Brussels, being the capital, is Belgium’s gateway to the world. Packing everything you’d want to have on your trip, it’s a worthwhile pick to host your vacation.
Antwerp doesn’t pale in comparison to the capital city though. It has architectural marvels, an exciting art scene, and much more.
Both cities are only roughly an hour apart. But if you can’t visit both, this article highlights the unique draws of each city. This may help you decide which city is the better pick for you.
Antwerp is a city with an incredible wealth of art and culture, from its centuries-old buildings to Flemish masterpieces. This scene continues to thrive today, with contemporary art and modern buildings filling up the city. Glorious sights aren’t the only thing Antwerp can offer though, as there are tons to do in the city.
What Makes Antwerp Unique?
Diverse Mix of Architectural Gems
Antwerp’s landscape is full of grand old buildings with bold and modern ones. The city holds a treasure trove of buildings from the Renaissance to Gothic wonders. And as the city continues to develop, it’s built futuristic eye candy to marvel at.
Among the top attractions in the city is the Cathedral of Our Lady. It’s the largest Gothic church in Antwerp, and it’s a beauty on the outside and inside. Beyond its massive stained glass windows are the works of the greatest Flemish artists, such as Ruben, Van Veen, and de Vos.
A taste of the Flemish Renaissance is the Grote Markt or Grand Place. This is the heart of Antwerp’s old town, where the city hall lies among the step-gabled guild houses. Another architectural marvel here is the incredibly ornate Brabo Fountain.
Considered one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world is the Antwerp Central Station. The Central Station is an eclectic mix of architectural styles. It has Neo-Renaissance-style architecture, decorated with Art Nouveau ornaments and motifs.
For a taste of the city’s more modern and funky architecture, seeing the Port House is a must. Nicknamed “The Diamond”, this innovative structure captures the city’s image as the diamond capital of the world. Its defining feature is the glass and steel structure that resembles a ship’s hull.
Another bold building that adds to the city’s modern feel is the Palace of Justice. Also called “The Butterfly Palace”, this glass-clad structure is a head-turner with its spiked roof.
To truly appreciate the city’s landscape, get a panoramic view from the Museum aan de Stroom (MAS). This is the largest museum in the city that lies along the Scheldt river.
The MAS is an architectural wonder itself. It’s a stunning postmodern art deco building. Two of its remarkable features are its red-sand side and curved glass paneling.
Go in and make your way to the rooftop. At 197 feet (60 meters) high, you can get a view of a city where the old delightfully coexists with the new.
An Art Lover’s Paradise
Antwerp has an enduring and flourishing relationship with art. When you’re in the city, you’re never too far from a masterpiece to marvel at. And like its architecture, Antwerp’s art scene is a mix of classic and contemporary pieces.
Start exploring the stunning cultural gems of the city with timeless artworks. Antwerp has an extensive collection of 15th- to 17th-century art due to the masters that made the city an art lover’s dream. Among those well-renowned artists are Rubens, Jordaens, and van Dyck.
Starting your art itinerary with two of Antwerp’s most celebrated museums. These are the Mayer van den Bergh Museum and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts.
Among the Flemish artists though, it’s Ruben’s reputation that exceeds all others. To get a deeper admiration for him and his works, make your way to the Rubenshuis.
Rubenshuis was where he lived and worked for 25 years. And while you can marvel at his works around the city, here is where his most famous paintings are.
For some contemporary masterpieces, Antwerp has a ton of modern museums to explore.
Head to the Van de Weghe, which exhibits a core of ten prestigious artists. This includes the well-renowned Johan Tahon, Narcisse Tordoir, and more. Tahon is best known on the global scene for his stunning plastic human sculptures.
Antwerp spoils you with dozens more options though. There’s the M HKA, the Museum of Modern Art, the Galerie of Can Der Planken, and more!
Art is everywhere in Antwerp though. And when wandering around, you may come across some quirky sculptures. The most famous of them is the Den Deugeniet. This statue doesn’t fail to make passersby chuckle. It’s a statue of a little boy exposing his behind, a bizarre show of the city’s rebellious spirit.
Another eye-catching sight is the Nello and Pastrache Statue. This is a statue of a young boy named Nello with his dog, Pastrache. They’re taking a nap on the floor around Grote Markt, with the street sloping over them like a blanket.
Endless Shopping Possibilities
Antwerp offers a fantastic shopping experience for your retail therapy needs. The city offers luxury fashion, international brands, and even a ton of bargains.
The best spot to start your shopping spree is Antwerp’s main shopping street, the Meir. This pedestrian promenade is home to countless national and international brands, such as H&M and Zara. Running over a mile, the Meir has an eclectic mix of offers, ranging from super cheap finds to high-end goods.
Avid fashionistas will find a paradise in Antwerp’s famous Fashion District. It’s centered around the areas of Nationalestraat and Kammenstraat. Here you’ll find luxury brands, renowned local designer brands, and the latest streetwear fashion.
A more varied shopping experience awaits you at Fish & Chips, one of the hippest shops in town. It has three floors filled with everything you could think of. From secondhand vintage goods to quirky art to unusual gadgets.
There are a ton of shopping centers in Antwerp for you to explore. But one can’t top the retail therapy haven that is Stadsfeestzaal. It’s a stunning 20th-century building that around 40 houses upscale retailers.
More than anything though, Antwerp is best known for its diamonds. With two-thirds of the world’s gem-quality diamonds going through the city, it’s the diamond capital of the world. And it’s in Antwerp where these precious gems go through all the processes for selling.
The busy diamond trade in Antwerp is both on the wholesale and retail levels. It’s one of the best places to buy diamonds. You’ll find the Diamond District near Central Station, where diamond shops dazzle passersby.
The Exciting Gastronomy
With over 150 different nationalities in the city, Antwerp is ethnically diverse. Due to this, Antwerp has an exciting culinary scene, giving you a taste of the world.
Being a port city, Antwerp has taken inspiration and seasonings from all over the world. The cuisine here is a display of the city’s hearty meat and produce, with ethnic tastes.
From Ethiopian to French to Nepalese food, Antwerps caters to every palate and craving. And with Michelin-starred restaurants dotting the city’s map, Antwerp doesn’t disappoint.
A more thrilling atmosphere for your gastronomic adventure is the Exotische Markt. This is a weekly open-air food market that occurs every Saturday.
You’ll find a plethora of tasty goods here from all over the world. Grab some cheese from the Netherlands, buy some homemade pasta from Italy, or munch on some yummy nuts from Morocco.
Once you’ve had your plate of a filling dish, end your meal with some sweet delights. It’s no surprise, but Antwerp is a chocoholic’s paradise. You’ll find chocolatiers anywhere in the city for some creamy and silky Belgian chocolate.
And when in Antwerp, there’s no better place for some chocolatey goodness than The Chocolate Line. This chocolate shop has been in business for decades, sitting in the Palace on the Meir.
You can grab a bite of some traditional chocolates for a safe choice. But they also have more innovative flavors to add some excitement to each bite.
Glorious Coffee and Beer
Antwerp is a city of avid caffeine lovers, so it’s no surprise that it has a big and fantastic coffee scene. The port city has the largest coffee storage in the world. These beans make their way to the countless coffee bars in the city, serving everyone a cup of glorious coffee.
Normo is a charming coffee bar that takes pride in roasting its own beans. It’s one of the best coffee shops to hang out in town. Sip on some black coffee on ancient armchairs as you admire the brick-walled interior.
Antwerp has tons more coffee bars everywhere to spoil you with options. Other must-visit spots for your caffeine fix are Broer Bretel, Buchbar, and Caffenation.
If coffee isn’t for you, Antwerp can also satiate you with its world-famous beer scene. Belgian beer is well-loved as it’s thicker and creamier, setting it apart from other beers. While you can find Belgian beer anywhere in the world now, there’s nothing like drinking it from the source.
The city has a lot of bars to indulge beer connoisseurs. But the highlight of Antwerp’s beer scene is the De Koninck Brewery and Museum.
Situated in Berchem, you can take a highly interactive tour here and learn more about the brewing process. Not only that, but you’ll also get a history of the family behind it.
Your exciting tour ends with some beer tasting at the bar for some De Koninck beers. Among those is Duvel, which is the crowd favorite!
Brussels’ stunning buildings and thriving art scene may push tourists to set foot in the city. But its quirky art, colorful comics scene, and indulging cuisine will make you appreciate the city better. With tons going on in this lively city, Brussels is more than just its breathtaking views.
What Makes Brussels Unique?
Gorgeous Architectural Wonders
Being an architectural wonderland, Brussels is a photogenic city at every turn. The city offers diverse sights thanks to the various architectural styles it possesses.
With an eclectic mix of buildings, Brussels is best known for its Art Nouveau structures. This architectural style is what put Brussels on the map. Concentrating on geometry, balance, and harmony, you’ll see this dominate throughout the city.
From homes to monuments to cafes, there are a ton of eye candy to behold in Brussels. Two prominent architects that are the face of Brussels’ Art Nouveau are Victor Horta and Paul Hankar.
You can admire Horta’s work, the Hotel van Eetvelde, and Hankars home, Maison Hankar, both in this style. But Brussels is teeming with other Art Nouveau eye candy. This includes the Maison Saint Cyr and the Musical Instrument Museum.
Brussels has other must-see buildings in different styles too. And if you’re willing to walk, you’ll get rewarded with beautiful buildings that span various periods.
For some Art Deco buildings, the finest examples are the Flagey and Koekelberg. You also don’t want to miss the L’Archiduc, which you can enter to get a taste of Brussels’ thriving jazz scene.
A Neoclassical beauty is the Place Royal. And for the city’s Neo-Renaissance architectural style, the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert won’t disappoint. Brussels also has lavish Gothic buildings too, such as the St. Gudula Cathedral and the Town Hall.
Though these old buildings are the top attractions, Brussels’ more modern sights are also eye-catching. The most popular one is the Atomium, a building structured to be a crystal molecule. There’s also the stunning Berlaymont Building, a glass, and metal x-shaped structure.
You can even tour the most iconic buildings in Europe right in Brussels. Mini Europe is a park with the major monuments on the continent. This includes the Doge’s Palace, Big Ben, and the Eiffel Tower.
Its Charming Artistic Side
The heart of Europe pulsates with a thriving art scene. Brussels has an artistic side that caters to every tourist, no matter their interest. With museums housing artworks of various styles, quirky sculptures in the streets, and comics galore, Brussels is sure to please.
Two of the highlights of Brussels’ art scene are classic Flemish primitives and surrealism works.
For an immersion into the famous Flemish art, head to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. An eye-catcher here is the La Fontaine de l’Inspiration and Le Bateau de l’Idéal by Constant Montald. These two hang right in the entrance hall, giving you a glimpse of what stunning works lie beyond.
You can find this museum in Mont des Arts, where another big-hitter museum lies, the Magritte Museum. Tons of artists have made Brussels the surrealist haven that it is today. But this museum celebrates René Magritte, the face of this art style in Brussels.
The Magritte Museum houses hundreds of paintings by this prestigious surrealist painter. Some of his famous works here are The Empire of Lights, The Return, and The Treasure. If you want to see more of his works, make your way to his former home in the Jette neighborhood.
Outside the museums though there are still tons more art to see. Sprinkled across the city are fun art installations that give the city a quirky character.
Among those is Luc Deleu’s statue of a giant title container that you can take fun pictures with. Most famous though is the Manneken Pis, a statue of a boy that’s part of a fountain. A rebellious display of the city’s quirkiness, this statue is portrayed as peeing into a basin.
The Manneken Pis has other versions too. There’s the Jeanneke Pis, a sculpture of a girl, and the Het Zinneke, which is a dog. And both do the same thing as the Manneken Pis.
The fun doesn’t stop there though as Brussels is a well-known comics lover’s paradise. Head to the Belgian Comic Strip center on Rue de la Regence. This is an Art Noveau building by Victor Horta, but inside are Brussels’ iconic characters.
You’ll find tons of comics-related delights here. But Brussels’ characters take the spotlight here. This includes The Smurfs and Tintin. These characters even dominate the comic strip route as massive and colorful murals.
Incredibly Indulging Eats
Brussels offers an exciting gastronomic adventure for its tourists. The city has a strong love for food, with traditional recipes that date back to the 16th century getting enjoyed today. Locals continue to work their way to innovate these dishes to cater to the modern world.
Being the capital of Europe, Brussels is a melting pot of various cultures. And taking influences from these is one of the ways that Brussels elevates its food scene. And with ethnic flavors from all over the globe making their way to the city, you have tons of restaurant options to fill your tummy here.
Still, there’s nothing like getting a taste of cuisines right from the home soil. While Belgian chocolate, frites, and waffles are a must-try. But you should keep your tastebuds open to more traditional dishes in Brussels as they give you a better taste of the city.
One of the best dishes in the city is moules frites or mussels with fries. This is a quintessential Belgian dish that you can get almost anywhere in the city.
This is commonly prepared by steaming the mussels in white wine, shallots, butter, and parsley. But others like to add beer, cream, or mustard sauce to the mix. Brussels gets its mussels from the North sea, and they’re much fleshier than what you’d find in France.
If you’re looking for a heartier meal, grab a plate of Stoofvlees. This is a beef stew dish that’s slowly simmered in Belgian beer. Then it’s thickened with some slabs of bread that’s covered with mustard and then added with onions and seasoning.
This is the traditional way of creating the stew. But some chefs will add other ingredients such as garlic and mushrooms. A good Stoofvlees melts in your mouth while giving you a burst of flavor.
Countless Green Spaces
With a plethora of stunning old-town buildings and modern skyscrapers, you may not think that Brussels is a green city. But hiding between these are tons of lush green spaces. From public parks to flower gardens, Brussels packs a ton of botanical bliss to relax in.
One of the best parks in the city is the gorgeous Cinquantenaire Park. It’s a well-manicured green pocket amidst the stunning architectural marvels in the city. Thus, it’s a go-to green oasis for those who are visiting the city for the first time.
The most famous sight here is the towering Arcade du Cinquantenaire. This is a three-arched monument that adds a touch of elegance to the park.
Another must-visit park is Petit Sablon Square. It’s the perfect spot to take a break in for those who love sculptures.
Across its lush gardens are many bronze statues of the country’s most celebrated humanists and scholars. So not only is it a place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. But it also gives you a glimpse of the fascinating Belgian history.
You can also have the Florist’s Gardens as your retreat. As it’s part of the Stuybenberg Estate, it’s one of the best-managed parks in the city. There are various species of stunning flowers here, creating a whimsical atmosphere as you take the load off.
A Shopaholic’s Heaven
Other than art and architecture, Brussels’ shopping scene also leaves tourists with a ton to do in the city. The city is an exciting wonderland for fashionistas with its luxury and local brands. But the city offers much more retail delights than clothes.
Glitz and glamor run through the long street of Avenue Louise and its surroundings. It’s the home of the most exclusive shops and boutiques in Brussels. And here’s where you can find the most coveted luxury brands in the world.
For something a bit easier on your wallet, make your way to the Rue Neuve. This is is the most popular pedestrian shopping street in the city. Here is where you can find international fashion brands, such as Esprit, Mango, and Zara.
Rue Neuve also has two large department stores to continue your retail therapy. Take your pick between City 2 and Inno.
If you’re looking for souvenirs, there are no better things to take home than Belgian chocolates and beer.
For some chocolate delights, head over to the city’s historic center. This area has a large concentration of chocolate shops for you to choose from. The largest chocolate companies are Godiva, which is quite pricey, and the more affordable Galler and Leonidas.
Besides big companies, you can also take home some chocolates from local chocolatiers.
For some glorious Belgian beer, you can buy some from supermarkets or specialized stores. You can buy beers in gift baskets here that usually include a lager glass.
Comic books are also something you may want to bring home. In Brussels’ Comic Strip Center, you can bring home some comic books. Not only that, but these specialized shops also have tons of figurines of famous characters as souvenirs.
Brussels is an incredibly lively and cultural city. The city has hundreds of museums, concert halls, cultural centers, and more. But what’s more exciting is the many cultural events that the city holds.
Brussels has a plethora of outdoor festivals throughout the year. This allows people of all ages and nationalities to come together for some merrymaking. And with a wide variety of events, there’s always something that fits your interest best.
One of these is the Brussels Jazz Marathon. The city has a thriving jazz scene, and during this event, it holds hundreds of free concerts across the city.
A real treat for the foodies is Eat! Brussels. This festival allows you to get a taste of Brussels’ countless restaurants in a few hours. Other than restaurants, you can also get a taste of foods from other countries thanks to the many food stalls.
Other exciting events in the city are the Comic Strip Festival, Belgian Beer Weekend, and Nuit Blanche. And with so many of them, your trip is likely to coincide with any of the city’s fun events!
Antwerp or Brussels – What’s Better?
Brussels is a city that’s better for those who want a place with a rich cultural heritage. From the art to the historical sites, Brussels gives you more things to see and do.
Not only that, but for the same budget, Brussels gives you more bang for your buck.
While Antwerp is better for you if you prefer a livelier atmosphere on your trip. Antwerp also has a more varied and exciting nightlife for you to have fun from day to night.
Antwerp also has better landmarks, with its eclectic mix of old and modern buildings to admire.
How to Get From Antwerp to Brussels
You only have two transportation options to get to Brussels from Antwerp. You can either take a bus, train, or taxi on your trip.
Taking the bus is the cheapest option as the average ticket prices on this route are only around 4 USD. Around 30 buses travel this route a day, covering a distance of 25 miles (41 kilometers). The downside is that it’s the slowest option, with an average travel time of 57 minutes and the fastest being 40 minutes.
Taking the train is the most favorable option for many tourists. Train tickets only cost 11 USD on average, with direct trains available. The travel time is around 46 minutes, with the fastest trains cutting this down to 34 minutes.
The first train leaves Antwerp at around 12:05 AM. While the last train leaves for Brussels at around 11:25 PM.
Taxis are the most comfortable way to travel. But they’re quite an expensive option. A taxi may cost around 126 USD for a one-way trip, depending on your exact pickup location.
Taxis are also a fast option to get to Brussels as it only takes around 36 minutes. But it may take longer due to traffic.
Brussels Airport to Antwerp
Taking the train is the best way to travel from Brussels Zaventem Airport to Antwerp. But depending on your preference, you can also take a bus or a taxi. There’s a train station, a bus station, and a taxi line right on the airport grounds.
If you choose to take the train, just take an escalator or lift down to level -1 under the Departure and Arrival Hall. There, you can find the train station and buy a ticket to Antwerp for an average of 16 USD. Direct trains are available so you don’t need to switch trains along the way.
The average travel time on this journey is around 31 minutes, covering 22 miles (35 kilometers). The first train leaves at 12:12 AM, while the last one leaves at 11:41 PM.
You can also take a bus for around 5 USD on average. It covers the same distance but the travel time is around 42 minutes on average. Buses don’t travel between the two cities as frequently as a train though.
Taxis are also an option you have, though they are costly and start at 126 USD. Taxis only have a travel time of around 36 minutes.
Brussels Airport to Antwerp Distance
The distance from Brussels Airport to Antwerp is around 22 miles (35 kilometers).
Brussels Airport to Antwerp by Train
Taking the train from Brussels Zaventem Airport to Antwerp combines speed and affordability. This journey has a distance of 23 miles (37 kilometers) and only takes around 30 minutes to complete. Faster trains can cut this down to only 25 minutes though.
The average train ticket price on this trip is only around 16 USD. But if you book your tickets in advance, you can get a cheaper deal.
Over 70 trains travel between the two cities daily, with tons of them being direct trains. The first train to leave from Brussels Zaventem Airport departs at 12:12 AM. While the last train makes its way to Antwerp at around 11:41 PM.
Brussels Airport to Antwerp Central Station
There are direct trains between the Brussels Zaventem Airport and Antwerp Central Station so you don’t need to make changes along the way. This journey covers 22 miles (35 kilometers) and often takes around 37 minutes to complete. But the faster train services can cut this down to only 30 minutes.
On average, train ticket prices on this route cost around 16 USD. But take note that it can be pricier when buying tickets on the day. And buying tickets in advance can help you get cheaper tickets.
Over 50 trains run between the two stations daily. The first train leaves the Brussels Zaventem Airport at around 12:12 AM. And the last train leaves at around 11:41 PM.
Brussels Airport to Antwerp Train Cost
You can expect train tickets from Brussels Zaventem Airport to Antwerp to be around 16 USD. This is only an average price though, and tickets change prices frequently. So make sure to check online before your trip for a more accurate price.
Antwerp to Brussels Nord
Taking the train from Antwerp to Brussels Nord covers a distance of around 25 miles (40 kilometers). The travel time is around 42 minutes on average. But the fastest trains only have a travel duration of around 33 minutes.
Train ticket prices on this route start at 11 USD. And with over 50 trains a day running between the two, you’re sure to catch a train. Direct trains are also available so you don’t need to worry about changing trains along the way.
The first train to leave on this journey departs at 12:05 AM. While the last train heading out to Brussels Nord leaves at around 11:25 PM.
Bus From Antwerp to Brussels Airport
Taking the bus from Antwerp to Brussels Zaventem Airport is the cheapest option on this route. The bus ticket price is only 4 USD on average. Although this option has a longer travel time than the other choices.
This journey has a distance of 22 miles (35 kilometers). The bus usually takes around 45 minutes to complete this trip. But without traffic, buses can travel faster with a travel time of 35 minutes.
Over 10 buses travel on this journey daily. The first bus leaves Antwerp for Brussels Zaventem Airport at around 5:15 AM. While the last bus departs at around 8:10 PM.
Antwerp to Brussels Airport by Taxi
Taking a taxi from Antwerp to Brussels Zaventem Airport is the most comfortable option to travel. You can either hail a taxi or book one online with a transfer service company.
If you choose to hail a taxi, they may not give you a flat rate unless you bargain. The taxi driver will use a taximeter to calculate the cost based on distance. And this cost will depend on your exact pickup location in Antwerp.
You’re sure to get a flat-rate price if you book a taxi online with a transfer service company though. The price will vary from one company to another though. And this will depend on the car and the number of passengers.
The cheapest option is economy class, which costs around 79 USD and can seat around one to four people. If you choose to get an economy van, it costs around 105 USD for one to six people. A van for one to eight people is more expensive at 114 USD.
Brussels Airport to Antwerp Taxi Fare
Choosing to take a taxi from the Brussels Zaventem Airport to Antwerp costs around 126 USD. But this depends on the taxi company though. And if you’ve arranged a taxi transfer in advance online, you may get a cheaper deal.
Antwerp or Brussels Day Trip?
Both Antwerp and Brussels offer a ton of things to do and see. Both offer different experiences, so the better day trip destination will depend on your personal preference.
Go to Brussels if you want a city with a rich heritage. But choose Antwerp if you want a more vibrant and electrifying atmosphere on your trip.
In Brussels, you can marvel at the Grand Place and wander through an Art Nouveau wonderland. Say hi to Manneken Pis and his sister and dog. Explore the rich culture around Flagey and admire the murals in the comic strip.
In Antwerp, you have the Grote Markt, the Cathedral of Our Lady, and Antwerp Central Station to admire. Say hi to the animals at the Antwerp Zoo, explore the Diamond District, shop at the Meir, and more.
If food is more of your concern, you don’t need to dwell on it too much. Brussels and Antwerp have similar foods as they’re only under an hour from each other.
But go for Brussels if you love chocolate as it’s the city with the most chocolate shops in the world. While Antwerp has a world-renowned coffee scene.
Best Way to Get From Brussels to Antwerp
There’s no better way to travel from Brussels to Antwerp than to take the train. It’s faster than a bus yet cheaper than taking a taxi. And because of its fair price and speed, it’s the most popular transportation option tourists take.
The journey has a distance of around 26 miles (42 kilometers). And on average, it only takes around 50 minutes for the train to cover this. High-speed trains can cut down this journey to as short as around 35 minutes.
The train ticket price on this journey only costs around 11 USD. But you can get cheaper tickets if you book in advance.
Over 90 trains travel between the two cities daily. And a ton of them are direct service so switching trains won’t be necessary along the way.
The first train leaves Brussels for Antwerp at around 12:30 AM. While the last train on this route leaves at around 11:56 PM.