With a seagoing tradition that dates back to the 15th century, it’s no surprise that Antwerp’s food and drink scene is diverse and international—but there are also plenty of local classics to seek out too.
It’s no problem finding mussels and chips washed down with the local drop of De Koninck beer, but there’s also a huge variety of food and drink from around the world. Here are six of Antwerp’s finest places to eat and drink:
Across the road from the De Koninck brewery you’ll find De Pelgrim, a bistro that straddles the divide between tradition and modernity. With a cycling shop at the back and a neon sign, it is undeniably quirky—but the menu has a host of local favourites, from Stoffvlees, a beef stew made with beer, to steak tartare. Whatever you choose, wash it down with a Bolleke, the local name for a glass of De Koninck.
Opposite Antwerp’s huge and magnificent railway station you’ll find the Pagodepoort, the ornate entrance to the city’s Chinatown. There are any number of Chinese restaurants here, of varying quality, but perhaps the best is DK, where adventurous eaters can enjoy tripe with ginger, chicken feet with black bean sauce, squid with curry sauce—and a host of much less intimidating options.
There has long been a Jewish population in Antwerp, based in the neighbourhood to the south of the railway station. There are lots of Jewish businesses on Lange Kievitstraat, but it’s Hoffy’s that catches the eye with its jolly if old-fashioned livery and a window-full of delicious-looking food. If you want to eat in, there’s classics like Gefilte fish and Wiener Schnitzel, with a more expansive takeaway menu.
This may be the world’s most unique beer bar. Imposing from the outside, the interior is so busy (due to the volume of beer boxes, memorabilia and other beer-related stuff) as to sometimes make finding a seat a bit of a challenge—but it’s worth it. The bar’s main attraction is the long list of aged Belgian classics assembled by husband-and-wife owners Dirk van Dyck and Leen Boudewijn. If you want to know what, for example, a 14-year-old bottle of the Trappist ale Orval tastes like, then you have to come here.
The world-wide trend for food markets has not passed fashion-conscious Antwerp by. Mercado, which opened in the city’s former central post office in 2016, boasts 14 food stalls and 4 drink vendors, which should keep even the most ravenous visitors happy. The stands change over time, but if you join the young crowd Mercado attracts you can expect to choose from Moroccan, Lebanese, Spanish, Malay and more besides.
If you’re looking for somewhere that sums up Antwerp, head to Oud Arsenaal. This is a classic Brown Cafe, where much of the interior—the bar, chairs, much of the beer—is as brown as a conker. There’s a short bar with tables around the edge of the room: on any given evening, you can expect to find groups of jovial locals drinking fairly humble beer; De Koninck, perhaps, or Stella Artois. For those with more expansive tastes, there’s a decent selections of bottles, including the likes of De Ranke and Boon.