Antwerp is currently enjoying its moment in the spotlight. Recently dubbed “One of the coolest cities in Europe” by Conde Nast, this Belgian gem is rapidly gaining popularity among travellers and event planners alike.
I took the train from London to Antwerp for a conference. Here’s what I loved about the city.
Sure, Antwerp boasts its share of fashion (think Antwerp Six), a vibrant music scene (kick started by the iconic “Pump Up The Jam” in the late ’80s), exquisite beer and chocolate, not to mention its status as the international diamond center. However, it’s also the practical aspects that make Antwerp an ideal destination for event planners, starting with its accessibility.
Yes, you can fly from City Airport, but why would you, when taking the train to Antwerp makes event planning so easy and, of course, significantly more sustainable. The fastest option is to book a ‘Eurostar Any Belgian Station’ ticket which seamlessly whisks you from London to Antwerp, with a brief platform change in Brussels. Having recently done exactly that journey with a group of over 160, I can confirm it’s a great option for MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibition) groups, especially given Eurostar’s exclusive carriage hire options.
Arriving in the city is a magical experience – Antwerp Central is widely considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful railway stations and makes for quite the first impression. Designed by Louis Delacenserie and opened in 1905, this architectural marvel boasts two neo-baroque facades, a towering glass dome nearly 200 feet high, and a lavish gilt and marble interior. The sight is so stunning that even the weariest travellers can’t resist capturing it on film. I challenge you to think of a European airport that provides your delegates with a similar wow factor upon arrival!
One of the standout features of travelling by train for European events is the ability to step off the platform and immediately find yourself in the heart of the city. No lengthy transfers – just a leisurely walk to your hotel or event venue. In Antwerp, just outside the station, you’ll discover Antwerp Zoo, one of the world’s oldest. Home to over 6,000 animals, it’s also the location of the Flanders Meeting and Convention Centre. The latter includes the Queen Elisabeth Hall, an auditorium-style conference hall with up to 2,000 seats and impeccable acoustics, thanks to its association with the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra. The Winter Garden, a stunning space reminiscent of Kew Glass House, is available for exclusive hire in the winter or in combination with the Verlat Hall, which features a breathtaking marble staircase. Additionally, the venue offers several smaller meeting rooms and the beautiful art nouveau Marble Hall, an ideal setting for gala dinners.
Antwerp is a city that takes style seriously. It’s the kind of place where the shopping centre is housed in a former ballroom dripping with gilt. And then there are the hotels.
Our top pick has to be the Botanic Sanctuary. As Antwerp’s first 5-star hotel, expectations are high, and it doesn’t disappoint. Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp is a super-luxe ex-monastery, complete with a 15th-century chapel, blending top-end luxury with serene relaxation. The spa alone will make you wish for rainy days, allowing you to savor every moment. Tucked away behind ancient walls within a botanical garden, the spa features a vast glass ceiling, creating a sensation of being enveloped in nature. It boasts an 18-meter pool, jacuzzi, steam room, ice fountain, various saunas, and an extensive menu of treatments, with a focus on stress and fatigue relief – perfect for worn-out executives. The entire hotel is designed with well-being in mind, featuring a lobby bursting with plants and dramatic suspended flower art.
Of course, event hotels need to offer more than relaxation. When it’s time for business, the Botanic Sanctuary offers a wealth of options, including 14 conference rooms. Among them, the Larix stands out, a 325-square-meter auditorium with a 300-person capacity. The grand Amaryllis hall, spanning 421 square meters, serves as a stunning showcase for product launches, while the Chapel provides an intimate space for receptions and presentations. Events can be expertly catered by the in-house team, or you can choose from a selection of five fine-dining restaurants.
Antwerp has been a sought-after destination since medieval times when it ranked among Europe’s largest cities. This legacy of hospitality lives on today, with a diverse array of meeting places for events, many housed in historic venues that offer guests a chance to experience unique spaces beyond the ordinary. Special mention goes to the neo-Gothic Handelsbeurs, transformed into a versatile event space in 2019, as well as the event spaces at the Chocolate Museum and the splendid Nouveau Hall of the Grand Café Horta. And of course we can’t not mention the beer. Belgian beer was developed by monks in the Middle Ages and today it’s exported all over the world. Drinking it on home soil is a thrill and Antwerp makes it easy, boasting one of the world’s highest number of pubs per capital. Oh and there’s no legal closing time either. If you’re serious about your beers and want to incorporate some tasting into your event schedule we recommend arranging a group visit for a tasting at De Koninck Brewery.
Intrigued by the possibilities that Antwerp event planning has to offer for your next event or incentive trip? Get in touch and discover how we can assist in crafting a truly memorable and seamless experience in this vibrant Belgian city. Our expertise in Antwerp event planning and local insights can transform your vision into a reality, ensuring that every detail is thoughtfully curated to exceed your expectations. Let’s work together to create an event that not only meets your objectives but also leaves a lasting impression on your attendees.
Contact us today to embark on an unforgettable journey in Antwerp, where style, history, and unparalleled hospitality await. Your extraordinary event begins with us.
10 recommended Antwerp venues for events
- Antwerp Expo
- Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp
- De Koninck Brewery
- Flanders Meeting & Convention Center Antwerp
- Grand Cafe Horta & Art Nouveau Hall
- Hat Steen
- Hilton Antwerp Old Town
- Hotel FRANQ
- Radisson Blu Astrid Hotel
How To Get There
- When it comes to travelling to Europe, our top choice is Eurostar—a low carbon, sustainable solution that aligns perfectly with our commitment to offering eco-friendly travel options. Eurostar not only provides a convenient and efficient way to reach the heart of the city but also allows event planners to reduce our carbon footprint. As event professionals dedicated to making a positive impact, we proudly recommend Eurostar as the preferred mode of travel to Antwerp, ensuring a greener and more sustainable journey for all.
- Eurostar trains from London to Brussels-Midi takes 1 hour 53 minutes. Check the departure boards for the next train to Antwerp and take a simple platform change. You don’t need a booking, your Eurostar ticket covers the local train to Antwerp, so just hop on a train and find a seat. Trains take approx 40 minutes from Brussels to Antwerp and there are normally 72 trains per day.
Take the next step towards planning an unforgettable and sustainable event in Antwerp. Our expert team is here to assist you with a wide range of services, including unique destination ideas, sustainable travel options, and seamless event hosting. Contact us today to explore more possibilities and turn your vision into a reality
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