May 23, 2019 | By Cassandra Gagnon
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Having traveled to Antwerp on numerous occasions to research retail, I never really had the chance to see the city from any other point of view than, well, retail.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s steeped in fashion history but having returned from my trips and mentioned to my colleagues here at WGSN HQ that, “Antwerp is really, really cool – I want to live there” and, “the people there just have this innate style I can’t quite put my finger on”, I jumped at the opportunity to return on behalf of WGSN City By City.
You can read my full guide here on City by City section of WGSN, but I’m giving you a preview here with my 24 hour hit list.
Only a short flight out of London City Airport or a 2-hour trip from Amsterdam’s international Schiphol airport, this Belgian gem is really well connected to major European cities. Once you get there, everything is relatively walkable (or act like a local and rent a bike), particularly if you want to get between our favourite neighbourhoods Sint-Andries, The Latin Quarter and Zuid.
Arrive into Antwerp’s Latin Quarter and check into the newly opened Latin Quartier Hotel, a quiet oasis only a short walk away from the city centre and the major shopping streets Nationalestraat and Lombardenvest. I was greeted by Eric, who quickly showed me to my lofty suite in the newly converted townhouse via an impressive period spiral staircase, typical of Belle Epoque architecture. The minimal monochrome interior design allows the building’s original high ceilings and ornate doors to speak for themselves – not to mention the impressive standalone bath tub and walk-in shower.
After taking the red eye out of London City, you’ll be ready for something to eat. When I visit Antwerp, I usually head to Cafematic just off the bustling Kammenstraat in Sint-Andries (their goats cheese salad is to die for), but I came across new local spot Cesar while doing a bit of research. This vegetarian friendly eatery is Antwerp’s latest dine-and-design concept where you can gorge on a number of delights including their yoghurt bowl or vegan French toast, while admiring and even purchasing the surrounding furniture and homewares. You’ll find Scandinavian brands including Nomess and Hay here.
Start to make your over to Zuid via Belgian lingerie brand La Fille d’O at the other side of Kasteelpleinstraat. Like Cesar, this is one of the new wave openings on the street which was formerly only really known for its restaurants. I received a warm welcome from Annika who showed me around the impressive store situated in an old bakery, where I perused designer Murielle Victorine Scherre’s range of ‘second-skin’ mesh underwear and swimwear pieces. Made-to-order, fit like a glove and to last, patrons can schedule in for a fitting in one of the huge fitting rooms to the back of the store.
Head to De Kloosterstraat in Zuid to browse the eclectic antiques stores alongside numerous boutiques including Rewind and Play, two sister stores (Rewind is mainly interiors and Play sells kidswear) who both boast an impressive mix of sustainable products. Everything is either recycled, repurposed, low-energy or traceable.
Take a 10-minute walk further south to Butcher’s Coffee to experience a caffeine fix with the locals. Another new opening, this old butcher’s shop is now a hip hangout for Antwerp’s trendy youth crowd. Many of the original features of the old shop are still intact, including the old shop window at the front, where you can sit with an iced coffee and watch the world go by.
Head back up to Sint Andries to Nationalestraat to visit a number of must-see, high-end boutiques including Renaissance, Dries Van Noten and Anine Bing. I always take a look in Fred & Ginger who offer a mix of contemporary womenswear and kidswear brands.
Return to the hotel and enjoy some down time in the open plan living and bar area on the ground floor. The space looks out onto a small courtyard and is complete with a large dining table / work space. There’s also a fully stocked honesty bar if you’re after a pre-dinner tipple or night-cap.
Head out for dinner, I decide to take a short walk back to over towards De Kloosterstraat to try Camino, a casual Korean restaurant whose menu includes pickled smoked shiitake mushrooms, porkbun and shrimp pancakes.
Embark on a 15-minute stroll up towards the Old City and take in historic Grote Markt which is particularly stunning at night.
Head to nearby Dogma for a cocktail. This hidden hideout is on a quiet side street just off Grote Markt and is the perfect spot to wind down after a long day. The interior feels like a converted speakeasy – dimly lit with candles and full of old chesterfield sofas and mid-century furniture. I enjoyed a refreshing ‘Tall Dragon’ made with gin, cucumber, ginger, honey and lemon and turned in for the night.
For more tips on how to navigate Antwerp like a local and hit the latest hotspots as curated by WGSN, head over to City by City to view the latest guide now.
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