ANTWERP, BELGIUM

What is your most unforgettable Escape?

Last year I lost a harddrive full of personal data including a decade of photographs, so I will tell you about my most recent Escape rather than the most unforgettable one. It’s a long weekend trip to Antwerp.

What was the purpose of your travel?

Antwerp is one of my favourite cities. This was my third time there, and this time I wanted to share the charm of it with two dear friends of mine who haven’t been to the city before.

With how many people did you travel?

It was just the three of us. Seyhan Özdemir Sarper of Autoban, Ferit Sarper of Münferit and Gaspar and me.

Where did you stay?

At the Boulevard Leopold, which is a super beautiful B&B with only 5 rooms. Actually, with 3 rooms and 2 apartment flats... Last time I was in Antwerp, I again stayed here. The building dates back to the 19th century, and its owner Martin, who is a great host, has done a very good job in renovating and furnishing the place.

What did you most like about the trip?

I’m a huge big fan of the compact cities of Northern Europe. Just put me in one and I can live there forever. I guess I’m more fascinated by the level of civilization in these cities. Guess why? Antwerp has everything. It’s a port city, a city that has been a hub of social and cultural interchange for ages. It is also the unofficial fashion capital of Europe. And the best thing is, Antwerp is the least touristy city that has everything. I once again fell in love with the city for all the right reasons.

Could you share an unforgettable memory about the trip?
We didn’t plan anything for Saturday night, and it is never easy to get a good table on a Saturday evening in Antwerp like in everywhere else. In the afternoon we were shopping at this beautiful store Graanmarkt 13 and still discussing about where to have dinner. The very kind sales people at the store somehow managed to book us a table at Le John, which is this hip restaurant/bar with a mid-century-mix-Art Deco interior. They had my favourite whisky at the bar, so it was love at first sight for me. For dinner, I ordered everything with white asparagus in it (it was the right season), and in between courses I was going out for a smoke. Outside the restaurant, on the sidewalk, they have two mid-century bamboo chairs with an oriental rug underneath them. We were drinking wine, smoking and talking about stuff with Seyhan, and at some point, Istanbul seemed like it was in another galaxy.

Your most surprising find during the trip?

The last time I was in Antwerp, the MAS Museum (Museum aan de Stroom) wasn’t completed yet.  On our last day in the city, which was a rainy Sunday, we paid a quick visit to the museum. I’m not going to talk about the exhibits here as we had very little time to check them out thoroughly, but architecture-wise, I don’t recall being this much impressed by a recently built building. It turned out that we saved the best for last. Respect to Neutelings Riedijk Architects!

Favorite restaurant(s) or food you have tried during your trip?

Mussels, oysters and everything that comes with them at Maritime. It’s a traditional Antwerp restaurant. Unfortunately, they have renovated the place a little bit but the food is still good.

What are the must tries of the city?
Well, being a beer person, I’d suggest you to drink as much varieties as you can. Make sure to pay a visit to MAS Museum, and of course, to MoMU. And as souvenirs, bring back some Dries van Notens. This is his town after all. For more tips, you have to be good friends with meJ
 

Any hidden gems you could whisper to us?
It’s not that hidden but if you love 20th century antiques, head to Kloosterstraat. A visit to Christiane De Bot’s store at number 29 might result in a luggage full of glass and silverware from the 1930s. And while you are there, make sure to check out The Recollection store at number 54. It’s the coolest store on the planet.

Would you go back?
Any minute.

Could you list a few of your favorite finds you came back with?
Beer glasses, like I did in my two previous trips…

Any tips that might be useful to know before going there?
Making three trips so far, I’ve witnessed that most (Turkish) people don’t get Antwerp.  When I tell them that I’m going to Antwerp, they ask me what I’m going to do in that boring city. Just don’t pay attention to such comments and book your flight.  Other than that, most restaurants in Antwerp don’t have English menus. I told you, this is the least touristy city.

Next stop you would like to visit?
On the way back, we talked about going to Oslo. It will be my second time.

Zeynep YenerComment