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Moving to Antwerp

Antwerp is a city defined by contrasts, where elegant classical buildings on cobblestone streets stand alongside striking modern architecture. Famously the heart of the world's diamond trade, Antwerp is Belgium's main port city and a commercial hub that revels in culture and history.

Locals will readily remind expats moving to Antwerp that the city was home to great painters such as Rubens and Van Dyck. This proud artistic heritage is still relevant, especially in the local fashion industry. As a result, there are countless boutiques and designer stores for expats who enjoy life's finer things.

Living in Antwerp as an expat

As the northern region's largest city, the official language in Antwerp is Dutch. Most residents are bilingual, and many will speak at least some English. Antwerp is also one of Belgium's most populated cities and hosts many of the country's most prominent businesses. Many of these businesses centre around its port, where the River Scheldt opens to the North Sea. The local economy is primarily driven by the petrochemical industry, oil refineries, electricity production and cargo.

Antwerp's central location in Western Europe means that it's easily accessible. The city has well-maintained roads, and its public transport system consists of an efficient tram and bus system. Thanks to this comprehensive public transit system, both inner-city apartments and houses on Antwerp's suburban outskirts are viable accommodation options for new arrivals to the city. 

Cost of living in Antwerp

Life in Antwerp is not especially expensive – it's far less expensive than Brussels – but not particularly cheap. As a country, Belgium has a high income-tax rate which ranges from 25 to 50 percent. Budgeting with post-tax figures is therefore essential. For those who find themselves on a tight budget, cheaper-than-average options can be found for accommodation and food, though it may take some time and effort.

Families and children in Antwerp

Expats moving to Antwerp with children will be pleased by the variety of family-friendly attractions, and they can be assured that they'll have plenty of excellent options for schooling. There is also a wide selection of public and international schools for families to choose from.

Climate in Antwerp

The city's temperate maritime climate means that extreme temperatures are rare. Summer is pleasant but also the wettest time of the year, with temperature highs of around 72° F (22°C). Winter temperatures rarely drop below 32°F (0°C), and there's more rain than snow.

Overall, expats moving to Antwerp will find a welcoming city with a lavish lifestyle. There's an abundance of options for entertainment, schooling and accommodation. The quality of life enjoyed by expats and locals alike is high, and the city offers new arrivals a range of unique cultural experiences, making Antwerp an attractive destination for expats from all walks of life.

Accommodation in Antwerp

Even with limited supply and constant demand, property prices in Antwerp are stable and generally cheaper than other major European cities. Accommodation tends to be small but comfortable, and while most houses have good heating, air-conditioning is uncommon and unnecessary.

Areas and suburbs in Antwerp

There is a wide selection of areas and suburbs in Antwerp for expats to choose from. For city lovers, areas near the R10 ring road and De Leien streets are popular with expats, providing easy access to transport and a wealth of amenities. However, these conveniences come with expensive properties and potential traffic issues.

Suburbs like Deurne and Zurenborg offer a range of accommodations appealing to expats. Home to the city's largest park, Deurne offers cultural landmarks and excellent cycling routes. Zurenborg is renowned for its classic architecture and tranquil environment with easy access to public transport.

Den Dam, once a home for dockworkers, now offers an edgy, multicultural environment near the city centre. Meanwhile, Zuid, a revitalised museum district, is a favourite among young expats for its nightlife and scenic views. However, Den Dam might lack the aesthetics found elsewhere, and Zuid can be crowded, posing challenges for families.

See Areas and Suburbs in Antwerp for more detail.

Types of accommodation in Antwerp

Antwerp has a wide range of apartments, from old flats with high ceilings and chandeliers to modern glass-and-steel studios. Some of the most attractive and expensive apartments are in the city centre.

Most rental properties are unfurnished. Some properties are effectively empty and don't have built-in cupboards, while others have an equipped kitchen with a refrigerator and stove. Expats should ensure they know what is included in the property before signing a lease. For those seeking temporary accommodation, short leases are available. These are more likely to come furnished, and utilities are often included in the rent, providing a convenient solution for shorter stays in the city.

Finding accommodation in Antwerp

Most expats in Antwerp choose to use estate agents who have databases of long- and short-term rentals. The classifieds sections of local newspapers are another excellent source of information. Expats can also physically look for somewhere to live in areas that appeal to them. Popular property portals include Immoweb, Realo and Zimmo.

Renting accommodation in Antwerp

Making an application

Applications typically involve providing proof of income and identification. The landlord may also request references from previous landlords or employers.

Leases and deposits

The standard lease agreement in Belgium is nine years, but three-year contracts are also possible. Termination requires three months' written notice, with a penalty fee equivalent to three months' rent if requested in the first year. Expats need to pay a deposit of up to three months' rent. Belgian leases contain a list of tenants' and owners' responsibilities. Tenants are likely to be responsible for upkeep like carpet cleaning and gardening. A full inventory should be completed and signed by both parties, as tenants can be held liable for damages to the property.

See Accommodation for Expats in Belgium for more in-depth information.

Utilities in Antwerp

Like many European cities, Antwerp's renters will find that utilities are typically excluded from the rental price and must be paid in addition to the monthly rental. The tenant is usually responsible for organising utility accounts with their local utility companies.

Expats who have hired a real-estate agent can get their assistance with getting utilities connected. Alternatively, the administration department of a particular apartment building or housing complex will help new tenants with this.

Electrabel is a major electricity provider in Antwerp, and expats moving into detached homes will typically need to contact them for the electricity connection process. The electricity provider will assist expats with generating a residence evaluation report, which includes information on what kind of meter has been installed on the property and the number of outlets. They can submit the report with original and certified copies of their residence permit and proof of identity. This can be done in person or online. Electricity bills are typically distributed and paid monthly via direct debit or at the bank. Most homes in Antwerp use gas for heating, and companies like Fluxys lead the gas supply market.

Water in Antwerp is supplied by Water-Link. New arrivals renting an apartment will have their water connected by building management, and those moving into a standalone residential property must contact Water-Link's customer service to add their name to the bill and get connected. Expats will need to provide the agent with their residence permit number.

The city's waste collection utility, Stad Antwerpen, oversees waste management in Antwerp. Waste collection in Antwerp is based on a curbside system. Residents are required to separate their waste into different bags, with recyclable, general and organic waste sorted into individual bags. Stad Antwerpen will then collect the rubbish on designated days. Expats can enter their street address on Stad Antwerpen's website to find their rubbish collection day and route. Antwerp also has recycling centres dotted throughout the city as part of the city's waste management network.

Useful links

Areas and Suburbs in Antwerp

The best places to live in Antwerp

Deciding where to live in the city will be one of the most important decisions that new arrivals to Antwerp will make. Various factors will need to be taken into account, including budget, proximity to work and public transport connections.

Most expats seek property near the R10 ring road that circles the city centre. The districts around a series of streets called De Leien are also popular. These form sections of the N1 road from Brussels in the south through Antwerp’s city centre and north to the Dutch border. The benefits of living in one of these areas include easy access to transport infrastructure and a wide variety of shopping and entertainment options, although properties are expensive and traffic congestion can be a problem.

On the other hand, outer suburbs such as Deurne and Zurenborg offer a good range of accommodation options for expats. Despite their distance from the city centre, public transport links are generally sufficient, making a car unnecessary in most cases. 

These are some of the most popular areas and suburbs in Antwerp. 

Popular expat areas in Antwerp



A redeveloped museum district in the city centre, Zuid is popular among young residents who want to live near the city’s nightlife and restaurants. Expats who live in this riverside area are likely to have pleasant views from their apartment windows, and there are plenty of galleries, museums, monuments and designer stores to keep them busy. Getting around on public transport won’t be a problem, but it can get busy and may not be well suited to families.


Hugging the R10 to the southeast of the city centre, Zurenborg is best known for its classic architecture. The area is split by a railway line. The northwest section has a village atmosphere that attracts younger residents, while the southeastern section boasts quirky townhouses.

The area’s aesthetic appeal is its biggest attraction, and residents have easy access to several modes of public transport. It’s also far enough from the city centre to be pretty quiet, but not so far that there aren’t plenty of things to see and do. The biggest downside is that property in the area is usually quite expensive.

Family-friendly areas in Antwerp

Den Dam

Once inhabited by dockworkers, Den Dam in the city centre is now a multicultural residential area. It retains a little bit of its edgy character and is ideal for those employed in the industrial areas to the north of Antwerp, without being too far from the city centre. Expats with children will enjoy spending time at the Park Spoor Noord, a rejuvenated railyard with sports facilities and cycling paths. The area’s strategic location is probably its biggest plus, but some find it less appealing than the beautiful tree-lined streets in many other areas of the city.


Deurne is best known for being home to Rieverenhof, the city’s largest park. This area primarily has townhouses and apartments, but there are also a few houses to rent. Its cultural attractions include museums, monuments and events. Public transport links are good, as is the cycling infrastructure. The Albert Canal area can get highly congested, especially along Bischoppenhoflaan and around the stadium. 

Education and Schools in Antwerp

There are several schooling options available for expat children in Antwerp. The city is home to a few reputable international schools as well as some good public and private schools. Parents will need to consider the fees, language of instruction, and location of any prospective schools before deciding on one.

Public education in Belgium is free and is managed at the regional level. Children can start school at two-and-a-half years, but attendance is only compulsory between ages six and 18.

See Education and schools in Belgium for more on the national education system.

Public schools in Antwerp

Public schools are divided into pre-schools, kindergartens, primary and secondary schools. Flemish (a regional dialect of Dutch) is the language of instruction, and other languages are introduced towards the end of primary school. Children under 12 who do not speak Dutch can attend any primary school.

In contrast, non-Dutch-speaking children over 12 must attend a school with additional classes for foreign-language speakers. These reception classes are focused on intensive Dutch-language learning. The child is fully integrated into all regular classes as soon as possible.

Private schools in Antwerp

There are a few private schools available in Antwerp. The language of instruction in these schools is usually Flemish. Expats who plan to stay in the city long-term or whose children already speak the local language will find private schools an excellent option. Most private schools in the city are Roman Catholic, but do allow students of different faiths.

International schools in Antwerp

Most expats on short-term assignments in Belgium send their children to an international school. These provide various curricula, including the American, British and International Baccalaureate programmes. The language of instruction is typically English, and most give students a choice of French or Dutch classes. International schools are popular among expat parents, as the familiar language and curriculum can ease the transition between schools. That said, international schools can be fairly expensive, so parents should ensure their budget can cover the tuition.

For a list of recommended schools for expats, see International Schools in Antwerp.

Special-needs education in Antwerp

Special-needs education in Belgium focuses on inclusion and equality. The government is committed to ensuring each child exercises their right to education. Each language community has a respective Ministry of Education.

The ministry will first attempt to immerse a child into a mainstream school. If this is not possible or suitable, children would then be enrolled in a specialist school. There are various categories of specialist schools in Belgium. Some schools are focused on physical disabilities, and others will focus on learning or behavioural difficulties.

Tutors in Antwerp

Whether parents are looking to improve their child's language skills, boost their grades in a problem subject or get assistance in preparing for a big exam, expat families can make good use of the many high-quality tutors in Antwerp. There are numerous large and small companies, as well as independent tutors, who can be hired to help. It can be particularly useful to ask fellow expats and the child's school for recommendations.

Useful links

International Schools in Antwerp

There is a range of international schools in Antwerp catering to expat families' needs, in a city renowned for its cultural diversity and international connections. These schools provide various curricula, including American, British and International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes, ensuring a smooth transition for relocating families.

English is the primary language of instruction in most international schools in Antwerp, providing language continuity for many expat students. However, many of these schools also offer opportunities to learn French or Dutch, reflecting Belgium's linguistic diversity and offering a culturally enriching experience.

International schools in Antwerp uphold exceptional standards of teaching, with a student-centred approach and a strong emphasis on individual talents and strengths. They provide a well-rounded education through various extracurricular activities that promote physical, artistic and social development.

Accreditation from international bodies further assures parents of the high-quality education their children will receive in many of these esteemed institutions.

Below are some of the top international schools in Antwerp. 

International schools in Antwerp

Antwerp International School

Antwerp International School (AIS) offers tailored education with a low 7.1:1 student-to-teacher ratio, ensuring personalised learning experiences. AIS provides a comprehensive International Baccalaureate continuum, including the IB PYP, MYP and Diploma Programme, producing outstanding test scores. Alongside academics, AIS promotes holistic education through sports tournaments and artistic activities, prioritising students' emotional, social and physical well-being.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Da Vinci International School Antwerp

Founded in 1997, Da Vinci International School offers a unique educational approach to Antwerp's expatriate community. With a focus on transferable skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the school follows the International Baccalaureate PYP, MYP and DP programmes, fostering independent thinking and global engagement. Through regular assessments, cultural trips, extracurricular activities, and personalised support, students receive a well-rounded education, while close parent-teacher communication keeps expat families informed about their children's progress.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

International School of Belgium

International School of Belgium (ISBe) offers a holistic, values-based education for expat children in Antwerp, with a varied curriculum and state-of-the-art facilities, including science and computer labs, a library and sports amenities. Founded in 1979, ISBe has over 40 years of experience and is part of a global education group, with multiple international accreditations. With small classes and a focus on promoting a healthy lifestyle, ISBe prepares well-rounded individuals for a positive global impact.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate (International Early Years and Primary Curriculum) and British (Cambridge IGCSE)
Ages: 3 to 18

Lycée Français International d'Anvers

With a heritage dating back to 1901, the French International School of Antwerp (LFIA) offers French academic excellence and multilingual education to over 4,000 students. LFIA's teaching approach fosters essential qualities like creativity, critical thinking and curiosity, with an exceptional 100 percent success rate in examinations. With a campus spanning 1,200 square metres and modern facilities, including classrooms, a media library and a multi-sports hall, LFIA provides a stimulating and inclusive environment for each pupil's growth and success.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French
Ages: 3 to 18

Lifestyle in Antwerp

Antwerp is Belgium's shopping and fashion capital. An artistic energy pulses through its streets as people eat at roadside cafés, explore its attractions or take a quiet moment in one of its parks.

Shopping in Antwerp

Expats will find all the variety they'd expect from a major city. They can shop at modern malls and along historic pedestrian streets. The main shopping area is Meir, also Antwerp's most famous street. Though the street draws comparisons with other major shopping streets, such as 5th Avenue in New York City, this iconic street has been a prominent part of the city for centuries, and many historical buildings remain.

The Wijnegem Shopping Centre is Belgium's largest mall, with the retail area clocking in at six hectares. With 250 stores ranging from supermarkets and restaurants to fashion and hobby shops, this must-see mall has something for everyone.

The diamond district, known as the Diamantkwartier (Diamond Quarter), is among Antwerp's best-known shopping areas and is the world's largest diamond trading centre. Fans of all that glitters will find plenty of trinkets to gawp at here.

Eating out in Antwerp

Antwerp has an exceptional selection of restaurants, and its historical architecture means that many of the best establishments are also a feast for the eyes. The wide variety of restaurants reflects the city's diverse modern population. Diners can savour a broad palette of everything from Asian Fusion to Mediterranean food to French cuisine and local fare.

Outdoor activities in Antwerp

Expats who enjoy the outdoors won't be short of things to do in Antwerp. The city has several parks and sports facilities and lends itself well to being explored by bicycle and on foot.

The triangular piece of land occupied by the Stadspark was once the site of a 16th-century fort. Its central location is close to the station and the zoo, allowing expats to escape the city's bustle without leaving its boundaries. The park boasts a lake and various historical monuments and is especially popular with joggers, walkers and families.

There's also plenty to do outside the city, including various cycle routes around the Flanders region, which can be used to explore the surrounding towns or tour the tranquil Belgian countryside.

See and do in Antwerp

An exciting city with a storied history, expats will always find plenty to see and do in Antwerp. Beauty can be found everywhere here, from Antwerp's numerous museums and its many awe-inspiring centuries-old buildings to its refreshing green spaces. Here are some of our top picks.

Grote Markt

Situated in the heart of Antwerp's old-city quarter, the Grote Markt is one of Antwerp's most iconic attractions. Overlooking the square is the Town Hall (Stadhuis), a beautiful Renaissance building influenced by Italian and Flemish styles. Completed in 1564, this grand building has stood for centuries overlooking the square and is still actively used as a venue for political meetings. The square has a bustling atmosphere and plenty of excellent restaurants and cafés to sit and people-watch.

Museum Aan de Stroom

Another not-to-be-missed attraction is the 10-storey Museum Aan De Stroom. The complex is the city's largest museum and contains priceless paintings, ancient artefacts and interactive exhibitions. The 360-degree view from the museum's rooftop is one of Antwerp's best.

Park Spoor Noord

Set on reclaimed land that once held a railway, Park Spoor Noord is a wonderful place to spend a sunny day out, and is particularly well suited to families. Children can splash about in the cooling water fountains, while older kids can enjoy showing off their moves in the skatepark. Adults, meanwhile, are sure to enjoy the concerts staged on the park's summer terrace.

Ruben's House

Antwerp is proud of its association with the Baroque master painter Peter Paul Rubens. His palatial house was restored to its former glory and was opened to the public in 1946. Aside from containing some of his most famous works, its ornate decorations make the house an attraction in its own right.

Getting Around in Antwerp

Antwerp is generally an easy city to navigate as it's a compact metropolis. De Lijn, the public transport company, operates a comprehensive network of buses and trams. Walking around Antwerp is also pleasant. Much of the picturesque city centre is demarcated as pedestrian zones. Expats wanting to travel out of the city can catch a train operated by the national railway service.

Public transport in Antwerp

If planning to use buses and trams frequently, a multi-ride Lijnkaart card can provide significant savings compared to paying for individual rides. This card can be purchased at stations, supermarkets, and newsagents. Single tickets, which are cheaper if purchased in advance rather than on board, are valid for an hour. This allows passengers to transfer from a bus to a tram, or vice versa, using the same ticket. A multi-ride Lijnkaart card is valid for a year from the date of purchase.

Trams and pre-metro

The pre-metro, which runs underground as well as on surface lines, is part of the tram system that covers Antwerp and its surrounding suburbs. All trams use the same tickets as buses. The most prominent stops are Diamant station, below the central train station, and Groenplaats, from where the line continues west under the Scheldt River to the Van Eeden station.


The city's central bus station is the Franklin Rooseveltplaats, which is a hub for local and regional buses. The bus is helpful for getting to places that aren't accessible by the tram.


Antwerp's Central Station, also known as Antwerpen-Centraal, is an architectural masterpiece and a major transport hub. It connects Antwerp with other cities in Belgium and major cities in neighbouring countries like the Netherlands, France and Germany. This makes it an ideal choice for day trips or for expats wanting to explore more of Europe.

Useful links

  • For more information about the public transport system in Antwerp, including buses and trams, visit the official De Lijn website.
  • For more details about routes, schedules, and fares, visit the official website of the Belgian train service, Belgian Rail.

Taxis in Antwerp

Taxis in Antwerp use meters to determine the fare, and the tariffs are set by the city authorities. At the end of a journey, the driver must provide a printed receipt that includes the company's name and telephone number. This serves as a record of the trip in case of queries or complaints.

Legitimate taxis can be identified by an official taxi permit, an illuminated sign on the roof and a red licence plate. Tipping taxi drivers isn't mandatory in Antwerp, but it is customary to round up to the nearest euro if the driver provided good service. To hail a taxi, commuters wave a hand at an approaching taxi with an illuminated sign, or head to a designated taxi stand.

Useful links

  • For reliable taxi services in Antwerp, consider using
  • Uber and Lyft also operate in Antwerp.

Cycling in Antwerp

Antwerp is a bike-friendly city with an extensive network of cycle lanes. The city also supports a public bicycle hire scheme known as Velo. The first half-hour of use is free, with various passes available for longer-term use. The city's cycling infrastructure is generally safe, but cyclists should be mindful of traffic rules and right-of-way laws.

Helmets are not compulsory, but are highly recommended for safety and using lights when cycling at night is mandatory. Antwerp is relatively bike-friendly, but theft can happen, so riders should ensure that they secure their bicycles properly when leaving them unattended.

Useful links

  • For more information about Antwerp's public bike hire scheme, Velo, visit the official Velo Antwerpen website.

Driving in Antwerp

Expats with a driving licence from a non-EU country can legally drive in Belgium for up to six months. Be that as it may, most expats choose not to drive in Antwerp, as the city boasts exceptional public transport infrastructure and is walkable and cycle-friendly. Those who decide to drive will need to contend with traffic and high maintenance, petrol and parking fees.

Parking in Antwerp is limited and is managed by the local parking authority. The city is divided into different parking zones, some of which require permits that can be bought from district council offices or the parking authority. Multi-level garages are easy to find, though they can be expensive. To avoid being fined or having their car towed away, expats should not park on yellow lines, at bus stops or in front of driveways.

Car rental

For expats or visitors needing a car for a short period, numerous car rental services are available in Antwerp. These provide a range of vehicles to suit different needs, from compact cars for city driving to larger vehicles for families or groups. When renting a car, be aware of the driving rules in Belgium and any terms and conditions from the car rental company.

Useful links

Walking in Antwerp

Walking is one of the best ways to experience Antwerp's rich history and charm. The city centre is mostly pedestrian-friendly, with many streets being car-free zones. This includes the area around the Cathedral of Our Lady and the shopping district of Meir. Be aware that Belgium's weather can be unpredictable, so carrying an umbrella or raincoat is a good idea. Always follow pedestrian signs and lights for safety.

Useful links