Antwerp, Belgium is an incredibly interesting city. I know several people who had been there and every single one of them told me that they couldn’t wait to go back someday. I was jealous of their experiences, but that was mostly because I had never been there before. This is the place where the first printed newspaper in history was published more than 400 years ago. This is a place with a world-renowned arts academy. There was a lot to see in Antwerp, and one day I somehow encountered a situation where I could spend 24 hours there. The only potential obstacle was that in order to fill the suddenly open seat on a charter flight, I had to have a confirmed hotel room in Antwerp. The flight was leaving soon, so that basically left me with 5 minutes to find something and get that ride.
I pulled out my phone and searched apps for something that could help with last-minute hotel room rentals. I found one called HotelTonight and opened it. I was quite impressed with the number of choices my search for Antwerp hotels returned. I was also impressed by the fact that the hotels that were available were quite nice and the rates were quite reasonable. Now came the booking process, which in my experience in other settings had not been positive in general. That was not the case with HotelTonight, though – I had my room reserved and confirmed within seconds. I could not believe the speed with which I had accomplished this task. I was going to Antwerp, and I had 24 hours to explore it unfettered. All I needed to do now was come up with a plan regarding where I was going to go and what I was going to see while I was there.
There’s no better place to start a visit to an historic city than in a part of town known as the Old City. This is a part of town that is aptly named. There are churches and belfries everywhere, and the people are walking around just going through their routines, seemingly not even noticing the beauty of what surrounds them. I guess that’s one of the gifts of living here – you get used to all of these architectural wonders. I talked to a few people who were out and about, and they could not have been friendlier or more helpful when I asked them about how I should spend the rest of my day.
My next stop was in the Diamond District, as Antwerp is known by many around the world as the capital for diamonds. I can see why as I walk through this part of town, as there are literally hundreds of jewelers and other businesses related to diamonds that fill this district. If there was ever a place to window-shop, this was it. I realized at this point that I was also getting a bit tired, so I found a cafe nearby and enjoyed a nice cup of coffee with some tasty snacks. It was the perfect break in a day that was already shaping up to be spectacular.
When you come to Antwerp, Belgium and one of the places people tell you to see is a place called Chinatown, you know that this is a culture that has achieved worldwide reach. This is a relatively new Chinatown, in that it was officially recognized in 2001. However, people have been settling here for at least 40 years. One of the nice things about this part of town was that I was here during lunchtime, so I got to feast on some absolutely delicious food. I was hungry, but not after that stop. I was now ready to enjoy the afternoon.
Het Zuid was a great place to start the afternoon. This was a neighborhood that at one time was one visitors would likely have wanted to avoid. However, it’s come a long way in a relatively short amount of time, and it’s also home to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts. Thankfully, it’s also home to quite a few shops that are upscale in nature, so I walked through a bunch of them and picked up a clutch of gifts for the people in my life. They were not going to believe what I did when I get home and tell them about my trip to Antwerp.
My final stop of the day was in the Port of Antwerp. There were a lot of old warehouses here that have since been converted to more modern businesses and the like, and it was clearly a place where there was a lot of nightlife. I just wanted dinner, though, and I was told about a place that served hutsepot, which is sort of a Belgian stew, that was the best in the city. I had no point of reference of course, but I believed them when I tasted it. My dinner was fantastic and authentic.
As I made my way back to my hotel, I thought about what a crazy and great day it had been. I still couldn’t believe that I had pulled this off. However, I needed to be honest with myself in that without HotelTonight finding me a hotel room in Antwerp in seconds, this day would have never happened. I looked forward to a nice night of sleep and to traveling in the future with HotelTonight.