Friday, August 22, 2014

A brief visit to Antwerp // City of delicious beer // Jazz // Vintage shops and cultural heritage.

This summer I decided to house sit for friends of ours. I love working from abroad, working out of the office is a great fuel of inspiration and not having a vacation to look forward to, this was a great change. Now I have made a little short list of places I love. Of course there is no way you can bring it down to 5 but maybe you can keep these in mind while visiting the city in the future.

Antwerp is the first city I escaped to after finishing high school. A brief study of Fine Arts introduced me to this great city. My father was also living near Antwerp for over 13 years so I always felt connected to this city and so I have seen how much the city changed after 15 years. Of course this is the capital of fashion with top designers like Haider Ackermann and Dries van Noten but there is so much more to this city than just that love of surface.

Great museums like MAS, Muhka and of course the Beer Brewery Museum. Walking through the city you can see an amazing mix of architecture from the surface but there is much more to see inside. Stop by the old city Library, Henrik Conscience, a small library close to the cathedral, with an amazing collection of old books and a breathtaking interior. If you are a big fan of music you will find numerous places to enjoy live performances. The Muze, an old smokey jazz cafe. Do check out their live agenda if you plan on visiting the city. Great jazz musicians have performed here and this old building by it's self has such a vibrant energy. Antwerp is also a shopaholics paradise.

The city has a great amount of boutiques and shops. Eat your heart out! For vintage lovers: check out the Kloosterstraat for quirky retro furniture or visit the Kammenstraat and Nationalestraat for some old vintage fashion, this area has enough little shops to spend an entire afternoon. But well, down to my favorite top 5 of the city, before I go on and on…

1 Espoo Nordic Design // Vlaamse Kaai
Scandinavian design never seems to go out of fashion. During my trip to new York earlier this year I noticed it this European trend taken over design shops, fashion and furniture design there as well. This design shop was the first Scandinavian design shop to open in Antwerp. They have a great collection of Nordic brands like HAY, Ferm Living, Donna Wilson and Muuto. I love interior decoration and spotting new accessories. If you like clean, light and crisp design you will love this shop. They offer great pieces of furniture, lightning, but they also have amazing little presents and gifts. I founds a gorgeous little necklace here made out of copper. Unfortunately Scandinavian design remains pricy. For a designer like me most furniture is way out of my league. But a girl can dream!

2 Botanical Garden // Leopoldstraat
This little piece of green heaven was built almost 200 years ago next to the old hospital to grow medicinal herbs. Nowadays it is a small park in the middle of Antwerp's city center. Close to Mechelseplein. I love to sit down with a sketchbook and home made lunch and spend a hot summer afternoon in the shade drawing. The garden also has an indoor desert garden with a great collection of cactus plants. You can only visit the indoor garden during weekends. Well worth the visit, they are gorgeous!

3 't Stad leest // Steenhouwersvest
I am a big fan of book shops, in Holland every book stored seems to despair. Every time I visit Antwerp I go treath myself on a long afternoon of booknerding. This beautiful book store is located in a little street near the shopping city center and offers a great amount of children's book and design books. So yes, I love it! But they also sell paper goods, stationary and small home decor items too. A great place to find some inspiration. It also has 'real' books too, just in case you were wondering.

4. Cafématic // Vleminckveld
As a designer working from home I love to search for cute little lunch spots. I found this lunchroom near the Kammenstraat when was working in Antwerp last year during a theater project. This little place, filled up with vintage furniture, offers a great variety of healthy home baked goods. I am a big fan of the Chai Latte, of course. But make sure you leave some room for desert too. Cafematic is also a fun place for a quick stop while on a shopping spree. Antwerp is a city with delicious food so finding a place with good ingredients and a great menu is not very hard. I love this place because of the very friendly staff and the cosy atmosphere.

5. FoMu // Waalsekaai
One of the reasons I really adore Antwerp is it's cultural heritage and a great selection of museums. It is hard to pick just one but for me photography in one of my greatest passions so I would have to choose this amazing museum, all about photography and film. I have seen an amazing selection of politically engaged photographers. Where lot's of museums only show the photograph itself, this museum is uncensored. They tend to pick artists that have something to say over pure esthetic. I am always surprised to see how well documented the collections are and how much effort is but into the story behind the image. There is a big exposition about war photography including images of Richard Mosse, which is definitely worth a visit.

Photo info L/R: Cafematic // Antwerp central station // Botanical garden // Mas Museum // Historical city center // FoMu photograph by Richard Mosse // Espoo Butic