[ANTWERPEN, BELGIUM] — So I was posting live pics of Brussels on my Instagram and someone who follows me shot back “You should go to Antwerp.” Hmmmm, never thought about going there. And this whole trip was a last-minute.

“It’s a quick train ride and cooler, smaller and more artsy. Not boring like Brussels.”  Really?

I’d never even communicated with her before, but her IG name @devils_food_made_in_heaven was intriguing enough, she’d been to amazing restaurants all over.

“Yes, you should definitely go to Antwerp!” commented another person I’d never communicated with… a very stylish hotel owner in France (who just happened to be eating in San Sebastian, Spain just right then.)

Wow! Two people I’d never spoken with/written to, now telling me to go to Antwerp. I guess I should go to Antwerp, then.

I’d only heard about Antwerp on cheesy discount jewelry commercials on TV — “We buy all of our jewelry directly from dealers in Antwerp.” — so was never, ever on my radar.

Hadn’t planned on going there, but instantly hopped a train up, went in “cold” with absolutely zero info, no maps, no nothing. Just got off at the train station and started walking.  One thing I immediately learned was DON’T GO THERE ON A SUNDAY!  (My new friends forgot to mention that until after I got there.. “Oh yeah, don’t go there on a Sunday.”) Yet here I was. Virtually everything was closed. Old School.

But still, seemed like half the city was pedestrian shopping streets, all funneling into the Grote Markt,  jammed with people in a holiday mood. What could there be to not like?  So I just walked and walked. And smiled.

“Yes, yes, you should definitely go to Antwerp!” commented another person I’d never communicated with..

You can pretty much walk the whole city in a couple of hours. I can’t wait to come back when everything’s open.

But if you are stuck there on a Sunday, like me, here’s what I saw and would recommend. CLICK ON A PIC TO OPEN THE SLIDESHOW:




But only after being there and researching later, there’s a whole lot of cool stuff happening here. And everything I completely missed. DOH!

Kloosterstraat is considered one of the hippest retail areas in Northern Europe. I absolutely loved it and it saved the day. There are a lot of cool walking/shopping streets in the central core of Antwerp, most full of the same chains as everywhere else, but head over here and just plan to spend the day, shop, eat, hang out in cafes.

One of my friends also recommended Ciro’s as a unpretentious, perfectly Belgian restaurant. So I went there and highly recommend you do, too. There are cooler places, but work this into your mix.

Also, definitely check out this cool gallery. We’ve become friends on Instagram and the couple is extremely well-traveled, friendly and have amazing taste. Geukins deVil Gallery.

Here are some great reference articles:

“Fashion-Forward Guide to Antwerp” from the NYTimes.

“Three Cool Cafes You Need to Check Out in Antwerp” from Conde Nast Traveler

Travel & Leisure’s Awesome Guide to Antwerp

Even Architectural Digest has a great guide to finding cool stuff in Antwerp.

Here’s a great Pinterest page on all the hip retail in Antwerp.

And here is the Pinterest page from Classe Touriste — about the most dialed-in Instagram couple I’ve ever seen. Before it is cool, they are there. Everywhere in the world. I wish I was them.

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