds has come to the right place – the Diamond District near Central Station is effectively the world’s biggest diamond market (the “Antwerp’s Most Brilliant” label guarantees reliability and quality).

  • Best Neighborhood for Local Vibe: Zurenborg
    Though it’s beyond the city center and attracts few tourists, Zurenborg is one of Antwerp’s most attractive neighborhoods, with a friendly, village-like vibe and a spate of gorgeous belle époque and art nouveau mansions – you’ll see the best examples along Cogels-Osylei. You should also detour down Waterloostraat, where at the intersection with Generaal van Merlenstraat there are four spectacular corner houses dubbed “Autumn,” “Winter,” “Summer,” and “Spring.” The neighborhood is anchored by Dageraadplaats, the central square, which is lined with bars, cafés, and restaurants. (The web of fairy lights suspended above the plaza at night adds to the romantic atmosphere.) Zeezicht and historic Café Moeskop are good places to hang out and sip coffee, while Dôme is the place for a splurge. On the main square, our favorite place to eat is HUMM, a Middle Eastern restaurant. It’s also not far to De Koninck, where you can take tours of the city’s iconic brewery. Our favorite places to stay here are the Garden of Eden, Rock Lobster City Lodge, and the Scent Residence. The best chain option is the nearby Park Inn Berchem.
  • Safety in Antwerp
    Antwerp is generally quite safe (with a much lower crime rate than Brussels, for example). Drug-dealing, petty theft (pick-pocketing, bag-snatching) and car theft does happen, but take the usual precautions in Schipperskwartier, especially at night, and you should be fine. Though it’s pretty tame these days, Schipperskwartier, the red-light district, can still get edgy after the sun goes down.

The 7 Best Neighborhoods in Antwerp for Tourists

Hotel in Antwerp Old Town.

The Hilton Antwerp Old Town in the city’s Historic Center.

1. Historic Center

The Historic Center of Antwerp is where visitors spend most of their time, for good reason. Much of the pretty medieval core survives (some buildings and churches were rebuilt after World War II), and there are lots of quiet, cobblestone streets lined with Flemish-style buildings, old bars and restaurants, as well as some of the city’s major museums and sights. The Center also encompasses the main shopping street, Meir, and the Scheldt riverfront, which is pleasant (if a little underwhelming, considering its history).

The traditional heart of the city is the Grote Markt, a pleasant square anchored by the 1887 Brabo Fountain and surrounded by striking 16th-century guildhouses and the elegant Stadhuis (city hall), completed in 1566. Nearby is the DIVA diamond museum and the entrance to De Ruien, the old underground sewers (now mercifully clean) that you can explore on popular guided tours. The Handschoenmarkt (the former Glove Market), another pretty little square, is a good spot for a coffee or meal, located next to the Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp, one of the most spectacular religious buildings in Belgium. Highlights inside include four early paintings by Rubens. The other major sights in the old center include the Museum Plantin-Moretus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the old mansion of the printer Christopher Plantin with exhibits related to 16th-century printing. In the narrow side streets north of the GroteMarkt there’s also the stripy red and white Vleeshuis (Meat Hall), once the home of the Guild of Butchers and now a fascinating museum on the history of music and dance in the city. To the north, St-Pauluskerk is one of the city’s most beautiful churches, and it’s a short stroll to the Scheldt waterfront, essentially a wide promenade looking out across the river and to the port activity further north. The main sight here is Het Steen, part of a medieval fortress that’s now home to the main tourist office and “The Antwerp Story”, an exhibition that introduces the city’s past and present.

East from the Grote Markt, Wijngaardstraat leads to tiny Hendrik Conscienceplein, one of the most picturesque squares in the city. Inside the church of St-Carolus Borromeus here is the ornate Mariakapel (Chapel of Maria), while the Hendrik Conscience Heritage library contains an exceptional collection of Dutch and Flemish literature.

The south side of the Historic Center is flanked by Meir, Antwerp’s pedestrianized main shopping street, which runs east to Central Station. It’s lined with grand buildings and standard main street shops, but the main attraction here is the Rubenshuis, the home where Pieter Paul Rubensspent most of his adult life. It’s been transformed into a beautiful and enlightening museum of the master’s life and work, including his studio and several paintings. Rubens was buried nearby in St-Jacobskerk, a handsome Gothic church well worth a look.

• To the north of the old town lies Schipperskwartier, a small area of three narrow pedestrianized streets (Verversrui, Vingerlingstraat, and Schippersstraat) that serve as Antwerp’s heavily regulated (and tolerated, prostitution is legal in Belgium) red light district. If you’ve been to Amsterdam you’ll be familiar with the “window prostitution” on show here, and most families will want to avoid it if walking up to Eilandje.

• The best place to take boat tours along the River Scheldt is Eilandje (see below), but you can also walk or bike through the Sint-Anna Tunnel (pedestrians only) under the river between the old town and Linkeroeveron the west bank. There’s not much to see on this side, but you’ll get a stunning view of the city and there are some good bars on the river. You can always take the free commuter ferry back to the city (it zips across every 30 minutes or so).

• Another cheaper alternative to boat tours from Eilandjeis to take De Waterbus, a commuter-oriented ferry that serves several stops along the Scheldt (including the Historic Center’s Steenplein).

2. Theaterbuurt (Theater District)

The Theater District (aka the Quartier Latin) is essentially an extension of the old town to the southeast, its name owing to the many theaters here; principally the modern Stadsschouwburg and the elegant Bourla Theatre. It’s also a high-end shopping area (with lots of boutiques along Leopoldstraat and Schuttershofstraat) and is home to two absorbing museums. The Museum Mayer van den Bergh is one of Antwerp’s must-sees for art lovers, comprising a thoughtful collection of mainly Netherlandish paintings – the Bruegels feature heavily, including Pieter Bruegel’s celebrated “Mad Meg.” Nearby, the Maagdenhuis (“Maidens’ House”) was an orphanage dating back to the 16th century, and is now a small museum dedicated to its former purpose (including the original majolica porridge bowls and van Dyck’s painting of St Jerome). More or less behind the museum (at Leopoldstraat 24), the Plantentuin is a hidden botanical garden that makes a tranquil escape from the city.

• This neighborhood is obviously most convenient for visitors looking to spend a few nights at the theaters, though it’s not far to walk from most of the Historic Center. There’s less choice in terms of accommodation, but some of the most exclusive and luxurious hotels in Antwerp are here (the ibis is a convenient budget exception).

3. Sint-Andries (St Andrew’s District)

Like the Theater District, Sint-Andries (St Andrew’s District) is basically an extension of the Historic Center, this time to the southwest. It’s named after the small 16th-century Sint-Andrieskerk (St Andrew’s church), but today is more commonly known as the city’s Fashion District, home to top Belgian designers’ boutiques and hip vintage stores (especially on Nationalestraat and Kammenstraat). You can learn more about Belgian fashion and Antwerp’s role in it at the Mode Museum (MoMu). Beginning with the “Antwerp Six” in the 1980s (Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, and Marina Yee), Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts has knocked out a steady stream of award-winning designers. Kloosterstraat is the place to go for antique stores.

• There’s not a lot of hotel accommodation here (it’s mostly rental apartments), but Antwerp Central Youth Hostel (Pulcinella) is Antwerp’s best hostel.

4. Central Station District

Best Antwerp hotel near train station.

The Radisson BLU Astrid is opposite Centraal Station with great views of the historic train station.

The Central Station District surrounds Antwerp’s main train station (Station Antwerpen-Centraal), a short walk east from the Historic Center. The main attraction staying here, obviously, is having easy access to Belgium’s efficient train network. Though it’s still within walking distance of the old center, it can be a slog with heavy or multiple bags – if you don’t want the hassle or cost of getting a tram or taxi, choosing somewhere to stay close to the station might be the way to go (it’s also convenient for day-trips out of the city or to Brussels).

There are also a few things to see in this neighborhood, notable the late 19th-century station itself, which is simply phenomenal and one of Europe’s great civic buildings (it makes a memorable appearance in W. G. Sebald’s novel Austerlitz). From the station, De Keyserlei runs west and blends into Meir, the city’s main shopping street, while the streets southwest (Lange Kievitstraat and pedestrianized Schupstraat/Hoveniersstraat) is home to the Diamond District, still the largest diamond market in the world. Families might want to check out ZOO Antwerpen, home to around 7,000 animals including all the favorites: penguins, monkeys, elephants, koalas, lions, and hippos. Kids also love Chocolate Nation, a slick chocolate museum that offers a high-tech intro to Belgian chocolate (with tastings of up to 10 different kinds). The ornate Chinese gate (“Pagodepoort”) next to the choc museum is the entrance to Antwerp’s Chinatown, essentially just one long block along Van Wesenbekestraat, but a good place to find cheap Asian food and souvenirs – Fong Mei is a good bet here for Cantonese food.

• Many hotels here are cheap and relatively good value, though quality varies. You should be able to walk to most of them from the station, even with bags. The better ones are listed below.

5. Universiteitsbuurt (University District)

Antwerp’s student population – over 40,000 – is a big part of what makes it so much fun at night (you can actually drink beer and wine at age 16 in Belgium). The Universiteitsbuurt (University District) surrounds the historic campus of the University of Antwerp, where you’ll find plenty of cheap, atmospheric bars and cafes, and far fewer tourists (Ossenmarktis the main hub of university life). The main sight is the Snijders&Rockoxhuis, a museum incorporating the former homes of Nicolaas Rockox, friend and patron of Rubens, and painter Frans Snijders; restored period rooms, original artwork, and information about the two characters is displayed inside. The nearby Letterenhuis is dedicated to Flemish literature, with a library and exhibitions.

6. Het Zuid

Het Zuid (“The South”) is a fashionable neighborhood south of Sint-Andries; a district of wide, tree-lined boulevards, excellent bars and restaurants, and stately mansions. It’s worth a visit whether you opt to stay here or not, though visitors looking to avoid the more conventional tourist haunts in the old city center, or who want a more tranquil, romantic stay, should consider the chic hotels here. The main attractions will primarily appeal to art lovers, such as the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, recently reopened in September 2022 after a massive renovation. It contains an extensive collection of Belgian art from the 14th century on. There’s also the Museum of Contemporary Art, the warehouse-like FOMU (the Photo Museum), and several innovative art galleries. The Lambermontmartre open-air art market is a great place to browse local arts and crafts on Sundays (every last Sun of the month).

• Het Zuid is home to some especially romantic B&Bs and boutique hotels, perfect for couples looking for a tranquil getaway.

7. Eilandje

Het Eilandje – “The Little Island” – is the old port area north of the Historic Center. With the old docks being transformed into marinas and the wharves demolished to make way for modern condos and office blocks, its an area (still very much in development) that splits opinion; it’s not the pretty, historical Antwerp many visitors have come to see, but some of the contemporary architecture on display is impressive, and there are a couple of sights worth checking out. One of the most striking is the Museum aan de Stroom, a tower of cuboid sandstone rising above the water of Willemdok. The family-friendly exhibits inside shed light on Antwerp’s seafaring history, but the views from the 10th floor observation deck almost outshine the collection. Further north, the Red Star Line Museum chronicles the story of the transatlantic shipping service that transported millions of emigrants (mostly Central and Eastern Europeans, including Albert Einstein and Irving Berlin), from Antwerp to the US between 1873 and 1934. At the far northern end of the district, Zaha Hadid’s gasp-inducing 2016 glazed extension to the Port House floats over the water like a giant alien ship (you can get close but you can’t go inside).

• If you’ve been to Antwerp before, staying here might appeal, as it makes quite a contrast from the rest of city – all contemporary blocks and lots of water. Though the area lacks historic charm, the waterside cafes and bars are a real bonus, and Eilandje boasts some of the best nightlife in the city.

• If you want a closer look at the Scheldt, or just want to see the city skyline from the river, take a boat tour with Jan Plezier or Flandria. Both depart near the Londenbrugin Eilandje.

• For a real treat, book a table at Zilte on the 9th floor of the Museum aan de Stroom. Chef Viki Geunes helms the only three-star Michelin restaurant in Antwerp, and the views are superb.

About Santorini Dave

Santorini Dave Author Bio. Santorini Dave was started in 2011 by a guy who loved Greece, travel, and great hotels. We're now a small team of writers and researchers on a mission to deliver the most helpful travel content on the internet. We specialize in Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, and Greece and recommend the best hotels, best neighborhoods, and best family hotels in top destinations around the world. We also make hotel maps and travel videos. I can be contacted at dave@santorinidave.com.