The Antwerp Hundreds

Portraits of a city's people, today

To mark the release of our Warriors edition, we've teamed up with This is Antwerp to bring you 100 Antwerp Warriors, a 100-strong selection of local movers and shakers setting the tone for the neighbourhood of tomorrow. From design and architecture to contemporary art and politics, these are the creatives shaping the narrative of the future.

Marc Verhagen

Marc Verhagen

Publisher, Luster

Can you describe what you do? Where you are based, the neighbourhood you live in, your daily routine, the people you work with, the scene you feel the closest to.

I own and manage a publishing house called Luster, where me and my three colleagues work. We publish books about travel, design, photography, cultural heritage and food, always in collaboration with talented freelance graphic designers, photographers, writers, translators and printers. Our cosy office is located on the fourth floor of a 1921 building, designed by architect Van Averbeke, in the city centre.

How do you perceive Antwerp? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?

Antwerp may be a rather small town, but it has all the facilities and advantages of a big city. This means that there are a lot of interesting places to go to within walking or cycling distance of one another. It’s the largest city of Flanders and because of that a lot of the region’s creative initiatives find there way to Antwerp. And if all those facilities aren’t inspiring enough, it’s good to know that Antwerp is only ½ hour away from Brussels, one hour from Amsterdam, two hours from Paris and three hours from London.

I’d love to see a more representative reflection of the 164 nationalities that live in Antwerp (that’s even more than in New York!) among the employees of restaurants, stores, police departments and so on.

How would you say has Antwerp contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

I started two companies in Antwerp and in my opinion Antwerp is an ideal city for entrepreneurs because of two reasons:

  1. It’s a very inspiring city, and it’s easy to spot the latest trends in many fields here.
  2. There are a lot of practical advantages: lots of people in Antwerp are well educated, and their purchasing power is quite high. Also the big European cities are close by, and the government is stable.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? 

A bridge (or two) across the river, a good but easygoing restaurant on top of the MAS museum which is open during the weekends (something like Neni in Berlin), a top level football team, a more representative reflection of the 164 nationalities that live in Antwerp (that’s even more than in New York!) among the employees of restaurants, stores, police departments and so on. Let’s go for the melting pot. And clean air (but we are working on it).

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Antwerp? If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what would it be?

Friday night: walk from Berchem station via Cogels Osylei (beautiful art nouveau houses) to Dageraadsplaats. After the apero on this cosy square, check in at Dome sur Mer, a terrific fish restaurant. For the nightcap: café Gitanes at Draakplaats. On Saturday morning: go to the market on Theaterplein, followed by some shopping and a healthy lunch at Coffeelabs (during summer on the rooftop terrace). If you have more time: Graanmarkt 13 is the best vegetable restaurant in the city. In the Afternoon: visit FOMU (the museum for photography has some impressive exhibitions planned for 2017) and go for a walk through the Kloosterstraat and Steenhouwersvest afterwards. In the evening, have dinner at RAS on the bank of the river Scheldt. This restaurant is located in a building that was designed by the famous Antwerp architect Bob Van Reeth; the interior recently had a makeover by Co2 architects. At night: grab a beer at Witly Poetzli, next to the cathedral in the old town. Sunday morning: go for a walk in the Middelheim outdoor museum and enjoy a coffee at the MIKA café in the park.  In the Afternoon: why not visit a bookshop? There are two beautiful stores open on Sunday: Copyright and ‘t Stad Leest.

A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth?

Just around the corner of our office: Café Oud Arsenaal. This bar is mentioned in documents that date back to 1822 and it has a very authentic and beautiful interior.
Photography Thomas Ost