Sometimes we need to just step back and get away from our daily routine to recharge our batteries. A weekend getaway vacation is a perfect way to do that. Where can you go though…some place close enough that it only takes a couple hours at most to travel there, but far enough away that you get that glorious disconnect from “home”.
My pick of the day… or should I say weekend is…Antwerp, Belgium. Why Antwerp you ask? Well, the answer is easy; it fills all the requirements for a weekend getaway destination. It’s only a couple of hours away from most places in Europe, it’s a lively and energetic place to visit, and it is somewhere totally different than “home”, wherever that may be.
When you’ve just got two days, you need to do a little planning. First is getting to Antwerp. The least stressful and possibly quickest way to get there, especially if you’re coming from the UK is to take the Eurostar train from London St. Pancras International directly to Antwerp. The door-to-door trip will take you only about 3 hours, during which time you can sit back and relax on the train. There’s no stress to deal with when you travel by train vs. flying and all the silly antics we have to go through to board an airplane these days.
If you’ve booked your hotel in advance, you can quickly drop off your bags and step out to enjoy the city right away. If you’re wondering where you can stay that’s within walking distance of the station, I’d suggest some place like the Astoria Hotel on Korte Herentalsestraat 5. It’s one street away from the central train station, and smack in the middle of the city. You get clean quiet rooms for an excellent price, and everything from the Stadspark to shopping is literally right on the doorstep.
Things to see and do
Antwerp has a lot going on, so you will have to do a little pick and choose. One of my favourite places to go is the Diamond Museum. It doesn’t take long to tour through, but in that hour or so you spend here, you will get to see some really amazing diamond encrusted treasures. For shopping I’d recommend you wander along the Meir. To say this street is crammed with shops doesn’t do it justice. There are shops here covering everything you could possibly want from designer shoes and handbags to gadgets and toys.
When dinner time rolls around, you have a wealth of choices before you. You can have a snack like a traditional Belgian waffle heaped with fruit, chocolate and whipped cream, or you can dress up a little and go for a relaxing and elegant meal at a place like ‘t Fornuis.
Sunday morning is great for a lie-in, but you could be missing out. If you get up and wander down to the Lijnwaadmarkt where you can browse what is probably one of the biggest collections of antiques on sale you’ve ever seen in one place.
Antwerp has the potential to be one of your favourite destinations in Europe; I know it’s in my top 10.