There is no shortage of entertainment to be found in Antwerp. In summer, the lively thrum of live music and whooping cries of thrill-seekers fill the streets, spilling from neon-lit Ferris wheels and pulsing speakers. In winter, crowds of people wrapped in thick coats soak up the Christmas festivities and sip on seasonal concoctions in the chilly night air. Thanks to the city’s deep brewing roots, beer lovers are always spoilt for choice. Year round there will be a chance to savour Belgian brews, whether it’s under the sun’s rays, crunching autumn leaves or a gentle flurry of snow.
Before you set off, please note the current COVID regulations, only travel if it is safe to do so and make sure to book ahead if necessary.
Beer Passion Weekend
In June 2020, the 20th edition of the three-day Beer Passion Weekend takes place at Antwerp’s Groenplaats. This free to enter (with obligatory purchase of your own tasting glass) annual event hosts between 15 and 20 beer stalls and ‘tap wagons’. After buying a few tokens you can enjoy the best Belgian beers to the sound of live music. With a view of the tallest spire in the country and surrounded by the historic centre of the city, all you have to do is wander through the stands, listen to beer sommeliers share their enjoyment and knowledge, and savour the tastes of a wide selection of Belgian brews.
Antwerp Summer Festival (Zomer van Antwerpen)
The Zomer van Antwerpen (ZVA) coincides with the Beer Passion Weekend this year so this is the perfect time to visit the city. City festivals like these mix a range of dance, theatre and circus attractions in sometimes very unusual locations. Open air concerts abound; you’ll find summertime pop-up cafes to relax and absorb the atmosphere in, or pay to enter the Summer Factory (Zomerfabriek) for live music and late-night dance parties. Many events are completely free. Event organisers are still interviewing applicants, so there’s very little information available on their Dutch-language website. But whoever they end up booking, you’re guaranteed entertainment.
Antwerp’s Winter Fair (foor) takes place from early December to early January every year, lighting up the centre of the city and providing a bustling meeting place for locals and visitors alike. With a Christmas market similar to those that pop up at this time of the year all over the continent, Antwerp’s is far from famous, but that doesn’t matter. Come to Antwerp and you’ll be enveloped by Christmas cheer, Christmas bars selling mulled wine, alcoholic coffee and, of course, beer, Christmas markets that will replenish your woolly glove and hat supply, Christmas lights, Christmas trees, Christmas mistletoe and Christmas ice skating. Every ingredient you need to keep you warm and contented in this friendly city. You’ll find three Christmas markets in Antwerpen – at the Groenplaats, Grote Markt and Steenplein, the latter of which has a big wheel.
Antwerp’s Sinksenfoor was once a market fair held during the Christian holiday of Pentecost back in the 13th century. Since then, it has slowly become a less-than Christian fun-fest where pure enjoyment takes prime position. For the past five years the Antwerp Sinksenfoor has been held at a huge plot to the east of the dock region, close to the corner of Schijnpoortweg and Noordersingel. It’s only a few stops away on the local tram and bus services. This change of location was due both to the fair’s popularity and complaints of the accompanying noise from the locals. Last year the fair attracted over 700,000 visitors – keeping noise down to a whisper wasn’t feasible.
This traditional funfair begins on the Saturday before Whitsunday and continues until the start of July. As the first big fair of the season, it attracts a big crowd. Big kids and their own kids spend a brilliant day and evening out, enjoying additional shows, plenty of fast food and the more popular beers – if you can handle the queues. From the tamest rides to true heart-in-mouth experiences, the past years’ early summer weather guarantees a day of fun between culture and beer tasting trips. Just don’t book an expensive gastronomic experience immediately before lining up for the more stomach-churning rides.