A longtime favourite among Antwerp’s musically inclined, De Muze (‘The Muse’) is Antwerp’s resident landmark for live jazz. By now, it has become near impossible to name an established Belgian name that hasn’t played the café, intimate as it is with its warm wood, exposed brick and maze-like three floors with lots of snug corners and alcoves. However, in January 2017, locals held their heart for a second when the previous owner had to declare bankruptcy, but the anxiety was short-lived. No less than two months later, a veteran bartender had taken over the place, and jazz once again floated through the windows of De Muze and onto the Melkmarkt square.
De Muze, Melkmarkt 15, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium, +32 3 226 01 26
A couple of steps across from the Museum of Fine Arts, Hopper on Het Zuid breathes jazz. Besides the dependable soothing soundscape that accompanies a glass of whiskey at the artist café, free concerts take place every Sunday afternoon at six and Monday evening at nine. Bonafide musicians and other local celebrities periodically show up to join in on ‘Hopper Jam’ on Tuesdays (from October to April), or just to sip a drink on the sprawling terrace.
Referred to by locals as ‘Den Hopper’, the classic café’s interior was designed with the works of Edward Hopper in mind. The schedule is a pleasant mix of promising young talent and established greats of the genre – Den Hopper has seen performances by everyone from Nat Adderley and Lee Konitz to Belgium’s own Toots Thielemans – and you can keep an eye on it here.
Hopper, Leopold de Waelstraat 2, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium, +32 3 248 49 33
Kid’s Rhythm ‘n’ Blues Kaffee
This jovial American-style bar on Antwerp’s historic Grote Markt has been a champion of the blues for the past two decades. Kid’s Rhythm ‘n’ Blues Kaffee – Kid’s for short – dabbles in the heavier metal and rock stuff on Thursdays, but Wednesdays and Fridays are for the blues. Local musicians are let loose from 9 pm onwards during Wednesday’s open Jam Club, and Fridays kick the weekend off with free concerts by cover bands and blues bands. Liquor comes fairly cheap; the pool table bathes in broody red lighting, and the dance floor is often buzzing until the wee hours. Keep up with Kid’s schedule here.
Kid’s Rhythm ‘n’ Blues Kaffee, Grote Markt 50, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium, +32 3 289 05 79
Probably the brownest and at the same time hippest bar on the Dageraadplaats – and that’s saying a lot for one of Antwerp’s liveliest squares – Zeezicht attracts a mixed crowd of bohemians, young families, intellectuals and artists. The spacious, 40-year-old corner bar with grandma wallpaper has a rich tradition of live music. Currently, the venue schedules musical acts for every second and fourth Sunday of the month during September and May, ranging from fusion jazz soloists to fresh-faced sextets and the occasional rock band.
Zeezicht, Dageraadplaats 7-8, 2018 Antwerp, Belgium, +32 3 235 10 65
Crossroads is one of those rare brown bars where the young and old and locals and backpackers are happy to mix, talk and make new friends. The backdrop to all of this conviviality is a spacious interior, located behind a flaming red façade, filled with pool tables, dartboards and above all, lots of blues. Owners Jan and Suzy book the biggest Belgian names in the genre and American bands by the dozen who will often make ‘Bluesin’ The Way To Your Soul’ Crossroads their only stop in the country. Add to that a good pint for under two euros, and you’ve got yourself a favoured local hangout. Check out the calendar on their active Facebook page.
Crossroads Café, Paardenmarkt 115, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium, +32 3 231 52 66
For the true jazz aficionado, there’s always the option of having your trip coincide with Jazz Middelheim. The four-day festival in the romantic gardens of Antwerp’s Den Brandt Castle has grown into one of Europe’s most pleasant gatherings of jazz cats and never fails to deliver living legends in the mode of Charles Lloyd, Randy Weston and Van Morrison.