My friend, Shelley Edwards studies in Antwerp, Belgium. Here she lets us in on her day to day life and gives us some helpful tips:
1. City: Antwerp, Belgium
2. In which area should you stay?
In the heart of the city! But this would of course depend on your budget. The public transport system within Belgium is very good, so even if you stay in the outskirts of Antwerp and travel into the city centre, you can be guaranteed of a means of transport.
3. You simply must see…
The Central Train Station. It has been voted as one of the most beautiful train stations in the world, and not surprisingly so. Also, I would recommend taking a tour around Antwerp with a guide, because the history of the first printing press in the world, of the first stock market in the world and the history of fashion in Antwerp is fascinating.
4. You simply must do…
A walk-a-bout and view the cathedrals. Not only are the structures of the churches beautiful, with immensely intricate sculptures dotted along the walls, but many of the larger cathedrals house story-high artworks, which defy the imagination.
Also the Antwerp zoo is worth a visit, but it may take you a few hours to wonder around; it is huge!
5. You simply must eat…
Belgium is known for “frites”, or fried chips, chocolate and of course waffles. Also, Belgium beers are famous throughout the world. Within Antwerp, a small distillery makes a liqueur from 30 different herbs, called “Elixir d’Anvers”, which is a wonderful digestive after a big meal. Jenever is also a popular local liqueur, with over 200 different varieties.
6. Are the people friendly/ helpful?
As a tourist, you will find Antwerp people very friendly and helpful, with many people able to speak English. I have not had a communication problem here yet, and in the few short months that I have been here, I have made a number of great friends.
7. How many days do you need in the city?
In order to experience the centre of Antwerp fully, I would set aside about 3 days. But I would also extend my stay within Antwerp a bit longer and travel to surrounding cities (like Ghent and Brugge), which are short train rides away. Antwerp accommodation is cheaper compared to e.g. Brussels, so using Antwerp as a base to explore Belgium is a great idea.
8. Any fun facts?
Antwerp has a rich history of firsts: first printing press in the world, first stock market exchange in the world. As I said, it’s really worth a walking tour of the city (about 3 hours) with a tour guide.