Why Antwerp is the perfect city break for coffee aficionados, jewellery hunters and eco-lovers

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  • Thought Belgium was all beers and chocolate? Think again

    This port city on Belgium’s River Scheldt is actually full of history (and hipsters.)

    Why go? 

    Perfect for that last-minute weekend away when you don’t even have to take a day off work, the city centre of Antwerp is the ideal size to explore in two days. And with history dating back to the Middle Ages, you won’t be short of history. Don’t miss a visit to the 17th-century house of Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens and centuries-old diamond trading houses, alleyways and cathedrals.

    The location

    Antwerp Belgium

    Hotel Julien is in the perfect spot. It’s down a picturesque quiet street but is still accessible to everywhere either by foot, tram or bus (there’s a stop just opposite). To be honest, you’ll only really need to use the tram to go visit residential street Cogels Osylei, which is around a 10-minute tram ride away, and home to famous Flemish architecture dating back to 1894 and 1908. Don’t worry, there’s a beautiful coffeeshop called Maurice on the corner to make it worth your while.

    The room

    Antwerp Belgium

    Think sleek and chic in a historical 16th century property (across two old houses, to be exact). If marble floored, wood accents and minimalist white sheets are your thing, you’ll love it here.

    The food

    With a breakfast spread including bread and croissants delivered direct from renowned pâtisserie Domestic, you’re guaranteed to be in pastry heaven. It’s also worth noting that on Mondays, breakfasts are only served in the room so you can indulge in some breakfast in bed. And, in general, Antwerp cuisine is all about local and sustainable produce and it’s heavenly for vegetarians with restaurants like De Broers Van Julienne, in a nearby neighbourhood, offering up a feast of deliciousness as well as restaurants opposite the MAS museum like Lux and Roest for carnivores and omnivores alike.

    The vibe 

    Continental Europe is notorious for being relaxed so leave your heels at home. When choosing your city break wardrobe, it’s worth taking all the cobblestones in this city into consideration and don’t forget that Antwerp is basically Belgium’s fashion capital so in some sense, anything goes. Prepare to see a lot of culottes, Stan Smiths and in summer especially, embrace colour.

    The spa 

    Each guest is given the option of booking out the spa exclusively for an hour to make use of the sauna, steam room, rainforest shower and heated seats. Perfect after a day of stomping around the city.

    Don’t miss 

    The interiors and jewellery shopping! Head to Zahia, a jewellery workshop with a haberdashery feel and buy bespoke ready-made pieces from ten euros up. Trust us, you’ll get pieces like tassel earrings and stone rings that’ll get you compliments for days. And, don’t get us started on the interior shops nearby and the antique stores on Kloosterstraat.

    While you’re there… 

    Be like a local and make sure to grab some chips from a local friterie before indulging in a waffle at no-frills favourite Desire De Lille. And, for the best eclair of your life, head to local bakery Konditori. Basically, go with room in your suitcase – and room in your stomach.

    Eurostar offers fares from London St Pancras to Antwerp from just £34.50 one-way (£69 return) with their Any Belgian station ticket. Rooms at Hotel Julien from £155 per night.

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