City Guide: Antwerp
By OUTTraveler Editors
For too long a city that many Americans tourists whizzed by on their way between Amsterdam and Paris, Antwerp has recently—and very quickly—become one of the top European destinations for gay tourists from around the world. And no one will deny Antwerp’s supremacy as a must-stop, must-stay gay getaway after this city plays host to the World OutGames, a quadrennial sport, cultural, and human-rights festival, this July and August.
This country, with its Dutch-speaking, Germanic-yet-Catholic Flemish region, and its French-parlant section Wallonia, offers all sorts of attractions--from the culinary (delicious beer and chocolate, waffles, and seafood) to the cultural and historical. What’s more, gay men and lesbians are equal to their straight countrymen in the eyes of the law. Marriage equality is the law of the land.
Antwerp itself is a compact city of half a million resident that is entirely walkable but also offers a system of trams and buses. It boasts a range of architectural styles, though late-19th-century designs, including marvelous examples of art nouveau, predominate. It’s justifiably known for its beer (try Duvel, named for the devil, with is higher degree of alcohol content than American beers) and chocolate, but it’s also a world-class capital of fashion—with a world-famous fashion school, The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, and all the style and design trappings that come with that.
EAT: Where European Cuisines Collide
Belgium, and Antwerp in particular, is the best of all worlds when it comes to food. Because the city is at the crossroads between France, Germany, and Holland, there’s a little bit of everything to satiate any hankering.
• InVINcible: A wine bar tucked away in an old Antwerp house on one of the narrow streets in the city center, it’s far from the crush of tourists and offers an eclectic menu with exotic riffs on unusual dishes. (Haarstraat 9; RestaurantinVincible.be)
• Josephine’s: Belgian-French plates are served up in a comfy, retro-chic locale in the Zuid district. Try one of the "perfumed" martinis. (Gentplaats 1; Josephines.be)
• Raven: Celebrated local gay chef Gert-Jan Raven serves up classic and seasonal dishes at this centrally located restaurant overlooking the old City Hall and Guild Houses. (Grote Markt 14; restaurant-raven.tv)
SLEEP: At the Heart of Everything
Because Antwerp is a relatively compact city, almost any hotel is within walking distance of where you want to be.
• Hotel Matelote: Located near the history Grote Markt, it’s all contemporary design wedged into a 16th-century panorama. (Haarstraat 11A; Hotel-Matelote.be)
• Radisson Blue Astrid: The Michael Graves-designed hotel is closest to the Central Station and is a great jumping-off point. (Kaningin Astridplein 7; RadissonBlu.com/AstridHotel-Antwerp)
• Huis Ergo: A gay-owned patrician-style abode in a super-convenient location, it hardly feels right to call it a B&B. (Venusstraat 16)
SEE: Art and the Park
Over the past two decades, Antwerp’s rebirth as an avant-garde fashion capital has overflowed into nearly aspect of its existence—including its equivalent of Central Park.
•Park Spoor Nord: Party in the park! Antwerp’s green lunch bustles with concerts, barbecues, and Sunday brunches. (Ellermanstraat 2; Antwerpen.be)
• MAS/Museum Aan De Stroon: With breathtaking architecture and interactive rotating exhibits on Antwerp’s history and connection to the rest of the world, the city’s newest museum offers a stunning rooftop panorama out over the city on the River Schelde. (Hanzestedenplaats 1; MAS.be)
• Het ModepaleisDries Van Noten: Having put Antwerp firmly on the fashion map with his colorful, eccentric designs and prints, Dries Van Noten’s flagship store, Het Modepaleis, remains a mecca for the fashionable set. (Nationalestraat 16; DriesVanNoten.be)
PLAY: Where to Be
With Antwerp hosting the World OutGames this summer, you can expect its bars to be bursting with athletic and in-shape men and women. Here are a few of the hottest spots to see and be seen.
• Popi Café: A favorite with an age-spanning LGBT crowd for its affordable drinks, relaxed vibe, summer terrace, and special whisky menu. This centrally located bar is the top spot before hitting the clubs. (Plaantinkaai 11-2; facebook.com/popi.cafe)
• Hessenhuis: Lunch by day and DJ grooves at night in this small, two-floor café/bar set in a 16th-century warehouse. Theme parties are in regular rotation. (Falconrui 59; hessenhuis.com)
• Red and Blue: Belgium’s largest gay nightclub hosts a sexy mix of events, from men-only Saturdays to lesbian Café De Love party every second Sunday of the month. (Lange Schipperskapelstraat 13; redandblue.be, cafedelove.be)
MY CITY: ANTWERP
Fashion star Tim Van Steenbergen designs us up an Antwerp itinerary. READ MORE