It’s no real secret: Borgerhout doesn’t have the best of names in certain circles. Most of these circles however – fortunately for us – operate far away from Boho itself, and are mainly filled with folks who won’t leave the house as soon as the people get a little darker. Could a lot of things be better? Of course, where not? But this doesn’t change the facts however, and they say that Borgerhout is one of the liveliest, most colourful and youthful districts of Antwerp. The social mix is real here, neighbours still know each other and there’s an incredible amount of creative things happening. There’s a lot to see and do as well. “De Roma” is one of the country’s most beautiful concert halls, Borgerrio is one of the best events of the year and on the Bar Leon terrace, many a life story was told (and hipster chick fondled).
“It’s no real secret: Borgerhout doesn’t have the best of names in certain circles. Most of these circles however – fortunately for us – operate far away from Boho itself, and are mainly filled with folks who won’t leave the house as soon as the people get a little darker.”
There’s no lack of unknown little spots either. When I asked for suggestions on BOHO 2140 – possibly one of the only Antwerp Facebook groups where people generally don’t want to kill each other (happy days indeed) – the response I got was overwhelming. I selected four of my favourites from the list, but there’s more than enough material for a second article. So put your game face on, put some swag in your step and boldly venture out of your safe zone in Antwerp city. You’ll be fine.
1. Do some shopping under a train track
Know what makes me a happy pappy? Seeing old, worn-out glories brighten up again as soon as someone gives them a second chance. Your ex is a good example – oh snap! – but so are the arches under the old train bridge close to Stenenbrug. The spaces under the tracks were a pitiful sight for years and served as run-down garages, but a while ago a number of them were completely renovated. The so-called centers on Engelselei will soon be home to a colourful selection of fifteen small entrepreneurs. Some have been open for quite a while, others will follow this September.
“Een hele nieuwe winkelstraat op een plaats waar anderhalf jaar terug geen hol te zien viel: zou dat niet ongelofelijk aangenaam zijn?”
Feel like some fresh organic lemonade? Get it here! Always wanted a custom-made arcade cabinet? Go buy one right now! A surprisingly varied range of businesses gathered here: from a woodworker and a potter to a popsicle shop, a second-hand store for children’s clothing and even a microbrewery. If the project turns out to be a success, more centers will be renovated in the future. A whole new shopping street in a spot where there was nothing to do or see less than two years ago: wouldn’t that be grand? So get off your lazy asses and come and take a look. September 28th would be the perfect day for it. The annual procession is passing through and the centres will hold an open house with food, music and drinks. Check it out! www.facebook.com/centersborgerhout/
2. Visit a tailor’s paradise
Forget Fortnite, XTC and the existential fear of a vanished future we ripped apart right in front of their eyes: sewing, stitching and knitting is what’s really on young people’s minds today. But where do you get all the good stuff to start enjoying these evergreens of leisurely pleasure in the best possible way? Well, at Turnhoutsebaan 74 to be precise. In this street – Borgerhout’s main artery where the whole world is on sale – you’ll find a little shop unlike any other in 2019. Stunt Solderie is a delightfully old-fashioned one-woman business stuffed from floor to ceiling with everything you could ever need to start making clothes. The store was opened in the mid-eighties and is still run by the very outspoken and now 73-year-old Mrs. Baert. A regular person would surely lose the thread (see what I did there?) in the midst of all of this wonderful chaos, but she always seem to know exactly where everything is. For fashion students and theatre makers, this is a genuine treasure trove. And because most of the goods come from the stock sales of long lost stores, you’ll find things here you can’t get anywhere else. Unique little business indeed.
3. Enjoy some real Italian ice cream
When I asked for suggestions, one item turned up way more than everything else. So often in fact, riots would have broken out had I not included it in this article. So here goes. About two years ago, Borgo Gelato was opened in Sint-Jansstraat, close to Krugerplein. In this already immensely popular ice cream parlour, they make Italian Ice cream the way it should be made: the way that doesn’t make Italians have ridiculous rage fits. They use only real fruit and mostly fair trade ingredients, and everything is made fresh on a daily basis so there are always other flavours for sale. Want to eat ice cream that wasn’t made out of squished baby seals (it’s the secret extra yummy ingredient, kids)? Have some of the many vegan options instead. Want to try five flavours in one cone for the same price? Go absolutely nuts my friend: it’s a-okay here! Sounds like the perfect place for a first date. Treat her to a free ice cream, take her to De Roma to go and watch something incredibly alternative to show her you’re a worldly man and then take her back to the Bar Leon terrace to use it for what they put it out for. I’m your designated wingman in Borgerhout as well my man. High five! www.borgogelato.be
4. Enjoy a homemade meal
Is there anywhere the food tastes better than at your mum’s house? Well in other people’s houses of course! You don’t have to do the dishes and the risk of a spontaneous exposition of your most embarrassing baby pics is generally much smaller. There are several house restaurants in Borgerhout, but Pepper & Mint in Borsbeekstraat was by far the most recommended one. Five years ago, Hilde bought and renovated an old smithy here, and started cooking for the neighbours with her daughter Fien (now on maternity leave). Everyone is seated at one long table, all dishes are prepared with lots of love and the food is modest but incredibly tasty. For a copious three-course dinner (depending on what’s served that day) you’ll pay € 20 to 25, and everything is made with fresh seasonal products. It’s like eating with your family – assuming of course, your family mostly consists of pleasant people instead of dirty uncles. The many tips you’ll get on what else to do in the area are completely free of charge. An absolute must. www.pepper-mint.be
“Is there anywhere the food tastes better than at your mum’s house? Well in other people’s houses of course! You don’t have to do the dishes and the risk of a spontaneous exposition of your most embarrassing baby pics is generally much smaller”
Here ends my first introduction to Borgerhout. Did I forget your favourite spot? Did they take away your crappy garage to put a center in it? Would you like to cook for me as well some day? Feel like whining about how everything was so much better there when you were young? Don’t hold back and pour out your soul in the comments below.