They say love goes through your stomach. When visiting a new place, we make sure to experience it through local food. Antwerp was no different, as we made our way around the city, going from bars, through restaurants to chocolatiers. We know you are foodies just like we are, so we put together an Antwerp food guide which contains information about local delicacies. We especially encourage you to experience a variety of chocolates and beers, to properly experience the Belgian way of eating and drinking. If you travel vegan like us, you will find several vegan options in our guide, but most restaurants and shops described below have normal options for all foodies as well.
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Before we kick start with the food tour, we wanted to tell you a few practicalities about Antwerp. We created a guide on things to do in Antwerp for couples and first-time visitors. Antwerp is a unique city with a lot of history and many tales to tell. We stayed in a boutique hotel called Witte Lelie. We wrote about our stay in Antwerp here and we know you will love its location, facilities and exquisite design. We had a tour guide from Visit Antwerp who told us about the history of the city and presented some of the local specialities. We also explored on our own in search of more foodie options as we love to eat our way around a new city. So, here is our Antwerp food guide which you can do on our own, or with a local guide.
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The Antwerpse Handjes are one of the most well-known products in Antwerp. You can call them Antwerp hands, and they are usually made of biscuit or chocolate. The traditional biscuit is made of sanddough with almonds and the chocolate version is usually made with milk chocolate. Luckily, there are some dark chocolate versions as well. They are filled with marzipan and Elixir d’Anvers. The hand refers to the legend of the giant who demanded a toll from all ships which moored in the port. If they refused to pay, their hand would be cut off. Legend has it that a brave Roman captain, Brabo, challenged the giant, defeated him, cut off his hand and threw it in the river.
A little morbid story which sure created a lot of sweet results.
We enjoyed our Antwerp Handjes in Elisa (Grote Markt 2, Maalderijstraat 1, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium)
Elixir d’Anvers has been awarded dozens of medals and certificate of honours all around the world. Elixir d’Anvers is prepared according to a local, traditional recipe which gives the liquor a special and unique flavour and taste. Be sure to slowly sip it and taste it nicely. When we had ours, we thought we should down it, like any other liquor we had before. This is not the Belgian way.
Elixir d’Anvers was created in 1863.
The Cuberdon, also known as the Gentse neus (because it resembles a nose) is a typical Flemish sweet which you can taste in Antwerp. The ideal way to enjoy a Cuberdon is fresh as otherwise, its shell becomes too crispy. The traditional cuberdon is purple and raspberry flavoured although nowadays you can find an array of flavours and colours.
Most people associate fries with France (French fries) however the origins of fries can be traced back to Belgium. It is believed the name of "French Fries" was given by American soldiers during WWII because they were positioned in the French-speaking part of Belgium. Belgium introduced the fried potatoes in the late 17th century. The Belgians are peculiar about their fries as the perfect frites are known to be one centimetre thick and be fried twice. Vegan tip: Know that traditionally, fries are cooked in animal fat, so before you order your portion, make sure to ask if they are done in oil. Belgian fries almost always come with a sauce, and it's more often than not mayonnaise. You can, of course, skip the topping if you wish.
Eating Belgian truffles is one of the best things about visiting Antwerp. The centre of the city is home to so many skilled chocolatiers, it's incredible. And that makes it hard to decide where to go and buy your truffles from. Well, we decided to simply visit all of them. Seriously, we went from chocolate shop to chocolate shop and purchased small samples to taste them all. To this day, our favourite shop was Nello.
You can visit Nello on Handschoenmarkt 10, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium.
Speculoos is a type of shortcrust biscuits, usually baked before St Nicholas on December 6th. Nowadays, you can buy them all year around and they are thin and crispy. Before winter, some are baked very big with beautiful stamps on the front side. Traditionally, these biscuits are made with butter, milk and egg so they are not suitable for vegans.
I bet you wouldn't ever think of associating Antwerp with coffee, but the reality is, this city is perfect for coffee lovers. The port of Antwerp has been a major hub for centuries now. You can have a chat with different baristas and they will tell you all about the way they source their coffee. You will find an incredible array of coffee shops and you can even have your own blend roasted at Jespers at Oever 16.
For lunch, we had an amazing vegan burger at the Greenway in Antwerp. Prices were good and the service was excellent. We strongly recommend the food there, especially if you fancy vegan or vegetarian options.
Groenplaats 6, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
Dinner in Antwerp
Debroers van Julienne is the restaurant we want to recommend for dinner. They have an array of vegan and vegetarian options as well as some seafood dishes for pescatarians. We ordered several courses as we wanted to truly experience a fine dinner in Antwerp. We recommend the gin-based cocktails (very well made) and the croûte dish. The dishes are simple but delicious.
Kasteelpleinstraat 45-47, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium
For lunch we also recommend Backyard. Backyard has a variety of nice cocktails and salads. We recommend the falafel to start with and a vegan burger which is nice. Remember to check the salads don't come with boiled eggs if you are vegan. If you fancy a standard dish, Backyard serves bistro meals as well for non-vegetarians.
Grote Markt 52, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
Bolleke comes from the shape of the glass you get to sip your Belgian beer from. Tripel d’Anvers is a real Belgian triple which we drank and really liked. It was by far our favourite from all the beers we tried in Antwerp. It is quite a bold beer though with a full-bodied aftertaste. I even had it in my hotel room.
You can't go to Belgium and not enjoy waffles...unless you are vegan that is. Sadly, these fluffy desserts are made with butter, milk and eggs so we couldn't indulge. But we know many of you might want to try them anyway. I was so inspired by Belgian waffles that we purchased our own waffle maker to make vegan matcha waffles. In Belgium, waffles are served as street food, with powdered sugar and even cream on top. Belgian waffles were invented in Ghent in 1939.
Belgian endives are usually eaten raw but some recipes called for braised endives. This is something I used to eat as a child and still crave the taste. We recommend ordering Belgian endives when in Antwerp. They just taste very nice and it's full of vitamins.
Don't just stop at truffles, eat as much chocolate as you can. Antwerp has so many great shops established by talented chocolatiers. I'm going to leave you with some chocolate pictures to pursue you to visit Antwerp and indulge in the nicest guilty pleasure ever.
Are you ready to visit Antwerp? Will you eat Belgian truffles first, or sit down and relax with a proper Belgian beer? Let us know in the comments section below.
Thank you Visit Flanders for organising our stay in Antwerp. We loved your city and very much enjoyed the local delicacies. As always, thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own.
Where to stay in Antwerp
Antwerp is a lovely historical city north of Brussels. There are a large number of high quality, luxury accommodations available. We have pick 3 below based on style and distance from the centre.