Things to do in Antwerp for a Day

Antwerp has long been an important city in Belgium as a large port and industrial hub. But you’ll find that the city offers so much more, from a thriving shopping and fashion scene to unique medieval architecture, pretty streets, and interesting museums. There really is a lot to see and experience here, and we know we only brushed the surface of things to do in Antwerp during our day there. We’ll definitely have to come back to see more!

Antwerp is a popular day-trip destination from cities like Brussels and Amsterdam. And if, like us, you only have a day to explore the city, here are some activities to consider during your visit.

Things to do in Antwerp

1. Antwerpen-Centraal – Antwerp’s Central Station

Cost: Free

Antwerpen-Centraal is frequently referred to as one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. We happened to be arriving here by train from Brussels, so we made sure to check it out before heading to our hotel to drop off our bags.

While the area around the platforms seems pretty standard, it’s the main front hall and exterior that are of interest to most who come to see and photograph it. The main hall contains many archways, marble pillars, and a large stone stairway below a clock tower. The large glass windows and ceiling let in a lot of natural light. From the outside, the station appears more like a palace than a transport hub with its many windows and big dome and towers atop the main hall.

Inside Antwerp Central
Inside Antwerp Central

2. Sint-Annatunnel (Saint Anna’s Tunnel) & the Maritime Park

Cost: Free

Sint-Annatunnel is a long pedestrian tunnel that runs under the Scheldt river. It was built in the 1930s so that locals could cross the river without having to rely solely on the ferry. Old wooden escalators take you down into the tunnel and you can walk the 572 meters (1877 feet) to the other side if you desire. There are some signs that talk about the tunnel and photos showing its construction. Note that there are many people cycling through the tunnel and there isn’t a ton of width.

The old wooden escalators leading down into the tunnel
The old wooden escalators leading down into the tunnel

When you exit the tunnel on the west side of the river, there’s a pretty path that leads north along the water. The Maritime Park has some old ship parts and other maritime equipment sitting out in the green space. There are some pretty spots along the water to look back across the river for views of the heart of Antwerp.

Views of Antwerp from the Maritime Park
Views of Antwerp from the Maritime Park

3. Het Steen

Cost: Free to access the Visitor Center, shop, terrace, and parts of the Antwerp Story. €7 per adult to see the full Antwerp Story exhibits. Buy tickets online here.

Hours: Open daily 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (the rooftop closes at 10 p.m.)

Het Steen is Antwerp’s oldest building! It was once a fortress, but has served various purposes over its history. Visitors can enter the castle for free to explore the courtyard, take in the views from the upper terrace, and learn about a bit of Antwerp’s history. The Visitor Center is also a great place to stop if you’re looking for more info on activities in Antwerp, and you can also buy tickets to some attractions there.

The Antwerp Story is a newer attraction in Het Steen highlighting more of what makes Antwerp unique. There are various rooms and interactive displays covering different topics, from famous individuals from Antwerp to culture and notable buildings in the city.

For more information on visiting Het Steen, check the webpage.

Het Steen - Things to do in Antwerp
Het Steen

4. Oude Havenkranen & the Red Star Line Museum

Cost: Visiting the Oude Havenkranen area is free. €10 per adult for the Red Star Line Museum. Buy tickets online here.

Hours: The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

As mentioned earlier, Antwerp has long been an important port city. The Red Star Line Museum contains exhibits covering the Red Star Line ships and the stories of the millions of migrants that travelled to America on them with the context of European and American society at the time. There is also a tower with a viewing platform for some pretty views over the river and surrounding city.

For more information on visiting the Red Star Line Museum, visit their website.

Oude Havenkranen is just near the Red Star Line Museum. Right along the water is a collection of old harbor cranes managed by the MAS museum.

Red Star Line Museum

5. Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal – Antwerp’s Cathedral of Our Lady

Cost:  €12 per adult

Hours: Weekdays 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

The Cathedral of Our Lady is a Gothic cathedral in the heart of Antwerp’s historic center. You can’t miss the massive tower as you walk about the city. The intricate details adorning the outside of the structure are quite beautiful.

If you decide to go inside, you’ll find bright stained glass windows, a few works by renowned Rubens and other artists, and more pretty architectural details. Free guided tours in various languages are offered as well.

For additional information, holiday hours, etc., click here.

The beautiful tower of the cathedral standing tall over Antwerp
The beautiful tower of the cathedral standing tall over Antwerp

6. Grote Markt and the City Center

Cost: Free

Not too far from the cathedral is the Grote Markt. This historic square has a monument at the center and is surrounded by beautiful guild houses. This square sometimes hosts events, such as the Antwerp Christmas Market during the holidays. We sat and enjoyed the square a bit before exploring the surrounding streets.

The historic center has many shops, restaurants, and other interesting sights, such as the famous Nello and Patrasche statue and the Vlaaikensgang passageway. There are also numerous art galleries in the area.

Pretty buildings at Grote Markt
Pretty buildings at Grote Markt

7. Meir

Cost: Free, unless you plan to shop of course

Meir is a well-known shopping street. There are many shops offering clothing, sportswear, cosmetic, home goods, and more. But even if you don’t plan to shop, the area is a great place to experience the bustle of the city. We were there on a Tuesday afternoon and there were many street performers, families out with their kids, and groups hanging out and eating on the benches lining the street. Some of the architecture here is quite pretty as well.

There are many other great things to do in Antwerp, including visiting other museums, taking unique tours, and exploring the other corners of the city we didn’t make it to during our day there. If you have any other must-see options, drop them in the comments below!

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