(these are all the different Frites sauces – not just ketchup for the Belgians!)

Was planning to go to Paris for the sales but was diverted to Antwerp instead.  Home of Rubens, Dries Van Notes and frites – ok by me!  Invited a few other shoppers along and a girl’s weekend was born.  Hopped an empty Eurostar to Brussels and then a connecting train to Antwerp – total of 3 hours to a different world.  There were a load of great finds and some memorable eats.  The sleeps were not so great – tried two as one friend had not checked res confirmation and we were booted out after a night.  Must admit that frites were not up to my high expectations…but that did not stop me from having some at every meal bar breakfast.

I have tried to list these by areas so you can plan more easily on your next trip:

THE OLD STANDARDS & NEW BITS: THE SHOPPING DISTRICT NEAR THE CATHEDRAL
These seem to be on everyone’s list but this is my take on them.

DRIES VAN NOTEN
Het Modepaleis, Nationalestraat 16, +32 3 470 25 10
www.driesvannoten.be

Gorgeous store filled with DVN wonders – the shoes were the winners but alas none in size 37.5.
WALTER STORE
St Antoniusstraat, 12
www.waltervanbeirendonck.com

Really cool and hip place – no photos allowed but I took this one secretly.  Had amazing new designers – none of whom I can pronounce nor remember but don’t miss the store.

LOUIS
Lombardenstraat 2, +32 3 232 98 72
A treasure trove of the most wonderful clothes – fabulous sales assistants.  Bought a Martin Margiela sweater here 50% off!

COCCODRILLO
Schuttershofstraat 9, T / +32 (0)3 233 20 93
www.coccodrillo.be

Upstairs from the main shop – which has shoes galore – is the outlet store.  All over 50% off! I still am kicking myself for not buying a pair of Sergio Rossi royal blue suede boots.

VERSO
Langegasthuisstraat 11
www.verso.be

Gorgeous department store with a great bar attached – had a fire going and comfy seats – wanted to sit down and enjoy but it closes at 18:00

ANNEXE 39
Wolstraat 31, +32 475 70 25 79
Vintage clothes, hats and persian lamb muffs – one of which I brought home with me. (It’s in the freezer right now debugging.)

AVe (not a typo – that’s what it is called)
Lombardenstaat 18, +32 3 227 44 01
Happened upon this tiny store overflowing with fabulous clothes and shoes.  The girls did very well here.

ACCESS
Nationalestraat 75, +32 3 231 70 75
A quirky store filled with fun stuff – like sugar cut to fit on the edge of a teacup or fabulous colored candles.

GRAANMARKT 13 (BEAUTIFUL CHAOS)
Graanmarkt 13, +32 3 337 79 92
www.graanmarkt13.be

A beautiful concept store with the likes of Marni and Sonia Rykiel, as well as Nymphenburg China that is too beautiful for words.

BURIE
Korte Gasthuisstraat 3, +32 3 232 36 88
Old fashioned chocolate shop that sells Antwerp Diamonds and Hands filled with lusciousness.

GÜNTER WATTÉ
Steenhouwerstraat 30, +32 3 293 58 94
www.watte.be

A newer cooler hipper chocolate shop – couldn’t resist buying their hot chocolate with honey. Yum.

THE ANTIQUE DISTRICT: GREAT ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON

RA
Kloosterstraat 13, +32 3 292 3780
Probably the coolest store in all of Antwerp…has a cafe and this funky outdoor garden.

SALIMA THAKKER
Oever 28, +32 3 237 37 49
www.salimathakker.com

Gorgeous jewelry – not the typical diamond dealer stuff.  Her MODULAR line is to die for.

N˚5 AR5ENAAL ANTIQUES
Arsenaalstraat 5, +32 477 25 73 51
Great antique dealer on a side street.  Love that the saint was resting on the chaise-lounge.

VIAR
Kloosterstraat 65, +32 3 292 3780
Another great furniture and vintage clothing shop on the street.  Wanted to take these lamps made of drink umbrellas home with me but they wouldn’t fit inside my suitcase!

BEST EATS & SIPS

DE GROOTE WITTE AREND
Reynderstraat 18, +32 3 233 50 33
www.degrootewittearend.be

Ate what looked like a huge pile of mashed potatoes which they assure me is a national dish of the Belgium.  No matter what, it tasted great especially washed down with a Belgian raspberry beer.  Great local place.

DE VAGANT
25 Reyndersstraat, +32 3233 1538
Across the street from DE GROOTE WITTE AREND is this bar which serves 200 types of Jenever (Belgian Gin) – among us we tried prune, mint (yuck), sour lemon, currant, gingerbread, cinnamon, elderflower, passion fruit, blood orange, banana creme, and many more.  Next door, they sell bottles that you can take home with you.  Prune was my favorite but the Cypriot thinks it tastes like cough medicine.  I do not agree (hic).

MARITIME
Suikerrui 4, +32 3 233 07 58
www.maritime.be

If you want moules (and you do, considering this is Belgium), you go to Maritime – that’s the word on the street.  This lovely restaurant serves you a bucket of mussels – about a kilo.  The pic is of the chef’s type – 18 herbs and spices- we could only make out tarragon and curry but it was delish.  They have about seven different kinds including white wine, Provencal and garlic and cream.  The other food looked fabulous and our dessert was homemade coffee ice cream with hot fudge. No wonder I gained weight this trip!

CHEZ FRED (Sunday afternoon!)
Kloosterstraat 83, +32 3 257 14 17
While Antique shopping, make sure you stop here if you get hungry!  Their cheese croquettes (another Belgian specialty) should have a warning attached and their stew looked amazing.

NOT SO GOOD SLEEPS, BUT THEY WILL DO

HOTEL ‘T SANDT
Zand 13-19, +32 (0)3 232 93 90
www.hotel-sandt.be

The rooms looks amazing on the website but in reality they are quite tired and need to be painted.  They really should not charge more than €150 a night.

BANKS
Steenhouwersvest 55, + 32 (0) 3 23 24 002
www.hotelbanks.com
This design hotel is a little too stark for my liking – wood floors are ok, but concrete ceiling, all white, very small rooms…but it had free happy hour and a sunken seating area with a fire place and comfy banquettes.  Breakfast was good too!