When meeting and event planning in Belgium's second- largest city, Antwerp, be prepared for an atypical city of art, fashion, and diamonds. Only a handful of miles south of the Dutch border, Antwerp also boasts the second-busiest port in Europe (after Rotterdam, The Netherlands). The main language here is Flemish, but English is certainly spoken in the major Antwerp MICE venues.
Within the city limits is Antwerpen International Airport (ANR), approximately two miles to the southeast of the centre. Its service is on small jets to London, Hamburg, Geneva, Berlin, Milan, Barcelona, and more. All North American services will come first to Brussels International Airport (BRU), by train only 34 minutes away from Antwerp.
MICE hotels in Antwerp include the 262-room Crowne Plaza Antwerp, which has 14 meeting rooms for up to 500 persons; the trendy, 247-room Radisson Blu Astrid Antwerp, which has 18 meeting rooms and a ballroom for 600 persons; the grand, 210-room Hilton Antwerp, which has 13 meeting rooms and a 12,320-square-foot ballroom; and the 173-room Lindner Hotel & City Lounge, which also has 14 meeting rooms, as well as a 12th-floor panoramic events lounge. A more intimate choice is the 127-room Theater Hotel, which has three meeting rooms for up to 40 persons.
Special MICE venues in Antwerp include the Stadhuis Antwerpen, possibly the grandest building in the city and right on Grote Markt (square), which has space for up to 120 persons; the also-grand Huis Happaert house, which has space for up to 140 persons; tongue-twisting Arenbergschouwburg, which has reception space for 400 persons and an auditorium for 815 in a cultural center that is one of Antwerp's principal spots for live music and theater. Aquatopia, the city's aquarium, has reception space for up to 80 persons, and MOMU |Mode Museum, a fashion museum, has reception space for 150 persons.
With the opening of the Flanders Meeting & Convention Center Antwerp in 2016, the city can host conferences, events and exhibitions up to 2,000 participants. It will be a newly constructed building with modern amenities, technical facilities and ideal logistics. The new conference centre is ideally located next to Antwerp's Central Station and the Zoo and the charming historical centre is only a short walk away. In the direct area are a lot of pleasant bars and restaurants; and there is a wide range of hotels close by, from international chain hotels to intimate boutique hotels.
Food in Belgium is rightly celebrated. Excellent choices for groups in Antwerp include the Restaurant Sir Anthony van Dijck, which has room for groups of up to 60 persons in a grand space that indeed does have a feel of being a painting by a Grand Master; Grand Cafe Horta, which has space for an incredible 1,000 persons; Zuiderterras, which has a French/international menu and seating for 64 persons, reception space for 80; Amadeus, which has a slight Memphis feel to it and does indeed specialize in ribs and other meats; and De Peerdestal, whose interior looks like a baroque ballroom, its exterior, a French country restaurant.