Let's bypass the Antwerp Six introduction, as one needn't be a fashion historian to know that this city was built on fashion. Designers come out of Belgium with a certain confidence and willingness to take risks like a child from wonderfully supportive parents. Two full meandering days in this small city is enough to get a taste of the smorgasbord of local shop options Antwerp has to offer: from well-organized vintage to recently-graduated designer startup boutiques to established heavy-hitters of Belgian descent.
Antwerp's Fashion District is densely populated with shops of all stripes, so it's best explored on foot. With high-street stores like H&M and international luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci all around, we've selected some of the best, distinctively Antwerpen spots in our first of two loving looks at this shop-hopping city.
One third of the Antwerp Six, Dirk Van Saene and Walter Van Beirendonck opened this huge, airy shop that houses a carefully edited mélange of their namesake lines, labels from some of their countrymen, like Christian Wijnants and Bruno Pieters, new undiscovered lines, all displayed atop a selection of modern furniture.
St. Antoniusstraat 12
tel. +32 (0)3 213 26 44
This Royal Academy grad handmakes classic and innovative built-to-last bags upstairs with Australian, Italian, and fish leathers, and he'll make you an espresso, too, if you ask nicely.
tel. +32 (0) 479 71 21 02
Think of this as the Century 21 of Belgian designer clothes, without the stifling crowd or maddeningly constant loudspeaker announcements. Get past seasons' Stephan Schneider, Christian Wijnants, Bernhard Willhelm, Dries Van Noten, Maison Martin Margiela, and Ann Demeulemeester, along with a selection of consignment vintage designer shoes.
tel. +32 (0)3 232 60 56
Experience reverse sticker-shock at this tiny consignment handbag and accessory shop. There are very few designer names here, save for a Pierre Cardin clutch or two, but who needs 'em when you can get on-trend grass-green leather purses, taupe suede and tweed totes and '80s backpacks for around €15 apiece. Aalmoezenierstraat 38
tel. +32 (0) 479 26 85 47
Frituur Number One
This historic center frites stand is no-frills fried goodness. Top your cone of crispy potatoes off with mayonnaise and curry ketchup, wash it down with a can of Jupiler, and you've got a Belgian treat par excellence.
Grand Café Leroy
More substantial (and more expensive) is this upscale café. We tried an outstanding duck, mozzarella, and pink grapefruit salad, and a guacamole and pureed parsley soup. The €16 lunch special is a sweet deal, and the free local magazines make it a perfect pit stop during a long shopping day.
tel. +32 (0)3 226 11 99
This slice of mod-comfort in the middle of the Old City is a wonderful respite, featuring a tranquil library, green patio, and deluxe breakfast on the house (cappuccino, the bread basket, soft boiled eggs and lox are the perfect fuel for a day on your feet), all served on streamlined place settings designed specially for the hotel.
Korte Nieuwstraat 24
tel. +32 (0)3 229 06 00
by Angela Gaimari