Scheldt-loads of style
ANTWERP is one of Lonely Planet’s hot cities of 2018 and ‘Belgium’s capital of cool’. Sliced by the Scheldt River, it’s home to Europe’s second-largest port (after Rotterdam) and a thriving style scene — ace designer Dries Van Noten is a local — while Belgian carrier VLM (flyvlm.com) now flies from London City in less than an hour. What are you waiting for?
Antwerp has a slew of new properties. Among them is Hotel U (doubles from £156,u-eatsleep.be) in Het Eilandje, the city’s most exciting area. This historic port area has the Museum Aan De Stroom (from £7, mas.be) and Zaha Hadid’s sparkling Port House, the Port Authority HQ, with hangars and warehouses turned into bars and restaurants.
The best-located budget hotel, however, is the Hotel Indigo Antwerp (doubles from £79, ihg.com), opposite the Central Station.
Girl’s best friends
It’s said that every diamond passes through Antwerp. From next May the Diva Museum (divaantwerp.be) will focus on a trade that goes back to the 15th century.
Until then, wander around the diamond district, a pedestrianised area with lots of security, and in any showroom you may find stones being cut. If you’re on foot, swing by what is considered the prettiest street in the city. Cogels Osylei also happens to be Dries Van Noten’s preferred avenue. Naturally.
Last month, The Butcher’s Son, part of the parquet-floored De Koninck brewery, got its first Michelin star. It offers a concise menu of meat in all its guises from pâté to Aberdeen Angus beef (starting from £16, thebutchersson.be).
Coffee is taken very seriously here and options range from the chilled-out Coffee & Vinyl (coffeeandvinyl.com), where you can rummage through old records, to the CoffeeLabs group (coffeelabs.be), which offers healthy lunches and its own-blend roasts and creations — dark chocolate and chilli-flake cappuccino, anyone? Visit its outpost within the Idealabs (idealabs.be) creative hub on Lange Klarenstraat 19 and you’ll mix with the rising stars of Antwerp.
Among Belgian staples not to be missed are, er, French fries. Michelin-starred chef Sergio Herman’s new eatery, Frites Atelier (portions from £3, fritesatelier.com), uses spuds from Zealand, which are sprinkled with samphire salt and topped with six home-made sauces. Upgrade and add Flemish beef stew or keep it simple with a portion of fries. Just don’t actually call them French.
Finally, for a late-night beer visit Plein Publiek (pleinpubliek.be), old apartments converted into a pop-up gallery, restaurant and music venue. It closes in a month when the council claims the block back, so be quick.
VLM Airlines offers return flights from London City to Antwerp from £79, flyvlm.com
Follow local account @denantwerpenaar for city views including this one of Grote Markt