The popular port city of Antwerp has a long and colorful history as it was once the center of world commerce. Antwerp sitting on the River Schelde is the capital of the region of Flanders and is Belgium’s second largest city. Its narrow streets are crowded with shops that are humming with activity and Meir is the city’s busiest shopping street. For the latest fashions, De Modewijk is the part of the city to head to, with a good selection of shops in Kammemstraat and Nationalestraat including branches of Antwerp Six. If you are looking for luxury designer labels, there are some really stylish boutiques in Schutter Shofstraat.
Antwerp has some great markets with the Grote Markt in the main square which is absolutely fabulous at Christmas. The Vogelenmarkt (the Bird Market) is one of the best known in Belgium. This market takes place in and around Theaterplein and originally sold ducks and geese, but today sells absolutely everything – including flowers and birds! The market takes place every Sunday morning. In the same area is the ‘Exotic Market’ with stalls laden with all types of interesting things from Morocco, Turkey, and Southern Europe. Without going further into details, enjoy our list below of the top 10 souvenirs to buy in Antwerp.
1. Belgian Beer
Belgian beer is known all over the world and there are 500 different types to enjoy. A local saying is that beer is cheaper in Belgium than bottled water! The best known include Stella Artois, Leffe, and Chimay but there is a multitude of lesser-known ones. The best Belgian beers are said to be those produced by Trappist monks in 13 different monasteries (six in Belgium, two in the Netherlands and one each in Austria, Italy, and the UK). Amongst the best known Trappist beers are Oval and Chimay with Westvleteren regarded as THE best!
The most popular and iconic beer in Antwerp is De Koninck which is a red malty ale that is always served in a distinctively shaped Bulbous bolleke glass – now if room permits in your hand luggage, a glass or two would be extra special souvenirs! The De Koninck brewery is situated in Mechelsestleenweg and brewery tours are available! The city has a couple of microbreweries to explore including ‘twaagstuk.
2. Belgian Chocolates
All the well-known brands of Belgian chocolates can be bought in the city including Neuhaus, Lady Godiva, and Leonardis. Wittemar is another brand in beautiful boxes. Any of these make a very acceptable gift and the boxes are beautifully crafted and presented – far too good to eat! There are a number of much smaller chocolate houses in the city which are well worth visiting. Château Blanc is known throughout the city for its wonderful pralines. There is a tempting range to choose from, but the most superb is the round white chocolate, decorated with a walnut on the top. The taste is velvety smooth and perfectly balanced. The only point to remember is that Belgian pralines are always made with fresh cream and hence are perishable – if you have bought some for a gift, check the date they must be consumed by, could just be that you must eat them!
3. Belgian Cheese
It is a little-known fact that Belgium makes more different cheeses than France! Not surprisingly, there are more than twenty specialist cheese shops in the city including Kaasaffineurs Tricht and the aptly named Only Cheese! There are many excellent Belgian kinds of cheese including Brusselae Kaas – a soft cheese from Brussels – and the popular blue cheese Bleu de Grand from East Flanders. Many varieties of cheese were named after the abbeys in which they were made. Antwerp is well known for its hard cheese which includes Corsenodonk Abdij, Oude Postel, Postel Abdji and Westmalle Abdji.
4. A Piece of Art from the Art Market
The art market is situated in Lambermontmartre in the city’s southern Sud district and is a fun place to browse as there is a wide range of different artists displaying their work including graphic designers, photographers, and sculptors. The market is held on the last Sunday of every month during the summer months (May – September) and takes place in the afternoon between 12.00 – 5.00 p.m.
5. A Book from the Book Market
The boekenplein (book market) is another fun place to wander and takes place on every third Sunday between March and October in De Coninckplein. Along with plenty of different books stalls, there is live musical entertainment too and it is fun to relax and enjoy over lunch or a drink. The market is open between 10.00- 5.00 p.m.
6. Jar of Speculoos Spread
Whilst you are in Antwerp, do try this absolutely irresistible spread! Speculoos are delicious biscuits that are made with brown sugar and an array of spices including cinnamon and nutmeg. Speculoos are crumbled and mixed with caramel into a spread which tastes truly heavenly on hot buttered toast! If you only have a cabin bag for the flight home, this will not be a souvenir for you as it will be confiscated as a prohibited item (liquid) – can you imagine the disappointment!
7. Beautiful Laces
Belgium is well known for its lace making and in Antwerp, there is a very special place to track down. The Kantwinkeltje (lace market) is situated in a distinctive red building in Handschoenmarkt and is run by the 4th generation of a family with a long Flemish heritage. At the beginning of the 19th century, a man and his three sisters started a lace school in the building and the lace-making tradition was passed down through their family. There is an exquisite range of beautiful table linens on sale and whilst they are not cheap if you are looking for a special gift or a family heirloom to treasure you could well find the answer here!
8. A Diamond is Forever…
Antwerp is one of the main diamond centers in the world and whilst the cost will be out of most peoples’ league for a souvenir, if you are considering buying a diamond for an engagement or special necklace, then this is the perfect place especially as half of the world’s polished diamonds and 80% of its rough diamonds are traded through the Antwerp diamond traders. Antwerp became a diamond center in the 16th century and the whole area south of the central station is where the diamond merchants can be found.
9. Something Nautical?
MAS (Museum aan de Stroom) is the symbol of Antwerp’s long maritime heritage and its museum shop has an interesting range of souvenirs to consider. There are the usual key rings, mugs, and magnets, but also some excellent large nautical posters and old shipping maps. If you would like something nautical to wear there are some good sweatshirt designs!
10. Hand Made Soap
Soap is always a lovely souvenir gift as it takes up little room in your suitcase yet will fragrant it perfectly on the journey home! Luxury Belgian-made soap can be found in a couple of specialist shops and is really luxurious and high quality. These soaps are crafted by artisans using the finest – and sometimes rare ingredients – that are pure and hypoallergenic such as clay and egg white, which are combined with the beautiful fragrance of chamomile or fresh herbs to create a very special piece of soap that makes a perfect gift or special souvenir of time spent in this vibrant city.