Antwerp-based and Antwerp-headed bookworms rejoice: upon closer inspection, this Belgian port city is found to be filled with charming homes for the literary-inclined mind. Old World antiquarians, snug libraries that double as coffee bars and Flanders’ only gay bookshop are just a couple of 10 diverse independents making Antwerp a better place.
For a lot of us, books and hot beverages go together like butter and toast, and Kim Hertogs agrees. The Belgian actress opened up the snug Buchbar in hip neighbourhood Het Zuid to combine quality titles with quality beans. The German name of her snug bookshop/coffee bar – with tranquil reading nook – refers to the inspiration Hertogs found in Berlin’s sea of concept stores.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
A house of books that inspires reverence, René’s Franken’s shop inside a 14th-century building on the literary-themed Hendrik Conscienceplein square is an Antwerp treasure. His antiquarian and second-hand store Demian Books has existed for two decades, but only came to share a wall with the magnificent St. Charles Borromeo Church seven years ago. It’s an idyllic location that matches the ancient character of the shop splendidly. René specialises in both modern and classic novels, art and philosophy in Dutch, English, French and German, and has long been running a small publishing house on the side as well. Quaint wooden staircase and impeccable taste included, Demian Books is the answer to a bibliophile’s prayers.
Similar to many Antwerp locals, Copyright has an eye for aesthetics. The bookstore on shopping lane Nationalestraat focuses on art and design from an international point of view. Oeuvre retrospectives of visual artists, renowned architecture magazines and other great coffee table fare make up the bulk of Copyright’s stock; it’s a bounty too good to ignore, especially given the shop’s large, enticing window display. A must for the lover of beautiful things.
’t Stad Leest
’t Stad Leest is intent on supplying city folk with reading fodder galore, and it certainly has the floorspace to make it happen. Underneath strings of fairy lights, cookbooks, travel books, DIY notebooks and top 10 fiction novels all get their time in the sun. The same goes for children’s literature and picture books, which are given their own corner that includes whimsical mushroom poufs. Speaking of whimsey, there’s incredible amounts of it to be found in Wunderkammer, the gift shop across the street (soon moving to a bigger place around the corner) run by ’t Stad Leest owners Sofie and Wouter.
De Groene Waterman
Located in one of the cobbled backstreets in the historic town core, De Groene Waterman is engaged as can be. Besides bestsellers, the Antwerp fixture presents a whole array of philosophical and historical works, often from an international perspective. The Groene Waterman team can always be counted on to keep a keen eye on current affairs and carefully curates their selection as a result. The downstairs cellar forms a snug venue for many readings and other literary-themed get-togethers.
There’s something about an actual, physical travel store that has the potential to wake up slumbering wanderlust like nothing else. Alta Via on dockside neighbourhood Het Eilandje is one of those. Overflowing with globes, gorgeous maps and travel books covering unexpected nooks and crannies of the earth, Dirk Van den Berghe’s shop is a journey of the world unto its own. A seat at the wooden reading table, a cup of joe made on the spot and a talk with Dirk about his obscure favourites are a recipe for an afternoon filled with wanderlust bliss.
Erik Tonen Books
The other Antwerp antiquarian that comes heartily recommended is Erik Tonen’s shop in the Kloosterstraat. Sitting snug and unassuming between the avenue’s many second-hand shops and furniture stores, Erik Tonen Books fills the nostrils with that unbeatable fragrance of old pages known all too well by the dedicated bookworm. Rare art books and gems that have seen numerous previous lives are Tonen’s specialties.
The undeniable comic book temple of Antwerp, if not Belgium. When Mekanik Strip got put up for sale a few years ago, graphic novel enthusiasts from all over the country breathed a sigh of relief when the young local couple who took over the 30-year-old speciality store vowed to preserve its colourful character. The walls are still packed ceiling-high with European and American comic series, the figurine collectibles are still in large supply and the passion for this specific type of literature still radiates from every jam-packed nook and cranny in the place. The first floor even boasts a gallery dedicated to lesser-known artists that owners Jens and Kim feel are worth discovering.
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