When Ilse Cornelissens and her husband Tim van Geloven opened Graanmarkt 13, a four-story multi-purpose complex designed by Vincent van Duysen, it hardly blended into the abandoned Antwerp square they chose as its home. The concept was simple: everything you love in one spot. Six years later, the space—which, from the ground up, consists of a prize-winning restaurant, an uber-chic concept boutique, a pop-up gallery space, and a hotel-style apartment for rent (previously home to the couple and their two children)—has revitalized the neighborhood and become Antwerp's most innovative and sought-after one-stop luxury shop. Here, Ilse shares a day's worth of her favorite places to eat, shop, and visit in Antwerp.
9:00 a.m. I like to have breakfast at home. There are so many good bakeries in Antwerp —Konditori, Delafaille, Goossens, and Domestic—that are worth queuing for on weekends and bringing home for friends or family. If I go out, I go to my friend Alec's restaurant Life is Art, where you truly feel like you're eating at home. Graanmarkt 13 is not my house anymore, but I still spend so much time there, and since the restaurant now serves breakfast for hotel guests who stay in The Apartment upstairs, I'm often the one coming by and making the breakfast in the morning.
11:00 a.m. There is a flower shop just around the corner called Baltimore. The florist, Mark Colle, makes the most beautiful creations (he did the flowers for Raf Simons's famous first show at Dior), and every week he treats our store to a freshly made bouquet! Always a good start to the day. For a quickcoffee, Caffenation is Antwerp's most popular espresso bar. The staff is really friendly, and if you want to feel what's buzzing in town, this is a good place to start. Copyright and 't Stad Leest are my favorite bookstores in the city.
1:00 p.m. On Saturdays, I like to go grocery shopping at 'De vreemdelingenmarkt—"the foreigners' market"—at the intersection of Graanmarkt and the Oude Vaartplaats. You will find all kinds of foods from all over the world there. You can also eat some oysters and drink a glass of wine while buying your fish. As a foodie, one of the things I love about the restaurant at Graanmarkt 13 is that we make our own honey. Our beekeeper and the chef, Seppe Nobels, are in charge of the bees, whose hives are on the patio at Graanmarkt and on the rooftop of the opera house. It's a fun process to see. We recently published a cookbook of Seppe's creations.
2:00 p.m. For shopping, I'm a big fan of Dries van Noten. His store is a must-see, located in a former 19th-century haberdashery in het Modepaleis. Since the mid-'80s, the store Coccodrillo has acted as a launch pad for fresh talent; today the stock is a personal selection of pieces from major houses and small and on-the-rise labels. Steenhouwervest and Vrijdagmarkt are also two great boutique-lined streets where you can discover up-and-coming designers. And the store Magazyn is our favorite for home goods. Tim and I buy each other birthday presents there.
5:00 p.m. Hidden in a small alley in the middle of the historical city center is the gallery of antiques and art dealer Axel Vervoordt. This spot is truly one of Antwerp's best-kept secrets. I have a sweet tooth, and I always know where to find the best cakes. Recently Antwerp got lucky with Les Tartes de Francoise, the best dessert spot. For Belgian chocolates, it's all about Chocolatier Burie. This family-run business became legendary for its elaborate window displays. I can't resist chocolates or orange sticks from any Belgian chocolatier, though.
8:00 p.m. Cinema Cartoons is Antwerp's smallest cinema. After watching a movie on a Thursday night you can enjoy live concerts at the bar. If I'm meeting friends for a drink, I like the bar Vitrin, located on Marnixplaats, a happening little plaza you can't miss because of the big Poseidon statute in its center. You can always find Antwerp's fashion and culture insiders there.
ILSE'S SHORT LIST:
PAMPERING: The Spa at Hotel Julien.
SOUVENIRS THAT LAST: Whenever I'm craving a wonderful piece of jewelry, or want to give a gift that you can keep forever, I opt for a piece by Wouters & Hendrix. Katrin and Karen have been designing jewelry together since 1984 and are now a firm part of Antwerp's fashion scene. Products from Santa Maria Novella also work well, especially the bath salts, Tabacco Toscano soap (for men), Olio Cosmetico, or rose water.
FOR A SUNNY DAY: Middelheim Open Air Sculpture Museum is a must-see. It's an exceptional setting with a view of over 100 sculptures.
DAY TRIP: Outside of Antwerp you will find the beautiful site of Axel Vervoordt's Het Kanaal. If you liked his gallery, you need to make the trip. In the Kanaal you will find his offices and showroom, containing the most beautiful interior and art pieces (especially those of Anish Kapoor).
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