The Ultimate A-Z of LGBT+ in Antwerp

The Ultimate A-Z of LGBTQ in Antwerp.

A guest post by Timothy Junes

tjselfief1

 

Timothy Junes (left) was born in Antwerp (1981) and still lives and works  here. He studied journalism and has written for LGBTQ media since 2000, both online and in print. His passions include LGBTQ news stories and travelling to new places. Nowadays he runs the Flemish language LGBT news blog Be Out and the English language travel blog Trip By Trip.

*

Antwerp has a long history of being a safe haven for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in Belgium. Let me introduce you, using the alphabet.

First, I’ll start with a disclaimer: this is not a ‘Complete Gay Guide to Antwerp’. That would be impossible since Pink Antwerp is constantly changing. Some blame the internet, some blame the economy and gentrification, some blame youth. There are many factors as to why LGBTQ oriented bars and cafés come and go. I should point out here that bars and cafés mostly cater to gay and bisexual men. Presently there’s no lesbian bar in town.

A

Active Company is Antwerp’s LGBTQ sports group. From athletics to swimming, from cycling to yoga, Active Company has it all. A great way to make friends.

Antwerp Pride is a highpoint of LGBTQ life in Antwerp. Four to five days to party, parade or attend a debate. Mark the second weekend of August in your calendar.

Coupled with Antwerp Pride, there is the Antwerp Queer Arts Festival. Exhibitions, performances, parties. While Antwerp Pride is more ‘party oriented’, the queer arts festival is more activist. Both work well together. First half of August.

MAS_regenboog_nacht
MAS museum lit up in Pride colours

B

The Bonaparte at the Grote Markt is a karaoke bar. But with a gay owner, it won’t surprise you there are drag nights and gay parties. Pannekoek on Sundays.

D

I’m not sure the managers of Den Draak like to call their bar a gay bar. Patrons are both LGBTQ and straight. It will throw a very gay Eurovision Song Contest viewing party, and it will also celebrate the Red Devils, Belgium’s football team.

Located at the Draakplaats, it’s very well integrated in the hipster, somewhat leftist neighbourhood of Zurenborg.

Café DeLux at Melkmarkt 16 is in the middle of it all. DeLux is what you could call a ‘mainstream gay bar’. Coffee and tea during the day, alcohol at night. Don’t forget in Belgium a café could both be a coffee and snacks place, and a bar!

E

Enig Verschil is the LGBTQ youth group of Antwerp. Flanders has a tradition of youth groups outside the scouting movement. For many LGBTQ’s in Flanders, such youth groups were a starting point.

F

Are you a student? Why not join De Flamingo’s? Student clubs in Belgium are not really like American style fraternities; they’re more open.  

H

H.I.M is a more or less monthly party concept. H.I.M is really ‘club scene’ as you’d imagine it: beats, shirtless men, flirting… People come from far and wide to attend.

The Hessenhuis at Hessenplein opened its doors in 1993. During the day it serves as the cafeteria of the event space Hessenhuis, but around 6PM the atmosphere changes and it becomes a gay bar.

HRHregegboogpadF

 

Het Roze Huis – çavaria Antwerpen (pictured above) is both a brick ‘pink house’ and an umbrella organisation for LGBTQ groups and associations in the Province of Antwerp. It organises the Antwerp Queer Arts Festival and L-week.

Each January, Het Roze Huis holds a New Year’s reception under the bridge of Draakplaats. An absolute must-attend event for LGBTQ’s in Antwerp. Beware! Due to engineering works on the bridge, the New Year’s reception will for once take place at De Roma. Mark 5 January 2019 in your calendar.

The offices are above Den Draak.

K

The Antwerp gay scene is not shy of kinky spots. The Boots in the Van Aertdtstraat and The Kinkys in de Lange Beeldekensstraat are too nice examples.

L

Leather & Fetish Pride Belgium in February accommodates lovers of leather, fetish and kinks. It consists of parties, socials and a fair. Darklands includes shops, workshops and activities for leather, fetish and kinks. If you open your eyes, you will definitely see men in leather, rubber and other fetishwear in the streets of Antwerp. The event mostly caters to men, but not exclusively.

There may not be L*-oriented bars in Antwerp but you can attend L-week in November. Ten days filled with activities, workshops and parties for women who like women. The asterisk stands for a broad interpretation of the word lesbian.

Q

Que Pasa in the Lange Koepoortstraat 1 is a latin drag queen bar. It organises performances and drag contests. It’s near one of the rainbow crossings.

R

The Red & Blue was founded in 1997. Nowadays it’s called Cargo Club but ‘Red & Blue’ remains its gay brand. It’s the obvious party location and an icon in Antwerp.

S

Sjalot & Schanul is a lesbian run restaurant behind City Hall. The address is Oude Beurs 12.  

SPEK (“bacon”) is a queer, ‘alternative’ party concept. Electro tunes, booze, cigarettes, other substances. Attracts queer, leftwing, hipster crowd.

Café Strange in the Dambruggestraat is the oldest, still open gay bar in town. Manager Armand Everaerts is well in his 80s but still serves you cheap beer. A special place.

Strangelove – A Queer Festival is a June based event. It combines film, performances and parties.

T

T-day is a day of activities, workshops and meet-ups for trans* people, their friends and their families. It is organised by çavaria, the Flemish LGBTQ umbrella organisation.

Café Twilight used to be located in the Van Schoonhovenstraat or Rue Vaseline. In the 20th century, the Rue Vaseline is where all the action happened. Twilight closed there but rose like a phoenix at Theaterplein.

U

The Unicorn Festival in July is not an exclusively gay event, but with such a name it clearly attracts LGBTQ people and their friends. Belgium is famous for its numerous summer festivals and Unicorn is one of them. It’s small but very cosy. It’s on Linkeroever (Left bank) and offers a great view of the Antwerp skyline.

 

All photos by Timothy Junes.

 

nessacityblogbannerbymaf

Find & Follow Nessascityblog

Facebook (Events in Antwerp: in conjunction with London Calling)

Twitter & Pinterest & Instagram

 

Antwerp with Kids

Out and about in Antwerp.

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.

Stadspark
Stadspark

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.

autumnberries

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.

Flamingos at Antwerp Zoo
Flamingos at Antwerp Zoo

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.

Pick up a programme for Het Paleis
Pick up a programme for Het Paleis

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.