Blog post sponsored by VISITFLANDERS
Antwerp, impresses travellers as soon as they step off the train. The grandeur of the ticket hall at Antwerp Central Station is impossible to ignore. Just less than an hour’s journey from Brussels, Antwerp Central station is located in the heart of Belgium’s second city.
Photo: Antwerp Central Station
On arrival in Antwerp I checked in my home away from home, Hotel Franq. This 42-bedroom boutique hotel, housed in a former bank and taking its name from the old Belgian Francs, oozes designer chic. Although open less than a year, it has already gained an impressive reputation amongst Belgian locals. Whenever I mentioned where I was staying, it seemed to generate excitement. Apparently, it is the go to hotel for fashion bloggers. Note to self: book a personal shopper before my next stay! The service from hotel staff was exemplary. Not every hotel would offer a show round to you and fellow event planners, when arriving home from dinner at midnight! There are 4 event spaces in the hotel with the meeting room with the largest capacity being up to 30 people. The spaces are decorated in a modern classical style ensuring they are stylish but also preserve the history of the hotel. Hidden under the hotel is the old bank vault, now used as a wine cellar and an ideal location for a wine tasting event or small reception.
Photos: Hotel Franq
As the second largest port in Europe, Antwerp plays a key role in international trade. Nothing made the enormity of this role clearer than standing on the map of Antwerp, displayed on the floor of the Port House. Residential Antwerp is relatively small in comparison to the port, which spans across the map. Clusters of industry are clearly marked by the areas allocated to them in the port. Companies in logistics and petrochemicals are the largest players in the port and are the key to unlocking the potential of Flanders as a knowledge hubs for events, especially association events.
Photo: Antwerp Port
The Port House, once a fire station is a protected historical building. Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid transformed the historic building into a state of the art vision of the future. Her design created several extra levels to the Port House, which includes an auditorium for approx. 100 attendees. For events of very high importance access may be granted to the press room with panoramic views across the port. The foyer of the Port House is often used to host exhibitions and can be hired for standing drinks receptions. Overlooking the port and close to all this industry expertise, as well as the maritime academy, the Port House is ideal for maritime events or events that could benefit from the industry knowledge available.
Photo: Port House, Antwerp
Het Pomphuis, or The Pump House restaurant opposite the Port House is an elegant restaurant that maintains the industrial feature of the old pump house and compliments the events in The Port House as a space for private dinners.
Photo: Het Phomphuis
Diva Diamond Museum
Opening in May 2018, DIVA interactive Diamond museum brings together the diamond and silver trades that are weaved into Antwerp’s history and economy. Did you know that every diamond in the world passes through Antwerp at least once? The interactive exhibits at Diva will be open to group tours and the private meeting space will be available for events. When I asked what was on offer to event planners that would link the event to the diamond industry I was told: Diamond Drink Receptions. Cubic zirconia and one real diamond can be placed in guests’ glasses. Throughout the reception, guests will be able to have their gem analysed by professionals, who will reveal the lucky winner of the real diamond. What a memorable experience that would be!
Photo: Champagne drinks reception
Spiegelzaal - Hall of Mirrors
Elegance and splendour are words that spring to mind as you walk into the beautiful period hall of mirrors. Conveniently located on a busy shopping street in the centre of Antwerp, this former imperial palace belonged to Napoleon and later several other Belgian royals. The opulent room is perfect for hosting dinner and receptions in a unique setting.
Photo: Spiegelzaal - Hall of Mirrors
De Serre embraces the creativity and innovation that Antwerp is keen to nurture, with a botanical themed meeting room in the tech start up village. The Conservatory in De Serre has a cool and quirky style and can host events for up to 180 people.
Photo: De Serre
Seef Beer is a hip new brewery, that is bringing back a forgotten beer recipe which has been lost in Antwerp’s history. Even before the official launch, group bookings are in high demand and there are plans to extend the capacity with a large outdoor area.
Photo: Seef Beer (Brewery)
One thing was clear on my travels around Antwerp, the city is changing. Cranes and roadworks indicate the amount of regeneration that is taking place, especially around the harbour and port areas. I was told the tram would be extending, making travel even more efficient. This powerhouse of a city has even greater ambitions and it is definitely one to watch.
To find out more about hosting events in Antwerp explore the VISITFLANDERS website and contact the team. http://bit.ly/2rg1mxB