We may boast several hundreds different types of beer, more than any other country in the world probably, but still that doesn’t seem to be enough. Brewers of all types regularly create new tastes, try out different combinations of hops or herbs, or like Moortgat, experiment with barrels.
Duvel (literally Devil) is a strong blond beer which is very popular. In recent years the brewery has released a triple hop version, with a different combination of hops each year and a really unique taste for each of the beers. Some bars today offer up to four different types of triple hop Duvel, and later this year, in April or May, depending on the evolution of the maturation, a barrel aged variety will be released. The oak barrels which are used previously stored bourbon, so the new variety will have a completely new set of aromas and tastes.
When you enter the ‘Duifkens’ on the Graanmarkt, one of the first things you’ll notice is the long line of black and white pictures that cover the wall. All of them actors of the neighbouring Bourla theater and all of them regular customer of the bar. And the actors still do come to the ‘Duifkens’. Everything in the bar breathes theater, drama and comedy. Even the statue in front has to do with drama, but that’s another story. Just like the story of the Graanmarkt.
The building the ‘Duifkens’ is situated in, is one of the three remaining original houses on the Graanmarkt, and they date back to mid 16th century. All of the other 16th century houses have been demolished and replaced by huge 19th century office buildings for banks and trading houses.
When it is hot enough almost half of the Graanmarkt is turned into a terrace, as can be seen in the picture. And when you’re there, don’t forget to taste some of the local beers like De Koninck (just ask for a ‘Bolleke’) or a Triple d’Anvers.
The bar opens at 11:00 am and is open till midnight, except Fridays and Saturdays when the official closing time is 3:00 am. On Sundays the bar remains closed, and bear in mind that on Saturdays the Graanmarkt will be crowded as a street market is going on until 4:00 pm, a market were fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, … from all over the world are sold. The locals call it ‘Vreemdelingenmarkt’ or Strangers’ Market.
As an accompaniment to the exhibition which is held at the Groenplaats, the MAS-museum has taken a selection of its background collection, added some objects from private collection, and puts it all on display on the second floor of the building. A floor you can visit for free.
The exhibition shows ancient Maya cups that were used to drink cacao in, porcelain cacaopots from Europe and tin boxes and so on that were used by Antwerp chocolate factories. These factories started their activities in the 19th century and they turned the once exclusive delicacy of the rich into an everyman’s candy: the chocolate bar. And of course they also helped the distribution and spread the world-wide popularity of the typical Belgian chocolates. The factories like Meurisse and Martougin are no longer there, but the local chocolatiers still make great chocolates.
This exhibition opens March 3rd and closes Sept 3rd. And while you’re there: do not forget to visit the top floor, which is also free and offers a very nice panoramic view over the city.
The MAS-museum can be found at the Hanzestedenplein.
From Feb. 3rd till March 31st an exhibition on the role of Antwerp in the history of Belgian chocolate is organised on the top floor of Mercado at Groenplaats. The very first Belgian chocolate factory was active in Antwerp. It was led by the Meurissefamily and created chocolate bars that were popular all over the country and far beyond the borders. Anyone older than 35 or 40 will certainly remember Perette (milk chocolate bar) and Boy Scout (black chocolate bar). One of their inventions was a cold-feel filling that was used in the Zero bars, which are still sold although they are now produced by another factory as the Meurisse plant has closed down and now houses a furniture store at Damplein.
In between 1830 and 1960 over thirty chocolate stores and factories were active in the centre of Antwerp. The exhibition, which is organised by Antwerpen Koekenstad (Antwerp Cookietown, a nickname for the city given because of its great amount of bakery, chocolateries and candy stores) shows a great number of unique documents dating back to the roaring twenties and the golden era of the fifties and sixties, and to top it all: you’ll be able to taste Perette (again), from Wednesdag to Sunday from 1pm to 5pm.
Tickets are available at 8 €, groups of more than 10 pay 5 €.
One of the really authentic bars in town is called ‘Oud Arsenaal’ (Old Arsenal) and is situated in the Maria Pijpelinckxstraat. In case you didn’t know: Maria Pijpelinckx was Rubens’ mother, so it shouldn’t surprise you you can find this bar in the neighbourhood of the Rubens House Museum.
It has been a bar ever since 1924 and the building itself dates back to early 19th century. The starting date of the bar can still be read in the inscription above the door. The shop front has these orange-brown coloured ceramic tiles and probably the interior dates back to 1932. In that year a permit was granted to enlarge the café and at that moment the art-deco interior was installed, with its brown and yellow floor tiles, and its walls covered with wooden benches, mirrors and wooden wainscoting.
When you enter the cafe, you make a trip through time, going back nearly a hundred years. In 2009 a search was held to look for really authentic public bars and ‘Oud Arsenaal’ was selected as one of the top-locations.
And another reason to go there: Steph, the landlord, has a really impressive choice of fine beers from all over the country and that at very affordable prices.
Maria Pijpelinckxstraat 14
Sat-Sun: 07:30 – 19:30
Saturdays and Sundays a market (Vogeltjesmarkt) is being held in the immediate neighbourhood, that explains the early opening hours.
A tip for those who plan to stay in our city Feb 4th or 5th.
Jan 28th the Chinese New Year was celebrated in Chinatown in the Central Station area of the city. Especially Wednesday Feb 1st will be a noisy day as fireworks and crackers are going to drive away the evil demons. But as from this year this is not the end of celebrations: the following weekend ‘The Asian Lifestyle Group’ is staging a food festival under the name ‘Asia in Antwerp’.
The festival is staged in the Waagnatie, opposite the Red Star Line Museum and will be open on Sat 4th and Sun 5th of February, each day starting at 12:30 up till 21:00. A marketplace is created with authentic Asian goods, recipes,… Tour operators specialised in Asia will present their programs, workshops will be organised to teach you the little tricks to make perfect sushi’s or to cut fruit and vegetables to look like flowers or animals and kids can get initiated into yoga.
But that’s not all: there will be music, acrobacy, folklore… and as Sunday is the national holiday in Bali, a special ceremony will be held. Tickets are for sale and more information can be found on the organization’s website.
The Hoogstraat is a very lively shopping street where you will not find any of the international brands, but only local shops, eat houses and bars. Jacques Jordaens, one of the great baroque painters of the city was born here in the house which now bears the number 13, right next to one of the entrances to the Vlaaikensgang, a relict of sixteenth century Antwerp.
One of the eldest buildings in the Hoogstraat is situated right next to St-Jansvliet. It is the Saint-Julian’s Hospital or guesthouse. Pilgrims on their way to Compostella could stay there overnight and in fact, they still can, although the guest house is now situated on St-Jansvliet and offers a bit more comfort than the old building. The old chapel of the guesthouse today houses the Black Panther, one of the most prestigious art galleries in town presenting a wide range of contemporary artists from home and abroad.
And while you’re at it, if you continue walking south, you enter the Kloosterstraat. Here, for something like half a mile, you will find a lot of antique and vintage shops, one next to the other, with of course a coffe house, restaurant or bar in between.
The very first Monday after Twelfth Night (Jan. 6) is a very special day for Antwerp. It is called Verloren Maandag (Lost Monday) and is accompanied by free sausage or apple rolls in popular bars. The origins for this feast are very old and nobody really knows what is its origin.
One theory says that the Sunday after Twelfth Night was the day on which new city officials took oath, and on the next day everybody took free, so it was a Lost Monday. A variation on this story tells us that the traditional guilds held festivities for the New Year of the Monday after Twelfth Night. The guild members went from door to door to pass on the dean’s wishes to the population of the town, and of course they also had to call on the doors of inns. To keep the guests a little longer inside and promote the drinking, the patrons offered them a hot salty combination of bread and (cheap) sausage.
Specifically for Antwerp there is a story that it was a tradition for people working in the harbour that on this day they were allowed to eat and drink freely. Of course the bosses chose for food that filled the stomachs in a cheap way and so the traditional sausage roll was invented.
Still another theory says sausage rolls were invented by butchers. They usually had a lot of leftovers from the preceeding festive days and turned these in a roll and to disguise the meat was not that fresh anymore, wrapped it in a dough clothing.
Nowadays sausage rolls can be bought at the baker’s all year round, but on Verloren Maandag the showcase window of every bakery store is filled with the popular rolls.
Should you happen to drop in to a bar on Lost Monday, don’t be surprised if the landlord offers you a hot sausage roll! Cheers!