A Is for Antwerp

by Susan Barnes

Nov 1, 2016
November 2016

Known as “The Little Island,” the Eilandje neighborhood is one of the oldest ports within Antwerp, Belgium, its history dating back to around 1540. Over the centuries, the area’s popularity waxed and waned, but today The Eilandje is back on the map and thriving.

Two museums of note anchor The Eilandje: the Museum Aan de Stroom (better known as MAS) and the Red Star Line Museum. Resembling building blocks carefully stacked atop one another, MAS towers over the neighborhood and tells the story of Antwerp and its place in the world, as well as the world’s place within Antwerp. From the museum’s rooftop enjoy sweeping 360-degree views of the city at Restaurant ’t Zilte, overseen by two- Michelin-star chef Viki Geunes, or bring a picnic and casually sip and savor from a blanket.

Nearby, the Red Star Line Museum tells the stories of the 2 million passengers who emigrated from Antwerp to North America between 1873 and 1934 aboard the shipping line’s ocean steamers. During a visit to the museum, join the passengers on their journeys from their native villages to the New World.

Aside from the museums, The Eilandje offers plenty of spots to enjoy the neighborhood, whether over a meal or cup of coffee. The new Otomat boasts some of the best pizza outside of Brooklyn. Or head to Felixpakhuis, Lux, Marcel, Mon, Pazzo or Restaurant B23 — all offering an array of flavors through their tantalizing menus. Hip coffee shops in The Eilandje include Kolombo, Taeymans Espressobar Antwerp and Broer Bretel (try the apple, fennel and parsley iced tea on a warm day). Grab a cup and a seat outside and watch the neighborhood happenings pass by.

Known as a market town, Antwerp boasts a long tradition of open-air markets and hosts weekly, monthly and annual markets. Check out the Bio Market on Sundays in The Eilandje, featuring organically certified items and products with bio-quality labels — the perfect place to pick up a few picnic items and enjoy a meal alfresco in this historic port neighborhood.

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