On the Scheldt River, linked to the North Sea by the Westerschelde estuary, Antwerp has one of the largest seaports in Europe. That has been good and bad for the city, bringing the energy and wealth associated with international merchants and sailors for centuries -- but also the marauding soldiers of foreign armies. In the 16th century this was among the largest and richest European cities, sitting at the enter of the entire international economy. A big population of foreign residents, and a vibrant Jewish community gave the city a very cosmopolitan and tolerant atmosphere. That Golden Age collapsed with Spanish attacks at the beginning of the Eighty Years War in 1572, and the closing of the Scheldt to shipping in 1648. The Napoleanic wars, and fighting between French, Dutch and Belgian insurgents continued into the 19th century. The city again became a battleground in 1944, between British and German forces.
Destroyed neighborhoods were rebuilt after the war with modern architecture, and the Jewish quarter by the train station was restored, to become again the center of world trade in diamonds. Today over 70% of all diamonds in the world market pass through the city.
Antwerp's 17th century school of painting included Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens, and the two Teniers among others. The Royal Museum of Fine Arts collection includes old masters such as Rubens, Van Dyck, Titian and leading Dutch artists.
The annual August Bollekesfeest festival showcases local products such as the amber beer known as "Bolleke" from the De Koninck Brewery, Mokatine candy from Confiserie Roodthooft, Elixir D'Anvers liqueurs, local roasted coffee (Koffie Verheyen), Poolster pickled herrings, and Equinox horse meat. Antwerpse Handjes, are hand-shaped cookies of almonds and chocolate, baked in Antwerp.
Located in the Flemish part of Belgium, many visitors say it feels more like Amsterdam than Brussels, and most natives speak Antverpian, a Dutch dialect, at home. French and English are widely used.
In one of the year’s first major leather events, the Antwerp Leather Pride events in February brings in guys from all over Europe and beyond.
Antwerp Antwerp Pride takes place in August with big dance and fetish parties, a festival at Grote Markt, concerts, performers, and lots more going on all over the city for 4 days. See our events listings for more information on these, and more.
Although Antwerp's Deurne Airport has a few flights, most visitors fly into Brussels National Airport. The airport train station is below the terminal (basement level-1). Around 4 trains per hour connect to the Brussels North, Brussels Central and Brussels Midi stations. See schedules and info for services to and from other cities including Antwerp by rail at Belgian Railways. There is also bus service from the airport - find the station on level 0, one floor down from the arrivals hall. The DeLijn website has bus information.
The direct Brussels to Antwerp Airport Express leaves every hour between 5am (7am Sundays) and midnight daily. Coaches depart from the back of platform B at the bus station (level 0), and take 45 minutes to arrive at the "De Keyserlei" stop, near central station.
Antwerp is a compact city, and most of the sights are within walking distance of each other. The Premetro and Tram network includes over 60 stations on 13 lines, underground in the center and on surface lines beyond. There are also public bus services. Travel for 60 minutes and switch without limit between trams and buses on a single ticket for € 3. One, three and five day passes may also be purchased. Taxis are easy to find and quite inexpensive. For helpful tips on public transportation see the websites of DeLijn and the Antwerp Tourist Guide.
De Kusttram, the Coastal Tram, links 70 points along the Flemish sea coast; a distance of 68 km from Knokke-Heist to De Panne, with trams every ten minutes in summer, and every 20 mintes off-season. See information about the Antwerp to Knokke train, or for more destinations throughout the country, Belgian Rail. GoEuro is another useful travel resource, covering both train and bus services.
Gay bars, clubs, and saunas are scattered throughout Antwerp.
Currency and Money
Belgium is part of the Euro Zone, so the euro is the accepted currency. There are plenty of ATMs in the downtown area.
Media and resources
Antwerp Pride, with events in late June each year, has an informative website too - in English among five languages; with interactive and pdf maps of gay venues, and info on what's happening around town, year-round.
Het Roze Huis (Draakplaats 1) supports more than 30 LGBT organizations active in the city and province of Antwerp. Besides participating in Antwerp Pride they also organize the August Antwerp Queer Arts Festival, plus workshops, activities and training sessions.
Patroc has up-to-date listings of LGBT bars, restaurants, saunas, events and parties in Antwerp, among other European cities.
For map locations and website links to the businesses below, and more, see our gay Antwerp listings pages.
B & B 2000 guesthouse (Van Boendalestraat 8), gay-run b&b, heart of Antwerp by Franklin-Roosevelt-Plaats. Spacious rooms, shared bathrooms, free Wi-Fi, substantial breakfast, comforts of home.
G8 Guesthouse (Geulicxstraat 8), men's hotel near gay bars; double, four-bed dorm room, secure lockers, shared bathroom, house-rules that encourage fun and freedom, popular with leather, rubber and uniform guys.
Guesthouse Leman (Generaal Lemanstraat 16), 1880 house at southern end of Antwerp, easy tram or train access; large, modern, luxurious two room suite.
See more lodging options, links and booking information for the above at our maps & listings tab.
Bonaparte (Grote Markt 21), Sunday 5-11pm gay T-Dance, straight-friendly, young mixed gay crowd, pancakes freebies.
Boots (Aerdtstraat 22), big leather, rubber, skin, uniforms, sports cruise club, basement bar; for Sunday fetish dress code check website.
Cafe Delux (Melkmarkt 18), modern, stylish cafe & bar, gay men/women, young and older mixed crowd, open daily until 2am.
Cafe Que Pasa (Lange Koepoortstraat 1), locals bar, daily except Mondays with WiFi, drag, talent and quiz shows. Latin nights, DJ sets.
Cafe Strange (Dambruggestraat 161), oldest gay bar in town, mixed, mostly older crowd, open daily 5pm-2am, except Monday.
Hessenhuis Cafe (Falconrui 53), Thursday to Sunday community club, cafe noon to 3pm, theme nights, shows, go-go boys.
Kinky's (Lange Beeldekensstaat 10), behind Central Station, fetish events, every night naked-optional, jockstraps, slips or chaps; lockers, showers and towels included with admission price.
Que Pasa (Lange Koepoortstraat 1), party bar, drag shows, contests, quiz nights, Latin nights, WiFi.
Ran.dom (Geulincxstraat 28), gay/mixed bar, DJs, drag cabaret shows, theme parties, go-go dancers, men's cruise maze, food.
Red & Blue (Lange Schipperskapelstraat 11-13), men-only Friday and Sunday night disco dances until 7am, go-go boys in sexy costumes, or hardly anything at all; restaurant, theme nights.
Twilight (Nieuwstad 4), Theaterplein gay/mixed terrace cafe, one Sunday a month Padam tea dances.
See more restaurants, plus maps and website links for bars, shops and saunas, at our maps & listings tab.
Special edition dance parties include: Cafedelove at Red & Blue for women; Dirty Pop at Publik, (Lange Brilstraat 12); first Saturdays Studio 54 at Red & Blue, plus special dates; plus Pannekoek gay weekly Sunday 8-11pm T-Dance, and Starbugs each first Sunday 8pm-2am --both at Bonaparte.
CLOSED: D-Club (Damplein 27), Saturday gay/mixed dance club; Oink Club (Van Schoonbekeplein 3) men-only fetish/ leather cruise bar; Popi Cafe (Plantinkaai 12), mixed gay cafe/terrace lunch, coffee, beer, fine whiskey.
Sauna 't Herenhuis (De Lescluzestraat 63), in Antwerpen-Berchem suburb, homey comfort, relaxation, facilities include jacuzzi, swimming pool, dry and steam saunas, video lounge, and bar.
Sauna Kouros (Botermelkbaan 50), in Schoten, about 30 minutes by bus from Antwerp; huge, grand sauna facility, inside and outdoors pools, sunbathing areas, gardens, steam and dry saunas, bar and restaurant. Take bus 610 from Rooseveltplaats to Schoten stop - ask the driver.
Restaurants and Cafes
Chocolatier Burie (Korte Gasthuisstraat 3), fine confections of Belgian chocolate.
Eetcafe 't Injaske (Grote Kauwenberg 5), food of Flanders & Italy, meat or veggie, lunch/dinner.
Monkey King (Lange Dijkstraat 12), authentic, inexpensive Asian food; hot beverages, beer, wine, aperitifs and cognacs.
Red Star Cafe (Van Schoonbekeplein 9), gay-friendly trendy cafe/bar/bistro, lunch from 11am.
Reload Restaurant (Korte Winkelstraat 11), small gay-friendly restaurant, daily Belgian food specials.
Sjalot en Schanul Restaurant (Oude Beurs 12), healthy & Mediterranean food, eat-in/take-out.
Sushi Palace (Nationalestraat 41), very fresh sashimi, sushi nigiri and maki rolls, artfully prepared specialty rolls.
Boekhandel 't Verschil (Minderbroedersrui 33), gay and lesbian bookstore, vast selections in several languages, fiction, non-fiction, photo books, gay cinema and hard-core DVDs. Also small cafe and sidewalk terrace.
ES Collection (Lange Koepoortstraat 54), the Barcelona company with very graphic ads; designer underwear, swim and athletic wear, shirts, jeans, accessories.
ManPlayz (Sint-Jacobsmarkt 75), fetish/sex shop, toys, jewelry and accessories, underwear; cruising area, internet porn movies on demand.
Toys-4-Boys (Nosestraat 6), Thursdays through Sundays store, leather and rubber fashion and fetish items, toys, piercings, accessories.