Travel time from Brussels: 40 minutes
On the Scheldt river just 25 miles north of Brussels, Antwerp is probably best known as a diamond centre – there are over 1,500 diamond shops here. But you’ll also find picturesque architecture and a thriving art, design and fashion scene. Explore MAS, a 10-storey complex with various galleries and exhibitions, before heading to the Rubenshuis, a mansion filled with antiques and 17th-century art. Middelheim Museum, an outdoor sculpture park just outside the city centre, is also worth a visit, as is Kanaal, a cool residential hub with small, independent galleries and the newly reopened Royal Museum of Fine Arts. Antwerp has an excellent food scene too, with plenty of independent restaurants, cafés and bars, especially along the historic port which transforms into a buzzy spot each evening. For Michelin-starred dining, secure a table at The Jane which is housed in a repurposed military hospital chapel. The food is modern and sophisticated, served under a striking 900kg chandelier. For something more causal, new restaurant Album showcases local Belgium ingredients, while locals go to Native for salads, sandwiches and simple dinners like pasta and meatballs.
Don’t miss Dries Van Noten's Modepaleis flagship store. The Belgian designer – one of the ‘Antwerp six’ who made the town a fashion capital in the mid-80s – has his menswear collection on the first floor of a building that was built by his grandfather in the 1880s. Wooden counters and tiled floors make for a gentlemanly experience.