My first week as an expat in Antwerp

The idea of living abroad is a desire for many, being able to start all over again is tempting and sometimes impossible, but 1% doesn’t mean zero, right?

I remember that during my teenagerhood I wished to connect with every person in the world. I wanted to be many, but still being myself, I wanted to live the fullest of each “world”. Belgium, and more particular Antwerp, opened its door to accomplish this first step. So if you are feeling just like I used to feel, full of expectations, afraid, excited and most of all ready to experience, hold my hand and let’s take a look around and find the benefits and wonders of living in Antwerp.

First of all, let’s mention that it’s quite hard to be unhappy in a place where chocolates, waffles, and fries are specialties, right? 

My first week as an expat in Antwerp

Fantastic new friends, beers, and places

Every situation is unusual, everything is new, and Antwerp is part of this list. Luckily, the massive range of great beers and delicious Belgian chocolates are great allies in stressful times, as is the city itself. Its landscape is full of small treasures, which often helps to bring a smile to my lips when I’m walking down the street.  

What to expect ?

As a foreigner/expat, you will not feel uncomfortable or out of the box moving to Antwerp. It is the second-most populous city in Belgium and it holds a very multicultural population. In my first week, it helped me a lot, since you will see different races and meet people from everywhere. It gives you the feeling that the place perfectly knows how to deal with foreigners. Also, most of the people speak English, which greatly facilitates communication. 

Due to its diversity, you can find a very active cultural scene. With several large annual music festivals, lots of theaters, performance venues … it makes that there are a lot of things to do. Antwerp has several markets with at least one open on each day of the week. At these markets, you will find foodstuffs from all over the world, which facilitated me to feel more at ease right after moving.

A very manageable city

Antwerp is a very manageable city: it’s quite small by international standards, meaning you can traverse it quite easily (even by bike). It’s a charming city to live in because it doesn’t feel like an overly populated metropole, but it does have all the big city amenities. Another good point about Antwerp is that it’s easy to get away from the city and go into nature. Perfect if you need a break from the bustle and the noise. Nature Parcs like “Kalmthoutse Heide” or “Sint-Annabos” are just half an hour away by public transport!

My first week as an expat in Antwerp

The atmosphere

The atmosphere in Antwerp is one of enjoyment and relaxation. It’s hard to describe, you might not feel it if you only stay for a weekend, but if you stay for a while, it will get under your skin.

You’ll find a lot of avant-garde fashion, street food, modernist design stores, concept pop-ups.

I can’t forget to mention that an excellent big point about Antwerp is that you will make a lot of local friends as well as expat friends and feel part of the community

The city enchanted me, changed the way I used to see things and gave me incredible new experiences that only life away from our country can provide us with.    

You will love Antwerp just as I do

Antwerp is a wonderful city that has everything one could want. There’s a number of museums, tons of culture, big nightlife, the cost of living is quite low (as far as I’m concerned), it’s very international, it’s a cinch to travel around (in the city, country, and continent!), it’s just a great place!

If you want to know more about Antwerp and already create some good connections, make friends and be aware of the events, we highly recommend you to visit theNessacity Blog“.

My first week as an expat in Antwerp

“ What can I do during my first week there?”

In case you don’t know what is waiting for you, let me introduce you to the wonders in Antwerp. Afterwards, you can come and see them with your own eyes.

Let’s start ! 

Central Station

Antwerp’s central station is the most beautiful railway station I have ever seen. It looks like a palace, and it reminded me a lot about Harry Potter’s railway station. I could stand there for a long time watching the structure, the architecture, the props, and the way the platforms are organized. The platforms are divided into different floors, one on top of the other! It was built in the early twentieth century, and it’s completely adorned. 

Jewelry stores

In front of the glorious railway station, you’ll find several jewelry stores. I got excited and had to have a look at all the different sorts of jewelry. 

Unfortunately, the reputation of the city makes that prices are higher than elsewhere. There is even a museum dedicated to all the different sorts of jewelry. The best part? You can visit it, it’s called Diamantmuseum”. Perfect if you’re into gemstones!

Meir Street

I’m sure you’ll want to peek into the different shop windows! Head to the Historical Center of the Meir, the main shopping street can be found there. It ranges from simple local shops to big brands, restaurants, and bars.

You’ll find incredible historical builds and experience an enjoyable atmosphere. It’s one of my favorite places ever, it’s a great place to spend your weekend and there are a lot of things to do.

Grote Markt

Grote Markt, the central square where most of the city’s main buildings are located: the 1565 flamenco-style prefecture with sculptures and the Brabo statue. The statue represents a local legend about a hero who defeated a giant that obliged people to pay toll when they wanted to cross the river. You will also see the Gildenhuis, a group of colorful little houses typical of this region.

Around the square, there are several cafes and restaurants. Perfect to have your lunch or have one of the famous local drinks, after all, you’ll be in the land with the best beers in the world! Another option is to go to Fritkot Max, they serve the most famous French fries in town. Belgians believe the dish was first created there!

Last but not least

Here is a small list of things and facilities you would enjoy and love about living in Antwerp.
  • Parks
  • The Netherlands, Ghent, Brussels, and Hasselt are just a day trip away!
  • Great fashion city
  • The river Scheldt has its charm
  • Great patisserie and meat products
  • China Town
  • Great view, for free, over the city from the roof of the MAS (Museum Aan de Stroom)
  • Good bookshops/libraries
  • A lot of day and night shops
  • Convenient public transport
  • Everything is nearby
  • Great restaurants

If you want to know more about Antwerp and already create some good connections, we highly recommend you to join the Expats in Antwerp Facebook group!