Independent director Liv Vaisberg on Antwerp

Liv Vaisberg (1981) is an French born, Antwerp based independent curator and director of Independent, Brussels’ newest contemporary art fair. Aside from co-directing Independent along with Olivier Pesret, Liv is founder of Poppositions, an art fair and artists run space. She also started Charleroi Adventure, an urban safari taking you through industrial Charleroi, and is co-founder of Vorfreude, a fashion and art inspired stationary line.

This Area Code is part of the April -May edition of the magazine.

When I moved to Belgium about 10 years ago, I immediately had a crush on Antwerp. I lived in different areas of the city – south, north – and have since a couple of years settled with my family in an old loft downtown. I love that we are so near the river Schelde, the harbour and the center at the same time. There are a lot of streets without cars around where my son can bike. Local cafés that give the neighbourhood a village feeling where everyone knows each other. That’s what everyone says: Antwerp is a global city in a pocket. Right behind our flat is the Wolstraat which has nice bookstores and record shops, as well as the Callewaert-Vanlangendonck Gallery (Wolstraat 21) showing post-war avant-garde Flemish artists. Their openings are always crowded and lots of fun. For breakfast, we love to go to Otark at het Bos, they sometimes have film evenings, with food matching the films. In the summer we like to sit out on the terrace of the Story (Godefriduskaai 2 – 2000) on Eilandje. Best coffee place in the city is Normo, (Minderbroedersrui 30 – 2000) which doesn’t really need an introduction. It serves the best flat-white available in town. Maybe not the hippest place in Antwerp but the café in Het Steen, the castle at the river, is very kid friendly (we need more of these in Antwerp) and a great place to work or meet friends. Our neighbourhood is full of options to have a drink. You’ll find an excellent choice of wine at Baravin (Minderbroedersrui 31 – 2000) which also hosts exhibitions in the back room. There’s also De Kat – an old brown café on the Wolstraat (22) – and Witzli Poetzli (Blauwmoezelstraat 8 – 2000), a classic with a great terrace for when the weather is good and they always great home-made cakes. Further away, Bar Pourboire (Sint-Jorispoort 27 – 2000) is great for a good glass of wine and on Saturdays there is a live piano set. In terms of restaurants, there are always new places opening in Antwerp. A new Ethiopian restaurant, Gojo (Minderbroedersrui 43 – 2000), serves excellent dishes following authentic recipes from the mother of the owner – we are regulars there. For a cheap however delicious fix, Falafel Tof (Hoogstraat 32 – 2000) is unbeatable, great falafel and the salads that are super tasty. Finally for dinner with friends or a romantic dinner, we love to go to Native (Muntstraat 8 – 2000), a bio-bistro with very nice organic comfort food. Antwerp is best known for fashion and a new addition to the city is st. vincents (Kleine Markt 13– 2000), which is a combination of a shop, a great café and soon a gallery. It has a great line of upcoming designers with good quality pieces and it’s run by a former lawyer and economist who completely turned their lives around. Plus I love their wifi password – dontworktoohard. In terms of nightlife, there’s only one place really: Bagger (Kattendijkdok Oostkaai 22a – 2000). It’s located in an old customs building, it opened recently and has the vibes of the old Sched’apen. It’s really the best place in town at the moment. Oh and I shouldn’t forget Stadslimiet (Ernest van Dijckaai 4 – 2000), run by Dennis Tyfus – from the Antwerp based record label Ultra Eczema – which always has great experimental music and shows. There aren’t many great parks in the centre of Antwerp, if we have time we take the car to Kalmthout, a mere 15 minute drive from Antwerp. It has an amazing moorland landscape. But for easy reach, we love biking north towards the harbour along the Schlede towards Noordkasteel. We even picnic there in the summer. Or we go to the nature reserve Hobokense Polder, where you get to see wild horses and cows, it feels like a mix between a harbour and a nature oasis.