Antwerp, Belgium's medieval capital of cool, might be small – it's often likened to a village – but it's packed full of culture. Diamond dealers, art lovers and fashion designers all rub shoulders in this quirky city. Its historic centre is dotted with quaint cobbled lanes you can easily get lost in, with plenty of pavement cafés and bars where you can watch the world go by.
Stay in an Antwerp hostel and you'll get to see inside the city's characteristic old buildings. You'll find places to stay like a designated-monument guildhouse on the main square, an ex-chocolate factory or a renovated home with chickens in the garden. Most hostels in Antwerp have free Wi-Fi, and lots offer free breakfast too. Those in modern buildings tend to have elevators for heavy backpack carriers. Choose an Antwerp hostel that hosts events like free walking tours so you can get to know travellers from all around the world while discovering the city.
The pretty Historisch Centrum (historic centre) neighbourhood is a must-see if you've only got a day or two in the city. You'll find the country's famous frites in many eateries, or head to Van Wesenbekestraat – Belgium's only official Chinatown, near Antwerpen-Centraal station – for steaming bowls of noodle soup. Zurenborg is a trendy, residential neighbourhood just south of the centre that's known for the weird and wonderful mix of building styles on Cogels-Osylei street.
As for what to see and do, you don't have to be an art lover to appreciate a visit to Rubenshuis, a gallery inside the former home of baroque superstar artist Peter Paul Rubens. The home also has beautiful gardens to explore. For a different perspective of Antwerp's historic architecture, head off on a trip on the vintage wooden escalators of the Sint-Annatunnel. Lager-loving travellers can quench their thirst at De Koninck brewery, which has been making beer in the city since 1833.
Most of the city's attractions are an easy walk – or cycle – away from each other. To explore further afield, hop on one of the De Lijn buses or trams; buy a ticket from a newsagent or supermarket before boarding to get a cheaper rate. Three buses run from Antwerp International Airport to Antwerpen-Berchem station, where you can find onward transport to the city centre. Most trains from other cities pull into Antwerpen-Centraal station, a 12-minute walk from the historic centre of town.