If you’re currently planning your Belgium itinerary and wondering how to spend one day in Antwerp, this detailed one day itinerary for Antwerp has you covered!
After several visits to Antwerp, I created this travel guide to help you maximize your limited time and experience the very best that this enchanting city has to offer.
Spending a day in Belgium’s second largest city will have you wandering through charming streets and marvelling at centuries-old buildings, in between eating frites and drinking beer, of course.
Nestled in the heart of Belgium, Antwerp is a captivating city that delights visitors with its medieval charm, stunning architecture, and vibrant contemporary scene.
If you’re planning to stay in a nearby city such as Brussels or Bruges, taking a day trip to Antwerp is a great way to see more of Belgium if you’re short on time. If you happen to have more time in the city, I’ve also included a few extra Antwerp attractions that you should add to your itinerary.
In this guide I share all of my top tips to ensure you make the most of your one day in Antwerp. So keep reading to discover how to plan the perfect 1-day Antwerp itinerary!
Table of Contents
Important Information to Plan The Perfect Day in Antwerp
Top Rated Tours and Tickets for One Day in Antwerp
If you’re short on time and you’re hoping to see the best highlights of Antwerp in just a few hours, then joining a tour is the best way to go. See a few of Antwerp’s most popular city tours below.
2 Hour Walking Tour of Antwerp’s Highlights
See the very best of Antwerp on this popular 2 hour walking tour led by an experienced guide in either English or Dutch. Taking a walking tour upon arrival in Antwerp is a great way to familiarize yourself with the city’s landmarks and learn some insider tips and history from a local.
Antwerp City Highlights Guided Bike Tour
Joining a cycling tour of Antwerp is an exciting way to explore the city and visit its top sights. You’ll be able to cover more ground than a walking tour and discover Antwerp through the eyes of a local.
During this 2 hour tour, you’ll pass by famous landmarks such as the old port, Het Steen, Antwerp Cathedral of Our Lady, the MAS Museum, and of course the iconic train station.
Self-Guided Walking Tour of Antwerp
If you’d prefer to see the city of Antwerp at your own pace, then perhaps doing a self-guided audio tour would suit you best. With a choice of 7 different languages, you can follow an app to guide you through each historical landmark of the city, listening to an insightful commentary as you go.
One Day Antwerp & Ghent Tour from Brussels
If you’re staying in Brussels and looking to explore Antwerp on a day trip, then this tour is for you. This full day trip lasts for 10 hours and includes a tour guide and transportation to and from Brussels.
After meeting in central Brussels first thing in the morning, you will be whisked away by bus to Antwerp. Starting off with a guided tour of Antwerp’s best attractions followed by some free time to walk around the city on your own.
The afternoon will be spent in the magical city of Ghent where you’ll take in the stunning sights on an informative guided tour. This day trip offers a convenient way to see two of Belgium’s most beautiful cities if you’re on a tight schedule.
Best Time to Visit Antwerp
Antwerp is a great city to visit year-round with a range of exciting attractions, museums and events on offer. If it happens to be raining during your visit, no worries just head inside a museum or two. If the weather is sunny and warm, spend the day strolling the charming streets, taking a seat for a coffee or a beer at an outdoor patio.
The most popular time for tourism in Antwerp is of course the summer months of June – August. You’ll have a higher chance of warm weather and sunny days. However, Belgium can see rain and grey skies no matter what time of year you visit so you should always come prepared with a rain jacket and umbrella.
I personally visited Antwerp in October and July, both times were great for sightseeing with a bit of sun and rain in the same day (very typical Belgian weather!)
I can also recommend visiting Antwerp during December to experience the magic of the Christmas Markets. This is when the Grote Markt comes to life with glistening lights, market stalls and festive decorations.
Packing Checklist for Your 1-Day Antwerp Itinerary
- Day pack – A good day pack is a necessity for a full day of sightseeing around Antwerp.
- Good walking shoes – This itinerary involves a fair amount of walking so be sure to have a pair of comfortable shoes.
- Portable charger – It will be a long day and there will be many beautiful sites to capture so make sure your phone stays fully charged.
- Travel Tripod – If you’re traveling solo (or in a couple), taking a phone tripod is the best way to get great shots in the city without asking a stranger. These are small, quick to set up and ensure that you’ll always get the photos you want without relying on other people!
- Collapsible water bottle – Bring a water bottle to ensure you stay hydrated throughout the day.
- Sunglasses – You’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors so make sure to protect your eyes from the harsh sun.
- Sunscreen – As mentioned above, keep yourself protected from the sun if you’re visiting Antwerp during summer!
- Umbrella – The weather in Belgium is unpredictable so don’t forget to bring a compact travel umbrella.
- Rain jacket – As stated above, the weather in Belgium can change quickly no matter the season, it’s always best to come prepared.
Where to Stay in Antwerp
For ease of sightseeing, booking your hotel in a central location of the city is best. This way you will be within walking distance of the best cafes, restaurants and tourist attractions of Antwerp. Find a few of the top-rated Antwerp hotels in each price range below.
Antwerp City Hostel – Visiting Antwerp on a budget? Stay in this popular hostel located right in the heart of the city. You’ll be able to get everywhere by foot and there’s even a nice breakfast included in your stay!
B&B HOTEL Antwerpen Centrum – With comfortable, modern rooms, a terrace and bar, you really can’t go wrong with this top-rated Antwerp Hotel. Located in the centre of Antwerp, staying here will give you a head start to your full day of sightseeing with a handful of main landmarks only steps from the building.
Hilton Antwerp Old Town – Set within a gorgeous historic building, this luxurious 4-star hotel overlooks the beautiful Groenplaats Square of Antwerp. With cozy rooms and all the amenities you could wish for, a stay at the Hilton will make for a memorable time in Antwerp.
Best Travel Insurance for Europe
Are you travelling to Belgium from overseas? If you are, then you’ll need to get travel insurance before you go.
The last thing you want is to have an unexpected medical emergency occur while you’re in a different country with no insurance to cover the costs!
Even if you don’t end up using it, getting travel insurance is a small investment to make for peace of mind. This allows you to focus on having a memorable, relaxing vacation instead of worrying about what could go wrong.
I always go with Heymondo. They’re one of the most reliable companies that will provide you with simple and flexible coverage. Whether you’d like to protect against medical emergencies, lost luggage, or trip cancellations, Heymondo has you covered!
As a reader of The Road Is Life, you get 5% off your Heymondo travel insurance by using the link below!
Is One Day in Antwerp Enough?
Whether you take a day trip to Antwerp or spend the night there, one day is enough to cover the main highlights, get an overview of the city and visit the inside of several attractions.
Of course, if you’re able to spend 2 days in Antwerp then you’ll be able to visit each item on this 1-day itinerary at a more leisurely sightseeing pace.
Spending more time in Antwerp also gives you the chance to delve deeper into the city’s dynamic food scene, visit a few more of the fantastic museums, spend some time shopping and checking out a few of Antwerp’s hidden gems.
Is Antwerp Worth Visiting?
Antwerp is the largest city in Flanders and has so much more to offer than its beautiful architecture and rich history. With a diverse culinary scene, a collection of fascinating museums, amazing shopping opportunities and a world-famous arts scene, Antwerp really has something for everyone.
Antwerp is especially great for those looking to get a little more off the beaten path in Europe as I found it to be far less touristy than Brussels and Bruges yet still just as scenic.
To be completely honest, I preferred the vibe in Antwerp as a tourist a lot more than Brussels. I’d highly recommend either taking a day trip to Antwerp or spending a few days there if your schedule allows for it.
Its central location makes it the perfect European city break, Antwerp can be reached in under 1 hour by car or train from Brussels and Ghent as well as 2 hours from Amsterdam. So go ahead and add Antwerp to your Belgium itinerary and thank me later!
Historic Facts and Info About Antwerp
● Antwerp is a global diamond trading hub, handling a significant portion of the world’s rough and polished diamond trade. The city’s diamond district is a bustling hub of diamond dealers, jewelers, and traders, making it an a great destination for anyone interested in shopping for some new jewelry.
● The city boasts a unique blend of architectural styles, from Gothic cathedrals like the Cathedral of Our Lady to contemporary marvels like the eye-catching Port House. The city’s skyline is a testament to its rich history and progressive modernity.
● After the decline of Bruges in the 16th century, Antwerp entered a golden era becoming one of Europe’s most important trading ports. Its prime location along the Schedlt River allowed the city to flourish as its bustling port handled goods from around the world such as spices, textiles, and diamonds.
● The 16th century in Antwerp also saw a rise in artistic talent and was home to famous artists like Peter Paul Rubens. His masterpieces can be seen in various museums across the city, most notably The Rubens House.
● Antwerp is known as one of the fashion capitals of Europe featuring excellent shopping opportunities such as Meir Street and Stadsfeestzaal, a shopping mall in a historic building. The buildings in this shopping district are beautiful and full of character giving you a shopping experience like no other.
Antwerp 1-day Itinerary Map
Below is a map of all the best places to visit in Antwerp in one day. Luckily Antwerp is a very walkable city which means you don’t have to worry about catching trains or buses to travel between attractions.
As you can see on the map below, the total walking time for the day is estimated around 50 minutes which is easy to fit into your day of sightseeing. Simply follow the map below to make the most of your one day in Antwerp.
How to Spend One Day in Antwerp – The Best Places to Visit in Antwerp in One Day
Central Station – Antwerpen Centraal
Antwerp Central Station is one of the city’s most famous landmarks and considered one of the world’s most beautiful train stations. I’ve seen some pretty impressive train stations in my time and I have to say, it’s right up there with the Sao Bento Station in Porto.
The train station was built in the late 19th century and completed in the year 1905. The building’s interior is often compared to a cathedral due to its grandeur, massive dome, and intricate details, it’s extremely photogenic!
Whether you are arriving in Antwerp by train or don’t have a train to catch, this amazing train station is worthy of stopping by to admire the majestic interior and snap a few photos.
Walk Through the Diamond District
Are you in the market for some new diamonds or jewelry? Even if you’re not, you’ll pass by this area anyway as you make your way from Antwerp Central Station to the Rubens House.
Since the 15th century, Antwerp has been one of the world’s top diamond trading hubs. The city’s diamond district is where you’ll find a huge assortment of diamond and jewelry shops making it the largest concentration in the diamond industry.
It is said that around 80% of the world’s diamonds are traded in Antwerp so there’s really no better place in the world to treat yourself to something sparkly. I found it fun to window shop and admire the beautiful gems as I passed through this iconic part of Antwerp.
The Rubens House
Take a step back in time by visiting the former home and studio of the famous Flemish painter, Peter Paul Rubens. This beautiful 16th century house in the centre of Antwerp has been turned into a museum where you can find some of his original paintings and personal belongings on display.
The museum includes a reconstruction of Rubens’ studio, offering visitors a glimpse into the space where the artist created some of his most famous works. This is easily one of Antwerp’s most popular museums and it won’t take much time out of your day, making it easy to fit into your Antwerp itinerary.
**Update** The Rubens House is currently closed for renovations until 2026. The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp offers a great alternative for those who still wish to see some of his work until Rubens House re-opens its doors to visitors.
Shop on Meir Street
Next up on this Antwerp itinerary is a walk through the city’s prime shopping hot spot. Meir Street is a bustling pedestrian strip lined with popular shops, restaurants, and cafes.
This is where you can find all the best shopping opportunities in Antwerp from big-name brands such as H&M, Zara, and Primark to independently owned stores. The beautiful architecture and ornate detailing of the buildings on this street makes for a memorable shopping experience.
Be sure to pop into Stadsfeestzaal, a shopping centre just off of Meir Street housed in a gorgeous 19th century building with gold covered domed ceilings. I found this place quite impressive and worthy of a quick stop even if you don’t stay long!
Antwerp Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal)
Every city in Europe has an impressive cathedral that dominates its skyline and Antwerp is no different. The Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal) towers over the streets of Antwerp with a spire that stands an astonishing 123 metres tall.
This incredible work of art took several centuries to complete, with construction spanning from the 14th to the 16th century. The inside of the cathedral features stunning stained glass windows, intricate carvings, and beautiful vaulted ceilings as well as paintings by famous artists such as Rubens himself.
If you wish to enter the Cathedral of Our Lady, be prepared to pay €8 otherwise you can simply admire its grandeur from the outside and continue on your explorations around Antwerp.
Stop for Lunch
By this point in the day, you will likely be hungry and ready to sit down for some lunch and give your legs a rest. For a unique dining experience head over to one of Antwerp’s oldest restaurants, Elfde Gebod.
Sitting in the shadows of Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk, the pub has a history that stretches back to 1425. Stop in here to enjoy some traditional cuisine alongside a few classic Belgian beers while surrounded by religious statues and eclectic décor. The place is sure to make an impression!
For some snacks to keep you fuelled throughout the day, be sure to stop in at Frituur No 1 to pick up a serving of quintessential Belgian frites. As you wander through the city, you’re bound to come across many stalls selling freshly made Belgian waffles which are a must-try when in Antwerp!
When you see pictures of Antwerp it’s likely of the famous Grote Markt, a vibrant square surrounded by stunning 16th century buildings.
The Brabo Fountain is the centrepiece of the square and features a statue of a mythical hero, Silvius Brabo, who is said to have defeated a giant and thrown his hand into the Scheldt River.
The City Hall is another notable landmark that dominates the square with its ornate façade. This awe-inspiring building is adorned with statues and intricate carvings, showcasing the city’s wealth and influence during the Renaissance period.
The Grote Markt really is the beating heart of Antwerp. At any given time of day it’s buzzing with restaurants, cafes and tourists passing through taking in the impressive surroundings.
A visit to this fascinating museum will take you on a journey through the history of the printing and publishing world. It’s actually the first museum to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Inside the Plantin-Moretus Museum you can explore a collection of historic printing presses, tools, and machinery that were used during the early days of printing. These are in fact the oldest printing presses in the world!
The museum also holds an extensive collection of rare books, documents and artefacts that offer a unique glimpse into 16th-century Antwerp. Allow around 2 hrs to see the entire museum. This makes for a perfect activity if you get stuck with a rainy day in Antwerp.
Opening Hours: 10am – 5pm (Tuesday – Sunday, Closed Mondays)
Tickets: €12/adults 26+, €8/adults 18-26, free/visitors under 18
Het Steen Fortress
Only a short walk away from the Grote Markt, the imposing Het Steen fortress sits on the banks of the Scheldt River. It’s the oldest building in Antwerp dating to the 13th century when it was initially built to defend the city and control access to the waterway.
Nowadays its one of Antwerp’s top tourist attractions where you can find a visitor center, a museum and a viewing terrace at the top of the castle.
You can see the visitor centre and head to the terrace for a panoramic view over Antwerp for free. However it costs €7 per adult and €5 per child to enter the “Antwerp Story”.
This is an relatively new museum that takes you back through the history of Antwerp through a series of interactive displays. Find more info about planning your visit to Het Steen here.
Visitor Center Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm daily
St Paul’s Church (Sint-Pauluskerk)
If you still have time left in your day trip to Antwerp, consider checking out this lovely hidden gem which is tucked away from the main streets.
It’s easy to miss this stunning Gothic style church however St. Paul’s Church or Sint-Pauluskerk is one of Antwerp’s most beautiful churches and definitely worthy of a quick stop.
The inside of the church features beautiful artworks by well-known Flemish artists from the Baroque period as well as sculptures and an old organ. Elaborate decorations can be seen on both the inside and outside of St. Paul’s Church.
The most distinguishing feature is the Calvary Monument which consists of impressive rock formations and 63 life-size statues in a garden just outside of the church.
Opening Hours: 2pm – 5pm daily
Try Some Belgian Beers
Once your day of sightseeing comes to an end, there’s still an important thing left on this Antwerp itinerary. You simply can’t leave the city without trying some traditional Belgian beers in a historic bar.
If you’re not heading back to another city at the end of day in Antwerp, find yourself a nice old pub and enjoy a few Belgian beers and a bite to eat. You don’t have to go far to find nice bars in Antwerp but here are a few of the city’s best to get you started.
Paters Vaetje – A cozy pub with a nice atmosphere and wide selection of beers in a great location next to the Cathedral of Our Lady.
Quinten Matsijs – Located down an alley, not far from the centre of town, this is another one of Antwerp’s oldest pubs which dates back to the 16th century.
Cafe Kulminator – An eccentric bar with plenty of beers to choose from. One must ring a bell upon arrival and tell the bar keeper you’re there to “taste beer” to be granted entry to this unique bar which is run by an elderly couple.
Spending More Than One Day in Antwerp?
In addition to the attractions I’ve listed in the one day Antwerp itinerary above, there are plenty more awesome things to see in and around Antwerp that you should check out if you have any extra time.
The biggest highlight for me would have to be taking a day trip to the stunning cities of Bruges and Ghent but I also loved exploring more of Antwerp’s museums and hidden gems.
Day Trip to Bruges
Bruges is an incredibly scenic medieval city and one of Belgium’s top tourist destinations. If you have more than one day to spend in Antwerp, you must include a day trip to Bruges on your Belgium itinerary.
Bruges is easy to reach in 1.5 hrs by train from Antwerp Central Station or 1.5 hrs by car. Spending the day in Bruges will involve cruising along the picturesque canals by boat, indulging in freshly made Belgian waffles and taking a step back in time as you wander the city’s narrow, cobbled streets.
Find more detailed info about planning your Bruges day trip here.
Day Trip to Ghent
Ghent is another fairy tale city of Belgium only 1 hour from Antwerp by car or train. The city is full of beautifully preserved medieval buildings, pretty canals and the striking 12th century Gravensteen Castle surrounded by a moat.
The historic center of Ghent is absolutely stunning and offers many great things to see and do. You can easily spend an entire day soaking up the city’s rich history, enjoying a lunch along the canals and admiring the gorgeous architecture.
Ghent is a little more off the beaten path than Bruges but in my opinion, it’s just as beautiful. Read my guide to spending the day in Ghent here.
Located only steps from Antwerp Central Station, the Antwerp Zoo is the oldest animal park in the country which has been open to the public since 1843.
Home to one of the largest animal collections in Europe, you’ll see a huge range of animals from around the world such as giraffes, lions, elephants, tigers, hippos, koalas and so much more! There’s even an aquarium with blacktip reef sharks and loads of fish.
Exploring the Antwerp Zoo is a great activity year round and an absolute must-do if you’re travelling with children. However if you only have one day in Antwerp, you won’t have enough time to fit the zoo in the 1-day itinerary above.
A visit to the Antwerp Zoo can easily take up to 2-3 hours which is why I recommend only visiting if you have more than a day in Antwerp. Spending some time in the zoo allows you to disconnect from the busy city streets without actually leaving the city!
Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm (365 days/year)
Tickets: €32,50/adults, €30,50/children 12-17, €26,50/children 3-11, Free/children under 3
The MAS Museum
This popular museum is located in a striking building on the Schedlt River and showcases Antwerp’s history, culture, and maritime heritage.
The MAS Museum features a large number of permanent and changing exhibitions covering a huge range of topics. One of the highlights is the epic panoramic view that can be seen from the top floor.
It’s free to enter the museum and see the view from the top terrace however to see the exhibits, you will pay an entrance fee. Find more info about planning your visit to the MAS Museum here.
Opening Hours: 10am – 5pm (Tuesday – Sunday, Closed Mondays)
Taste your way through the colourful history of Antwerp on this half day pub crawl that takes you past some of the city’s famous sites while stopping to taste beers along the way.
This is a fun intro to Antwerp and a great way to learn stories and historic facts from a local guide as you enjoy beer tastings at a number of iconic Antwerp pubs.
Chocolate Nation Antwerp
If you’re a fan of Belgian chocolate (who isn’t?!) you’ll want to add this to your list of places to visit in Antwerp! This top-rated museum is located just across from Antwerp Central Station and claims to be the world’s largest Belgian chocolate museum.
Learn all about the chocolate making process and discover the history of Belgian chocolate on an exciting 60-90 minute tour of this interactive museum. The best part is getting to taste the chocolate and bring some home with you!
Opening Hours: 10:15 am–6:30 pm daily
Tickets: €19.90/adult, € 18.50/young people 12-17, €14.50/children 4-11
This beautiful medieval building in the heart of Antwerp was once a meat market and is now a museum dedicated to showcasing Antwerp’s musical history, from the medieval period to the present day. The word Vleeshuis directly translates to “Meat House.”
The museum takes you back over 600 years in time and features an impressive collection of historical musical instruments, including string instruments, wind instruments, and keyboards. It’s a must-see for music lovers.
Opening Hours: 10am – 5pm (Thursday – Sunday, Closed on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday)
Tickets: €8/adult, €5/visitors aged 18-25, free/visitors under 18
Antwerp Christmas Markets
If you happen to be visiting Belgium during December, you can’t miss the Antwerp Christmas Markets! Every year from December to the beginning of January, the city is decorated with sparkling lights and market stalls, giving a cosy Christmas vibe and a magical atmosphere.
The markets take place over several squares in Antwerp and you’ll find all the typical Belgian treats such as waffles, fries, crepes and mulled wine or glühwein.
This is such a lovely time of year to stroll through the city and soak up the magic of Christmas while tasting some traditional foods and picking up a few souvenirs along the way.
Discover More Belgium Travel Guides
- The Ultimate 5 Day Belgium Itinerary – Historic Cities & Hidden Gems
- How to Spend One Day in Ghent, Belgium
- 13 Best Things to do in Dinant, Belgium
- Day Trip to Bruges from Amsterdam – How to Spend a Day in Bruges
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