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Although you can "do" Antwerp in a day, you would do much better with two or three days, allowing time to sample some of the great restaurants and the lively nightlife and to properly explore the rich collections of MAS and other museums. This is a walking city, so take the time to explore side streets and squares. Avoid limiting your visit to a Monday, when the museums are closed, for they are an integral part of the experience. Local markets are at their best (and busiest) on weekends.
1 Day: Wander the narrow streets of the Oude Stad, window-shopping and perhaps sampling some local beer along with a lunch of the ubiquitous moules frites (mussels and French fries). After peeking into the Cathedral of Our Lady, head to Rubenshuis to see a faithful and rich re-creation of the famous painter's own house and studio. Afterward, walk along the river Scheldt, appreciating Antwerp's centuries-long tradition as a major European port, before stopping at MAS (Museum aan de Stroom) to marvel at the modern building and historic collections. If you want to splurge, finish with dinner at MAS's Michelin-starred restaurant, ‘t Zilte, or head back to the Oude Stad area for a bite in one of its historic eateries.
3 Days: Follow the suggestions above for Day 1. On Day 2, if you've made an early start, you could take a boat tour to see the modern, working harbor. Absorb a sense of the city's religious history by visiting some of its churches, including Sint-Pauluskerk and Sint-Jacobskerk, where Rubens is buried. Next make a trip to see the Bruegels at the Museum Mayer Van den Bergh before venturing to the Plantin-Moretus Museum, the home and printing plant of a publishing dynasty that spanned three centuries. If you'd rather take a break from history, make a trip to the Zoo Antwerpen, visit Aquatopia, or indulge your covetous streak with a trip to the Diamantwijk and Diamondland (remember to make an appointment beforehand). If it's peace and quiet you're after, head to the Begijnhof, an almost hidden 13th-century convent. On your last day, use the morning to take advantage of Antwerp's ranking as a key European fashion center. First hit the Mode Museum, then window-shop along the smaller streets radiating off the Meir. After that, head south and stop at MuHKA (Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst) for a dose of modern Flemish art. Finish with dinner and a nightcap in the chic Het Zuid neighborhood.
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