An Antwerp City Break with Kids: Your 2023 Guide

An Antwerp city break is a great idea for a weekend with kids and those who want to explore the second largest city in Belgium. In terms of tourist popularity, it is inferior to Brussels. But it is worth seeing because it is unlike any other European city with its architecture and mixture of cultures.

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antwerp, belgium, building-91205.jpg

Is Antwerp Child Friendly?

Antwerp with kids is a perfect travel destination since it has a very child-friendly atmosphere and things to do. Belgium, in general, is full of theme parks, child-friendly museums, bike trails, playgrounds, and fairs.


What is Antwerp Famous For?

Antwerp is known globally – primarily as the world’s diamond capital- thanks to the artistic heritage of Rubens, who lived and worked here. Yes, there are plenty of top attractions.

Antwerp city is considered the city of diamonds, and this title was given to it because the diamond exchange is located here, where the cost of the most expensive mineral is determined. It is also a city of fashion, art, and a meeting of cultures: Moroccans and Turks live here, art students and fashion designers from all over the world come and often stay.


Where is Antwerp?

Antwerp is in the north of the country, about 15 km from the border with The Netherlands, in the historical region of Flanders. Antwerp is a port city. It stretches along the banks of the navigable River Scheldt, which flows into the North Sea and is one of the world’s largest trading ports.


How to Get to Antwerp

The best way to get to Antwerp is from Brussels Airport, which is 50 km away. On a high-speed train, this distance can be covered in 30 minutes. Find train tickets for your dates here >>>

You can also get to Antwerp from Paris, Amsterdam, or Rotterdam airports, with which Antwerp is connected by high-speed rail. Find flights for your dates here >>>

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Additionally, you can come to the Antwerp port via ferry, check if there is any connection from your city here


When is the best time to visit Antwerp, Belgium?

Antwerp has a temperate maritime climate, which is responsible for mild winters and warm summers, as well as regular rainfall at any time of the year. And although the Belgian weather is always equally unpredictable, it is better to spend the summer in Antwerp or at Christmas time.

June in Antwerp

June is one of the most favourable months for visiting the city with children and the most “weather-friendly”. This is a relatively low tourist season when there are no large crowds of people, and you can enjoy the city and attractions in a more comfortable environment.

December in Antwerp

December is another good month for visiting Antwerp with kids. Although the weather can be gloomy and foggy, the Christmas markets and festive atmosphere will be a great opportunity for children to enjoy the holiday in this beautiful European city break.

Check out the Christmas markets in December, wander the snow-covered medieval streets, go ice skating and enjoy hot chocolate in one of the street cafes.


Where to Stay in Antwerp with Children

If you’re visiting Antwerp with kids, here are the best accommodation options to suit all budgets:


Budget: Novotel Antwerpen

The Novotel Antwerp is located in the harbour of Antwerp in a 15-minute drive from the historical centre of Antwerp. Its advantage over other hotels is an outdoor swimming pool, a garden with a terrace and a children’s playground. The hotel offers free parking with electric car chargers for travellers with cars.

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Mid-Range: Leonardo Hotel Antwerpen

Leonardo is a simple but family-friendly hotel in a convenient location. It is situated in a historical building in the Diamond district, close to the shopping Street Keyserlei, where you can have great Antwerp shopping, and to the Antwerp Central Train Station.

The hotel has recently been renovated, with beautiful modern rooms and suites, with cots available.


Splashing Out: Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp

This amazing hotel is located in a 15th-century historical monastery complex in the city centre. The Botanic Sanctuary has several Michelin star restaurants and a spa centre with sauna and jacuzzi.

It offers kids meals and has a kid-friendly buffet. Also, the hotel has babysitting and child services, baby safety gates, and cots upon request at an additional charge.

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Top 10 Things to do in Antwerp with Kids

Buildings of different eras and styles, art and history, old houses and modern structures, past and future, fashion and traditions are wonderfully combined in Antwerp. You can find many museums, art galleries, beautiful houses, cosy cafes and restaurants on the streets. Here you will find the best places to visit and the most interesting things to see and do with children.


1. Visit Antwerp Zoo

antwerp zoo

Antwerp Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in Europe; built in the mid-1800s, it is home to over 5,000 animals. Children will especially enjoy the fur seal show.

There are also cute playgrounds with swings and slides where the kids can play, and adults can watch them sitting on benches in the shade of trees. Antwerp Zoo has built an international reputation for participating in international programs that support endangered species such as the okapi, bonobo chimpanzee, golden marmosets, and Congo peacocks.

There is also a planetarium, a winter garden, and a penguin house. You should set aside at least half a day to visit this park because there are many things to do.


2. Enjoy a walk in Middelheimpark

Middelheimpark, antwerp, belgium

The open-air museum in Middelheim Park is a complex of landscape compositions that spread over vast areas and an extensive exposition of modern sculpture. Here you can see realistic sculptures and strange abstract structures installed in the most unexpected places.

The park museum owns about 500 sculptures and is a great place for kids to have fun.


3. Learn the story of the Nello Patrache Statue

Nello Patrache Statue

This touching monument to the boy Nello and his faithful dog  Patrasche is in the centre of Antwerp opposite the cathedral. It was opened in 2016 and is dedicated to the events described in the novel “The Dog of Flanders” by the English writer Marie Louise de la Ramee in 1872 and is especially adored by all the children who come to Antwerp.


4. Visit the Grote Markt

 Grote Markt, antwerp city break

Grote Markt is the main square of Antwerp and, at the same time, its main attraction. Almost all important events in the history of the city took place here. The area is also often called the pearl of the architecture of the XVI century. The architectural dominant of the square is the town hall building, erected in the 16th century.

In its magnificent appearance, Flemish Gothic and Italian Renaissance are whimsically combined. Richly decorated guild houses occupy the square’s north side, but the huge seven-nave Gothic Cathedral makes the strongest impression of the Virgin Mary, which was built for almost 200 years – from 1352 to 1521.


5. Look Round the Red Star Line Museum

The Emigration Museum in Antwerp opened in September 2013. The museum exhibition tells the story of emigration from Antwerp to the New World. People left in search of new opportunities and a better life. The journey to the new world for many began in a warehouse in Antwerp, which still stands next to the port.

It was from here that the Red Star Line company sent its ships with passengers. In honour of the Red Star Line, it was named the Museum of Emigration. The museum staff tried to preserve the atmosphere of great expectations, deep disappointments, sleepless nights, and parents’ worries about their children, who must leave for the New World.

It even contains jars with the smell of emigrants (a mixture of vinegar and benzene) and other things and documents of emigrants.


6. See the Plantin Moretus Museum

In the 16th century, the Plantin-Moretus printing house was the largest in Europe. It was founded by the enlightened publishers of the time. Geographical maps, atlases, scientific works, books, and religious content were printed here. Also, authors could order a translation of their work. Now the museum presents fonts and printing presses of the 16th century, unique editions, and a collection of tapestries.

It is noteworthy that the exhibition is in the same room where books were printed in the 16th century. The museum is listed in the UNESCO catalogue.


7. Check out the Brabo Statue

Brabo Statue

In the centre of Antwerp, in Grote Markt, an interesting Brabo fountain is located. The fountain is a statue created by the magnificent sculptor Jeff Lumbox in 1887. The statue tells us the legend of the giant Drouon Antigonus, who lived on the banks of the Scheldt River, where Antwerp now stands.

The giant took too high a tribute for the opportunity to sail past his castle. He tore off the hands of sailors who refused to pay tribute each time. And then, one day, the brave soldier Silvius Brabo defeated the giant and, cutting him off, threw his hands into the river.

This is how the name of the city came about: “ant” – hand and “verpen” – to throw. A beautiful legend gave Antwerp a legendary symbol – the hand. Hand-shaped cookies are made in the bakeries here. And the fountain, flaunting on the central square of Antwerp, has become a unique landmark of the city.

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8. Visit Chocolate Nation Museum

The museum is a true paradise for children and chocolate lovers of all ages. Here you will learn about how legendary Belgian chocolate was born. In one of the halls, you will see the process of “ripening” of cocoa beans and its storage. In addition, in the museum you can learn how cocoa beans turn into chocolate bars, sweets and other desserts. Multimedia exhibits leave no one indifferent, and tasting chocolate is a special part of visiting the museum.


9. Explore adventurous Sint-Annatunnel

Explore adventurous Sint-Annatunnel

If you are travelling with teenage children, a walk through the Sint Anna tunnel is a great option. It will be slightly adventurous entertainment, and something completely different from other sightseeing points. This ancient tunnel runs under the Scheldt River. Tour participants need to descend into it using a special ladder. After crossing to the other side of the river, a gorgeous panorama of the city opens from the shore. There are also excellent playgrounds for little children, and the beach is open in the warm season.


10. Have fun in Bobbejaanland amusement park

Bobbejaanland amusement park

Bobbejaanland is the most popular and the biggest amusement park in Antwerp. It is also a real historical landmark of the city. The park was opened in 1961. Its founder is the famous Belgian singer Bobbejaan Schoepen who won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1957. Today, the park features more than 40 rides, including rollercoasters, high-speed roads, and a small water park with an interesting ride.


Where to Eat in Antwerp with Kids

Belgian cuisine was influenced by three cuisines – German, French, and Dutch. Home cooking is distinguished by simple cooking technology, with the most accessible set of products.

When travelling to Antwerp with kids, it is worth trying local fast-food, Belgian mussels and all kinds of soups, as well as rabbit stew. The kids will love the Belgian waffles and fast-food deep fries. In general, deep-frying potatoes is considered a Belgian invention, and they cook them here according to a special recipe. For potatoes, you can take a sauce of your choice and meat product, fried in oil in the same way.

There are so many restaurants, bars and cafes in the city that it is sometimes difficult to make the right choice. From the most expensive, like Sir Antony Van Dyck 5 stars restaurant, to the simplest fast-food takeout. Here is the list of the most popular ones with good reviews, suitable for families with kids.


Refill

Refill is a nice restaurant in the city centre serving delicious traditional dishes in a cosy environment. Here you can try mouth-watering stews, Flemish carbonade, and the kids will love potato croquettes served with green salad. In summer you can stay in a beautiful terrace. View on TripAdvisor Here >>>

Bubble Waffle Café

The café is located next to Saint Charles Borromeo Church. Bubble Waffle serves fantastic savoury and sweet waffles with different toppings. Although this place is rather expensive, it offers high-quality dishes and has great service. A savoury custom-made bubble waffle is a must-try! View on TripAdvisor Here >>>

Frituur L O

Friturr is a well-known fast-food takeaway spot where you can peak the best traditional Belgium fries in Antwerp. They serve it with a piece of meat on the side, and the portions are quite big. There are several choices of sauce to accompany the fries. All will be delish whether you take Andalusia, Barbeque, or anything else. There is also a range of tasty sausages which are worth trying. View on TripAdvisor Here >>>

Hard Rock Café Antwerp

This well-known restaurant chain serves great burgers and other dishes of American cuisine appreciated by kids. Besides that, here you can eat well and enjoy the pleasant atmosphere with your family, you can also buy memorable souvenirs and cool T-shirts for kids with an Antwerp sign.  Book here for priority seating >>>


How to Spend 2 Days in Antwerp with Kids

Antwerp attractions, a historical and, at the same time, modern city, will satisfy the soul and eyes of every tourist. Locals compare Antwerp to a village but don’t jump to conclusions.

The rich past of the northern Belgian port combines with a sharply progressive present – avant-garde fashion, multicultural food, and entertainment for the youngest tourists.

To stay one day in Antwerp is not enough, try to stay at least 2 days, for instance, come for Antwerp weekend, so you can see the most important attractions. Here you’ll find a list of the best things to see for 2 days.


Day 1:

Start your day with a tour of Central Station. Looking at this majestic building and beautiful train stations, the traveller experiences a feeling of DeJa’Vu. Like, already been and seen. Yes, you probably really saw it in the movies. It was built on the site of an old wooden building at the end of the 19th century. Today is a place with the most beautiful stations in the world, an architectural monument and a transport hub.

Afterwards, head towards Antwerp Zoo, one of Europe’s oldest zoos. You don’t need to go far to visit the zoo: it is located 100-200 m from the railway station. There are excellent collections of reptiles, polar animals – Vriesland Park, tropical butterflies, and many more.

Finish your day on the local Grote Markt, built in the 16th century, and today boasts a whole exhibition of old buildings, the facades of which sparkle with restored gilding and surprise with rich stucco. The most enviable place on the square is occupied by the statue of the warrior Brabo, who, according to myth, defeated the giant that threatened Antwerp and its riches. Also, take a look at Nello & Patrache Stature and stay for dinner in one of the nearby restaurants.


Day 2:

Morning:

Start the second day of your Antwerp tour from Sint-Annatunnel. After leaving the Old Town, go to the tunnel of St. Anna, laid along the bottom of the Scheldt. Take the elevator down to a depth of 31 meters and then walk along the bottom of the Scheldt. At the exit, enjoy the panoramic view overlooking the Cathedral and the first Antwerp skyscraper – until 1952 it was the tallest in the world! Take lunch in one of the nearby cafes.

Afternoon:

Finish your day visiting Mas Museum or another name Museum aan de Stroom, decorated with red sandstone which offers high-tech exhibitions. The cherry on the pie is the view of the city from its rooftop.


3 Days in Antwerp with Kids

If you still have more time to spend during your trip, there are many more attractions in Antwerp to see.

Bobbejaanland: When you have seen all the main sights, and learned about the culture, and history of Antwerp, go to the Bobbejaanland for some fun, to the Antwerp amusement park. You can come there by car or public transport, which is also very convenient.

Middelheimpark: For some serenity and relaxation in nature, go to Middelheimpark. It’s a very beautiful English-style park with attractive lawns, shady alleys and beautifully arranged shrubs and trees, it is located to the north of the city. You can spend a few hours there, strolling around and entertaining your kids.

Plantenium (Den Botaniek): This beautiful oasis in the centre of Antwerp is a great place to take a rest and enjoy a gorgeous garden with the sound of birds. Cacti and a wonderful collection of other tropical plants are in its greenhouse.

Het Steen: An educational centre located in an amazing old castle, with gorgeous architectural details, which in winter hosts a Christmas market.

Diamond District: A special area in Antwerp, where the most important workshops and shops are located in the production and trade of diamonds. The city is known as the diamond capital of Belgium and is famous for its diamond products and jewellery all over the world. And even if you are not going to purchase such valuable gifts, visiting a few boutiques to see the best gemstone items with your own eyes is worth visiting.


Best Day Trips from Antwerp for Families

If you have explored the whole city and its sights, and have some time available, go on day trips outside Antwerp. Bruges, Brussels, and Sterckshof Castle are great places to visit.


Bruges

bruges day trip from antwerp

Bruges is a city of beautiful tourist attractions, canals and masterpieces of Gothic architecture. This is one of the main places to visit from Antwerp. You will love this amazing little medieval town, where you can easily walk with kids around in half a day and return to Antwerp. 

For your family, you can organize a private trip from Antwerp to Bruges both by train (90 min., 15 €) and by bus (110 min., about 10 €). Find train tickets for your dates here >>>


Brussels

brussels day trip from antwerp

It’s a pity to visit a country and not to see its capital. There are so many attractions in the Belgian capital that the city can be called an open-air museum, which your kids would be happy to see. It is worth starting walks around the city from the main town square of the country, Grand Place. Next, see the Cathedral of St. Michael and Gudula, proceed to the royal galleries of St. Hubert, and pass from the famous Manneken Pis.

It’s very easy to get to Brussels on your own. Numerous trains (44 min., from 10 €) and buses (50 min., from 4 €) are at your disposal. Find train tickets for your dates here >>> A taxi will cost much more – above 100 € or you could book a private transfer for the best rates. Compare transfer prices for your family here >>>


Sterckshof Castle

Located in the suburbs of Antwerp, Sterkshof is as beautiful like from a fairy tale. It was founded in the 16th century and had an interesting history. A delightful park surrounds the castle. So, a visit to Sterkshof is especially recommended during the warm season.

You can get to Sterkshof from the city centre by tram 10 or 24 (€3) or by bus (€4). The Taxi will cost you around 20 €, so it’s the best option for a family with kids. you could also book a private transfer for the best rates. Compare transfer prices for your family here >>>


How to Get Around Antwerp

The old town is about 1,5 km , and most of the sights are easy to get to on foot. However, with little children that won’t be convenient.

Bus: The bus fare is 3 EUR, but if you are planning to make several Antwerp trips, it is more profitable to take a Lijnkaart card to pay for the fare, it costs 14 EUR and includes 10 trips. Due to heavy traffic, buses do not always follow the schedule, but in the city centre the frequency of routes is quite high, which causes less inconvenience.

Taxi: Payment for taxis is according to the meter. It is almost impossible to catch a taxi passing by, so you need to look for special parking lots marked with an orange “TAXI” sign.

Car: Driving here is not as difficult as in other major cities, but traffic at intersections can seem chaotic. There are free parking lots, but most of them (on the street or covered) are paid. The average price for parking is 2 EUR per hour.


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