Discovering Antwerp via an intriguing app

ANTWERP x USE-IT

One year ago, I went to Belgium because I had Antwerp on my wishlist for a long time. A few days before my trip I discovered an interesting travel app named USE-IT. Usually, when I hear about these travel apps I’m quite suspicious because of the paid content. But for some reason, this one caught my eye! 

It did not feel commercial. Here is a nice and brief description: USE-IT stands for no-nonsense tourist info for young people. USE-IT maps and websites are made by young locals, are not commercial, free, and up-to-date. Some also have a visitors desk, mostly run by volunteers. Every USE-IT publishes a Map for Young Travelers that will guide you through the city in a no-nonsense way. 

Basic principles: 

  • made by locals
  • not commercial, nobody pays to be included on the map
  • maps are free
  • for young people 
  • it's up-to-date 
  • it’s not a trendy guide - it’s about the life and soul of the city
  • it’s F-R-E-E(!)

The first USE-IT brochures were made in Copenhagen in 1971 during the hippie movement and functioned as a low-budget info desk for young travelers. 

In 2017, in addition to the APP, you can now download the maps and all the city information here - feel free to print directly-  and travel the city like the good old times!

Local initiatives are responsible for their own content and design, as long as they adhere to some basic communication guidelines.  USE-IT exists in 40 cities all over Europe and the number grows every year.

....Sounded interesting. At least to me.

I didn’t have much time to plan the trip so I decided that I would follow all the advice on the app. Another plus about this APP is that you don’t need any wifi because it works offline and you can “travel” the map by GPS. You just need wifi to download the map and guide of the city you want. After that no more internet needed.

Not to mention, you can learn a few interesting tips of the city in USE-IT. For example, in the info chapter - that will take you less than 10 minutes to read-  you can learn 5 minutes of history and how to act like a local.

Apart from the info section, you can search for places, lists, and maps (plus the near me section).

It's divided into these categories:

  • See
  • Eat
  • Drink
  • Shop
  • Chill
  • Go out
 
 

USE-IT also offers the possibility of creating your own list of things that caught your attention.

I used this app basically in 2 ways. I made a list - on the airplane before I landed in Brussels and on the train before I arrive at the Central Station in Antwerp (it’s incredibly beautiful).  The second way I used it was following the suggestions in the around me section while walking around.

Since that Antwerp it’s kind of small, you can walk all the city center and some interesting surroundings. Basically, you can easily get lost and found again. 


My must sees from the APP

(feel free to add them to your own Use-it list)

See

'T STEEN/the Castle — All about Antwerp history

Botanical Garden — Cactus collection 

Central Station — A MUST see, often in top 10-list of most beautiful train stations in the world. Luckily this will be the first place that you arrive in Antwerp - if you travel by train

MOMU — Fashion museum

FOMU — Photography museum

Cogels/Osylei —  Architectural wonderland: an architectural mix of Art Nouveau, Jugendstil and Neo-Classicism

M_HKA — Contemporary art, white labyrinth with changing exhibitions

Royal Museum of Fine Arts —  Unfortunately, it’s closed since 2011, BUT it will re-open in 2018 - it is an impressive building and deserves a walkthrough from the outside


Shop

Nationalestraat / fashion street — Antwerp in known for their great aptitude for design and fashion. There, you can find some beautiful stores - like the flagship store of the Antwerp designer (and one of my favorites) Dries Van Noten.

De Groene Waterman / bookstore — beware of getting lost in this amazing bookstore.

Kloosterstraat / antique finds — This is the street where most of the antique shops are. On Sunday, the street hosts an antique market.


Eat & Drink

Dansing Chocola — A year later, I realised that they moved this restaurant to the shop section. It is perfectly suitable for drinks and dinner. The place breathes some beautiful decadence plus its cozy and the ambiance is great. Try some traditional Belgium dishes and amazing Belgium beer. 

Belgium Fries (!!!!!!) —  it's a MUST. Since Belgium its known for their fries, you can find on the map the fries icon literally everywhere. 

More of Antwerp through my eyes: