Selecting the best coffee bars in Antwerp is not an easy task, mainly because there are so damn many of them. Antwerp has hundreds to choose from. You couldn’t even try them all out, without a couple of new ones popping up in the meantime. Trot Op! went looking for them anyways, and ended up with the following eight.
For most Belgians living elsewhere, Antwerp is regarded as a city full of arrogant macho pricks with a superiority complex the size of their cathedral (which is – needless to say – the biggest and tallest in the country). These prejudices are of course absolutely true. We are in fact superior, which can be a hard pill to swallow for your average countryside knuckle-dragger trying to make a living gathering berries and mushrooms in some damp forest. What people often forget to mention, is that the number of hipsters in Antwerp is also rising exponentially. The amount of man-bunned idiots with a perfectly trimmed little beard, wearing a velours jacket for a coat strutting about is almost staggering. With the hipsters came the coffee bars. After all, the coffee bar is the homo hipsteris’ natural habitat. It’s their safe spot, where they feel like they belong. They can be digital nomads here (read: pretend to have a job to hide the fact they’re still living with their mom at age 30). This usually manifests itself by frantically typing on a MacBook while occasionally sipping from an almond milk latte or nibbling from a gluten free cupcake. That first novel just isn’t going to write itself, you know.
The 8 best coffee bars in Antwerp
This said, I’m of course a regular myself. A good cup of coffee never killed anyone, my grandmother used to say. She might be dead now, but that doesn’t make her less right. It is of course difficult to separate the good from the mediocre when there are so many options to choose from. There are about five coffee bars in a 200m radius from my door, but I’m not going to just give them my hard earned money out of charity. No, some sort of quality control is imperative. But how will this work on Trot Op!? Well basically I’ll give you my very subjective opinion, and you’re going to eat it like a tasty little cookie. Don’t like it? Roll up those sleeves and start a blog of your own. I applied the following criteria to select my eight candidates. 1. I have to love the actual coffee. It must be strong and have some taste: no watery bullcrap. 2. The more unique the location or theme, the greater the chance you’ll end up in the list. 3. I prefer small, independent businesses to chains. No Starbucks (oh god) or even Caffénation. You already knew of those anyways. There, those are the rules, and here are the 8 best coffee bars in Antwerp. Don’t try all of them at once or you’ll be up all night.
1. Vandoag Is ‘t: the best coffee bar in the Antwerp student quarter
I’ll be completely honest with you: Vandoag Is’t is my jam. I come here on an almost daily basis. It’s two steps from my place and in the heart of the Antwerp student district, where it’s been immensely popular for about fifteen years now. This is because owner Gilles and his son are friendly people but never bother you, they work fast no matter how busy it gets, and the place is small but cosy. The coffee is of course great and you can go completely ham in terms of flavours and combinations. Fancy a chocolate milk full of Maltheser cookies? Go nuts! Want some curcuma in your latte? Why not! Feel like having a healthy bite to go with it? You’ll find Kool & Zo next door: a salad bar run by Gilles’ sister. Order a salad there and take it back with you to have with your coffee. www.vandoagist.be
2. Koffieklap: coffee for a good cause
Koffieklap is one of my other favourites, and was chosen not only for its cosiness and coffee quality, but also because I’m a big fan of the concept. This coffee bar is located in Klapdorp near the red light district, and is run almost entirely by volunteers. It’s a bar where former sex workers and victims of human trafficking are sheltered and then trained to take their first steps in the (normal) hospitality industry. The emphasis here is on (re)building self-confidence and self-esteem, and financially supporting the women where necessary. People may not like to hear it, but the majority of girls in prostitution end up there against their will and are not easily able to quit. Koffieklap offers a safe environment for them to learn new skills and thus build a better life. You can also order what is called a “hanging coffee” here, which is later given to one of the girls. Perfect for introverts: you can treat a female to a drink without having to stutter like some broken record all the way through. www.facebook.com/KoffieKlap/
3. Vitesse Coffee & Cycling: coffee in cycling pants
Another nice coffee bar in Antwerp with a unique concept is Vitesse Coffee & Cycling in Provinciestraat behind the Zoo. As the smartest of you will have already figured out, it’s all about cycling here. The walls are full of beautiful photos and memorabilia, and if there is a race going on somewhere you can watch it here on the big screen. If you want to get all sporty yourself, you can gather in front of the bar every Saturday morning at half past nine, and join the group for an 80km bike tour (but bring a racing bike with you, it’s not an old folks home). For the doubters: there are some majestic looking ladies joining the tour. Start rubbing those legs boys. www.vitesse.cc
4. Amici Coffee & Books: coffee for another good cause
A small but great coffee bar lies hidden between the chic boutiques in Kammenstraat. Amici Coffee & Books is a Sant’Egidio initiative and is mainly staffed by people with a mental disability. Here, these boys and girls receive the necessary support and a warm environment to develop themselves in a job that they actually enjoy. Rarely have I seen catering staff work with such passion: they truly take care of your coffee here. The profit made is donated to other social projects. Those who’ve had their caffeine shot can pay for a second coffee here as well. This one is later given to a homeless person for free. Doing something good doesn’t always have to be difficult. www.facebook.com/Koffiebaramici/
5. Normo: coffee in its purest form
Normo is probably the most known entry in this post. It’s been an established name for years and can almost without exception be found in all “best coffee bars in Antwerp” lists. This fine place with a somewhat grungy look on Minderbroedersrui is known for coffee the way it should be drunk. Here you won’t ask for a latte or a cappuccino, but ideally you’ll go for black. The owners work with local farmers from Kenya to Brazil, and everything is roasted in their own roastery in Borgerhout. When the sun is out, you can have a seat on the benches outside and do some serious people spotting. Which is of course, always fun. www.normocoffee.be
6. Nives: coffee in the park
Nives is a relatively new place in the orangery next to the renovated Harmonie Hall in the park of the same name (this building now serves as the new district house). Although you can order a lot of delicious coffee here, this is more of a breakfast and lunch restaurant than an actual coffee bar. That doesn’t mean you should skip this one. They have their own in-house sourdough bakery, so everything in terms of bread and pastry is as fresh as it gets. You can also order a couple of healthy lunch dishes here. The biggest asset however, is the location itself: both the beautiful building and the surrounding park. Ideal for sultry summer days. www.facebook.com/nivesantwerpen/
7. Black & Yellow Coffee: hip hop style coffee
“I like my coffee like I like my music: black”. If that’s your motto, Black & Yellow Coffee is the place to be for you. It’s located on ‘t Eilandje and is a bit of the odd one out. Here you won’t find yourself in a cosy retro living room like in most other places, but in a sleek urban space. The name is a reference to the Wiz Khalifa song, and the choice of music will generally be hip-hop here as well. If Snoop would ever find himself in a coffee shop outside of Amsterdam, it would be this one. You can even get a tattoo here (only on appointment). Specially arranged for people who want to take home a lasting memory of their delicious cappuccino. Nice. www.blackandyellowcoffee.com
8. Rush Rush: coffee in the Zurenborg area
Rush Rush is a great but perhaps slightly lesser known coffee bar in a nice corner building in between Dageraadplaats and Draakplaats. It was opened in 2020 by a couple who worked as professional baristas in other coffee bars for years. It’s all about quality here: just like in Normo, they roast all of their own beans. You can order a number of surprising breakfast and lunch dishes here as well. Nice terrace, good coffee and pleasant neighbourhood to hang out in. Sometimes that’s all you need. www.rushrush.be
“Selecting the best coffee bars in Antwerp is not a simple task, simply because there are so damn many of them. Some form of quality control is imperative. How does this work on Trot Op? Completely subjectively and according to my own personal preferences of course. Don’t agree? Start your own blog.”
There, those are my eight best coffee bars in Antwerp. Did I forget your favourite? Would you like to further expand the list with some other entries? You don’t like coffee and just wasted five minutes of your life reading this thing? Tried all of them at once and not been able to sleep ever since? Let me know in the comments below.
Fancy some other tasty stuff? Read all about the best Cocktail Bars in Antwerp, the best African restaurants, the best Italian restaurants or the best burger restaurants in Antwerp. Find out about my recent adventures in Hasselt and Genk here.