Travel writing cliché bingo from Antwerp, Belgium

OMG! I absolutely loved my trip to the Belgian city of Antwerp, still one of Europe’s hidden gems despite being a long-established fashion hotspot. Writes Tanya Astaire-Brown.

The group of designers dubbed ‘the Antwerp Six’ helped put the city on the map of the continent’s fashion hubs. Locals recommended I stroll among the trendy shops of the pedestrianised Wilde Zee district: an insider tip nestled between the historic city centre, the theatre district and up-and-coming Sint-Andries quarter.

Bearing that in mind, I made it my goal to seek out a gorgeous floppy hat from a one of the city’s upscale fashion boutiques. The shops in Antwerp offer great value for money and like the city as a whole are packed full of unexpected surprises.

My hat certainly didn’t cost the earth and, matched with nice accessories in autumn colours, it’ll be ideal for stylish seasonal selfies. But, enough about that, I bet you want to hear about the Belgian chocolates, right?

Shop til you drop? Sign for the Stadsfeestzaal in Antwerp, Belgium.

Shop til you drop? Sign for the Stadsfeestzaal in Antwerp, Belgium.

The best chocolates ever

If you love chocolate anything nearly as much as I do, you must make Antwerp part of your itinerary on your next visit to Belgium. I couldn’t get enough, despite chocolate stores being on every street corner.

The chocolates lining the shelves of the shops are amazing. They’re beautifully presented. Like the best I’ve seen. Ever.

I’d literally give my right arm for more of the choccies. In the cold light of a November day that seemed ironic as I was munching on chocolate hands from dawn to dusk. They’re delish!!!!

One of the friendly locals told me in heavily accented English that the chocolates are known as ‘Antwerp hands’.

Indoor decor to die for?Lights at Mercado.

Indoor decor to die for? Lights at Mercado.

Time for a delicious lunch

I arrived into the city just in time for lunch and headed to Mercado, a bustling indoor marketplace packed with smartly dressed young professionals enjoying a well-deserved day off. Locals and tourists happily rubbed shoulders side by side.

Mercado is one of the hippest places to eat in Antwerp. It’s a must-do insider tip for delicious cuisine. Don’t leave the city without giving it a go.

Stalls selling authentic, mouth-watering street food from exotic locations from afar afield as Mexico, Morocco and Malaysia were doing a roaring trade.

I went on the hunt for gluten-free, low-carb, vegetarian, cruelty-free options but was won over by the tempting aroma of lemongrass laced beef dim sum. So tasty that it set off none of my food allergies. Bonus. I ate with chopsticks for extra authenticity, like in Asia.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do, right? Nom nom is what I say to that.

Of course, Belgian beer has been brewed by monks for centuries and some experts think it’s the best in the world. Some people travel all the way to Belgian just to drink the beer. So, I opted for a bottle of crisp, cool cider.

An authentic taste of Asia.

An authentic taste of Asia.

Things to do in Antwerp

Everyone should experience the Rubens House while in Antwerp. Peter Paul Rubens, the famous painter, lived in the stunning edifice for 25 years.

The city’s museums and churches display a treasure trove of 52 of the Flemish Master’s priceless paintings.

It’s just one of the historic gems in the city, which this year marks a very unique anniversary. It’s 450 years since Antwerp City Hall opened its doors. It’s the only UNESCO World Heritage Cite city hall to have maintained its original purpose from the day the building opened to the present day. How awesome is that? You can visit alone or with a guide.

The MAS, Antwerp’s riverside museum, has a bold, contemporary design. The rooftop has breathtaking views.

Rubens statue and the Hilton Hotel in Antwerp.

Rubens statue and the Hilton Hotel in Antwerp.

A city of vibrant nightlife

With the sun setting I jumped at the chance to try Antwerp’s vibrant nightlife. There are bars aplenty. It’s simply a case of following your nose and no doubt you’ll stumble across a cosy place for a drink or two.

Two beers or not two beers? That was the question after this glass.

Two beers or not two beers? That was the question after this glass.

Useful websites for information about Antwerp

For tips on where to go and what to see in and around Antwerp take a look at the  Visit Antwerp and Visit Flanders websites.

Why not play cliché bingo?

Tanya sends love and suggests you read this travel feature while looking for travel writing clichés and tautologies. You may find a few hidden gems. Why not jot down a few of your favourite travel writing cliché and see how many appear above. Have fun!

Then whizz on over to her Instagram feed to see gorgeous. almost natural photos of her in infinity pools with crystal clear water, holding ice cream cones and wearing a dazzling collection of broad-brimmed hats.

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