Frieke Trompet: “Describe the Schipperskwartier neighborhood as a must-visit in a tourist guide about Belgium”.
When in Antwerp, don’t be afraid to leave the beaten track – the city’s most authentic sights aren’t to be seen at the Meir or grand square. The true heart of Antwerp beats in its docks, as the town boasts one of the most important ports in the world. Over the past centuries, millions of ships have anchored in Antwerp, which evidently left its mark on the local culture. The most obvious example is the Schipperskwartier neighborhood, which is notorious for its encounters between seamen – no pun intended – and ladies of the evening. This red-light district is still active, although most of the current clientele has probably never set foot on a ship.
Flashy neon signs, fetish themed shops and a passer-by walking a nervous pace: it is oddly fascinating to observe the couleur locale of the “sailor’s quarter”. As far as (tourist) activities go, there’s also loads – again, no pun intended – to do in the Schipperskwartier area. You can of course partake in history tours, which will show you both the common landmarks and more shady sights, but one could also visit one of the parlors for a first-hand – how does this keep happening? – experience. If you’re lucky, a local real estate firm might even pay your bill because you get mistaken for a politician of the N-VA party.