If Bruges is the Venice of the north, then Antwerp is Milan. Belgium's fashion capital has a laid back, Italian personality with fast cars and trendy restaurants.

Many of the best places are hidden away in back alleys and in underground cellars of old townhouses.

Sipping on some espresso, one can admire the architecture and contemplate the differences between Horta and Gaudi.

In one of these cellars, under dim candlelight and the smell of beer barrels, I tried some of the traditional specialities, the beef stew made with a dark beer sauce (stoofvlijs) and a rich roast of rabbit and plums.

Finding a place that specialised in local cuisine is a bit of a treasure hunt, since most places stick to pizzas and pasta. But that made them even more special.

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Meir, the main shopping street.

Meir, the main shopping street.

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Just your everyday Belgian chocolate shop. 

Just your everyday Belgian chocolate shop. 

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They love their dogs.

They love their dogs.

I can see how art influenced fashion.

I can see how art influenced fashion.

One of the underground restaurants.

One of the underground restaurants.

A multi-level museum with a stunning view from the top.

A multi-level museum with a stunning view from the top.

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