By Kimberly Krol
I had three objectives during my two-day stay in Antwerp: Eat a waffle, find the best moules frites and track down a pair of shoes I’d been coveting. Conveniently, Antwerp proved the ideal location to do all three, as the city is the country’s shopping and fashion hub and is known for its food and beverage offerings, as is all of Belgium.
Antwerp also proved the perfect spot to visit with friends. Begin by acquainting yourself with the city, easily navigable by foot. The walkability of Antwerp in part led to the city’s most recent green initiative, enacted Feb. 1, 2017. In an effort to eliminate soot and fine particle pollution, the City of Antwerp now excludes the most polluting vehicles from driving in certain areas, making the city center an official low-emission zone.
In the historic heart of Antwerp a first stop should be the Cathedral of Our Lady, recognizable from many points throughout the city. After 169 years of construction, it’s no surprise the cathedral is the architectural gem of Antwerp, boasting the title of highest Gothic building in the Low Countries. And if you find yourself without time to visit another iconic Antwerp site, Rubenshuis, the former home and studio of artist Peter Paul Rubens and now a museum, you can view some of the artist’s works, including “Elevation of the Cross,” at the cathedral. Stroll the surroundings to get a feel for Antwerp’s historic charms.
Fashion and Antwerp are intrinsically linked; the city boasts one of the world’s oldest academies providing one of the most renowned fashion degrees. Many of the world’s acclaimed designers and fashionistas passed through here to design, innovate, shop, study and learn more about the international fashion scene. Enthusiasts can begin their education at ModeMuseum; twice a year, a new exhibition debuts. The museum’s collection boasts 25,000 pieces, and the expositions aim to tell the deeper story behind fashion trends, themes and designers.
Put your education to use at any number of stores in Antwerp’s seven fashion districts. MoMu is located in the aptly named Fashion District, as is Nationalestraat, considered Antwerp’s most fashionable avenue. Start here and base your next decision on your group’s shopping interests. For antiques, collectibles and the Grand Bazar shopping center, stay in the historic section near Groenplaats. My shoe quest led me to European chains housed in Rococo buildings in the Meir, also the site of Stadsfeestzaal, a shopping area in the restored city festival hall. For a quieter stroll punctuated by boutiques boasting top brands, enjoy the Quartier Latin.
One of my other indulgences was met in Wilde Zee, five pedestrian shopping streets for foodies and those seeking hip, trendy clothing and shoes. I nibbled my waffle while finding the perfect boxes of Belgian chocolate to take home as gifts.
The Station District offers a myriad of shopping pleasures to suit a variety of tastes. Find Asian specialties in Chinatown or design delights in Designcenter de Winkelhaak. But the true gem of the area, if you will, is the Diamond District. The diamond trade in Antwerp dates back several centuries, and today more than 1,700 diamond companies and four diamond exchanges make their homes here.
The concept stores and design products on showcase in Het Zuid provide a wonderful jumping-off point for your group’s next stops: Antwerp’s world-class museums. Again, a range of options exists to meet any of your friends’ tastes. Time did not allow a visit to Museum aan de Stroom, as recognizable for its exterior and architecture as it is for its immense collection of artwork, utensils and other objects, numbering nearly 500,000 items. Consider MAS my No. 1 mission on my return visit to Antwerp.
The Red Star Line Museum tells the story of Antwerp from 1873 to 1935, when the city served as the starting point of a new life for more than 2 million people traveling from Antwerp to New York on Red Star Line. More an archive of reports, testimonies and experiences, the museum continues to seek stories from the time period.
For a smaller city, Antwerp offers a seemingly endless list of options. Specifically suited to groups or families looking to sample a little bit of everything, the purchase of an Antwerp City Card, available in 24-, 48- or 72-hour increments, entitles users to free admission to a number of the city’s best attractions as well as unlimited access to public transportation.
As I’d already fulfilled my quest to taste a waffle and share moules frites with friends, I was only too pleased to indulge in a few of Antwerp’s local products. To quench my thirst, a visit to De Koninck Brewery was in order. Antwerp’s last remaining city brewery is among its oldest, with the second-oldest trade registry number in the city and an illustrious history cleverly and interestingly told in the brewery’s accompanying museum. End the day with a Bolleke Keuning, served in the signature Bolleke glass.
While shopping — especially for diamonds — can prove many a girl’s best friend in Antwerp, you’re in Belgium, so chocolate can, too. And in Antwerp the specialty is “Little Hands from Antwerp,” considered a symbol of Antwerp as a harbor city — or, as legend has it, a symbol of the triumph of good over evil. Giant Druon Antigoon guarded a bridge on the river Scheldt, demanding a high toll from passing ships. If they refused, he chopped off one hand and threw it in the river. He was finally defeated by a young Roman soldier, Brabo, who threw one of Druon’s hands into the river. Today, the chocolates serve as a celebration of Antwerp’s folklore and the perfect sweet finish to a visit to this small but legendary city.
Friendly Like Me, available for Apple and Android devices, is a first-of-its-kind app designed with the more than 33 percent of Americans who may need special accessibility accommodations while on family travel in mind.
As the only major U.S. airline to own a flight school, United Airlines already hit a major milestone, and now the carrier celebrates another important — and historic — step as the inaugural class of United Aviate Academy pilots graduates, leading the next generation of aviators. The 51 students in the graduating class were majority, at 80 percent, women and people of color — another stride toward United’s goal of training 5,000 new pilots by 2030 with half women or POC.
It’s time to start dreaming of your next family trip. Here’s some destination inspiration for you. Take a visual journey through these pies from around the world, and maybe you’ll be inspired to take that next trip for a delicious slice.
Trying to plan a multigen trip? You may anticipate trouble finding a travel destination, activities and more to appeal to every member of your crew. However, a new report from Hilton found there are certain experiences all travelers want right now, regardless of generation.
United Airlines is in the midst of a major initiative to modernize its fleet over the next several years. After first announcing the plan in 2021, planes fitted with United’s signature interior are finally beginning to appear across the airline’s narrowbody fleet of Boeing and Airbus planes. United flyers are sure to notice these enhancements from the moment they step on board: Each new or updated plane sports remodeled seats, seatback entertainment screens for everyone, Bluetooth connectivity and more, all adding up to a better experience on every journey.
With the holiday season upon us, resorts all over the world pull out all the stops to bring the joy of the holidays to family travelers of all ages. Here are five more resorts to check out this holiday season: