Something you must visit when in Anterp is the street market on Wapper and Graanmarkt, just off the main shopping drag Meir. What I like about Belgium is their mediterranean approach to food. Strolling around this market, you'll find plenty of evidence of a populatiion healthily preoccupied with what they eat.
A seconary reason for having a look at the market is Oud Arsenaal, very handily placed half way along it.
When I first visited Belgium, back in the early 1980's, pubs of this type were common. The Belgian take on a brown beer cafe - small, dark and cosy. What has happened to most of them since, is comparable to Watney's assault on British pubs in the sixties and seveties. Yet the continued popularity of places like this shows just how wrong the pub despoilers were and how little in tune with the public. Your main problem is likely to be finding a seat. (I told you these places were popular). The bar - with a lovely leaded glass screen at one end - offers only limited standing opportunities. An impressive array of beer memorabilia hides all the vertical surfaces. Below, a long bench, a succession of tables crushing in front of it, stretches the length of the wall.
On a sunny day, the seats outside - a great bratwurst stall directly opposite - are even harder toclaim than those inside.
Think the guy leaning on the bar is looking hostile? About a second after I took the picture he cracked a joke about "bedrijfsespionage" (industrial espionage) with me and the barman. Quite a friendly response to some foreign idiot snapping away obtrusively. But that's Belgium for you: hospitable and humourous. Most countries only manage one, some neither, of those qualities. Plenty of Belgian beer pubs have lists that run into hundreds. Arsenaal's is quite small in comparisn. "Klein maar fijn" (small but good) as they say in Dutch. The highlight is a selection traditional lambic beers: Oude Geuze, Oude Kriek. If, like me, you like the proper unsweeted, uncomprimisingly sour stuff, you won't be disappointed. There's one guest tap to add some variety. I would tell you what all the draught beers are but, I was so busy pissing around taking pictures, that I forgot to note them down. I'm sure you'll forgive me this one lapse. promise not to do it again.
My favourite pub in Antwerp. A gem without a single fault. Maybe apart from being loved by too many others.
Super authentic and local bar. Excellent choice of low priced beers. Owner has a lot of knowledge about beers and city history.
Nice atmosphere. Can take a bit longer to get beer when the bar is full.
Excellent selection of Belgian ales. Oud Arsenaal is only place I have found so far that has a good selection of lambic family ales (lambics are from Brussels, this is Antwerp, and the paucity of lambic ales here would make one think they're in two different countries). The owner Stefan (whose grandfather started the business in 1929, served till 1952; his father ran the business from 1952 to 1992 when Stefan took over) is well traveled and knowledgeable, not just about Belgian ales. Tell him what you like and go with his recommendations. The clientele is 80% local and 20% visitors - I had a nice chat at the bar with a couple of local regulars. If you're looking for a casual, comfortable, friendly, and reasonably priced place in the center of Antwerp, to sample Belgian ales, this is the place to go.
I went back for a third evening, my last in Antwerp, and had a couple more gueuzes recommended by Stefan. This a great place to go to just meet and chat with local people. I will definitely go back here next time I am in town.
Great beer in this brown bar
Authentic Belgian beer cafė. A mix of people just enjoying the best beers. No nonsense.