Antwerp is Belgium’s dynamic fashion centre, but that’s not all, says Natalie. As an insider, she shares her hidden treasures with us. Natalie Van Lijsebettens (36) designs footwear and is the founder of the Collectif d’Anvers artisanal brand. Born and bred in Antwerp, Natalie continually discovers new places of interest as she strolls through the picturesque city districts.
“I like to go around the city on foot, as I can see a lot more that way and it’s easier for me to pop into a shop or pub. I come across pretty little squares and courtyards in the most unexpected places, and I’ve discovered a lot of lovely little pubs or pavement cafés that are right off the beaten track too. If I want to get away from the crowds in the city centre, I go for a walk along the Scheldt. One of the footpaths takes you to the beach at Sint-Annastrand, and there are a lot of pubs and restaurants there. And two beautiful nature reserves – Sint-Annabosch and Middenvijver – are located a bit further on.
The ‘BadBoot’ is really worth a visit too. This is a fantastic floating swimming pool moored along the Scheldt in summer. If you go for a swim there, you feel as if the water in the pool is flowing into the river. And the pool is transformed into a floating ice rink in winter – I’ve heard it’s the biggest in the world. It’s great to go and get a breath of fresh air there and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate afterwards!”
The best mussels
“There are so many fabulous little restaurants in Antwerp. I often go to Story on Godefriduskaai for an original breakfast or a delicious lunch with fresh seasonal products. And there’s an incredible view of the MAS,
a museum that tells the story of Antwerp.
A Tavola on Lange Lozanastraat is another fantastic restaurant run by an Italian-Belgian couple. He does the cooking and creates the most wonderful Italian dishes, and she looks after the customers in the dining area. She’s absolutely charming. But if you’d rather have a real Belgian meal, you should go to De Bourla on Graanmarkt. It’s always busy and there’s a good atmosphere there. And you can enjoy the best mussels in the city at Maritime on Suikerrui. They prepare them in all kinds of different ways and the customers are all from Antwerp. Enough said!”
Fashion & design
“Antwerp is a real fashion centre where you can enjoy a day’s shopping. There are a lot of boutiques on Nationalestraat and in that neighbourhood, with fantastic design models in the windows. Or you can go to Wilde Zee, which is a city district full of small fashion shops. But I’ve always loved Kammenstraat myself. This street has a lot of trendy boutiques, and I often pop into the T2 second-hand shop. They’ve got absolutely everything there: fashion, basics and vintage-style clothes.
If you like 50s and 60s style fashion, you should definitely go to Atelier Solarshop, which is run by Jan-Jan van Essche and Pietro. They’re on Dambruggestraat, and they’ve got a wonderful collection of vintage, Scandinavian furniture and modern design. And the Seven Rooms concept store is really the place to be. It’s very inspiring and sells some good brands like Comme des Garçons and 2Flamingos.”
“Speaking as a designer, I really love the ModeMuseum, which is also known as MoMu. I’ve never seen such a stylish layout in any other museum in Antwerp. Some of the rooms are quiet and dark, but others are brightly lit and quite overwhelming. They show work by famous designers, especially during temporary exhibitions.
And the M HKA is another unusual museum. It’s an international museum and they have an extensive in-house collection of modern and contemporary art as well as a lot of different exhibitions and lectures. Another special feature is their film museum, and they show films there too.”
The Hampshire Hotel O – Kathedral Antwerp is located right in the historic city centre, and the interior was designed by famous Antwerp architect Jo Peeters. The result is a unique contemporary look with striking colours and detail. Hotel O Antwerpen – Hampshire Classic is located in the fashionable artists’ quarter Het Zuid. There are dozens of trendy pubs, bars and restaurants in the neighbourhood, and the historic city centre is only a stone’s throw away.
If you’d like to visit Antwerp, check-in at Hampshire Hotels.
If you’d like to find out more about Natalie Van Lijssebettens’s favourite spots, go to: badboot.be; facebook.com/StoryUrbanDeliShop; mas.be; bourla.be; maritime.be; thinktwice-secondhand.be; ateliersolarshop.be; sevenrooms.be; momu.be; muhka.be