Belgian architect and designer Vincent Van Duysen shares his tops spots for shopping and dining
FOOD AND DRINK
With a relaxed atmosphere and simple cuisine, on Lombardenvest is a great spot for lunch - it's also well located for the fashion district. If we have a lot of work on, however, we will order a takeaway from just down the street, and right next door to my office. Close to home, a favourite for a casual dinner is on Kasteelpleinstraat, where the food has a fresh, Mediterranean focus. On Sunday nights, I order a takeaway from , the best Japanese restaurant in town and, sticking with the oriental theme, Michelin-starred on Reyndetraat has simple, pared-back interiors and exquisite Chinese food. Be sure to book, though, as it's extremely popular. You can't visit the city without trying Antwerpse handjes - regional biscuits made in the shape of a hand - and Belgian chocolate; on Korte Gasthuisstraat makes the best handjes. If we have visitors, we take them to Sweertvaegher on Groendalstraat, a celebrated chocolate shop. , in the Muntstraat, is the perfect place to recharge after a day of exploring. The striking, red sandstone and glass structure of the is one of the city's architectural highlights.
is a one-stop concept store for fashion, design, art and food, set within a beautiful town house overlooking a tranquil square. Owners Tim Van Geloven and Ilse Cornelissens commissioned my studio to redefine the space and incorporate a gallery, restaurant, boutique and, on the top floor, an apartment for six people that can be rented. The boutique sells a curated selection of clothing, shoes, accessories and beauty products, while the restaurant is a wonderful spot for lunch or dinner. on Steenhouwersvest is a favourite of mine for simple, handmade homeware. on Kloosterstraat is another interesting shop that concentrates on nostalgic design. There is a wide selection of fashion and interiors pieces on offer, products by Aesop, my favourite brand for skin and body care. For books on architecture, fashion and the visual arts, I head to nearby in ModeMuseum's building. I'm an ardent admirer and good friends with the Belgian fashion designers and , two of the so-called Antwerp Six (graduates of the Antwerp Academy of Fine Arts who took the fashion world by storm in the Eighties). Their shops on Nationalestraat and in Leopold de Waelplaats respectively are not to be missed. On Lombardenstraat, Louis is perhaps the best store in town for Belgian and international fashion collections. There are some groundbreaking modern art galleries in Antwerp. Personal favourites include: Vlaeykensgang in Oude Koornmarkt, a unique space for contemporary artists; and , a 20-minute drive away. Zeno X is a bit of a landmark in the art world, showcasing the work of artists who were born or are based in Belgium, including Luc Tuymans, Michaël Borremans, Dirk Braeckman and Kees Goudzwaard.
A discreet, sixteenth-century town house in the heart of Antwerp's historical centre is the setting for elegant , which, despite opening some 16 years ago, is still the best boutique hotel in town. Its original features - oak floors, wrought iron balustrades, high ceilings and open courtyard - provide the backdrop to a mix of mid-century and modern furniture. There's a past- meets-present feel to the public spaces and 21 bedrooms, and from the rooftop terrace, the views of the cathedral are spectacular. After a long day out and about you can take advantage of the little spa in the old cellar. Double rooms start at €179. offers fares from London St Pancras to Antwerp from £69 return with an 'Any Belgian Station' ticket.
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