The best places to live in Antwerp
The top 5 neighborhoods in Antwerp - An expat guide
Antwerp is Belgium’s second city. Located in the north of the country it is the industrial centre of the Flanders region and hosts one of Europe’s busiest ports. It is a hub for expats across Europe coming to live and work in Antwerp. But where are the best places to live in Antwerp and what do they offer to expats?
A little history.
Antwerp is very much not Belgium, and locals prefer it that way. The history of the city in steeped in skullduggery, from being (and still being) the main entrance to Europe for cocaine (the water supply has more residual cocaine than anywhere in the world) to the murky criminality of the diamond trade (again, still in existence). Despite European projects going into the billions of Euros of regeneration projects, Antwerp maintains a streak of criminal activity beneath its gleaming façades.
As a result of this, each of Antwerp’s neighborhoods has its own unique character which may suit people in different ways. So let’s take a more detailed look at each of them to give you an idea of which one best suits you.
Inner city centre
Most of the historical city centre of Antwerp is pedestrianised. Away from the bustle of the port, Antwerp has a huge revenue from tourism, and most of the tourists are to be found meandering the maze-like alleys of the historical centre. It’s not the best place for expats. It’s expensive as much of the accommodation here is let out for tourism, but if you’re just visiting the city for a short time, there’s lots to do in this area. It’s worth paying a visit to the Het Steen castle or getting lost around Vlaeykensgang. Just south of the station is the Diamond quarter, known as the world trade hub in diamonds, Antwerp has hundreds of jewellers, brokers and traders in diamonds.
This area is a great place for expats who want both a nice area to live in, and proximity to the port for work. Het Eilandje has a rich maritime history which still pulsates through the area following its renovation (20 years ago the area was desolate). There are bars and restaurants aplenty in the area, the architecture tips its cap to the area’s maritime traditions, and, surrounded by water (Het Eilandje mean “little island”), it’s a walk from the port, for expats wanting to be near the port, this is the best option to avoid the hellish morning traffic of Antwerp. Most expensive.
The South (Zuid) of Antwerp is a trendy district, away from the plastic tourism of the historical centre, yet still with plenty to see and do. This area is relatively expensive to live but with lower living costs, where many locals live and work amongst many expats who also choose this area for its decent cost/life balance. There are weekend markets, galleries, museums and plenty of excellent places to eat. Don’t expect to find the typical Belgian cuisine here, restaurants are very diverse from sushi bars to burger joints. Zuid is great for families, there are schools and the whole area is friendly to children, not least the locals of Antwerp who are very welcoming to families.
Click here to check out the Globexs apartment at Het Zuid.
Linkeroever is quieter, more peaceful, certainly has fewer expats living there.
It’s ungraciously come to be known by the local as the butt of the joke, not really Antwerp, as it’s a highly residential area with some new-builds and other areas that have become run-down. It’s actually incredibly easy to access the centre of Antwerp from here and the housing is much cheaper. There are some nice apartments which can be picked up cheaply and staying here for work means easy access to both the port and the city centre, without the constant bustle of tourists. Overall it’s calm, quiet, residential. You can easily access Antwerp through the Waaslandtunnel by car, and on the other side there is easy access to motorways out to Ghent and Bruges. For working expats coming to Antwerp for the port, it’s great place. But do note that if you are young, on erasmus, and want to have fun, this is probably not the best place.
Click here to check out the Globexs apartments at Linkeroever.
If this area were a celebrity it would be Natalie Portman. Beautiful, elegant, and with a slight hint of hipster. It’s also expensive and for good reason. The streets of this area are very clean, the architecture is old fashioned and pretty, and the locals tend to be quite young, well-off types, enjoying a kale frittata on a cafe terrace. Housing and renting here is also on the higher price point, but if you are looking for somewhere with a great vibe and are happy to spend the extra, this is a very pleasant area of antwerp.
Life in the outskirts
Expats who come to Antwerp for work might prefer to stay outside the city. The life is much more typical of Belgium, great food, relaxed, and quiet. Antwerpenaren are comfortable with expats as there have been so many coming to live in Antwerp through the years, they also have a nonplussed character (often misconstrued as standoffish) don’t be afraid to replicate. And be assertive, it’s very much the Antwerp character.
Borgerhout and Berchem
These are quite ethnically diverse suburbs to the East. Borgerhout is most famous for the Turnhoutsebaan street which hosts a huge range of Moroccan restaurants and shops. Berchem and Borgerhout are actually part of the city and the historical center is even walkable.
Further out to the North-East is Deurne, which has the most Belgian character of all of the outlying districts of Antwerp.
Wilrijk only recently (1983) became part of the metropolitan area of Antwerp. It’s quite far to the south and it’s very green. Because of its separation from Antwerp it’s also quite a different place to live, with the annual goat festival being a highlight.
Some 5-6 km outside the city, Mortsel is a popular residential area. There are old buildings, parks and a small high street for shopping. Getting into the center of Antwerp or to the port in the morning along the N1 is notoriously difficult.
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