Beer Cafes and Bolleke: Beer for a Day in Antwerp

Written by Franz Hofer for A Tempest in a Tankard

Like so many cities and towns in Belgium, Antwerp is but an hour and change by train from Brussels. If you’re like me and your trips to Belgium never amount to more than about five days at a time, these medieval cities and towns end up as day trip destinations, even if they merit several days. But with a modicum of advanced planning, you can spend an enriching day in Antwerp. And you won’t be at a loss for beer and places to drink it.

A historic port that accrued its wealth through the diamond trade, Antwerp started life as a fort during Charlemagne’s time. During the 1500s, it emerged as the region’s premier port after Bruges’ once-bustling port silted up. By mid-century, Antwerp was one of Europe’s most important cities, boasting a population of around 100,000 inhabitants, one of whom was Pieter Paul Rubens. The city suffered several reversals of fate over the next three centuries till Napoleon Bonarparte rebuilt the ports in 1797. By the late nineteenth century, Antwerp was the world’s third-largest port after London and New York.

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