Guide to Antwerp pt. 1 — Practical — UPDATED
[important travel information update on 23/4]
With CoLab: Antwerp just around the corner we're releasing two handy guides to help make your journey plans a whole lot easier. First up is our practical guide for travel to Antwerp and how to navigate the city when you arrive including info on trains, planes and bikes! Look out for part two where we highlight all the best places to eat and drink in Antwerp on a super useful map with the all important CoLab meeting places.
Getting to Antwerp
Antwerp is in the north of Belgium, about 50km north of Brussels. It is very centrally located in Europe, and there's a number of ways to get to Antwerp.
Arriving by train
The Eurostar connects London to Brussels in just over 2hours, in addition to several fast Thalys trains from major cities in neighbouring countries, as well as regular trains that will get you to Belgium easily and comfortably. The most will connect to Antwerp via Brussels, only a short 30-40minute train ride - but some (for example Amsterdam) will go directly to Antwerp.
There are two main train stations in Antwerp: Antwerpen-Centraal and Antwerpen-Berchem. Check with your accommodation what is the best one, but if you're coming straight to CoLab activities Antwerpen-Centraal is the one to get off!
Arriving by plane
Although very small, Antwerp has its own airport ANR located in 'Deurne' only about 7km from the city centre. It only operates a handful of destinations (such as London City, Berlin, Milan, Barcelona, Hamburg). A taxi would get you to the city centre for around €15 and a bus to Antwerpen-Berchem for €3. Please note, that all Belgian airports, including ANR, have additional tightened security measures (see below).
If you are travelling to/from Brussels Airport, we wanted to give you some additional information, following the unfortunate attacks of March 22nd.
Check your flight status — First of all, please check whether your flight is still on as scheduled. While Brussels airport has resumed its operations, it is doing so using a temporary check-in structure and under limited capacity. This could mean that your flight is cancelled or redirected. Please check directly with your airline.
Allow for delays and get to the airport early — Due to extra security measures, including an additional bagage and passport control before you enter the airport building, you need to get to the airport well ahead of your flight. It is currently advised to arrive at least 2hours before departure for Schengen flights, and 3hours before departure for non-Schengen flights. If possible, check-in online beforehand, an travel light.
Traffic jams on the roads to the airport are long and frequent. Allow at least 2hours to get to the airport from Antwerp. Yes - this sadly means that you need to leave Antwerp around 4-5hours before your scheduled departure time.
UPDATE on 23/4 to replace point 4 and 5 below: Good news: the trains are now running to and from the Airport again! The trains run roughly every half hour and the ride takes 33minutes. The train to Antwerp usually leaves from platform 1, but best to check the announcement boards. You can check the train schedule here, the stations are 'Brussels Airport - Zaventem' and 'Antwerpen Centraal'. Please note that this means that your travel time between the airport and Antwerp is reduced, but there are still long waiting times and you should get to the airport well in advance of your flight!
There is currently no train departing or arriving at Brussels Airport. — We are hopeful that this will change in the very near future - in time for CoLab - but currently only the buses operate. Our current suggestion for the easiest route to Antwerp -should the situation not change- is:
Take the Airport Express bus to Antwerp city centre - it's a direct bus, which runs every hour. The schedule is on the website, but please allow for additional travel time. A ticket can only be bought from the driver in cash (euro!) and is €10.
Alternatively take a taxi all the way to Antwerp. This will set you back at least €75, but could be a great option if you can share.
Our current advice for the way back after CoLab, route Antwerp - BRU airport:
Take the Airport Express bus - it's a direct bus, which runs every hour, and leaves from Koningin Astridplein in front of the Ibis Hotel (close to Antwerpen-Centraal). The schedule is on the website, but please allow for a 2hour journey (instead of the advertised 45minutes). A ticket can only be bought from the driver in cash (euro!) and is €10.
Take a train to Brussel-Noord station (catch the 'faster' train - only 35minutes)
Take a taxi or bus (lines 471 or 272) from Brussel-Noord train station to the airport (allow for 1h)
Also please be aware that only travellers are allowed in the temporary departures hall; pick-ups (whether from friends or relatives, or from taxi drivers) happen at the 'pick-up zone' near P2 (parking).
Check this website — for the latest news and updates, as well as super-handy information!
If you haven't booked your travel yet or are looking to rebook
We suggest you try to avoid Brussels Airport if possible: while it is likely one of the safest places currently, there are a lot of extra security checks and the restricted travel mentioned above that make it a little bit of a 'hassle'.
If you haven't booked your travel yet, or need to rebook a cancelled flight, we would suggest you look into flight options to Amsterdam (only a 1h Thalys or 2h regular train ride away) or Antwerp Deurne (ANR) or alternatively getting to Antwerp by train.
These websites are great for more information on travel schedules or updates:
Getting around in Antwerp
Antwerp is a fairly compact city and all CoLab activities are in the city centre, within walking distance. We would definitely suggest to explore Antwerp on foot, or by bike, using our Antwerp Coffee Map [link]. There are public bikes called 'Velo' — you will need to buy a code online in advance (a day pass for €3.80, or a week pass for €9).
Alternatively, if you'd like to venture out a bit further, you can use trams or buses. If you need a taxi, we like Antwerp Taxi (+32 3 238 38 38).
For more information, please have a look at Visit Antwerpen.
Antwerp is a touristy city, and does get rather busy in springtime! If you haven't already, we advice you to book sooner rather than later! There's a large number of different types of accommodation available for a range of budgets. Here are some options that were recommended to us.
Airbnb — there's some great offerings in Antwerp, and it's one of our favourite ways of finding a nice place to stay that isn't just a generic hotel room
Rosier 10 — small b&b, with 4 rooms
a2 — also small b&b
Stay with a local! — if you're interested to stay with a local barista, email local working group member Danny Calders with your request!
We will update this article if we have new information or the situation changes.
We're looking forward to seeing you in Antwerp soon!