There are few lovelier places for a cup of coffee & a piece of cake than the Bourla. It’s almost hidden in that there is no signage downstairs except for the theatre. Just keep going inside & up the stairs, you won’t regret it.
They also do a buffet brunch on the weekends which looks like a lovely way to celebrate something..
European Christmas season brings a whole bunch of things in their real forms that we don’t have in Oz – here’s my first mistletoe for instance..
What a gorgeous sight on heirloom oyster plates with a glass of cava. All their liquor intact, the Speciale Gillardeau was definitely the stand out. This place also does wonderful homemade shrimp croquettes.
Middelheim Museum is an outdoor sculpture park not far from Antwerp city. Entry is free, but note that it is closed on Mondays.
You could spend a whole day or more exploring the art in the park, there is genuinely ‘something for everyone’ from hyper-modernist work, to old school traditional sculpture.
The 21 or 32 from Berchem Station will get you there, or even better go on a bike. This is Belgium so there is of course a cafe in the grounds. Stop for a borreltje of jenever and a cheesy snack.
Park Spoor Noord is an example of urban renewal done well. As so often happens, a visionary but divisive mayor is responsible. The outcome is that an abandoned railway yard in a rough part of town has been turned into a beautiful park that is changing the neighbourhood around it. Go there on a sunny day, play in the fountains and lounge on the artificial beach.
There is of course a bar (we are in Belgium after all), but of note is the only healthy vending machine I have ever seen in my life. Fruit, yoghurt, cherry tomatoes and more – wish we had one of these at my work..
There is a gallery at Park Spoor Noord that is a converted hangar of some sort. When I went they were showing the amazing PIETAS by Jan Fabre. Marble brains and a pieta with carved insects crawling all over them – and the golden base that you needed to wear special slippers to wander about on. Quite an incredible exhibition.
Antwerp is my home away from home – where much of my family live and where I spend most of my time overseas.
Many people who travel through Europe go through Belgium. They may even stop in Brussels or Bruges. What they often don’t do – and really should – is take a weekend in Antwerp. She’s a pretty city, with a lively restaurant and bar culture and just enough shopping and touristy things to find something you like, without being overwhelmed by touristy obligations.
Here are the skies above the Meir, the main shopping strip in the centre.
Wandering around town will also uncover some amazing Art Nouveau houses like this one.
Also near the centre is the famous Cogels Osylei with its amazing Nouveau and baroque grand old houses.
According to wikipedia jenever is: “the juniper-flavored and strongly alcoholic traditional liquor of the Netherlands and Belgium, from which gin evolved”. The monkey uncle of gin, who could resist?
A few tips:
– drink it straight. A tiny little glass will come out, mixers are frowned on.
– most good places will bring your little glasses and pour at the table right up to the rim. Sip it down, don’t shoot it.
– have some “borrel hapjes” with it – it’s strong and some cheese or other snackeroo will help you not get too sozzled..
– if you need an “entry level” jenever try a flavoured one – I like apple and violet flavoured but there are hundreds of others. One for any taste.
Arguably the best place to drink jenever in Antwerp is de vagant. Huge selection, cheerful service, 2 minutes walk from the cathedral and a cat that will come and snuggle on your lap.
It gets quite busy, so to balance the numbers of people swimming vs how the natural system can cope with cleaning the water, there is a countdown of people allowed in at any time. Your maximum time in there is about 45 minutes, but nothing to stop you going back in of course. As this is Belgium there are also change rooms and lockers (bring a euro coin to use these).
The pool itself is very natural – a little mossy, and with the freshest of water. I’d almost say you could drink it but that is probably not advised.
The filtration system is “natural” – meaning that the water runs through a series of feeder ponds.