In need of a little retail therapy? Want to scope out some up-and-coming fashion designers and try on sparkling jewelry? Usually you’d head to Paris or New York. Maybe Milan. But some of the chicest new boutiques are actually in the Flemish capital of Antwerp. Belgium’s second largest city is home to the Antwerp Six designers and the largest diamond trade in the world.
Upon first glance, it’s easy to miss Antwerp’s stylish undertones. Located along the eastern banks of the Scheldt, the Cathedral of Our Lady, the Grote Markt, and the Groenplaats anchor the well-preserved historical center. But you don’t have to follow the cobblestone streets very far to start finding some surprises hidden behind Renaissance facades. The Mier–a pedestrian-only street–and the Stadsfeestzaal shopping center and the Zuid neighborhood are filled with clothing boutiques from well-known big brands to recent graduates of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Hip cafes, pubs, and chocolate shops are tucked in between. And on Nationalestraat, don’t miss the chance to see delicate craftsmanship up close at the MoMu fashion museum.
After browsing the latest fashions, the last thing you’ll want to do is step back in time at a stuffy hotel. Hotel Julien is a minimal boutique hotel in the heart of Antwerp. Two historic buildings have been combined into a small hotel with high ceilings and oversized baths. The property is filled with photography and the scent of Moroccan rose. Take high tea in the lounge or a Bolleke for a nightcap at the bar. And don’t miss the view of the cathedral from the rooftop terrace.
You’ve quickly fallen love with stylish Antwerp. Next time, just bring an extra suitcase.