Marie Paule takes us to Antwerp (Belgium)

Today the mom of the month is a mother as well as a (very proud!) grandmother. Meet Marie Paule, who tells us all about Antwerp, Belgium – known as the city of diamonds.

Who are you?

“My name is Marie-Paule. I’m a 63 yo old Belgian mom of 4 and ‘Granny’ of 1, and soon 2 grandsons.”

What’s your connection with Antwerp?

“Antwerp is, together with Ghent, the most important city of Flanders (the Flemish part of Belgium). I live about 35 km of the city. But, most importantly, my son and his family live in town (and are loving it!)”

What do we need to see if we want to travel to Antwerp with kids?

“There’s plenty to see in the fashion capital of the world, from modern landmarks like the museum MAS or the spectacular Havenhuis (Port House) to the majestic splendor of the medieval city centre. Next to MAS there’s a little marina packed with big shiny boats. You can also take boat trips to the harbor, which can be pretty spectacular for youngsters, especially the pancake boat trip. And when wandering through the city streets, keep an eye out for one of many comic strip walls. The Steen Castle in the city centre is a glorious sight, unfortunately you can no longer visit it inside as it is closed for renovation. It will reopen in 2020.”

And what do we need to do in Antwerp with kids?

“Definitely take your kids to the Antwerp zoo – one of the oldest in the world and literally located next door to Central Station, possibly the most beautiful train station in the world. On the other side of it is a new interactive experience called Comics Station, an indoor theme park that’s based on many of Belgium’s finest comics, from Tintin to the Smurfs.”

What’s the best season to visit the city?

“The moment spring hits the city, everything changes. Suddenly, squares, parks and street corners are filled with people soaking up the sun people while enjoying their lattés, cocktails or local beers (adults only: try Seefbier, it’s based on an ancient Antwerp recipe). The city never feels more alive than during the first days of spring.”

A restaurant (or more) that you would recommend…

  • For fine dining go to Pazzo, located at Oude Leeuwenrui 12.
  • The brand new Table d’Ho at Gitschotellei 188 offers the best Korean cuisine. Check it out before everyone finds out about it.
  • Frituur (chip shop): the most famous is Frituur Nr.1 at Hoogstraat 1 but the best fries and Bicky burgers (kids will love it) can be found in Frituur Falcon on the Oude Leeuwenrui 6, a minute’s walk from the MAS.
  • And do check out the éclairs from the brand new shop Chez Claire at Schrijnwerkerstraat 15. All éclairs, all the time. To die for.

What should we eat?

“The famous Belgian fries and other fried food.  And for dessert or afternoon snack éclairs: they are oblong pastries made with dough, filled with cream and topped with icing.”

Can you recommend three hotels (in three different price ranges)?

  • Lindner Hotel, because the prices are doable and it has the best rooftop bar in the city: it is behind Central Station.
  • Hilton Antwerp Old Town, slightly aged, but affordable splendor on the Groenplaats, in the middle of the city centre.
  • De Witte Lelie, a real gem in the university area, at Keizerstraat 16.  Posh and expensive.

Something special that one can’t find in guidebooks…

“Take the trip to Linkeroever, the left bank of the Schelde river. To do so by foot or bicycle (rent the cheap ass little red bikes from the city, they’re great to go exploring), take the ‘voetgangerstunnel’ at Sint-Jansvliet (a pedestrian tunnel) in the city centre. You’ll find original, wooden escalators that take you waaaay down. On the other side of the tunnel, go up and take a right towards the ‘beach’ of Sint Anneke, a stretch of sand and grass by the river where time has stood still since the fifties. Great for lazy afternoon walks. Another place not (yet) in guidebooks is the DIVA museum, the brand new diamond museum which will open in May 2018.”

A little souvenir to take home

“Antwerpse Handjes, our local cookies shaped as a hand, are delicious and make a good souvenir.”

A special place off the beaten path, in or around Antwerp

“Not many tourists wander into Borgerhout, a district with a bad rep, but a great spirit. Have a go and dive into the Turnhoutsebaan. Granted, it’s one the city’s ugliest streets, but the pavements are littered with amazingly exotic shops, from fresh fish stores and some of the best bakeries in the city to ridiculously affordable rare fabrics and jewelry. Borgerhout also boasts one of the most impressive town halls of the country, and the area around it is being developed as we speak, with new restaurants and bars opening every other minute. Get it while it’s hot. Another place off the beaten track is Park Spoor Noord: not really a park but a huge green field with loads of play facilities for the kids, a skate park, two fountains and loads of cycle and walking paths.”

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