Antwerp: A Design Lovers Travel Guide

April 11, 2018

Antwerp Design Tour Bloggers Travel Guide Art Deco and Nouveau architecture10) (2)

If you saw my post on the prettiest cafes in Antwerp last week then you will have gathered that we absolutely loved our recent city break to Antwerp. It’s such a beautiful city full of fabulous and interesting architecture, beautiful design, a burgeoning food scene and of course Tin-Tn, Dries Van Noten and waffles! City breaks can be a little like a bus mans holidays for me, being saturated by new sights and stories instantly makes me start grabbing for my camera! So, today I thought I’d share some of my highlights from our 48 hour jaunt in Antwerp.
In some of the prettiest neighbourhoods, on streets lined with ornate nineteenth century villas, we found ourselves thinking that this was like Paris but without pretension. It was really heartening to see that on the most salubrious looking streets normal people lived and areas have not been reserved solely for the use of millionaires, or so it seemed to us. In fact on one of the most famous streets of architectural note, Cogels Osylei (an absolute must visit) you will see lots of beautiful ornate buildings given over to very mundane workaday uses, such as dental mould laboratories or doctors surgeries.

The Art Nouveau Villas of Cogels Osylei

Antwerp is also a city of slow living, there are pretty cafes and cycles everywhere you look. Alongside this, there are some gorgeous design stores, particularly lifestyle offerings like St Vincent’s, but shop fittings too, there is no getting away from it Antwerp is full of style and if you’re looking to binge on aesthetics you could do a lot worse. Incidentally, if you have kids I also massively recommend Belgian brand Filou & Friends, a little Wes Anderson and a lot cool! We passed this store in the old town and couldn’t leave without buying a few pieces for Ted, but we could have bought a lot more (when my husband is happy to browse kids clothes I know it must be a good store!). For hotels we were really lucky to have been put up by the new boutique hotel in town Hotel Indigo and thoroughly recommend it. The rooms have been designed with care and attention to the design crowd. The aesthetic is a mix of wood, botanicals, encaustic tiles and bold colours, and is full of popular crowd pleasers from the likes of Muuto, Astro, Desenio and I think I even spotted Buster & Punch hardware. 

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Shops

 

Antwerp is known as a bit of a design Mecca in the style stakes, and with good reason, in the old town amongst the well known designer names you will also find any number of cute boutiques with a strong game in shop aesthetics. I loved the Antwerp branch of Le Labo, confectioners Maison Dandoy, Filou & Friends (as already mentioned) and just how completely darling is this glove shop (pictured top) it’s like something out of a film set!

 

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A glove shop with a real sense of history in the old town.

Antwerp Design Tour Bloggers Travel Guide Le Labo

The Antwerp branch of Le Labo.

The exquisite interior of confectioners Maison Dandoy

A shop fitting in Maison Dandoy.

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Art Deco Tunnels

If you haven’t already tired of archi-touring (and if you have in a city as pretty as this I’d be very surprised) the Saint Anna’s tunnel is an absolute must. Completed in the 1930’s this pedestrian tunnel in Antwerp’s old town is an absolute gem of Art Deco preservation. With its original wooden escalators, gorgeous architectural curves and tiling, this is such a treat to walk along, and the Art Deco lift is the icing on the cake.

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The original wooden escalators of the St Anne Tunnel.

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When has something forbidden ever looked so enticing?!

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The Art Deco lines of these lifts are one of my favourite discoveries this year.

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Architecture

You are almost spoilt for choice with the architecture in Belgium, not only is there a wealth of gorgeous historic buildings, mainly in the art nouveau (some deco) style, but as Belgian architects can sue one another for plagiarism, this results in really unique and varied architecture. There are no Georgian terraces of symmetrical grace, but this makes the city all the more charming and arresting.

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One of the many ornate Art Nouveau villas on Cogels Osylei.

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Art Deco entrance way in the Harmonie district.

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The lovely muted soft tones of pretty streets in suburban Atwerp.

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An example of the unique proportions of houses in Belgium, very rarely do two look the same.

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A villa on Cogels Osylei.

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A pretty side street in central Antwerp.

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Slow Living & Concept Stores

I absolutely loved the lifestyle vibe in Antwerp, I see this as a city which sits culturally somewhere between Paris & Scandinavia and it has a hipster scene which feels less about display and all the more alluring for it. But don’t get me wrong, alongside the cafes and bicycles there are some stand out lifestyle stores and St Vincent’s is the one I was most taken with. Part cafe, part vintage and upcycled interiors store, part clothes shop, the simple lines of this space are beautiful and feel completely unaffected. I could happily call this my favourite store if I lived in Antwerp.

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A city of pretty cycles everywhere you wander.

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Such simple style at St Vincents, I could very happily live here.

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St Vincents cafe detail.

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The store at St Vincent’s with cafe behind.

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Another beautiful corner at St Vincent’s.

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Tonal perfection on Antwerp’s pretty streets.

 

Botanical gardens

 

It’s a bit of an unwritten rule on our city breaks to find a bit of nature in cities and opposite Antwerp’s very cool toy store In Den Olifant is the cities botanical gardens. I will be honest with you and confess that the glasshouse was closed when we happened upon it, but despite the rain, they looked incredibly pretty, full of palms and exotic cacti.

 

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The gorgeous architectural lines of the Antwerp Botanical Gardens.

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Hotels

The boutique hotel in the centre of Antwerp we were based from. I loved this hotel, the design was en point (I chose the pink room, of course!), the staff were super friendly and it was an ideal spot for getting around the city from.  

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Our home from home at Hotel Indigo Antwerp.

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All pictures Ruth Matthews, with thanks to Hotel Indigo Antwerp for hosting our stay.

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4 thoughts on “Antwerp: A Design Lovers Travel Guide

  1. carolyn

    If I had to sum up in just a few words why I love Antwerp I would say it is because I love the pace of life and the people. The architecture is stunning too. It’s one of my favourite places in Europe

    Reply

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