The Wilde Zee is slightly different. It’s formed by five traffic-free streets that cheerfully flow into one another.You can stroll at a relaxed tempo past exclusive shops, hip brands, trendy businesses and exquisite delicatessens.
Five attractive pedestrian shopping streets form the Wilde Zee area, named after a bridge that stood here in the 15th century over a moat.The moat took a sharp turn here and sometimes the water splashed up high – it seemed like a wild sea.Today the water has been replaced with traffic-free streets that house the trendiest and most exclusive shops.
For fashion lovers
The Korte Gasthuisstraat, Wiegstraat, Lombardenvest, Groendaalstraat and Schrijnwerkerstraat (the five Wilde Zee streets) are filled with hip clothing and shoe shops – indispensable for real fashionistas.This zone also contains the oldest shopping centre in Belgium, the Nieuwe Gaanderij, where new pop-up shops stand next to established businesses.The covered gallery leads you to the adjacent Huidevettersstraat, which flaunts major clothing brands.
Epicureans are tempted in the Wilde Zee by the scent of delicious delicatessens and sweet shops.Everything is on hand:a renowned fishmonger’s shop, a bakery with queues out the door, and divine caterers.Every chocolate house has found a spot in this neighbourhood, and Désiré de Lille serves crunchy waffles and laquemants (waffles with a syrup filling).Don’t forget to walk past the statue of Den Deugeniet in the Wilde Zee in the Korte Gasthuisstraat.With his bare bottom he is a cousin of the famous Manneke Pis
Small but perfectly formed, Antwerp has plenty of inspirational womenswear boutiques, kidswear, streetwear and antiques, plus a thriving cafe culture and unbeatable Art Nouveau architecture.
Ever since six young Antwerp-based designers hired a van and drove to London to take Fashion Week by storm in 1986, the city has become renowned as the style capital of Belgium, retaining its reputation thanks to its influential fashion schooland the MoMu fashion museum.
Antwerp’s compact sizemeans it can be covered on foot in one or two days – making it a practical inspiration-boosting trip that’s within easy reach of both Brussels (one hour by train) and Amsterdam (two hours)
Visit for high-end and sophisticated womenswearboutiques and kidswear, along with some streetwearand vintage homewares
It’s also crammed full of inspiration– from the art nouveau facades to the creative and homely store/cafe design and the regular fashion exhibitions.
Where to shop
Nationalestraat and around: central area with designer stores and directional boutiques; interiors on Kloosterstraat
The Latin Quarter: the area around Komedieplaats is good for sophisticated, high-end yet on-trend retail
Het Zuid (south docklands):hip design, nightlife, galleries and restaurants
Around Nationalestraat: directional boutiques, interiors, kidswear
Starting at the Groenplaats central square, walk down Nationalestraat and look out for Cats and Dogs, the hip multibrand kids’ store and Dries Van Noten‘s flagship store: an elegant, beautifully restored building
Pop in for multibrand alamodefor print-focused men’s and women’s labels, and m0851for squishy leather bags in a rainbow of colours (there’s also a guest house upstairs). Ogle the impressive Yohji Yamamotostore that has taken over a light-filled gallery-like space in the ground floor of the MoMu fashion museum.
Be inspired:Make time to check out a temporary exhibition at MoMu, which is housed in a beautiful 19th century building known as the Modenatie. It’s also home to the Flanders Fashion Institute (FFI) and Copyright, a bookshop specialising in design.
Further down Nationalstraat have a peep at sexy Dutch lingerie designer Marlies Dekkers‘ boutique.
Just off the main street, St Antoniusstraat is home to cult store Walter: an amazing, industrial, gallery-esque space owned by archetypal Belgian designers Dirk Van Saene and Walter Van Beirendonck. Offering directional women’s and men’s apparel, accessories, jewellery and furniture, Walter stocks labels including Bless, Bruno Pieters and Bernhard Willhelm.
Back on Nationalstraat, Garde-robe Nationaleis a designer store with labels such as Just in Case, Bruuns Bazaar and Atelier 11. Look out for Belgian designer Annemie Verbeke‘s sophisticated and wearable womenswear, as well as the Veronique Branquinhostore, decorated in classic dark wood and mirrors, which includes her menswear line.
For a more youthful market, check out sneakers at LC footwear, fashionable casualwear for women at Lila Grace. A favourite for colour-coded vintage clothes and accessories, Jutka & Riskais worth a rummage, while Sienmultibrand store is good for cutting-edge brands.
Don’t miss:Take a brief detour onto Aalmoezenierstraat for a couple of gems unique to Antwerp – Little Vintageis dedicated to vintage kidswear and toys – the owner has sourced a fabulous collection of good quality pieces (much is unworn deadstock) and nostalgia-inducing paraphernalia from around the world.
Further along, is the lovely Mieke Williams– whose former art student owners have scoured the globe for beautifully retro home accessories, stationery, home office goods and kids toys – all lovingly displayed.
Back along Nationalstraat, look out for super-cool street store Superdry. For high-end accessories, Fred de la Bretonierespecialises in beautifully made classic footwear, Elsastocks sophisticated shoes and eBlondéspecialises in directional, niche prescription eyewear.
Turn right at the bottom of Nationalestraat and a short walk away is Kloosterstraat, which will take you back up towards the centre of town. This long street is home to a great selection of antiques, bric-a-brac and gentrified homeware design stores. This street comes alive at the weekend when antiques spill out on to the street.
Check out chic and directional womenswear and accessories boutique Anja Austa, and Limonsoda, offering a colourful mix of kids’ shoes.
Interiors include Fusion Homestylefor modern homewares and accessories; and Mooifor hip contemporary design and Viarantiques.
The sides streets off the main drag area worth a look, such as the Marcy Michael Designon Arsenaalstraat and Cruon Sint-Michielsstraat for 20th century design.
Eat:Experience the bohemian side of Antwerp at atmospheric cafe-bar Dansing Chocola.
Steenhouwersvest and Lombardenvest
When you reach the end of this street, turn right onto Steenhouwersvestto take you back to the centre. Vintage fans shouldn’t miss Episodefor on-trend inexpensive 1950s-80s clothing and accessories for men and women.
Look out for quirky casualwear at Bensimonand colourful casual leather women’s shoes at Siete; kidswear at Strass Storeand Filou & Friendsand Filippa Kfor women’s and menswear.
Cross over the road to Lombardenvestis home to a number of directional stores. Pop by Huis A. Boon, a historic leather gloves seller. Good multibrand boutiques here include Step by Stepfor youthful womenswear such as Vanessa Bruno, Etoile by Isabel Marant and Anna Sui; and Louisfor the best Belgian designers.
Also on the street is APC, womenswear at Enesfor floaty designer womenswear such as Malene Birger, Bellerose, offering casualwear for men, women and kids, Essentielfor pretty upper-end womenswear, plus a smattering of mid market accessories stores.
Kidswearcan be found at Sur+ by Monarfor fashionable shoes, Ten(scheduled to move) and the fantastic De Kleine Wolk, which offers labels such as Quincy and I Pinco Pallino. Also look out for inspiring VM at US beauty brand Kiehl’s.
Side street Lombardenstraatis home to Originalsfor international denim brands and Maison Anna Heylenfor grown-up womenswear.
This area is good for kidswear; try De Groene Wolkon Korte Gasthuisstraat, which stocks a mix of designer brands such as Anne Kurris and Max & Lola. Nearby is tiny designer kids’ shoe store 1000 Poot, as is casual preppy style for boys and girls at American Outfitterson Groendalstraat.
Mens- and womenswear along Korte Gasthuisstraat include Talking French, Hampton Bays, and Closing Date, with its street/designer mix from labels such as Vivienne Westwood.
Eat:Make a pit stop at Antwerp’s oldest bakery Goossensto sample its speciality gooey raisin bread.
Interiors store Marie Marieis also here, with upmarket bath and bedlinen. Continue up towards Schoenmarkt for Princess Blue‘s glam multibrand mix.
Huidevettersstraatis home to classic high-end and high street stores, with designer menswear at Saxon’sand multibrand store Men’s Fashion, plus street/casual multibrand store Brooklynwith names like Junki Deluxe and Pepe Jeans; as well as designer monobrand stores. Also check out mid-market stores include Belgian label River Woods and womenswear at Caroline Biss.
Meir is Antwerp’s main shopping thoroughfare, home to all the major brands.
Before you head on to Meir itself, check out new stores XSO, an impressive multibrand concept store with labels such as Issey Miyake, Antonio Marras and Robert Clergerie, plus Kids Lab, a fabulous kids’ lifestyle store with everything a child a could want from affordable clothes to toys, plus a great home décor section at the back.
Walking from Schoenmarkt, there’s a concentration of youth and activewear such as huge sportswear store United Brands, plus Puma, Nikeand adidas.
Further up multibrand storePrincessoffers women’s designer apparel and footwear brands such as Michael Kors, Zac Posen and Viktor & Rolf, and some lovely classic kidswear.
Meir is also home to wide range of mid-market and mass-market labels, plus Antwerp’s department stores Innoand Peek & Cloppenburg.
At the far end of Meir, turn right onto Frankrijklei for veteran Antwerp multibrand designer store Sn3, stocking womenswear and accessories from the likes of Chanel and Gucci.
Kammenstraat: streetwear, boutique
This central street is a focal point for Antwerp’s youth/street stores, with a smattering of other home accessories and womenswear boutiques.
Starting at the Groenplaats central square, look out for American Apparel, Guru, G-Star, and Antwerp youthwear institution Fish & Chips. Here you will find women’s/men’s street and skate labels and the latest trainers.
Other independent streetwear stores on the street include Heaven’s Playground, Vaudevilleand GrafittiShopArtifex– alongside international brands such as All Saintsand adidas Originals.
For girls, stop at Ringz & Thingzfor fun bags and accessories, Who’s That Girlfor teenwear and Sixty Friendsfor Miss Sixty’s kids line.
Design enthusiasts shouldn’t miss fabulous shop Feelings, a treasure trove of 50s/60s vases and lights in top-notch condition, amassed for the last 25 years.
We also loved new boutique A.Purr.A– a beautifully bedecked boutique stocking locally made home accessories, handmade stationery and accessories, with some directional VM displays.
Eat:Symforosais a stylish space for homemade quiches and salads.
For more grown-up womenswear, take a look at Antwerp-based Monique Stam. Side street Ijzerenwaag is home to Erotische Verbeelding, the original lingerie and sex toy store.
At the end of Kammenstraat turn the corner to Oudaanfor a hugeOililystore for womenswear, kidswear, an inspiring interior and corner cafe. You can’t walk passed gourmet chocolatier Pierre Marcoliniwithout giving in to your sweet tooth.
The Latin Quarter: sophisticated retail
Known as the Latin Quarter, the area around Komedie Plaats where the Bourla Theatre stands is a good spot for upscale and directional retail.
Schuttershofstraat and Hopland
The long street of Schuttershofstraatfocuses on chic and sophisticated stores: highlights include Suelaand Coccodrillofor high-end multibrand footwear, childrenswear at Mon Plus Beau Souvenirand Noukie’s;Waterl’eaufor upscale bathroom accessories, Sonia Rykiel‘s colourful knits and Princesse Tam Tam’spretty French lingerie.
The street leads into Hopland, offering more chic stores such as classic Belgian womenswear at Ballade,Mer du Nordfor Belgian womenswear and kidswear in colourful jerseys , Le Chapeaufor glam womenswear; sophisticated French looks at Sandro, designer names at 14 Hopland, Olivier Strelli’sstores for classic womenswear and menswear, Scapa World, design store Donum. Also here is L-XP, an interesting new concept that rents out Belgian and international designer clothing in a chic space.
Cross the main street Frankrijklei to Maria-Theresialeito find Houben, a slick multibrand boutique with Yohji Yamamoto, Azzedine Alaïa, Undercover and Number (N)ine, as well as the Comme des Garçonsboutique.
Lange Gasthuisstraat and Komedie Plaats:
Lange Gasthuisstraatis where you’ll find designer store Verso, stocking men’s and women’s labels such as D&G, McQ and Dior, plus cosmetics, accessories and a slick cafe-bar. Opposite is upmarket homewares store Flamant Home Interiors.
Nearby Komedie Plaatsis home to the fabulous new Paul Smithboutique – with its quirky displays and a room full of one-off gifts and accessories from around the world – also here is the likes ofLouis Vuittonand Paule Ka.
Eat:Stop for a hot chocolate in the breathtaking foyer cafe at the Bourla Theatre– complete with frescoed domed ceiling and opulent chandeliers.
This street leads into Leopoldstraat, where you can find a few high-end stores such as Zerbafor glam Italian shoes, Shamadefor luxe lingerie, Rue Blanchefor chic French-style womenswear in lovely colours, some sleek interiors stores and the amazing toy shop In den Olifant– which is stuffed with kids’ goodies.
At the end of the street, Sint-Jorispoort has a couple of interesting stores: Karin Nunez de Fleurquinfor brightly coloured, directional jewellery and Der Kringwinkelis a huge second-hand selling space which can occasionally throw up some antique gems at low prices.
Het Zuid (the south): hip design, restaurants
This revived area about 15 minutes walk south of the centre is now well established as the hippest spot in town, with a scattering of directional boutiques, galleries, interiors showrooms, restaurants and bars.
On Volksstraat, at the end of Nationalstraat, check out Baby Beluga, a multibrand boutique with youthful labels. Opposite is Antwerp designer Chris Janssens‘ chic store, and further down is Maman Deluxfor gorgeous maternitywear, gifts and accessories. Don’t miss Laundry Industryfor its chic take on casual womenswear and inventive VM and store design.
Walk down to Leopold De Waelplaats square, for the Royal Museum of Fine Art, which specialises in 15th century Flemish masters such as Rogier van der Weyden and Jan van Eyck, as well as works by Rubens.
On the corner of Leopold De Waelplaats and Verlatstraat is the Ann Demeulemeesterstore, stocking both the men’s and women’s collections.
Eat:There are several cute cafes here for a quick bite – we loved MoMadefor its homemade salads and fresh juice and Revistafor free mags and wifi.
Graaf Van Egmontstraatis home to the huge, fairy-tale kidswear store Prinses op de Erwt, with boys’, girls’ and baby apparel, bedlinen, nursery furniture and toys. Further down, Peeters Brosspecialises in colourful eastern-inspired rugs.
Galleries:The streets around this area are worth exploring for small galleries such as Tim Van Laerand Zeno X, as well as several design stores.
Contrast Wooninrichtersis worth a visit on Scheldestraat, a slick interior design store carrying key names in lighting, furniture and textiles, such as Kartell, Driade and Gervasoni. Opposite, Atelier 11offers design jewellery with a subversive charm.
Vlaamse Kaaiis home to interiors showrooms such as Divani, plus colourful designer kidswear and lifestyle goods at Kids on the Docks.
De Burburestraat is home to two heavyweight Antwerp multibrand stores. A must-see is the new and impressiveHospital, a beautifully designed space stocking high-fashion names such as Viktor & Rolf and Neil Barrett, along with a restaurant/bar and a soon-to-open three-room hotel. The store’s owners are also behind Clinic, across the road, which focuses on more youthful brands and quirky gifts, such as Paul Smith, Patrizia Pepe and Junk de Luxe.
Walk over the huge parking lot to Waalse Kaai and down Timmerwefstraat for vintage homewares and clothing at FCS.
The dockland area is also home to the Muhka Museum of Contemporary Art, reclaimed from an old grain silo and known for its directional temporary exhibitions. On nearby Waalse Kaai is the FotoMuseum. The Zuiderpershuis Centre for World Cultureis a huge complex featuring exhibitions, videos, concerts and poetry readings – and is a good place to stop for a beer in its cafe or terrace.
Where to eat and drink
For a refuel while shopping around the central area near Nationalestraat, try Het Dagelijks Broodon Steenhouwersvest for breakfast at a communal wooden table. At the end of Kammenstraat on Klein Markt, stop for a salad or quiche at stylish Symforosa, or drinks at hip Berlinopposite.
Belgians are known for their fabulous chips, so if you ever get hungry on the run just pick up a portion – which should be served with mayonnaise in true Belgian style. Frituur Number Oneon Hoogstraat do the perfect fries.
For a drink at a typical Belgian pub, De Pelikaanis a popular spot, with art nouveau stained glass windows and a cosy interior.
For dinner, De Kleine Zavelis good for gourmet Belgian/French fare in an atmospheric setting. For a meal with a view, you can’t beat Het Zuiderterras– set in an impressive, glass-dominated riverside building designed by local architect Bob Van Reeth.
On Kloosterstraat, Dansing Chocolais a bohemian cafe with a great atmosphere and outdoor seating, and for dinner, head to charming bistroChez Fredwith its grey painted walls, accents of gold and brickwork for a cosy yet modern feel.
There’s plenty of choice in the southern Docklands area, with a thriving cafe culture and nightlife. We love the Biologisch-Dynamische Bakkerijon Volksstraat for an organic breakfast including homemade breads in a cosy atmosphere. MoMadeis also good for fresh juices and salads around a communal table.
Nearer Leopold De Waelplaats, stop for a sandwich at Revistaand make use of its magazines and free Wi-Fi. Nearby Art Deco bar Hopperis great for a drink among locals and jazz in the evening.
At bohemian cafe Patine, admire art on the walls as you tuck into homemade quiches, salads and cakes. A great place for Sunday brunch, it’s also a comfy bed and breakfast establishment.
For night-time drinks, try Le Comte, a laidback bar which comes stocked with board games. Staffers hand out bowls of classic kiddies’ treats in lieu of peanuts to go with your drink.
This area is a great spot for dining out: we loved Fiskebarrestaurant – a lovely, buzzy fish restaurant with classic metro tiles, blackboards on the wall, candlelit tables and a locals’ atmosphere – and of course, top-notch seafood and fish.
Le Johnis also recommended as one of the latest chic dining spots, with a small but top-quality menu.
Trendy restaurants have also sprung up in the dockland areas to the north and east of the city. To the north, Luxis decorated with in a decadent rococo-style with columns and gilding, while to the east, Bart-a-Vinfeatures traditional Art Nouveau tiling for classic, hearty cuisine (closed at weekends).
Walter, the stunning destination store owned by Dirk Van Saene and Walter Van Beirendonck
Little Vintage‘s good range of vintage kidswear Mieke Williams– for charmingly retro VM and home accessories
De Kleine Wolkand Kidslab– two hotspots for kids’ goodies
Jutka and Riskafor colour-coded vintage
Feelings, a treasure trove of 60s vases
MoMu fashion museum‘s inspiring exhibitions
Fiskebaran atmospheric restaurant for top-notch seafood
Boulevard Leopold– a photoshoot-worthy guest house