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Antwerp, one of Europe’s great historic ports, has been bustling with visitors for centuries upon centuries, and remains one of the world’s most multicultural cities as a result. As the international hub of the diamond trade, as well as a vital shipping center, Antwerp continues to draw huge numbers of business travelers each year. But it’s not just a business city: leisure travelers flock to Antwerp to enjoy the medieval architecture, gorgeous museums, world-class restaurants and even a bustling electronic dance music scene. A diverse hotel scene means that visitors looking for any or all of the above will find accommodations that suit their needs beautifully.
Best Overall: Hotel ’t Sandt
The Hotel ’t Sandt is a bit like a microcosm of Antwerp itself. It’s a historic building — a 17th-century Rococo mansion — which has been renovated into a 29-room hotel with fully modern furnishings. Rather than clashing, the juxtaposition of the ornate architecture with the clean lines of the furniture, plus warm colors and careful lighting, turns out to be both chic and surprisingly cozy and homey. Rooms range from quite snug Standard Rooms to a stunning Cathedral Penthouse, with a view of the ornate gothic Cathedral of Our Lady. The Cathedral can also be seen from the quaint Italian-style courtyard in the back, where, weather permitting, guests can enjoy breakfast.
Breakfast, a sprawling Continental-style buffet of bread, spreads, cold cuts, and some warm dishes is included, as is Wi-Fi. The ’t Sandt is ideally located in the heart of historic central Antwerp, just around the corner from the outstanding Museum Plantin-Moretus, which examines the history of the printing press and its influence on the world. Beyond breakfast, the hotel restaurant does not serve food, but this amazing central location means that excellent restaurants are only steps away in any direction.
Best Budget: Hotel Rubenshof
Built for a local diamond merchant in 1891, this former private home is now a small family-run hotel. The lobby and reception areas maintain their opulent Art Nouveau stylings, complete with gilded chandeliers, ceilings featuring hand-painted cherubs, wildly ornate glasswork, as well as enough detail that you’ll see new things each time you look. The rooms themselves (some of which are several stories up, and there’s no elevator) are much simpler — expect a clean, comfy bed, perhaps a chair or two, and not much more. The truly budget-conscious can choose a room with a shared bathroom, but rooms with tidy, efficient en-suite facilities make up most of the hotel’s offerings. Continental breakfast is included in the room price, and though it’s a fairly simple spread, guests get to enjoy it in the Chinoiserie-draped splendor of the Art Nouveau breakfast room.
The Rubenshof is located in the museum-packed Zuid (South) district of Central Antwerp, just a couple of blocks from the Koninklijk Museum, which features one of the world’s best collections of paintings of Flemish and Dutch masters (Rubens, Brueghel, Van Dyck, etc.) and not far from the MUHKA, Antwerp’s modern art museum. A tram stop is just steps from the front door, as well, giving guests easy access to the entire city.
Best Boutique: Hotel Matelote
This impeccably chic modern hotel is built in a renovated 16th-century shipping warehouse, giving it a funky, authentic feel that design-minded travelers will adore. Each of the eleven rooms is unique, and most feature remnants of the building’s former life: exposed beams and oddly-shaped ceilings are de rigueur, and the minimalist furniture, understated modern art, and pale neutral color scheme lets the space itself be the star attraction. All rooms have ensuite facilities and suites have both a bathtub and a shower. The hotel does not have an elevator but the attentive staff will take your luggage to your room for you.
A hearty Continental breakfast is available but not typically included in the price of the room, and the surrounding area, the very heart of Central Antwerp, is dense with good restaurants. The Matelote is close to many of the city’s most impressive attractions, including the medieval fortress Het Steen and the Vleeshuis Museum, which specializes in historical musical instruments and instrument-building.
Best for Families: Hilton Antwerp Old Town
With kids in tow, charm is less important than function, but the Hilton Antwerp Old Town has a surprising amount of both. The building is historic and quite beautiful, while guestrooms are tidy and modern, if somewhat generic. Family rooms with extra rollaway beds are available. Nice large elevators mean that families with strollers and folks in wheelchairs or with other accessibility devices can easily access their rooms.
Hearty breakfasts are included (for a small upcharge, they’ll deliver it to your room) and an on-site restaurant, Brasserie Flo, offers a variety of delicious brasserie-style dishes as well as an easy-to-love kids’ menu. The hotel is perfectly located for Central Antwerp explorations: walk out the front door and you’re on the Groenplaats, and just steps from the Cathedral and the Grote Markt.
Best Romance: Hotel Le Tissu
Located on a quiet street in the Diamond District, Le Tissu acts as both a boutique hotel and a design showcase for an architectural and interior design firm with offices in the same building. Each of the five guestrooms is exquisitely designed (and frequently upgraded) with top-of-the-line furnishings, linens and amenities. The design aesthetic leans toward the sleek and luxe, with modern lines and occasional antique touches. Because of the small size, personalized service is a given, and advance arrangements can be made for rose petals on the bed, bottles of champagne, or other romantic touches.
Breakfast is available for an extra fee and is served daily in the old wine cellar, where there is also an “honesty bar,” as well as round-the-clock coffee and tea. Nearby restaurants are plentiful and include a lot of interesting international options. Free bicycles are available for guests — a great way to see the city with your sweetie!
Best Luxury: Hotel De Witte Lelie Antwerp
Right down to the very smallest details, this design-focused hotel in Central Antwerp is all about luxury. The rooms are boldly designed with bright wallpapers, wildly colorful carpets, and oddly charming chairs and end tables, but the designer hasn’t forgotten the throw pillows, soap dishes, or light switches, either, all of which are carefully chosen and placed to match the unique, funky overall look. (If funky isn’t your jam, fear not: the Classic Junior Rooms are bedecked in a more traditional style, primarily in white.)
It’s not just about design, though — comfort is also important. Hermès bath products, Treca de Paris bedding and a free minibar take care of your creature comforts as well. Breakfast is not included but is recommended: it’s top-of-the-line, and hot items are cooked to order right in front of you. The Hotel de Witte Lelie is located in Central Antwerp, very close to the Carolus Borromeus church, a Baroque building that is less well-known than the Cathedral but which is worth a peek inside: the interiors were all done by Rubens’ studio and they are stunning.
Best Nightlife: Antwerp for Two B&B
There’s no nightclub or even a bar at this chic, sleek B&B, but for lovers of dance music (progressive house, more specifically), it’s a perfect choice, as it’s just a block from one of Europe’s most famous dance clubs, Café d’Anvers. Antwerp for Two, better known as A42, is at the edge of the Red Light District, but it’s quite safe (yes, really — the district and adjacent neighborhoods are very well-patrolled), quite upscale, and very quiet, so if late nights at Café d’Anvers are part of your plan, this is the perfect place to sleep away the next morning. Though if you can drag yourself out of bed for the included breakfast, please do, as it’s fantastic.
Rooms and public areas are handsome and sleek, with a design aesthetic that leans toward the Scandinavian. The innkeepers are locals who are happy to offer ideas for sightseeing, restaurants, or even other nightclubs and dance halls that you might enjoy.
Best Business: Lindner Hotel & City Lounge Antwerpen
Clean, stylish, and efficient sums up this business hotel right next to the Diamond District and the Central Train Station, from where travelers can zip in from other European countries or just zip around the city while they visit. Plentiful on-site meeting facilities offer options for everything from board meetings to large presentations or conferences. A restaurant, bar, and on-site fitness center mean your basics are covered and, should business bog you down, you don’t have to go anywhere.
Rooms are comfortable, designed in neutral colors with chocolate leather furniture and plush white linens. Bathrooms include marble sinks and either a walk-in shower with detachable rainforest showerhead or a bath/shower combo. And, of course, all rooms include the most important European business traveler amenity: a Nespresso machine.
Best Hostel: Kabas Hostel BVBA
Like most European cities, Antwerp is home to a number of good backpacker hostels, but the Kabas Hostel is particularly fabulous. It’s a relatively newly-built hostel which, like so many places in Antwerp, was built out of the bones of an older building. It’s a green enterprise, so all electricity is from renewables, and all cleaning products, toilet paper, and light bulbs are environmentally-friendly. Waste is sorted, and food scraps become chicken feed for the backyard flock (who, when they’re not feeling too ornery, provide eggs for the included breakfast).
Rooms are standard hostel dorms, each with six beds, some of which have ensuite bathrooms, others of which do not. There are a few private rooms with double beds available as well. Dorms can be rented by the bed or as a whole, so if you’re traveling with a group of friends, double-check: it may be cheaper to just rent the whole room out. Common rooms and a backyard with summertime hammocks offer places for travelers to hang out together and make new friends — the best part of hostelling. The hostel is about a 20-minute walk from Central Antwerp, and plentiful public transportation runs nearby.