Antwerp boasts a number of market squares and shopping zones, mostly car-free, making your time here more enjoyable. Some of these pedestrian-friendly areas include the Historic Center, Meir Street, the Quartier Latin, De Wilde Zee, and the Fashion District.

The Historic Center and Grote Markt

In the city’s Historic Center, you’ll find Grote Markt, the main market square and site of several notable landmarks:

  • Guild Houses: These medieval guild houses include the house of the Oude Voetboog (Old Archers Guild), topped by an equestrian statue of St George.
  • Stadhuis (City Hall): Built in the 16th century, this impressive structure dominates one side of the square.
  • Brabo Fountain: Created by sculptor Jeff Lambeaux in the 19th century, this fountain stands at the center of Grote Markt. Lambeaux is also known for his statue of the builders outside Antwerp Cathedral.

In keeping with its history as a market square, Grote Markt hosts the Rubensmarkt, a festive market held each year in August when merchants and vendors dress in 16th/17th-century fashions.


Another market you might stumble upon nearby is the Vrijdagmarkt, an antique auction held every Vrijdag (Friday) in the aptly named Vrijdagmarkt square.

Meir Street and the Stadsfeestzaal

Walking east from Grote Markt, you’ll come to Meir, considered to be the busiest shopping street in Antwerp. It’s lined with a mix of designer boutiques, trendy chain stores, and attractive architecture. Here, you’ll find one of the most interesting shopping centers, the Stadsfeestzaal.

The Stadsfeestzaal

Built as a banquet and exhibition hall at the turn of the 20th century and rebuilt following a disastrous fire at the turn of the 21st century, this elegant ‘city party hall’ reopened in 2007 as a shopping center. Though suffering from the effects of the recent financial crisis to hit Belgium, the Stadsfeestzaal is worth a short visit just to look around. There are two entrances to the Stadsfeestzaal:

  • Meir 78
  • Hopland 31 (one street down from the Rubens House)

Paleis op de Meir and The Chocolate Line

Meir is also where you’ll see the 18th-century Paleis op de Meir, former palace for the likes of Napoleon and the Belgian Royals. It’s currently the location of The Chocolate Line shop and factory, where you can indulge in some of Belgium’s famous chocolates.

Quartier Latin and the Toneelhuis

Head south of Meir to the Quartier Latin, or Latin Quarter, known for fashion and theater. Here, you’ll find a number of designer boutiques and the eye-catching Toneelhuis.

The Toneelhuis (Bourla Theater)

Inaugurated in 1834 as the Théâtre Royal Français, this classical structure is nicknamed the Bourla Theater, after architect Pierre Bruno Bourla. Housed in the circular foyer of the building is the spectacular restaurant Brasserie De Foyer. Het Toneelhuis and Brasserie De Foyer are located at Komedieplaats 18.

De Wilde Zee Neighborhood

West of the Latin Quarter lies the De Wilde Zee neighborhood, centered around a radial of 5 car-free streets. Here, you’ll come across shops and boutiques for fashion and fashion accessories as well as designer accessories for the home. De Wilde Zee is within a 5-minute walk from our recommended hotel (Banks).

The Antwerp Fashion District

Continuing west toward the river and the neighborhood surrounding the Hotel Banks, you’ll enter the Antwerp Fashion District. This area is home to several fashion-related institutions:

  • Fashion Academy
  • Flanders Fashion Institute (FFI)
  • Fashion Museum (MOMU)

On your walk through these streets, you may see designer fashion houses such as the historical Het Modepaleis, a former department store now featuring the fashions of local designer Dries van Noten.

Additional Information

  • Antwerp is known as the “Capital of Cool” due to its trendsetting fashion scene and vibrant cultural life.
  • The city has been an important center for trade and commerce since the Middle Ages, thanks to its strategic location on the River Scheldt.
  • Antwerp is the world’s largest diamond trading hub, with a history in the diamond industry dating back to the 15th century.
  • The city is home to several world-renowned fashion designers, including Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, and Dirk Bikkembergs.
  • Antwerp’s culinary scene is also noteworthy, with a wide variety of restaurants offering everything from traditional Belgian fare to international cuisine.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Wear comfortable shoes, as the best way to explore Antwerp’s market squares and shopping zones is on foot.
  • If you’re interested in fashion, consider visiting during the Antwerp Fashion Weekend, which takes place twice a year (usually in March and September).
  • Many shops and restaurants in Antwerp accept credit cards, but it’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand for smaller purchases or markets.
  • If you’re looking for a unique souvenir, consider purchasing some Antwerp-crafted chocolate, diamonds, or fashion items.
  • To fully appreciate the city’s architectural beauty, don’t forget to look up as you’re walking through the streets – many buildings have intricate details and decorations on their upper floors.

A City of Contrasts

Antwerp seamlessly blends old and new, with historic buildings and modern architecture coexisting in perfect harmony. This contrast is particularly evident in the city’s market squares and shopping zones, where centuries-old guildhalls stand alongside cutting-edge fashion boutiques.

As you explore these areas, you’ll discover a city that is proud of its past but also eager to embrace the future. From the traditional craftsmanship of the Vrijdagmarkt antique market to the innovative designs on display in the Fashion District, Antwerp has something to offer every type of traveler.

A Shopper’s Paradise

Whether you’re a die-hard fashionista or simply enjoy browsing for unique finds, Antwerp’s shopping scene is sure to impress. The city’s compact size and car-free zones make it easy to explore on foot, allowing you to discover hidden gems and local favorites alongside international brands.

Along With fashion, Antwerp is known for its high-quality chocolate and diamonds. Be sure to visit some of the city’s renowned chocolatiers and diamond shops to see these luxurious goods firsthand and perhaps take home a special treat or souvenir.

A Feast for the Senses

As you wander through Antwerp’s market squares and shopping zones, take a moment to appreciate the sensory delights around you. The aroma of freshly baked waffles and chocolates wafts from cafes and shops, while the sound of laughter and conversation fills the air.

The sight of beautifully displayed merchandise in shop windows and the feel of cobblestones beneath your feet all add to the immersive experience of exploring this captivating city. Whether you’re admiring the intricate architecture of the guildhalls in Grote Markt or people-watching from a cafe terrace on Meir, Antwerp is sure to leave a lasting impression on all your senses.

Antwerp’s market squares and shopping zones offer a delightful mix of history, culture, and commerce. By exploring these areas, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the city’s rich past and vibrant present, all while indulging in some world-class shopping and dining. So put on your walking shoes, grab a map, and get ready to discover the many charms of this fascinating Belgian city.

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