The giant hand statue is a must see in Antwerp with kids

Best Things To Do in Antwerp with Kids

In Belgium by Jurga7 CommentsTHIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS

Antwerp is one of our favourite towns in Belgium. We live nearby and love exploring Antwerp with our children. This great city never disappoints. There are more family-friendly things to do in Antwerp than you might think. With a few recent family-friendly additions, as well as many seasonal events, Antwerp has a lot more to offer to traveling families than ever before. Here are some of our family’s favourites, top things to see and do in Antwerp with kids. 

This list is aimed at tourists who want to discover and explore Antwerp with children. So if you are an expat looking for more regular family-friendly activities like bowling, indoor playgrounds, or movie theatres in Antwerp, you’ll just have to google them. Or leave your question in the comments below and I’ll try to answer as best as I can.

Without further ado, here are the best things to do in Antwerp with kids. This is a more complete list, an update to my older post with our one day itinerary visiting some of the less known places of Antwerp with children.

Antwerp Zoo

No list of the best things to do in Antwerp would be complete without a visit to the Antwerp zoo. And this is certainly the case if you are visiting Antwerp with children. The zoo of Antwerp is one of the oldest animal parks in Europe and is located right in the middle of the city. Count at least half a day for the visit. The zoo is quite big and there are also some shows and feeding moments that you can attend. Our kids always love those.

Tip: if you are visiting Antwerp during the winter holiday season, don’t miss the incredible light spectacle China Light. This year you can visit China Light in the zoo of Antwerp from 1 December 2017 to 14 January 2018. Highly recommended!

One more winter tip: Antwerp also hosts one of the nicest Christmas markets in Belgium. With lots of market stalls selling typical Belgian and Holiday specialties, beautiful ice skating rink, and lots of attractions for the children – Antwerp Christmas market is just one more great reason to visit Antwerp with kids in winter.

China Light in the zoo of Antwerp

China Light in the zoo of Antwerp

 

Comics Station

Opened in the spring of 2017, Comics Station is an indoor theme park and playground. It is located at the back of the Central Station building in the city centre of Antwerp. You probably know the most famous Belgian comic strips heroes like The Smurfs or Tintin, but there are so many more. Belgium has an old comic strips tradition and a visit to the Comics Station is a fun way to get to know more about this fascinating Belgian art. For more information, take a look at our review of the Comics Station Antwerp.

Comics Station indoor theme park and playground is a must if visiting Antwerp with kids

Comics Station indoor theme park and playground

 

Harbour boat trip

If your kids like boats, you could consider taking a boat trip in the harbour of Antwerp. The harbour itself is a fascinating place to see. You will pass huge cargo ships and container-handling cranes that are always fascinating to watch for young and old. There are several companies offering these tours. Here you can read  more about our visit of the Antwerp harbour with Jan Plezier’s pancake boat.

Port of Antwerp boat tour is nice to do for families with kids as well

Port of Antwerp boat tour is fun to do with kids

 

Antwerp sewers De Ruien

Now this might look like an unusual choice, visiting the old sewers and underground canals with children. But our kids loved it! The part that you can visit with kids is very small, it’s a 10-15 minute boat ride that can be done with kids from 3 years and older. The entrance to De Ruien is centrally located close to the Antwerp City Hall. You don’t need to book this short visit (other options are best reserved in advance), so it’s really easy to visit. It’s something that doesn’t take long and only costs 5 EUR/pp and is a very unique experience. Check it out!

De Ruien sewers and underground canals is a fun place to visit in Antwerp with kids

De Ruien sewers and underground canals

 

The rooftop terrace of MAS

MAS is a modern museum in the new trendy part of Antwerp, ‘t Eilandje. It’s an impressive red building that cannot be missed when visiting Antwerp. While a visit to the museum might not interest younger kids, the view from the rooftop terrace is something the whole family will appreciate. The entrance to the building is free of charge and you can take an escalator staircase all the way to the top. The architecture of this building and the view from the top makes it one of our kids favourite places to visit in Antwerp.

Tip: There are many trendy local restaurants nearby. We love De Burgerij – not as much for its delicious hamburgers, but for its children’s play corner. Our kids never want to leave and it gives us a welcoming break as well. A nice alternative – in summer – is the nearby Bar Noord. They have a beach bar with a big (water) playground that is always a big success with kids.

MAS rooftop is a good place to take your kids to when visiting Antwerp

MAS rooftop terrace

 

Family-friendly sightseeing tours

There are several family-friendly sightseeing tours that you can do in Antwerp with kids. You can find more information about these tours on the Visit Antwerp website, but you don’t have to book them in advance. Most of these cost around 7 EUR for adults and 5 EUR for children.

  • There is a tourist train – touristram – that runs daily in summer and during school holidays (and during the weekends in other periods). It starts at the Groenplaats, close to the Cathedral.
  • Another sightseeing option is a horse and carriage that runs from April through October. It starts at the Grote Markt.
  • HopNStop bus is another fun way to see the highlights of Antwerp with kids. It runs daily in high season and on the weekends during the rest of the year. It also starts and finishes at the Grote Markt.
  • If your kids are a bit older, you could consider renting a bike. We love exploring Antwerp by bike, it’s a great way to see a lot without having to walk too much.
Antwerp sightseeing train is a good way to see the highlights of Antwerp with kids

Antwerp sightseeing train

 

Comic strip walls and street art

Antwerp has a lot of street art. On top of the ‘regular’ paintings, there are also ten comic murals spread around the city. Kids will love searching for them! Here you can find the map with the location of the comic strips in Antwerp.

Street art at Harmonie Park Antwerp

Street art at Harmonie Park

 

St. Anna pedestrian tunnel

This pedestrian tunnel dating from 1930’s is often missed by the foreign visitors. However, it’s a part of Antwerp’s history and a place that families will love to explore as well. Original wooden escalators take you more than 30m (100 ft) under the ground and under the river Scheldt. You can walk to the Left bank (Linkeroever) for some nice views over the old city centre of Antwerp. The entrance to the tunnel is located in a square art-deco yellowish building just a few blocks South from the Grote Markt (map).

St Anna pedestrian tunnel is one of the hidden gems of Antwerp

St Anna pedestrian tunnel is one of the hidden gems of Antwerp

 

Hand of Antwerp

The origins of the name of Antwerp (Antwerpen in Dutch) come from an old legend about the giant called Antigoon and a little guy Brabo. Antigoon demanded a high toll for the ships entering the city and cut off the hands of the sailors if they refused. The little Brabo fought the giant, cut his hand and threw it in the river. Antwerpen – hand werpen means ‘to throw a hand’. On the Grote Markt, in front of the City Hall you can see the statue of Brabo throwing the hand. In the main shopping street, Meir, you can find a giant statue of the hand (map) that you can see as the featured image on top of this post. It’s an obligatory photo stop in Antwerp, certainly if visiting with kids.

Tip: all over the city you can buy chocolates and biscuits in the form of little hands. Ask for the Antwerpse handjes. And once you are at it, make sure to try some Cuberdons (traditional cone-shaped Belgian sweets) as well.

Best things to do in Antwerp Belgium - updated for 2018

Brabo throwing the hand of the giant

 

Rivierenhof park

Rivierenhof park is the only place from this list that is located outside the city centre. Most tourists never get there, but it’s a beautiful park that is worth a visit if you are in Antwerp for a couple of days, especially during spring and summer. The best way to get there is by bike (map). There is another park right in the city centre as well – Stadspark (map), and while not as nice as Rivierenhof, it can still be a good place to escape the busy city streets with kids.

Rivierenhof Castle in Antwerp Belgium

Rivierenhof Castle

 

So, this is a local’s guide to the best places to see and things to do when visiting Antwerp with kids. A couple of more tips. There are quite a few places selling warm Belgian waffles in the centre of Antwerp – no child will be able to resist that! And make sure to take your kids to a local fritkot – a small kiosk where you can buy typical Belgian fries (by the way, here in Belgium we eat them with mayo). There are several places in the city centre close to the Cathedral where, despite the touristic location, the fries are usually quite good.

You must try Belgian fries with mayo

You must try Belgian fries with mayo!

 

Tip: If you are visiting Antwerp with a family, don’t miss the amazing variety of great theme parks in Belgium.

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Best places to see and fun things to do in Antwerp with kids #Belgium #Antwerp

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Comments

  1. Hi Jurga, I’m also a mom of 3 boys! They sure keep me busy. Curious, how stroller friendly are the sites you’ve recommended for Antwerp? I’ve got a 7, 3 and 1.5 year old and the 2 younger ones need a stroller.

    Also, I’ve heard how everyone should go to a chocolate shop/factory while in Belgium. Do you know of a place in Antwerp where my boys can get a sugar rush?

    Thanks!

    1. Author

      Hi Kristine, you’ll be fine with a stroller in Antwerp. However, there are some works going on in the city centre and also lots of cobble stones, so ideally you have a stroller with big inflatable wheels. But I know that they aren’t easy to pack if traveling far. We often used our MacLaren Twin stroller when traveling with kids; it’s so robust and well made that it was ok in all European towns, despite the cobbled streets.
      As for chocolate shops, you’ll find plenty of them in all tourist locations all over Belgium. Look for Leonidas, Godiva, or Neuhaus – they are some of the better ones that aren’t crazy expensive. Leonidas is probably best price/quality wise. Try their white Manon pralines with nuts – they’re our favourites! There are quite a few Leonidas chocolate stores in Antwerp (see map). I don’t really know about any chocolate factories that you could visit in Antwerp, but there are plenty of shops. Also this Chocolate Shop in Antwerp seems to be worth checking out.

  2. Hi Jurga, we are back from our trip and had a fabulous time in Belgium! My husband, my daughters, and I loved our time there. We found Belgium very easy to travel in and the people are very friendly and helpful. We spent several days with our friends exploring their area of Wallonia, and then we traveled around ourselves and spent time in Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, and Maastricht, Netherlands. I would definitely recommend Belgium as a family friendly destination, even in the wintertime!

    1. Author

      Good to hear that you had such a great time here in Belgium, Jenn. We ourselves also re-visited a few places here in Belgium during this winter break. We often take it for granted that we are surrounded by all these beautiful towns – we hadn’t been to Ghent in 10 years while it’s only an hour drive from home. So glad we went. Kids loved it!

  3. Hi Jurga, thank you so much for taking the time to give me additional suggestions and a possible itinerary. I will let you know what we end up doing. And I will add Ghent to the list!! Many, many thanks!

  4. We are heading to Belgium just after Christmas to visit some friends who live near Mons. We will spend a few days with them before venturing out on our own for 3-4 days. I am torn between Antwerp, Brussels, Bruges, and possibly getting up to Amsterdam. We are driving from Germany, so we will have our own car. We are a family of five, with kids aged 12, 12, and 4. Your blog on Antwerp has been so helpful… thank you!!

    1. Author

      Hi Jenn, Antwerp is my favourite city in Belgium, so I really recommend you don’t skip it. You may find more information here as well: Best things to do in Antwerp. The Christmas market is really nice too, especially with kids and you should try to visit China Light as well – magical in the evening. You may need to buy the tickets in advance – last year they were very popular. Or go to the zoo during the day and ask for the tickets for that same evening.
      Brussels is ok, also nice in the holiday period, and I guess you have to see it if you are in Belgium. They usually have music and light show at the Grand Place in that period.
      Bruges is amazing, can be combined with Ghent in the same day. I would suggest to first go to Ghent and head to Bruges in the evening – Bruges is amazing at night, when all the crowds of day tourists have left.
      Amsterdam is just 2 hrs drive from Antwerp. We recently visited, you can read more here: Best things to do in Amsterdam in one day.
      You could do an itinerary like this:
      Day 1 Brussels (sleep in Brussels)
      Day 2 Ghent + Bruges (sleep in Bruges)
      Day 3 Antwerp (sleep in Antwerp)
      Day 4 Amsterdam (sleep in Amsterdam)

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