My time in The Netherlands had come to an end, and it was on to my next destination – Antwerp! A short 1-hour train journey and I was in the prettiest train station I think I’ve ever seen! I would have stopped and admired it for longer but backpacks and heat don’t go too well together, so I made the warm walk to the hostel. It should have been a quick journey, but I took a wrong turning and ended up walking in circles for about 20 minutes. Great start!
Eventually arriving at the hostel, I realised it was one of those with set hours for reception. After the walk I’d just had, I wasn’t lugging the bag anywhere else to wait it out, so took a seat in what I hoped was the common room and waited until I could check in. Once I’d dropped my bag off in the dorm, I was straight out to explore.
First stop – cathedral! Just a few minutes walk from the hostel, I arrived to find it’d be closing soon. Never mind, I’d just come back tomorrow, so instead had a walk around Grote Markt admiring the different buildings that wrap around the square. Although I hadn’t come far from Rotterdam to Antwerp, the weather was much warmer and after my walk this morning I stopped for a drink and just to relax for a bit.
The rest of the evening was super chill, finding a supermarket and making dinner, which I hadn’t been able to do for a while. I spent a while in the quirky hostel common room but eventually turned in to watch Netflix in bed. The dorms were very cramped, with 3 triple decker bunk beds crammed into a room that would be a cosy double room. There wasn’t much floor space, and bags had to squeeze under the beds. I was somewhat concerned that the most amount of security the hostel had was the receptionist waving hello as you entered, and had to just hope for the best that no-one would steal my bag when I wasn’t in the room/watching.
Later that night, the sounds of a loud bang echoed around the top floor of the hostel, followed by groaning sounds. After my recent stay in Barcelona where someone had ‘enjoyed company’ in my dorm, I couldn’t believe someone else was at it here. Turns out someone had actually fallen out of one of the bunk beds and smacked their head as they hit the floor. I soon realised they weren’t having the good night I thought when the paramedics turned up to take them to hospital. Such drama! They were fine, but chose not to come back to the hostel. Can’t imagine why…
Next morning, I woke up covered in mosquito bites. Although slightly annoyed, I was on a mission as today was my only day to explore Antwerp. First stop (again) – cathedral! The Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp is big, and unlike most other churches had loads of artwork on both the walls and displayed in the middle of the church. There were definite art exhibition vibes here, but I had a look round before going on the hunt for coffee! Wandering past Grote Markt with the typical tourist prices, I instead made my way to the river.
Although I was getting tired and hungry, I stopped for a bit to sit and watch people bustle about and the activity on the river. Remembering today was my only day in Antwerp, I got a move on and found a cool cafe to have lunch. It seemed like a student hangout, where people were gathered studying in one corner, eating in another and down one end were using the washing machines. Yep, washing machines in a cafe.
Off to another church, this time a little further out of the main city centre. There aren’t a huge amount of tourists in Antwerp, but getting away from the ‘sights’ and into the more residential streets was a great way to see another side to the city. Nestled between other buildings, the everyday entrance to Sint Pauluskerk just look like some fancy doors. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I had the right place until I saw a few people head inside. There’s an overwhelming black and white theme going on, in a striking way that I hadn’t seen in many other churches before. I wasn’t a huge fan, but as I made my way to leave spotted the garden that was full of cool stone sculptures. A quick look around was followed by waiting ages for a couple of older ladies to move so I could take some photos, before moving on.
Next up on my wandering tour list was the old butcher’s hall where the meat markets used to be held. It was a cool building, but after a few minutes I’d seen it and made my way back to the main shopping street of Meir to check out Stadsfeestzaal. Dating back to 1908, what is now a shopping centre used to be a grand exhibition hall where balls were held. As you step through the doors you can tell it’s not just any old shopping centre, and the intricate detail and gold trim are a hint at the fancy history it has.
Doing it absolutely no justice, I just popped to the lower level to a health & beauty store to find something to tackle the insane mosquito problem the hostel had. Armed with mosquito repellant and bite relief, I made my way back to the hostel to grab some dinner and have an early night, spraying my entire body and bed in repellant before getting in. Not the wisest decision I’ve ever made, but I was determined to not be covered in more bites when I woke the next morning.
Although I’ve been bitten by mosquitoes before, I’ve never heard them. In the hostel, it was the constant sound throughout the night. I woke several times through the night to respray myself, and woke with my legs in agony. The plan for the day was to head to Ghent, but it took me longer than normal to get ready because my body was covered in mosquito bites. Coming in at a total of 38, I wasn’t in the best mood, but I made my way to Ghent for the day anyway.
Come evening I was shattered, and the constant itching from the mosquito bites was driving me crazy. I’d had enough, and wanted to leave the hostel and Antwerp. There wasn’t really anywhere else I wanted to go in Belgium, so I checked Google Flights to see the cheapest flight leaving in the next 2 days and found one to Jerez de la Frontera. I had no idea where Jerez de la Frontera was, but after a quick search online found that it was in the south of Spain. As if I’d say no to that! I quickly booked it, and found somewhere else to stay for the extra night I had in Antwerp because I was really starting to hate the hostel.
The next day was just a bonus day in Antwerp, but as I’d pretty much seen all I’d wanted to the other day I instead had a super chilled day. I had to check out of the hostel and in to the student accommodation I’d booked for one night, and then went for a wander to do a bit of a shopping, grab a coffee and just relax. Come the afternoon, I made my way back for the evening to just relax, catch up on some admin stuff like moving photos from my camera, booking accommodation in Jerez and watching a film.
I hadn’t hated Antwerp, but it was definitely a place to visit for a day, and I was ready to leave Belgium with all my mosquito bites and head back to Spain!