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