After three days in Amsterdam, we woke up early on a Thursday and headed to Antwerp (northern Belgium). I booked an Airbnb apartment in Brussels for that night, so we only did one day (technically half day) in Antwerp. That morning in Amsterdam was the first day we activated our Eurail pass and used one day of travel to go from Amsterdam to Antwerp and then Antwerp to Brussels.
The train ride was calm and we had our car pretty much to ourselves. That train didn’t have a food car in it so we made sure to grab some breakfast to go at the train station. This is something we did pretty much every time we boarded a train. All of the train stations had plenty of fresh and delicious food options (always fresh squeezed orange juice and croissants!). It was about a 3 hour train ride so we let Declan watch some Curious George episodes I had downloaded on the iPad for him.
We arrived around noon to the Antwerp train station. I did some research on things to do in Antwerp prior to the trip and every list had the train station listed as something to check out. It was by far the most beautiful train station out of all of the stations we passed through. It was 4 floors of platforms for the the trains to arrive, high ceilings, marble floors, and 1920’s style iron work for the frame; a gorgeous work of architecture. I love this photo below so much that I’m thinking of blowing it up to hang above our bed.
After finding some lockers to leave our luggage (crucial for all day trips since you don’t want to me lugging your stuff around) and getting a baked good for Declan at his request; we walked to the centre of Antwerp. Most European cities have a “center” where there’s a lot to see and do. Those were the areas I would look for in any place we visited. From the train station, the centre was a straight walk out the door (about 20 minutes) and there were plenty of signs pointing to all of the attractions (helpful). The street was lined up with all kinds of stores, especially clothing stores. Apparently Antwerp is somewhat of a fashion capital (I had no idea). Another surprising thing about Antwerp was that they spoke mostly Dutch, as opposed to French, because it’s located in Northern Belgium. So it was like we were still in Amsterdam but with French architecture and food.
In the centre we found plenty of eateries. I ordered a croque madame, something I’ve been wanting to try since I learned about it in French class; a ham and cheese grilled sandwich with eggs on top. SO good. Simple, but delicious. I ate one of these any opportunity I had while we were in Belgium.
We then walked around aimlessly and tried to see as much as we could before our 5 o’clock train to Brussels. First stop (since it was around the corner from the cafe) was the Cathedral of Our Lady. It was so tall that it was difficult to get a good picture in front of it; stunning cathedral.
We also walked into a Belgium beer shop, bought fries with curry ketchup (by the way, ketchup is not free there – all dipping sauces have a price!), checked out some lace shops and ate our first of many Belgium waffles.
We took a stroll by the river and walked through the oldest medieval fort/castle in Antwerp, Het Steen, and sat in the plaza and relaxed for about an hour.
My favorite was playing with Declan in the plaza; after having him cooped up in the stroller for so long, it was nice to let him run wild in an area with only pedestrians. We then leisurely walked back to the train station while listening to some live music.
Some other attractions that we didn’t get to were the zoo (which I wasn’t dying to see since we have the largest zoo in San Diego), Rubenshuis or the MAS, a modern art museum. Although I did read that you can visit the top of the MAS at no charge to get a panoramic view of the city. Maybe next time.
Overall, Antwerp was charming and easy to navigate by foot for the day. I think a day trip there is sufficient to get a good feel for the city.