Antwerp Shopping and Eating

With the exception of Brussels and the famous medieval town of Bruges, Belgium doesn’t top most tourists’ destination lists, although it’s easily accessed from most European countries and small enough to get around on a long weekend or week’s holiday. Those who do arrive find a little country split into two linguistic halves, with a fascinating heritage spanning almost 2,000 years and spreading though everything from architecture and artefacts to regional cuisine.For the vast majority of tourists, dining and shopping in a fresh environment are an essential part of the holiday experience, with all the ancient yet modern Belgian towns and cities giving a wide choice of local and international shoportunities and culinary delights. The premier port city of Antwerp is no exception, with its great food, good living and ultra-friendly people loving nothing more than an evening meal in one of its excellent restaurants after an afternoon browsing the malls, boutiques and antiques shops.Antwerp, of course, is world-famous for its Diamond Bourse, which handles 85 per cent of the planet’s uncut stones and 50 per cent of the sparkling finished products. If you’re planning the ultimate self-indulgent purchase or need to placate your partner, the touristy gem stores around the central rail station as well as on the outskirts of the diamond district should be avoided at all costs. It’s possible to buy diamonds or jewellery here at prices well below the European norm, but investigative online research or a reliable contact in the trade is essential.For more conventional shopping, Antwerp’s famous Meir runs from Keyserlei to Groenplatz, with Hopland and Schuttershofstraat the favourites of the rich and famous for their exclusive designer boutiques and luxury stores. Other popular destinations are Huidvetterstraadt, Kammenstraadt and Nationalestraat just off the Meir. Most Belgian antiques dealers show a bizarre twist in their stock preferences, with Kloosterstraat, the city’s antiques central, packed with galleries offering unusual, decorative objects. The city’s Chinatown is another source of the unusual, with its wide choice of Chinese, Japanese and Korean artefacts. Most of the shopping spots are based close to Antwerp City centre hotels.Weekend markets here are great for people watching and retail therapy, with a huge selection of local foods including delicious cheeses, household goods, fashions, more antiques and bric-a-brac laid out in front of the theatre in Theaterplein square. Cheese rolls and a glass of the local wine from a stall in the centre of the market make a tasty break from browsing and spending. For trendy store shopping and the city’s Fashion Museum, take a short stroll back to Kammenstraadt.Although Antwerp has much to offer as regards fine cuisine, its residents are most proud of the ubiquitous fritkoten found on every street, serving the fat, crispy golden and utterly delicious Belgian chips smothered in mayonnaise, plus other fried delights. Combined with the irresistible, world-famous chocolates and lusty Belgian beer, dieting on an Antwerp break is a non-starter! Pitta and Shoarma fast food outlets are useful if you’ve missed out on lunch, and stay open all hours across the city.Gourmets with exotic preferences are in heaven here, with everything from Nepalese, excellent Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants in Chinatown and African and Indian eateries in Hoogstraadt. In Lange Herentalsestraadt, Antwerp’s oldest restaurant on the corner of Oude Koornmarkt specialises in seafood, especially mussels, is off the tourist trail and a must-visit for its price and quality. The old city centre holds most of the port city’s fresh seafood outlets, with more eateries set around Groenplaats and the cathedral. Although the famous upscale restaurants centre around Oude Koornmarkt and nearby streets, the most unassuming venues in the back streets often serve the best food.

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