The Antwerp Book Fair begins this weekend (continuing until the 11th November). Lots of Flemish writers, publishers and retailers will be present, but there will be books of all sorts and in many different languages, including English. Writers Robert Harris and Kate Mosse will be in attendance this year.
The young people’s theatre group Up With People are in Antwerp and performing two musical shows here. These will be in English at Theater Elckerlyck .
Over this weekend there are a number of activities and events for Plein Publiek which open on the afternoon of the 30th October and continues until Sunday. Details of specific events (music, brunch, workshops) can be found on Facebook
There will be an enormous yoga event this Sunday, at Sportpaleis, starting at 12.30 and concluding at 4pm. You can register here and find out more about the program. It doesn’t cost to register but the event’s purpose is to raise money for Medecins sans Frontieres/ Doctors without Borders.
It’s the first Sunday of the month, so shoppers will be pleased to learn that on and around Meir many shops will be open for business, even though it is All Saints Day, and officially a holiday too.
Bargain hunters may prefer one of two flea-markets on this Sunday, at either Park Spoor Noord (starting 9am) or Kinepolis (starting 10am, also on Saturday)
Increasingly, Hallowe’en is a festival that adults like to make a night of, rather than being solely an opportunity for kids to dress up.
During the day, however, if zombies are your thing there will be a Zombie Walk. Assemble in appropriate attire on Kammenstraat at 2pm. The parade will conclude with a free drink courtesy of Cafe Congé.
If you are heading out in the evening sans enfants, you may find that the Irish bars in Antwerp are the ones which are most keen to celebrate Hallowe’en. I’m hyperlinking to their webpages, but if you are on Facebook, you might find more up-to-date information on the page of each pub there.
As previously mentioned An Sibhin on the Nationalestraat will be holding their Hallowe’en Quiz on the 29th this year (Thursday), to make space for the Rugby Final on the 31st itself. This will be shown on the pub’s big screen and is a popular and lively place to watch games.
On Friday you can join the Critical Mass cycling movement for a Hallowe’en Themed Bike Ride. Assemble on Theaterplein at 6. The bike ride concludes at Park Spoor Noord where there will be snacks and hot drinks.
On the 31st, The Irish Times on Grote Markt will be showing the game too, and also having a Hallowe’en Dress-Up night.
Kelly’s on Keyserlei (the street leading up to the main entrance of Antwerp Central Station) always goes a bundle for Hallowe’en, and it will be a busy night there.
On the Rijnkaai for free you can dance until late to a indie/ rock/ Britpop at London Calling Hallowe’en Special.
The Highlander Café will also be having a Hallowe’en part, starting at 9pm.
If you are looking to buy a pumpkin, I recommend the Saturday market, on Theaterplein. They usually still have them, even if you have left it to the last minute!
Enjoy your Hallowe’en. If you are taking your kids Trick or Treating, have fun and stay safe.
This post is about hanging out in Antwerp with kids, and is especially for the grandparents of my kids who do so much to look after our two youngest, when their school holidays do not coincide with ours.
In summer, keeping kids entertained is pretty easy. When the sun shines there are so many parks and pop- up bars with play areas and activities that it’s not hard to find somewhere budget- friendly to take them to each day, where adults will also be able to relax. The parks and play areas we most commonly visit are Stadspark (also has a skate park), Park Spoor Noord, the play area at the Gedempte zuiderdokken (kaaien) and the play area on Dageraadplaats in the Zurenborg area. The scenic Rivierenhof also has a lot of space and a play area for kids and it’s a lovely place to walk and get away from the city if you need some peace.
In autumn, when the weather turns colder, it is not always so simple, so this a brief guide to some of the places we like to go with our kids, when the weather is no longer so warm.
The most obvious choices in the centre of town are the zoo and Comics Station , which are both good days out, but not cheap, especially if you are taking a few kids. At time of writing (October 2015) the zoo is undergoing renovation in some parts, meaning that some animals are not around, and there are parts which are occupied by building works. On the other hand, the aquarium section is finished and open and is a huge improvement on what was previously there. If you live in Antwerp, you may want to consider buying a year pass to make your visits more cost effective. I would also recommend keeping costs down by bringing your own picnic. There is a new restaurant in the zoo (La Latteria) and although the venue itself is very attractive, being one of the old zoo buildings, the food is nothing special and it is not cheap, again, especially if you are there with a few mouths to feed.
When we are sloping around town, there are two cafés in particular which welcome children and have facilities for them. The first is on Theatreplein (where the market is) and is called Het Geluk. It looks like a regular café, but is geared to kids and families. Because the outside area is covered, it is a good way to get kids out and about with their own trikes, scooters, bikes, roller skates etc in a place that they can use them, even if it is raining. Additionally, there is a play corner, and a selection of toys and games which the kids can borrow while they are there by asking at the bar and leaving their name. Het Geluk is open from Wednesday – Sunday.
Het Geluk is part of the theatre Het Paleis which runs performances and shows for children. These are in Dutch. They also run workshops and activities during the Belgian school holidays. You can pick up a programme or go along to the theatre for information and leaflets. I am sure they would also be happy to advise you which activities would be suitable for kids who do not speak Dutch. Theater performances and drama activities for kids can also be found at De Studio.
Affiliated to Het Geluk is Het Steen (open on Wednesdays- Sundays) which also offers a play area and toys within the café. During summer there is a water and sand play area at the back of the café. Het Steen also runs educational themed workshops during the holidays and at weekends. They have an atelier below the café where these take place. They are usually aimed at kids aged 6+ and are in Dutch. I like this café because of its location in the historic part of town, by the river. At both Het Steen and Het Geluk, food and drinks are very reasonably priced, with a large bowl of soup for example, costing only 4 euros.
I haven’t been to Plaasj Kaffee yet, but I am planning to at some point this autumn or winter as I have heard good things about it and it has play areas for kids which are both outdoor and covered. It’s also a bit away from the city centre, being on Linkeroever (other side of the river) over the water from the Eilandje area.
Also over the water is Antwerp Bowling . It’s very easy to reach by bike, tram or car. It’s certainly a pricier way to kill an afternoon than Het Geluk or Het Steen but my kids always have a good time here. For younger kids, there is a soft play and climbing area which they really like. This costs 5 euros for unlimited play. The food and drinks are moderately priced. Antwerp Bowling is open seven days per week. Our son also had a really good birthday party here one year. The staff are efficient, friendly and used to children.
Cinemas in town include The UGC on Keyserlei, right in front of Central Station, Kinepolis just outside of town, to the north on Groenendaallan (Tram 6) and Cartoons cinema (open Thursday -Sunday) on Kasstraat in the old town (off Suikerrui, in front of the cathedral). Cartoons also has a really nice basement bar/ café.
It’s cheap to go swimming in Antwerp, but you do need to check the website to ensure that you turn up at the right times for public swimming, as some hours are set aside for particular groups of swimmers (e.g. women only). The two closest pools to the city centre are Zwembad Plantin Moretus and Sportoase. Note that pools can also be a bit strict about suitable swimwear: guys are expected to wear swimming trunks, but not long beach-style shorts or itsy bitsy speedos. If you forget, you can usually purchase a pair at the pool. If you have long hair, make sure you tie it back.
For workshops and activities for children during holidays and half-terms, it is worth keeping an eye on the many museums in Antwerp. As well as being worth a family visit, they sometimes have special activities for kids. My son enjoyed a workshop at Mayer van den Bergh museum and also at The Museum of Modern Art which is near the river and the kaaien. MAS and The Red Star Line Museum also have activities for kids. Note that for workshops, children may need to reserve places online, in advance.
The Permeke Library on De Coninckplein (near China town area) also has a programme (again in Dutch) of reading and activities for children.
If you live in Antwerp and often make use of the city facilities (e.g. swimming pools, museums, library) then you will get reductions if you get an A -Kaart. You can get them at any venue where a reduction is given for card holders (I got mine at the Red Star Line Museum) or at the Districtshuis.
Film lovers might be interested in taking the opportunity to discover Filmhuis Klappei. It’s a very small film theatre, not too far from de Coninckplein On the 24th, film fans can catch three classic American noir movies for a very low price. Klappei also has a nice bar and is perfect if you want to get away from the multiplexes.
There is a new sculpture exhibition opening at Middelheim Museum. It’s really worth discovering this place which is a lovely place to visit whenever the weather is dry. There are some big names in sculpture as permanent exhibits here, and lots of space for kids to run free.
Shoppers with excess money burning a hole in their pocket might want to check out stores participating in Belmodo Fashion Days on both Saturday and Sunday.
If you have kids (or a sweet tooth) you may need to be quick if you want to book The Pancake Boat . This is a tour along the harbour, while simultaneously eating pancakes. The boat is packing up for the season, so this will be the last weekend (until next spring) that you can take a trip. It’s reasonably priced, and the serving of pancakes is friendly and efficient, so you aren’t waiting for long. The trip is about the right length, so smaller kids do not get bored
Espectro is an evening of arts and music, right in the centre of town on Sunday evening (Rooseveltplaats is where all the busses go to/ from). If you register on their site in advance you will get a free drink on arrival, and it is only 4 euros to get in.
Fleamarket at the Eco -café which is easy to find from Central Station. Cross Astridplein next to the station, turning right as you face Aquatopia and the Radisson. It’s about 10-15 minutes’ walk on your left. As well as the café, you can visit the Eco Huis, which is a resource and exhibition space devoted to eco -friendly living.
If you like knitting and want to chill out in a café with other knitters and improve your skills then The Sunday Sock Club starting at 10am will interest you. 8 euros.
For something a bit more active there is a Dance festival starting at 2pm at the Arenberg Theatre (right near Theatreplein) and costing 10 euros -various different types of dance will be featured. Price includes coffee & cake.
Thursday 29th October
OK, not strictly the weekend, but put the date in your diary ahead of time if you want to go to An Sibhin’s Quiz Night It’s my favourite Irish Bar (always friendly, unpretentious, welcoming of kids during the day, great sandwiches, soups, home-made cake) and can be found on Nationalestraat, not far from Groenplaats, and just past the fashion museum. Why is the quiz not on Hallowe’en itself? Hmmmm …..my guess is that the pub is going to be showing the Rugby World Cup Final that night. Thursday’s quiz will be in English and you need to be in a team of max. 5 people. Send a PM via the Facebook page to register.
I enjoy eating out and have been vegetarian now for over 30 years. Antwerp has some good places to eat if you are vegetarian. Here’s a pick of some that I enjoy in Antwerp, along with a quick summary of price. I’ve included some where veggies and omnivores can eat together, because most of my friends are not veggies, but we can always find something that suits everyone:
Ignore the menu and go for the all-you-can-eat buffet for a tenner. It’s excellent.
Lombardia –Cafe, vegetarian, vegan, organic, gluten-free etc
This is nice food but it is a bit on the pricey side. It’s OK for lunches and early evening meals. It’s informal and a little cramped inside, so not ideal with wriggly kids and/ or push chairs, but there is space outside during summer, so it’s easier with kids then.
This restaurant is really nice for a group or as a date. It has a page of vegetarian choices all of which are filling and very reasonably priced at 11 -12 euros. A lot of the sides (priced at around 6- 7 euros) are veggie. The atmosphere is relaxed and the service is unpretentious and friendly.
I love this place. It is not cheap but it has great, fresh food for veggies to eat alongside their omnivorous dining companions. Nice relaxed atmosphere, delicious Greek tapas, down next to the river. You need to book and you get the table for about 90 mins. If you book the later sitting you can stay longer, for post-prandial drinking, because it is the perfect food and venue for sitting and swilling loads of red with…
Nice location, good service, very tasty Nepalese, Thai and Japanese food (including a good choice of veggie Sushi, also to take away). Good service and staff who clearly take pride in what they produce.
I have only been here once but I am definitely going back. It offers a delicious buffet with the vast majority of choices being vegetarian. Ingredients are fresh and really nicely presented. Check the website and go with carnivorous or vegetarian friends on the buffet night. It’s a good deal.
I really like Falafel (which you can get at Tarbouch too, of course) and find that Falafel places are always ideal when there is a group of veggie and non-veggie diners, looking for quick, cheap, informal food.
There is also a great (fairly) new Lebanese place on Hoogstraat: Shami. Here’s my Happy Cow Review.
Also on Hoogstraat is Falafeltof -a popular venue, very good prices considering it is in the tourist district. I also though the service was good -staff are friendly and cheerful.
However, I think most falafel fans will agree that Beni Falafel is pretty much the best choice for falafel in Antwerp. Beni’s has an all-vegetarian menu and is located in the heart of the Jewish quarter on Lange Leemstraat. It is fresh, tasty and cheap. Service is quick and friendly.
Bar Oscar is a bit of a hidden gem that is well worth finding – just off the Carnot Straat (cross over Astrid Plein) and a very short walk from Central Station. It’s cool, without being pretentious, and the service is friendly and efficient. Most of the food is healthy, tasty, and vegetarian/ vegan with the odd option for omnivores. I like the way children are made welcome, and share the space with the more trendy adult clientèle from the design centre. It’s a great place to stop if you have decided to get away from Meir, and instead head to the shops along Carnot Straat and around that area.
…. As is Escobar on Quellinstraat, which has been there for about 5 years now and has built up a steady, busy lunch trade (also does breakfasts) and deservedly so. It’s a very pretty eaterie where everything is fresh and nicely presented. Friendly service, fresh food, great home- baking. Kids are welcome and there is a sunny back garden to sit out during summer time.
The food on Keyserlei (in front of the station)is largely consumed by tourists. Most of it is OK as pub style food, or for a pizza but on the whole there is nothing there that is worth a really hearty recommendation (although I like stopping at the bars for a drink), with the possible exception of Ho Chan House on the Breydelstraat (just off Keyserlei) which is a Chinese restaurant with an entirely separate vegetarian menu -just ask. It’s often busy and lies in the heart of the tourist area, so if you want to be sure -book.
Obviously there is a great deal of choice in China Town itself. The Best has a good selection for vegetarians, but my current favourite is Bai Wei. It has fewer choices for vegetarians, but it’s incredibly tasty and fresh. The noodles are hand-pulled on the premises (you can see the chef doing this on the open-plan first floor) and I am assured by my usual dining partner (who lived in Taipei for six years) that as far as taste is concerned, this is the real deal. It’s very reasonably priced, and friendly, so although other places might have more numerous choices for vegetarians, I am more than happy to head to Bai Wei.
Finally, I guess we couldn’t leave a restaurant post without mentioning pizza. There are lots of them in the tourist area of the old town and near central station, of course. But I like La Grappa on Anselmostraat, for a decent pizza in a lively, friendly pizzeria, when we are out with the kids. The desserts went down pretty well too …
This is just a small (and personal) selection of what is available around Antwerp. Please add recommendations of your own in the comments!
There is a flea market on Sint Jans Plein, starting at 9 am. I like this part of town and, if the weather is good, it is a short walk away from the Park Spoor Noord, which is handy if kids need to play or to kick a ball around. Free.
Saturday is shaping up to be a good day for thrifty shoppers because it is also Dag van de Kringwinkel (Thrift Shop Day) which means that there will be extra bargains around in the second hand shops on that day:
– vintage clothing on Abdijstraat 104, Antwerpen
– retro videogames, mirrors and frames at Sint-Jorispoort 29, Antwerpen
– musical instruments at Kroonstraat 166, Borgerhout and at Vosstraat 305, Deurne
– comics and vinyl in Bredabaan 397, Merksem
Also on Saturday, there is a brewing fair fair on the Rijnkaai. Note this is a fair for small brewers and micro-brewers, rather than a beer festival, and the ticket price is 9 euros.
Foodwise, if you enjoy oysters, head to Docks Cafe by the river on Saturday between midday and 3pm
Strangelove Queer arts festival will still be going on in Borgerhout at Cafe het Werkhuys, but the afterparty is on Rijnkaai at 23.30 and costs 5 euros.
If you would like to see some theatre in English, take a look at this production from BATS which opens on Friday 16th October and runs for two weekends. BATS provides English speaking theatre in Antwerp that you might want to watch or even get involved with. You can also count on them to produce a fun Panto each year: this year it’s Red Riding Hood, and tickets are already on sale, via their site.
Sunday 18th October
You can no longer register (“inschrijven”) online for the Linkeroever half marathon but you can do so on the day itself, from midday. There is also a kids’ run. It does cost 15 euros, but proceeds go to a children’s cancer charity.
Permeke, on de Coninckplein, is Antwerp’s best known public library. On Sunday there will be an open-air book fair (also comics and graphic novels) staring at 10am. If you are new to Antwerp, you can easily reach de Coninckplein from Astridplein (next to central station): walk through the Chinese district- down the street with the lion statues, next to Aquatopia, and you are there.
If the weather is not great, and you are looking for something indoors, don’t forget that the Town Hall on Grote Markt is open as part of its 450th anniversary, and you can tour the inside. This is free, but you should reserve online.
Have a great weekend. Don’t forget to keep an ear to the ground for anything happening next weekend, and let me know.
Nessacity is a blog which conveys information in English about what is going on in the city at weekends. There may also be features on particular venues (e.g. restaurants or cinemas) or on life in the city in general. There are posts about events for the coming weekend, which are published each Thursday. If you live in Antwerp and want information in English this blog is for you. If you are in Antwerp or planning a visit and would like to get away from the standard tourist draws and have a more authentic, local experience this blog is also for you. Nessascity is for singles, couples and families. And while the events and activities listed are not all free, it is intended to also be useful for those on a budget.
I have lived and worked in Antwerp since 2006. Two of my three children were born here, and while I am certainly no expert on all that the city has to offer, I am always on the look-out for things to do and places to go, as well as events or activities that the kids might enjoy.
My aim is to post each Thursday or Friday, with a handful of suggestions about what is going on at the weekend. I find out about events through friends and by searching online. But I would also love to hear from you about anything you think should be published here. I want to include as many low-cost or free activities as I can, but I’ll happily consider anything.
Enjoy Antwerp! keep in touch, sign up and follow me on Twitter @needagin.