If you have not noticed the festive feeling starting up in Antwerp, then you really need to get out and do so, if you can. For us -as a family resident in Belgium, with both Dutch and UK influences- this weekend is the one where Christmas overlaps with Sinterklaas, so this post will hopefully contain a bit of both ….
If you are ready to start the weekend immediately after work on Friday, I recommend Plein Publiek which opens at 4 for drinks, 5 for food and the dancing starts at 9. It’s a very attractive venue, placed in the middle of a now-disused social housing complex, near Nationalestraat..
If you have walked through the old town this week, you will have seen the stalls being set up for the Christmas Market which will dominate this part of the city from this Saturday when it opens. Stalls selling Christmas goods, foods and snacks will be found near the cathedral, on Grote Markt, Suikkerui, Groenplaats and Steenplein. The ice rink is usually on Steenplein, and the Christmas wheel is nearby. It’s the perfect place to meet friends, or take family. The market is on daily until 27th December.
For a smaller and more off-beat Christmas Market experience, head to the Vrijdag Markt at 4pm for music, DJs and food trucks.
BUT … If you have children who are in Sinterklaas mode, then he can be seen in various locations around the town centre and will be stopping in Grand Bazar; this is usually quite busy, with kids queuing, seeing Sint and being pictured with him. He is also believed to be visiting this fleamarket on the Sint Jansplein, at 2pm, with his Pieten.
I recommend the bookmarket at the Zuiderpershuis, which is still on. It’s a stock sale and the reductions are good. Most titles offered are in Dutch, but with some fashion, design and art books in English. Lots of books for children and toddlers, if you are buying gifts for kids and babies. It’s worth going just to see this attractive venue, if you don’t already know it, and it is a short walk from FOMU and Cinema Zuid, which are also worth knowing about.
If you like to donate and recycle at this time of year, why not take clothes, food and children’s items to Moeders voor Moeders on Helmstraat? They receive deliveries on the first Saturday of each month, between 10 and 12, and work to support families with children in need, in the Antwerp area.
It’s the first Sunday of the month, so there is Sunday shopping around the town centre (note that most shops open a little later, though, at around midday).
However, maybe you would like to get away from Sinterklaas, Christmas and shopping, to a vernissage (3pm) at this Gallery in Zurenborg curated by local artist, Eva Steynen?
There is a different type of Exhibition for fans of Tintin (and other Belgian comic book characters) which finishes up on Sunday.
Another way to take a break from the consumerist side of this season would be to donate clothing to The Empty Shop project, which is running until the 12th December at the Youth Hostel on Bogaardplein. Your clothing will be restyled and sold to raise funds for the Kamiano Restaurant which provides meals for homeless people in Antwerp.
Whether you are enjoying Christmas, Sinterklaas, shopping or something a bit different, have a great weekend. Alas, it might be a good idea to take an umbrella out with you so that the predicted drizzle doesn’t spoil your fun