weekend away - Antwerp
Written by Justine Vanthilt
Just 50km from Brussels, Antwerp maintains historic traditions of art and the opulence evident in its art, chocolate, fashion, and, of course, diamonds.
Antwerp’s compact size means walking is the favoured method of travel to survey the impressive architecture and discover the charming boutiques and restaurants hidden along cobblestoned streets. For example, diamonds are to be found in the plethora of jewellery stores near Central Station, but in the old city centre,Pascale Masselis creates original pieces in her atelier, often reworking gold and gemstones supplied by customers. Down the same street, Le Zoute Zoen awes the senses with its interior and traditional culinary menu.
In the fashion district near the Groenplaats, the spectacular way the ModeMuseum displays fashion is worth the US$10 entry alone. A trip to the flagship stores of catwalk notables Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester is de rigueur, but to discover emerging fashion talent, visit Ra Antwerp.
The Kloosterstraat, a street dedicated to antiques and collectibles, is one of the few parts of town open on Sunday. It links the Grote Markt, with its famed statue of Brabo and grand 16th century buildings, to the arts district of ‘t Zuid.
In ‘t Zuid, modern art lovers can visit the MuHKA and FotoMuseum plus many adjacent galleries; Tim Van Laere and Geukens & De Vil are particularly respected. Because the crown jewel of Antwerp museums, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, is closed until 2017, it is possible to see and buy – surprisingly affordable – original Flemish masters through Lowet de Wotrenge Fine Art, a museum broker (appointment only +32 3 232 8656).
In Antwerp, the objets d’art worth bringing home are far-ranging, but none more essential than chocolate. An Antwerp institution, Chocolatier Goossens, supplies royalty and state leaders with artisanal pralines. The timeless luxury of these chocolates explains why Antwerp remains a city worth savouring.
Where to eat
Restaurant Kommilfoo received its first Michelin star in the autumn of 2011. Seasonal dishes highlight the Belgian-French cuisine served for one dinner sitting only.
Where to stay
At US$250 a night, the gorgeously appointed room Bompa’s Glory at The Glorious Inn is a steal. Birdcages, whimsical wallpaper, skylights, and a spacious en suite bathroom breathe character and luxury into this original bed and breakfast. Next door at The Glorious restaurant, dinner reservations are a challenge to acquire, but the lunch menu and wine cellar are popular with locals for a reason.