The 5 most interesting neighbourhoods in Antwerp
1) Het Eilandje
The docklands district to the north of the old city is an area of stone quays, brick warehouses and deep docks. Known as Het Eilandje (the little island) it fell into decline in the 20th century but has emerged in recent years as a cool urban neighbourhood of new museums, loft apartments, waterfront cafes and design shops.
This was once one of the poorest parts of the old city, but the quarter around the Sint-Andrieskerk has been transformed in recent years. The most exciting developments have happened along Kloosterstraat, once a street of junk shops but now lined with design stores, cool cafes and antique shops.
It’s not easy to track down the hip new quarter called PAKT. It occupies an area of abandoned warehouses next to the Groen Kwartier in Berchem. You reach it through a dingy entrance at Lamorinièrestraat 161-A or by walking through the grounds of a restored 19th-century military hospital. Eventually you reach a hidden site that looks like somewhere in Berlin, with crumbling brick buildings, an overhead walkway, rooftop greenhouses, old rusted machinery and urban gardens. Several start-up companies are based here, along with restaurants, coffee shops and cafes. Most places close at the weekend.
Van Gogh spent a few miserable months living in this district behind Central Station. It is still a popular neighbourhood for young artists and writers, and for immigrants from Turkey, Morocco and Afghanistan, but also for young families with children. The restored Roma cinema and the lively Krugerplein show that it is on the way up again.
5) Diamond Quarter
Antwerp’s diamond quarter occupies a warren of narrow streets and alleys near Central Station. It is hard to imagine anywhere less glamorous, less sparkling, than this drab area of concrete office blocks and police checkpoints, yet a large part of the world’s diamond trade is concentrated in this area.
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The 500 Hidden Secrets of Antwerp reveals off-the-beaten-track places and interesting details for anyone who's keen to explore Antwerp's best-kept secrets.
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