Guest post: Five Places to Read and Relax in Antwerp

Timo is a teacher of English Language and Literature at an international school in the Antwerp area, and enjoys reading, cycling, and playing, recording and mixing music in his free time. He was one of the very first people to subscribe to Nessascityblog, and remains a loyal reader to this day. Timo is Dutch/ American, but has lived and worked in Antwerp for over a decade, and also plays in a local band (110). You can listen to his music here.

I would like to share with you some good locations for reading in the central Antwerp area. If you live in an apartment in the city, as I do, you’ll find that it is important to get out once in a while. I tend to go for walks, and sometimes bring a book with me. Here are a five of my favourite “walking & reading” locations.

  1. Harmoniepark

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About a two kilometre walk from Antwerp Central Station, Harmoniepark (left) is nestled next to the slightly bigger Koning Albertpark; the latter was once Antwerp’s prime location for a hanging! Harmoniepark is great for readers, as it has extended, comfortable wooden benches, both in the sun and shade. The Feestzaal Harmonie building is currently under renovation – scheduled to finish in 2020 – after which it will function as one of Antwerp’s districtshuizen (or town halls). During the summer months, you’ll notice there are a number of free sporting activities taking place in this park, including yoga, for adults and for children.

 

  1. Permeke Library

The Permeke library – about a 5 minute walk from Central Station – contains several good reading places. If you want a quiet  indoor area to read or study, try the upper floor inside the library. You do not need a membership card to enter and use the facilities, and summer opening hours are from 10 am to 5 pm Mondays to Saturdays, and from 10 am to 2 pm on Sundays. Do keep in mind the opening times change in winter. A hidden gem is the vast CD and DVD collection in the back on the first floor. On sunny days, you can use the reading courtyard out back (leestuin)  and if you prefer having a coffee or even lunch with reading, you can visit Cafe Kubus right across from the library entrance. This is the only cafe I know of in Antwerp where you are actively encouraged to study and read.

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Kubus Cafe & reading courtyard at Permeke Library
  1. “Den Botaniek”  – botanical garden

Den Botaniek” is a tiny but beautiful botanical garden located next to St Elisabeth Hospital, about a 15 minute walk from Central Station. Sometimes referred to as “the garden of poets”, this is an oasis for readers who like quiet, serene spaces. There are benches throughout the park, and, if you want to stretch your legs, you can visit the greenhouse (a warm place during winter!) or admire the gorgeous Koi fish in the garden’s ponds. Den Botaniek is open to the public from 8 am to 8 pm during summer, and until 5.30 pm during winter.

 

  1. Antwerp Zoo
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Antwerp Zoo

Antwerp has been investing a lot in improving its zoo, and one of my new favourite spaces is the small square just inside the zoo’s main entrance. Access to this area is free. There are numerous benches, and it is surprisingly quiet, given its central location next to Antwerp’s main station. Do keep in mind that the gates to the free area close with the zoo’s closing hours. Inside the zoo itself, there are many places to relax and read as well. If you are interested in this, I suggest you look into their year pass options. If you have children, the family zoo pass is a good deal, given the zoo contains a large playground and several cafes serving relatively cheap food and drink, with a 10% discount for card holders or “abonnees”.

  1. Zaha Hadidplein & Willemdok area

I’m cheating a little bit here by combining two different places, but they are very similar in atmosphere and relatively close together. The Antwerp Port Building, designed by the late award-winning British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, is striking and controversial- some people love it; others don’t. There is a big open space underneath the building, with great views of the city and some of its docks. Personally, I think this area could do with a few more places to sit, but there are some stone benches by the waterside, providing a great location to read and relax. Do keep in mind this is slightly further out if you live in the centre of town; it will take you about 45 minutes to walk from the station, but it is well worth a visit. When heading back south and into the centre of town, you’ll find another reading haven: the attractive Willemdok area, with its many benches and great views of the MAS building.

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I hope you will enjoy some of these mostly free places and read in Antwerp. Next time you feel you need to get out of your apartment or house, why not carry book or e-reader with you, and perhaps even leave your phone at home?

 

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This Weekend in Antwerp: 9th, 10th & 11th March

Friday

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Band 110 & Fabrik

Nessascityblog’s absolute favourite Antwerp band –Band 110 – are playing Fabrik, starting at 9.30pm. 110 are a three-piece improvisational electro-rock band from Antwerp described thus: “sometimes downtempo and haunting, other times whirring with energy, 110 make atmospheric, trippy instrumental music based around sampled loops”.

 

 

Saturday

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image courtesy of Retrodag

If you are a bargain hunter head to your nearest second hand or thrift store (‘Kringwinkel’) -it’s Thrift Store Day; an ideal time to pick up a bargain and keep your carbon footprint a little smaller. The theme is retro and vintage -so if you are keen on old-school furniture, decor, household items, clothes and shoes, today (‘retrodag’) is your day. Each shops has a focus (e.g. musical instruments in Deurne; wooden toys in Merksem) as well as a range of other second hand goods. You can see a list of the participating shops and their locations here.

Sunday

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It’s the Antwerp Urban Trail -the walk is fully subscribed, but you can register for the run right up until the 10th (Saturday). The route takes in some Antwerp landmarks, with participants running inside (through offices and bars!) as well as outside around the city. It starts at Park Spoor Noord (in the shelter) and ends at nearby Park Loods Sport Hall.

Last Day to register for the Antwerp Spring Clean (‘Lentepoets’)-this is a neighbourhood initiative that you can do along with others in your street. The idea is that you clean up your street (doorsteps, doorways, pavements, benches etc) while getting to know your neighbours better. All participants get a lunch box for taking part, and a flower pot with flowers.

The weather looks like it not be too cold but will be showery, on and off all weekend. So don’t forget your brolly.

Miscellaneous

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Street art in Antwerp (pic courtesy of streetart360)

Are you interested in Street Art in Antwerp? Here are a couple of links which may interest you: firstly this one on Facebook where Street Art enthusiast and expert Tim posts details of guided street art walks (keep a close eye though, as they often get fully booked quite quickly). My young son and I did one a while back and they are very good. I also received an email this week from Streetart360 who featured Antwerp recently in their Antwerp Street Art Guide.

There’s a funfair on Sint-Jansplein -I have no idea how long it will be there. They pop up from time to time and I noticed it, biking back from work today.

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Check out this month’s agenda for Colectivo Amorika for March (left). They provide cultural and language activities for Spanish speaking families in the Antwerp area, and those with an interest in understanding Spanish culture and language.

If you are a runner, you can now register for the Antwerp Ten Miles which takes place on  the 22nd April.

If you are a young reader, or parent of a young reader, you might be interested to know that March is Youth Book Month – this year with a science & tech theme.

 

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This weekend in Antwerp: 1st, 2nd and 3rd December

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HERE’S YOUR GOOGLE MAP (as used by Sinterklaas himself)

Friday

China Light opens at Antwerp Zoo. It’s a little bit more expensive than the events I usually include here, but it has become something of an annual feature of the Antwerp winter scene, and -if it’s dry – it’s worth seeing. The colours and lights are pretty and magical. It’s on until the 14th January.

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China Light at Antwerp Zoo

BATS (English speaking theatre) have their last Open Evening of 2017, so head along to the Little Theatre on Paardenmarkt if you would like to get involved. It’s a busy time of year for them, as they gear up for their annual panto -this year it’s Aladdin!

Saturday

Kids can come and see Sinterklaas at Grand Bazar shopping centre today.

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Band 110

For grown-ups: Band 110 are playing at Fabrik, near Theaterplein. They’re my complete and unbiased favourite.

Update: band 110 are sorry to announce that due to illness this event has been cancelled 😦

Oxfam shops around Antwerp are promoting fairly traded gifts today -at their store in town (Minderbroedersrui 33).

 

Sunday

Goegekregen are at Park Spoor Noord today, in the sheltered area by Bar Noord, from 9am -6pm, offering the usual array of second hand clothing, books, toys, antiques, vinyl, accessories, vintage & retro goods to suit every budget.

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Park Spoor Noord

Meanwhile, another Antwerp favourite – Markt van Morgen  -is on Kloosterstraat from midday to 6pm. This Christmas edition will include a food truck, DJs and Gluhwein.

Kids can come and see Sinterklaas on Meir and at Grand Bazar

At around this time of year, various neighbourhoods organise a communal winter event (look out for words like ‘wintervuur’, ‘XYZ Wintert’ etc). This one is on Schengenplein -a new development which opened in the Cadixwijk in summer (it’s right near the Kattendijkdok which you will know if you have ever hung out in Bar Paniek during warmer weather).

Shops in Antwerp will be open today for Sunday shopping, and on Sundays throughout December in Antwerp -including on Christmas Eve.

The weather will continue pretty chilly (4- 7 degrees). Saturday will be coldest. Showers are likely on Sunday.

 

Miscellaneous
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Sinterklaas takes place on the 6th December and is VERY important to the children of Belgium. You can read about it here..

De Collectie is a means by which you can give away your second hand clothing, shoes, accessories (belts, scarves, gloves, hats) and bedding if they are in good condition. They will be passed to people who need them in Belgium and abroad. You can arrange to have them picked up or can bring them to a collection point. Very handy if you are planning a clear out before the festive season. You can find more information about how this works in Antwerp on De Collectie Antwerpen site.

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