Tel: 32 3231 2225
Antwerp is famous for its "brown cafés," street-corner bars where centuries of cigarette smoke have stained the walls ocher and inspired the paintings of Adrian Brouwer and David Teniers. This is a typical example, occupied by retired bargees from the river Scheldt, tourists, and an unfeasibly large Wurlitzer organ. Customers sometimes dance on tables. Not for the fainthearted.
Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Tel: 32 3226 3870
A former church, this red-light-district club opened in the early '90s and has three bars and dungeon decor. Despite increasing competition on the club circuit, it's still going strong, thanks to the lineup of local and international DJs playing tech-house/electro to a cool, young crowd. Themed nights include "Hush 'Clubbing" on the third Friday of each month, which features dancers (male and female) from the neighborhood. Admission is free on Thursdays, varies in price on Friday, and on Saturday, it's free before midnight and afterward about ten euros ($12).
Open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 p.m. to well after dawn.
24 Grote Pieter Potstraat
This smoky nonprofit performance space and bar is one of Antwerp's lesser-known brown cafés. Here, local artists, poets, musicians, and other bohemian types come for the readings, exhibits, and live experimental jazz sessions, but stay for the conversations over glass goblets of Jupiler, a strong Belgian beer, late into the night and often long after the manager has locked the front door.
Open Mondays and Wednesdays through Saturdays 9 pm until late, Sundays 3 pm until late.
Tel: 32 3233 1538
Belgium's favorite strong drink is jenever, which the English copied to make gin. You'll find more than 250 varieties on offer here, ranging in taste from refreshingly lemony to rasping cough drop, and in strength from light to bludgeoning.
Open daily 11 a.m. to early morning
Tel: 32 3289 3466
Combining two Flemish obsessions, alcohol and Catholicism, under one roof, this tavernlike bar offers 30 beers and 500 pieces of religious art, relics, and icons—look out for The Madonna with the Head of a Dog. Strange, even by Belgian standards. The name, by the way, means "The Eleventh Commandment": Remember to Eat and Drink Well.
Open daily 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Closes at 2 a.m. on weekends.
Tel: 32 3232 4538
Possibly the world's best beer café. The menu lists a bewildering choice of more than 600 different brews in different vintages. Stumped? Try the Trappist ale Chimay Blue, some aged for a decade. Food is limited to cheese, sausages, and sandwiches.
Tel: 32 3226 4963
An enormous warehouse with black walls, a stage, dance floor, and room for 800 trendy partiers. There's also the quirky Horny Bar, decorated with reindeer heads and antler chandeliers. It used to be a refuse dump—no lie. Petrol has an eclectic mix of live rock 'n' roll and DJs spinning electro, hip-hop, rock, techno, and soul.
Friday and Saturday nights only.
Tel: 32 3213 0555
Even gay Amsterdammers (boys only) make the trip to Antwerp on Saturday nights for the chance to shake it on the dance floor here. On the second Sunday of each month, things get switched around: The Café de Love party is for girls but allows boys too, if accompanied by a female (www.cafedelove.com).
Open Saturday from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., but things don't get rolling until about 1 a.m.
Tel: 32 3237 3978
Another trendy Docklands favorite for chic grown-ups, this sophisticated restaurant/after-dinner club mixes ethnic fusion cuisine with lounge music, dancing, and a sexy vibe inspired by red velvet seating, candlelight, and chandeliers. Hours are from 6 p.m. till midnight and until 6 a.m. on weekends.