One of the most progressive cities in Europe, Gay Antwerp has a rich history, energetic nightlife, and innovative culinary scene – as well as a vibrant gay scene. In fact, it is often called the fetish capital of the world…
Yes, we were surprised ourselves to discover the pace at which the gay fetish community in Antwerp had grown and to discover that this in this beautiful and open-minded city is one of Europe’s biggest fetish clubs The Boots, as well as numerous fetish stores. What really secures its status as a fetish capital, however, is playing host to Darklands — the biggest indoor fetish event in the world with four days of parties and absolute insanity.
If you are a fan of leather, kink, BDSM, or unparalleled debauchery, this is one event you will not want to miss…
Of course, for the more vanilla amongst us, there are also plenty of other options in Antwerp for a wild night out with discos, clubs, and pop-up parties where our remarkable queer community can surround you. Then there are the audacious H.I.M. parties, the fun Sunday tea dance ritual Pannekoek and the famous Red &Blue queer parties taking place at the Cargo Club that attracts guys from all over the Benelux region including nearby Eindhoven, Luxembourg, and Brussels, just to name a few.
For those who are more interested in socializing than all-night clubbing, there is also plenty of relaxed queer bars, sunny outdoor terraces, and cafes in which to relax and meet new people. And this is without even considering it many other draw-cards including cobbled lanes filled with boutique shopping, medieval architecture that will leave you breathless and a museum dedicated to the cities most famous resident, baroque superstar painter Pieter Paul Rubens.
Whether it’s for a night, a week, or to live full-time, queer travelers can feel at easy in this liberal society and free to express themselves in any way they want while exploring Gay Antwerp! Trust us; it is so, so much more than you would ever have expected.
Gay Antwerp Guide: The Essential Guide To LGBT Travel In Antwerp Belgium
In this article we will cover...
Attractions in Antwerp
Being gay does not define which attraction most of us will want to see in each city, and most queer tourists will simply want to check out the top things to see in Antwerp during the day. This is if you are not too exhausted from the night before!
Antwerp is a very safe city, but still, all travelers should take caution with valuables, especially in crowds. Gay people in Antwerp do not need to take any extra precautions in terms of public displays of affection in this very progressive city and should have no issues exploring Antwerp’s beauty!
We found our favorite memories in Gay Antwerp were dancing till dawn with our queer family, exploring the superlative beer scene, and admiring the gorgeous juxtaposition of modern and ancient architecture. However, if you’re someone who can’t sit still, we have put together a few of our other things to do in this inspiring city that are sure to keep you busy!
Top Things To Do in Antwerp
- The Rubens House – Peter Paul Rubens and Antwerp. The master and his city. After more than 400 years, this world-class painter’s presence can still be felt in the city. And it was in this palazzo that the brilliant and versatile artist lived in with his family and created many of his paintings. Today housing a world-class museum with a permanent collection contains a large number of works by the master himself or by his peers and contemporaries. The museum also has many pieces on loan, as well as recent acquisitions and updates about works that are being restored.
- Antwerp Beer Tasting Tour – It’s no coincidence that new beers frequently crop up for tasting here as Antwerp is, after all, the best beer destination – and beer is also gaining popularity worldwide. Beers like Bosbier, Korsakov, Gageleer, Kamil,’ t Lekske, IQ, Cabardouche, De Hopjutters, and Seefbier – to name a few – were recently launched in Antwerp. Yes, beer is now fashionable again! In addition to all the new brews, attention is once again being paid to beers that have been undeservedly ignored. And what better way to discover these beers than with a local guide on a tour where you sample a selection of Belgian and local beers (along with a cheeky gin tasting) and traditional snacks like fries with mayonnaise, chocolate, and Belgian cheeses.
- Plantin-Moretus Museum – Walk inside the printing office and house of the Plantin-Moretus family as if you were a friend of theirs visiting 400 years ago. Discover the magic of the Museum. In the mansion, the printing press and studios. In letters, typography, and beautiful books. Experience how, long before our digital age, words and images were spread around the world. The Plantin-Moretus Museum possesses an exceptional collection of typographical material, and not only does it house the two oldest surviving printing presses in the world. It also has an extensive library, a richly decorated interior and the entire archives of the Plantin business, which were inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme Register in 2001 in recognition of their historical significance. The building its self was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
- Bike Tour – See where Belgium’s rich history and modern outlook meet, and discover Antwerp’s major attractions with ease on this 3-hour bicycle tour. Hop into the saddle and follow your guide on an exciting city tour as you take in landmarks, including Antwerp’s Central Station, the Scheldt River, and the Museum of Fine Art. On this tour, you’ll discover what the locals love most about their city. Bring a snack to fuel your spin through Antwerp’s ancient streets and pristine parks as your local guide sheds light on Antwerp’s history and heritage, and soak up the atmosphere in this bustling corner of Flanders.
- ModeMuseum – A fabulous fashion museum that collects, conserves, studies, and exhibits Belgian contemporary fashion and stands out with its immersive fashion exhibitions. MoMu exhibitions are characterized by their immersive scenography. As a visitor, you not only see the exhibits; you are also immersed in the world of the designer or the theme. The exhibition space is completely transformed for every exhibition, making each visit a unique experience.
- Museum aan de Stroom (M.A.S.) – More than a museum. It is an impressive repository in the middle of the Eilandje, a thriving neighborhood. Its Boulevard with 6-meter-high glass panels will take you 60 meters higher. You’ll encounter a new tale about Antwerp, the river, and the port on every story. The collection boasts over 500,000 museum pieces. Permanent and temporary exhibitions offer a refreshing look at the city and centuries of contact with the world. At the top, on the tenth floor, you’ll enjoy a 360-degree panorama of the city, the port and the river.
- De Koninck Antwerp City Brewery – Haven’t had enough beer? De Koninck Brewery is Antwerp’s last remaining city brewery, with a beer-making history dating back to 1833. With your prepaid admission ticket, enjoy a self-guided brewery tour, including interactive exhibitions, a walkway looking out over the brewery floor, and a beer tasting.
- Antwerp Food Tour – Taste the typical cuisine of Belgium, combined with the latest food hypes at six stops on this fabulous food tour. Stroll through the Old Town and the central business district from the early 20th century, and while you eat, be regaled with amazing stories about the city and its people, past and present. Food, history, new friends, and local insight – what more could you want?
Gay Shops In Antwerp
- Het Roze Huis (The Pink House) – The beating heart for the rainbow community of Antwerp for over 25 years, The Pink House, represents the interests of the rainbow community in Antwerp by taking action and providing training and advice to counteract the box thinking and contribute to the equal opportunities of everyone. As an umbrella organization, they support the functioning of provincial associations around sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression. Through encounter, exchange, and cooperation, they strengthen the visibility and well-being of our community. Stop by there information and expertise center for any help you might need, check out their upcoming events, or strike up a conversation at the queer Café Den Draak. Everyone is welcome here.
- Kartonnen Dozen – Antwerp’s only LGBT bookstore that has recently reopened in a new location. We love queer literature and representation, so we are delighted to see spaces like this remain as sadly, so many have closed around the world. For books, cinema, bargain, and random little finds, you cannot go wrong here.
- Mister B – A one-of-a-kind store in Belgium’s second-largest city and, more importantly, its fetish capitol. The store’s expert team delivers all the trusted products and services you’ll have come to expect from Mister B if you have ever visited one of their other locations in Amsterdam or Berlin. From premium quality leather and rubber clothing for men to S.M. accessories and toys for all – you can find it here. The Mister B Antwerp concept store opened its doors 2014 close to the iconic M.A.S. building in Antwerps Red Light District. The store combines its own unique style with modern elements of wood, leather, and iron. And it’s not only a fetish shop, but it’s also a social space to give the customer the full Mister B experience.
- Mister Wax – Waxing services for men, by men, in Antwerp. Every man who wants to have his unwanted hair removed is in good hands here with Rudy. He is professionally explicitly trained in waxing-styles for men, including Manzilian, Boyzilian, and the Brazilian.
- Erotische Verbeelding – Possibly the world’s most gorgeous sex shop (or erotic boutique) designed specifically for sexually liberated and adventurous women. We loved the loud-and-proud glass-fronted windows through with runway-worthy lingerie is juxtapositioned with designer vibrators. Utterly unique and a must-see if nothing else.
- Toys4boys Antwerp – Another gay sex toy store focussed on leather, clothes, BDSM fun, and made to measure services.
- Man Playz – A gay sex toy store with fetishwear, intriguing toys, jewelry, LGBT underwear brands, and more. There is also a popular cruising area at the back.
Annual Gay Events In Antwerp
- Darklands (March) – A place where boots shine, rubber is polished, and the smell of leather fills the air. Are you ready for the dark ride of your life? The world’s only indoor gay fetish festival that takes place over four days as part of the Belgium Leather and Fetish Pride event. The enormity of this event is hard to grasp but expect fetish demonstrations and workshops, markets, and a star-studded line-up of live shows, porn actors, D.J.s, and performers. The four main parties are Mayhem, Fusion, Rage, and Fury – but there are many other smaller parties and events, including a hysterical bus tour, fetish city walk, and boat cruise – amongst many other things. This is the reason Antwerp is the fetish capital of the world and is the perfect safe refuge for exploratory gay men who are contemplating new sexual horizons.
- Unicorn Festival (July) – Belgium’s most open-minded festival. A place where you can always be yourself – unless you can be a unicorn, then you should be a unicorn. There are three stages with house, pop and performances – and one magical area, full of unicorns. A diverse line-up and fascinating acts will give you a brilliant dance-experience. Expect the unexpected: fun, magic, and an exciting line up with various D.J.s. An open-minded playground full of happy and passionate party people where you can free your mind, feel the beat, and embrace diversity. All in a magical festival grounds next to the river with the most fantastic view over Antwerp City! Expect fabulous queer vibes and plenty of glitter. We think this festival has a lot of potential to grow into something as fabulous as Milkshake or Mighty Hoopla in the future and can’t wait to see what the team comes up with next.
- Antwerp Pride (August) – The highlight of any Queer Antwerp events calendar taking place annually in August. A celebration of LGBTQ life with various events, including parties, panels, protests, brunches, and more culminated in one amazing parade and plenty of outrageous club parties that go well into the next day. As with most Pride events around the world, this is as much a fun celebration as a political demonstration, so make sure you take time to appreciate both. Numerous delegations provide atmosphere, parties, and stimulating messages making this one spectacle not to be missed. If you need some inspiration for pride outfits, we also have some great ideas.
Gay-Friendly and Gay Hotels in Antwerp Belgium
As a world leader in LGBT tourism, pretty much every hotel and hostel in Antwerp can be considered gay-friendly – after all, being a gay-friendly it not all about upscale luxury, but about providing respectful and open service and welcoming every guest equally!
Who doesn’t like to be surrounded by people with common interests, and as such a there a few well-known hotels in Antwerp that are known hot spots for gay travelers to stay! The best locations for gay travelers is in the Antwerp city center, near the famous Town Square (Grote Markt) and Museum Aan de Stroom (M.A.S.) – close to all the attractions by day and the queer venues at night.
The following gay-friendly hotels in Antwerp are only the most popular with gay travelers, but there are hundreds of other hotels in Antwerp if you don’t find quite what you are looking for. Whether you want a fun and social hostel, a cheap place to crash after a night of partying, or a chic designer option to sip cocktails and surround yourself with fabulous people – Gay Antwerp as something for everyone!
- Hotel Julien ☆☆☆☆☆ – In the heart of the historic city of Antwerp, you will find the upscale and beautifully designed Hotel Julien. This truly urban retreat offers guests an oasis of tranquillity in a relaxed and welcoming setting. Situated in two 16th century properties, this gay-popular hotel has been lovingly restored, and authentic features are effortlessly combined with contemporary furnishings to offer you every comfort. Breakfast and parking are complimentary for guests, and there is a chic bar, refined dining room, and a gorgeous rooftop terrace with expansive cathedral views to lap in. There is also a spa that offers saunas, a hammam and massage treatments – plus the Antwerp gay scene is just a few minutes walk away.
- B&B Yellow Submarine ☆☆☆☆ – A understated and design-forward B&B which has become a firm favorite of gay travelers in Antwerp. Choose one of the three luxury rooms, take a refreshing rain shower, or relax in the huge bathtub. Settle down into a comfortable Auping bed at night, and in the morning – enjoy a delicious breakfast in your room or in the creative coffee bar on the floor below. Let yourself be pampered in this quirky and atmospheric spot, offering a quiet yet central location with every luxury and comfort.
- Hotel FRANQ ☆☆☆☆ -A newly opened luxury boutique hotel and gastronomic restaurant housed in a restored neoclassical ban that is delighting guests with its combination of historic charm and contemporary urban-chic. Were you looking for a unique overnight or weekend escape? FRANQ is the perfect place for guests wishing to discover the city or fully relax after a hectic day in style.
- Hilton Antwerp Old Town ☆☆☆☆ – Located in the heart of historic Belgium, this upscale hotel hidden inside an ornate, 19th-century façade offers an ideal base to discover the beautiful city and its gay nightlife. Combining old-world charm and stylish sophistication, the Hilton Antwerp Old Town hotel has a variety of elegant and spacious rooms and suites available. A free daily breakfast is served, and if you don’t feel like going out after a long day, there is a sophisticated brasserie and trendy bar onsite. The Hilton is a well-known gay-friendly hotel chain, renowned for its Go Out advertising campaign and support of Pride events around the world, and queer guests can rest assured they will be treated just as everyone else is here.
- Maison Emile ☆☆☆ – A hospitable boutique hotel located in a trendy, artful part of Antwerp-South – we love a say here for affordability and to see more of local Antwerp. Situated in a carefully renovated city house, there is a gentle calm here thanks to their minimalist rooms and design and fantastic service. Simple, small, and clean – but without lacking any assistance you might need.
- The A.S.H. ☆☆☆ – A unique concept in the heart of Antwerp, providing you with the ultimate in flexible accommodation at a great value. Centrally located with a straightforward mixed-gender and single-sex dorms, this is a fun option for gay backpackers who want to save their dollars for the Antwerp nightlife without compromising on cleanliness or style.
- YUST Antwerp ☆☆☆ – A trendy hostel-hotel hybrid offering stylish dorms, suites, and apartments that will keep you coming back for more. Experience quality rooms, a superb Antwerp neighborhood, a lively community, ace food, and more. Take your coat off and relax in this community-focussed accommodation. Amongst the many amenities here, you will find a vivacious restaurant, social bar, rooftop terrace, plus an industrial-chic lounge. There is also breakfast available for a fee, laundry, electric bike rentals, and more.
Gay Nightlife in Antwerp
Antwerp is well-known one of the most gay-friendly cities in Europe, and we were blown away by the amount of queer nightlife on offer here. There is truly something to cater for every mood. Drag shows, queer tea dances, fetish bars, Circuit-style dance events, and cozy cafes to socialize – everything can be found here, and most within walking distance of each other.
Cash is king here, and pickpockets are sadly rife throughout the city (and at some venues we visited), so just be careful, leave your non-essentials at home and just take what you are actually going to use on the night.
Pay special attention in cruising bars and dark rooms because – well, easy targets are those literally with their pants down. We have primarily focussed on explicitly gay venues here, but Antwerp and Belgium are so liberal don’t feel like you can’t make out with your partner in most of the bars or clubs here!
Gay Bars & Gay Clubs in Antwerp
- Cafe Twilight – A cute retro-style gay bar in the center of Antwerp with a considerable summer lovely terrace, though things can get slightly snug in winter inside. A fun mix of new-and-old with friendly service and an extensive drinks menu.
- Café Strange – Charming, nostalgic, old school: this is the oldest gay bar in Antwerp and one of the oldest in Belgium. Even after all these years, Café Strange still maintains a friendly environment for all guests – no matter who you are or love. There is a dance floor, custom party light, a vast collection of different styles of music, and a comfortable terrace to relax in – as well as drinks at very reasonable prices. A real institution and a relic of yesteryear that we are glad is still here.
- Hessenhuis Café – A busy and trendy LBGT café-bar housed in a former warehouse offering fun music, a social atmosphere, and strong drinks! You can dance inside with a D.J. on the weekends, or in the summer, relax outside and chat with locals. One of the most popular gay bars in Antwerp and always a reliable option.
- The Boots – A sizeable gay fetish cruise club for fans of leather, rubber, skin, uniforms, sports, and S.M. The Boots is open three times a week, namely Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon and membership must be brought at the door for 8€. Check their website beforehand as if there is no event on a specific date, the club is closed. Dress codes for each party are listed on their website and must be strictly adhered to — kinky!
- Café Den Draak – A queer café and bar, nestled in the Het Roze Huis (The Pink House), Antwerp’s LGBT community center found in the Zurenborg gay quarter. Various events are held here bring together different parts of our community, but you can always stop by for a coffee, beer, wine, or delicious cocktail and see what is going on. Cozy, vibrant, and always welcoming no matter the time of day or season.
- Café Que Pasa – If you’re looking for a gay bar that has the perfect vibe, there really is no reason to go too far. Located right in the center of Antwerp, Que Pasa has free entrance; drag shows most nights and a popular happy hour from 11 pm until midnight. Saturday nights are Latin beats with a mix of pop, disco, salsa, Latin pop, and more while reminiscing of hot nights in Puerto Vallarta or Bogota. Fabulous entertainment, a social atmosphere, and affordable drinks – what more could you want!
- Bonaparte Karaoke Bar – A gay-popular hotspot not just for karaoke but also for dancing and drinking. They have a very long bar and several intimate couches to sit at, as well as an enormous selection of music. A great place to make new friends, belt out classic ballads, and drink till the sun rises. Even better, as the night goes on Bonaparte just seems to get more and more busier. An Antwerp institution.
- Fetish Cafe – For almost 20 years, Fetish Cafe has been faithfully catering to the lovers of BDSM. This mixed space is located in between medieval arches of the Antwerp underground and boasts a sleazy dancefloor, cozy bar area, and busy playroom. The big difference between the Fetish Café and other BDSM spaces is that this is a real café, as the name says. It is not a club or organization and is open every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday as a public place, for anyone who wishes to come along. Every Saturday, the Fetish Café is reserved for specially organized BDSM activities, and as such, dress codes apply.
- Santos – A gay-owned and gay-popular bar that is perfect whether you would like to enjoy a fresh pint, a cozy aperitif, or warm up with a delicious fresh coffee. Santos cafe is also one of the favorite gathering places for many fetish guys in Antwerp. It hosts the non-official opening drink before Darklands – and owners Peter and Toni are more than happy to answer any questions.
- Café DeLux – Located right in the old city center of Antwerp, this is a “hetero-friendly” space where everyone is welcome. Young and old, gay or straight, alone or with company. Café DeLux is a friendly place where you can step in at any time of the day and immediately feel at home. The interior of DeLux is a mix of classic and modern, a ‘brown café with a trendy twist’ and is the perfect place to meet friends or meet new people. On the weekends, the music often gets a little louder as the party swings into action, and the bar becomes more club-like.
Gay Parties In Antwerp
- H.I.M. – A gay event with diversity and togetherness at its core – and the first large-scale indoor festival of its kind in the Benelux. With no fewer than four areas, and thus four different concepts, there is something for everyone. H.I.M. seeks to break down the stigma of “boring” Belgium and show to the world the vibrant gay scene that can be found here. Expect over-the-top productions, international D.J.s, go-go boys, lasers, and more. Held 6-10 times a year at various venues, H.I.M. has been an unmitigated success and has since appeared in Amsterdam, Paris, and Maspalomas. If you are lucky enough to visit Gay Antwerp while H.I.M. is on, it should absolutely not be missed.
- Cargo Club – A new and innovative event venue in Antwerp’s vibrant Red Light District, providing a new home for all night animals in search of the legendary night out. Every Saturday, there is a rotating range of queer events, including Wood Pop – Love Peace and Pop parties, the Red & Blue men’s nights, and TwinkFarm / Twinxx. We also loved their weekly We Love Thursdays 18+ students-only mixed nights. Check out their website for a full range of upcoming events that glorify diversity and are always queer-friendly.
- Pannekoek – A gay tea dance party taking place most Sunday evenings at Brasserie Bonaparte on the Grote Markt square. Expect pop/dance and classic hits, along with free pancakes (‘Pannekoek’ means ‘pancake’) and fabulously queer vibes.
- Extravaganza – A daring hit in the Antwerp gay dance scene that takes place roughly three times a year. Its slogan ‘Come as you are’ says it all really: Extravaganza is an open-minded event where you can express yourself however you wish, and everyone is welcome, though it does tend towards the male and gay. Although not average, it’s far away or being underground. The music is both catchy and relaxed, offering a fresh mix between retro and contemporary dance beats with groovy deep-house, tech-house, and techno. A group of about 20 colorful entertainers, dressed up in kinky and daring themes, add to the energy of the party. Although it’s not a costume party, people are always invited to get inspired by the theme.
Gay Saunas in Antwerp
Those who are interested in some steamy gay sauna fun will not be disappointed by the options served up in Antwerp – and being such a foreign-friendly city, you should have no issues visiting at all, unlike in Madrid or Rome where the language barrier can make life difficult. If you are a bit shy, you can try our first time in a gay sauna guide, or maybe ask someone from the gay hook up apps to meet you there …
There are only gay sauna: Sauna’ t Herenhuis in the central city, and Kouros Sauna, a suburban oasis, both of which are fabulous and have their own unique appeals. Choose which is best for you, or better yet – why not visit them both? You might also consider stopping by Man Playz, a gay sex toy store with movie area, glory holes, voyeur area, and more out the back.
- Sauna ‘t Herenhuis – The best gay sauna in central Antwerp housed in a converted ancient mansion dating from the 19th century, open every day till midnight or 2 am on weekends. Gay Sauna’ t Herenhuis has everything to make you feel comfortable and at ease with modern facilities will help you get totally relaxed. Swing by, take a dip in their pool or enjoy yourself in the modern Finnish sauna. Get comfy in the steam bath or jacuzzi and enjoy some well-deserved me-time. Like to enjoy yourself on dryer terms? They have a complete darkroom and a sex ballroom to your disposition. As if that’s not even enough, there are also private cabins, a sling, and a bunch of XXX movies. Just in for a drink or a nice chat? They also have a very comfortable bar, totally designed in a boutique-style, perfect for a refreshing drink after being in the sauna – and a kitchen offering Belgium delights. Every visitor receives two freshly washed towels, and the whole sauna is cleaned daily, to make sure your visit is a nice and pleasant occasion.
- Kouros Sauna – A wonderful gay sauna, the first in Belgium, located in a spacious residential, wooded area, just outside of Antwerp. The owners, Ed and Rob, have transformed this sauna, after a radical renovation, into a heavenly spot. The sauna is surrounded by a charming Mediterranean garden, complete with a large terrace, big pond, and swimming pool. The premises are well screened off, and naked sunbathing is permitted. On top of that, the Kouros offers you a heated indoor swimming pool, lively bar, whirlpool, Finnish sauna, Turkish bath, dark room, big-screen video room and sufficient cabins to relax. There is also a restaurant, which overlooks the garden and the indoor swimming pool, offering lunch and dinner dishes. For a warm day out, the unique Kouros Sauna in the Belgian Schoten is highly recommended!