Antwerp is as lively after dark as it is busy during the day. To check what's going on while you're in the city, pick up a copy of Antwerpen, a monthly publication available at the tourist office. You can get information about and purchase tickets for concerts, theater, and other cultural events from Prospekta, Grote Markt 13, 2000 Antwerpen (tel. 03/203-95-85; fax 03/203-95-97; www.prospekta.be). The desk is in the same building as Antwerp tourist office's main office and is open the same hours.
Main entertainment areas are Grote Markt and Groenplaats, which both contain concentrations of bars, cafes, and theaters; High Town (Hoogstraat, Pelgrimstraat, Pieter Potstraat, and vicinity) for jazz clubs and bistros; Stadswaag for jazz and punk; and the Centraal Station area for discos, nightclubs, and gay bars. The red-light district here, concentrated in Riverside Quarter, is much seedier and less tourist-oriented than the one that's a big visitor attraction just a few hours drive up the road in Amsterdam, in neighboring Holland.
The Performing Arts
Antwerp takes pride in being a citadel of Flemish culture. Two of the region's stellar companies are based here: the Vlaamse Opera (Flanders Opera), Frankrijklei 3 (tel. 03/233-66-85), and the Koninklijk Ballet van Vlaanderen (Royal Flanders Ballet), Kattendijkdok-Westkaai 16 (tel. 03/234-34-38).
To house its vibrant cultural life, the city has no shortage of performance venues. Top of the line for theater and classical music is the Stadsschouwburg, Theaterplein 1 (tel. 03/227-03-06). For music and ballet, there's the classically orientated Koningin Elisabethzaal, Koningin Astridplein 23-24 (tel. 03/203-56-00); and the more modernist deSingel, Desguinlei 25 (tel. 03/248-28-28).
Antwerp has more theaters than any other Flemish city, as well as two excellent theater companies: Jeugdtheater and KNS, the Royal Flemish Theater. Though most plays are in Dutch, you can often understand the plot regardless of language difficulties, and the quality of these shows merits attendance. For current information and reservations, contact the Cultural Information Desk, Grote Markt 40 (tel. 03/220-81-11).
The Belgian Muppets--Take the kids to the delightful Van Campen Royal Puppet Theater, Lange Nieuwstraat 3 (tel. 03/237-37-16), where the plot lines are always easy to understand (even if the language isn't).
Along De Keyserlei and its side streets, there's a conglomeration of disco and strip bars -- some very classy, others (obvious at a glance) frankly smutty or vulgar. If you're looking for a respectable disco, check the area between Groenplaats and Grote Markt. Look out for De Blokhut, Lange Herentalsestraat 6 (tel. 03/226-90-79); Le Caveau, Frankrijklei 18 (tel. 03/231-53-42); Griffy's, De Keyserlei 19-21 (tel. 03/233-19-22); Hans Christian Andersen, De Keyserlei 25 (tel. 03/226-48-63); and Café d'Anvers, Verversrui 15 (tel. 03/226-38-70).
Antwerp just about bursts at the seams with great bars. When the sun goes down, the people of Antwerp head for their favorite cafe or bar for an evening of Belgian beer and good conversation -- and you'll be very welcome to join their circle. If you don't spend an evening in this manner, it's safe to say that you haven't really seen Antwerp! Street cafes are generally found in Groenplaats and Grote Markt; "brown cafes" (traditional pubs) and bistros are clustered on Hoogstraat, Pelgrimstraat, Pieter Potstraat, and the surroundings; beer cellars are on Stadswaag; taverns and boulevard cafes are strewn along De Keyserlei; artists' cafes and bars are in Quartier Latin near the City Theater; and gay bars are mostly in the Centraal Station area.
No city watering hole has a better outlook than De Engel, Grote Markt 3 (tel. 03/233-12-52), an old-style cafe in the main square, beside the fountain-sculpture of Silvius Brabo, where a bolleke (little ball) of Antwerp's very own De Koninck beer becomes a work of liquid art. Paeters Vaetje, Blauwmoezelstraat 1 (tel. 03/231-84-76), below the cathedral's soaring spire, is a great place for listening to the Monday evening carillon concert, and serves up 100 different brews. Get the abbey habit at De Groote Witte Arend (The Great White Eagle), Reyndersstraat 12-18 (tel. 03/226-31-90), a cafe in a 17th-century former monastery, where customers are serenaded by classical music. Go underground to De Pelgrom, Pelgrimstraat 15 (tel. 03/234-08-09), in a candlelit, brick-arched cellar, where you can get convivial at long wood benches. A huge selection of beer, including virtually every Belgian brand, is displayed behind glass and served at candlelit tables in Kulminator, Vleminckveld 32 (tel. 03/232-45-38). Hot and cool at the same time, Het Zottekot, Vlaamse Kaai 21 (tel. 03/237-99-07), a wide step away from old-Antwerp style, is a wild, youth-oriented den where anything can happen -- and generally does.
An altogether different kind of drinking experience is to be had at De Vagant, Reyndersstraat 25 (tel. 03/233-15-38). It deals exclusively in jenever, and has 220 varieties of this stiff grain spirit. An upstairs restaurant specializes in dishes with jenever-based sauces and its walls are a gallery of jenever memorabilia.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.