Whether you’re looking for a classic locals’ hangout, with original 1920s decor, or a vaulted brick cellar lit by flickering candlelight, Antwerp’s bars have it all. These are some of the most characterful places in the city to enjoy a Belgian beer.
Though unassuming from the outside, Antwerp’s Kulminator pub is widely regarded as the headquarters of Belgian beer. You can choose from a menu of over 600 brews, including rarities that have been cellared for 30 years or more.
You may need to be patient. Like many Flemish bars, service can be ‘quirky’. Your order will be taken when the landlord is ready to serve you, and not before.
Oud Arsenaal opened in 1929, and its Art Deco interior has barely changed since. Sometimes it seems as if the bar’s regular customers have been there from day one, too.
To step back from the hustle and bustle of the city, head for the peaceful interior courtyard at the Groote Witte Arend.
Breweries and brewpubs
Ask for a bolleke in any Antwerp bar and the staff will know what you want. This refreshing De Koninck amber ale has been brewed in the city since 1833. You can take an interactive tour of the brewery to learn how it’s made – and try a sample, of course.
Just south of the city centre, ‘t Pakhuis has been an Antwerp brewpub for a relatively modest 20 years. But age isn’t everything: its Belgian-style ales are just as tasty as De Koninck’s.
It isn’t all about beer
Once you’ve had your fill of beer, you may want to visit De Vagant, a central café with a range of over 200 jenevers (Belgian gins) and liqueurs.
The Iberian-influenced Negen Vaten does indeed have ‘nine barrels’, as its Flemish name implies. In this tapas-themed bar and restaurant, rare ports and sherries are dispensed straight from the wood. And when it’s time to call it a night, you can roll into an Antwerp hotel.