Traveling around Antwerp (and the rest of Belgium)
Taking the train in Antwerp (or the rest of Belgium) is not like taking the Rocky Mountaineer train back home in Canada where you can maybe be lucky to have a chance to see a wild bear or see the beautiful snowy mountaintops. But even if you probably won’t get to see a wild bear here in Belgium, it’s still one of my favorite ways to travel around as I can see the countryside or spot beautiful mansions coming into Antwerp-Berchem station. So diverse.
But there are of course other means of traveling if you don’t have a car during your stay here and so let me share with you what I have figured out about traveling around Belgium, especially Antwerp.
This is based on me living here for more than 20 years now! (wow)
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to follow up quickly. 👌
Trains: Being small has its advantages! All cities and villages are very easily accessible in Belgium. Normally you can commute very quickly from one city to another with the NMBS. Compared to other European countries, train tickets are also relatively cheap. For example, from Brussels to Antwerp you pay 15€ return.
A weekend ticket (Friday from 7 pm to Sunday evening) returns and is 50% cheaper than the standard price. A Go pass costs € 53 for young people under 26 and lets you choose from which station you go to for only € 5.30 per ride (10 per card), a Go Unlimited Week pass (-26y) costs € 15 / week or € 25 per month.
Buses and trams: You can count on De Lijn in the Flemish cities. A paper ticket for this means of transport costs € 3 (for one hour) or a pass for 7 €. You can also buy a ticket through the app: m-ticket for 1.80 € or via text message € 2.25. For more info and options click here for De Lijn website. In Wallonia, the transit company is called TEC. There you pay depending on where you going. buying a ticket on the bus is the most expensive option. You pay € 5 for a day pass. You can also buy tickets in most newspaper shops. For more info follow the TEC link here.
Other means of transport: Belgian cities are really not big. From most Belgian stations you can reach the center within a five-minute walk. Moreover, by walking you will often walk through much nicer streets that are too narrow for buses or cars.
I am not a bicycle specialist or a child development expert. I’m a mom and cyclist. Talk to your pediatrician about when biking with your baby is appropriateand take your time at finding the right (Longtail cargo) bicycle for you and your family.
A Longtail bike what? And should I make the switch?
When a friend of mine posted a picture of their new longtail bike on Facebook I was instantly fascinated by it. I had never heard of it and quickly giving it a google I found that this has already been a big thing in the States. Weird that in a country where people bike a lot I hadn’t seen one already, but after doing some research it’s obvious that it is becoming quite popular.
What did I find out?
FROM WHAT AGE CAN YOUR CHILDREN RIDE ALONG?
The age at which you can start carrying your child on a bike is a contested issue. Basically your child needs to have the neck strength to comfortably sit-up on their seat. Usually, this is a skill that they learn between six and twelve months. Please note this does not mean that a child can sit up for hours at a time. If you are planning a cycling holiday with longer trips, stop regularly. Parents who are eager to start cycling with children this young can find themselves in a quandary as to what is safe, legal, and practical!
PROS AND CONS
Depending on the model, a load capacity of +100 kg to +200 kg.
Possibility of comfortably transporting several children.
Possibility of mounting two bicycle seats at the rear.
Large bicycle bags so you can take a lot with you.
Light, narrow and maneuverable like an ordinary bicycle.
Your child (ren) is (are) close. That is a nice idea and also cozy.
Possibility to carry other bikes. This way, your child can cycle until he/she is tired and then take a seat at the back.
Many different options for accessorizing the bike.
Although limited, this bike requires just a little more storage space.
Your child (ren) are also subject to the weather elements.
The children sit behind you, which makes communicating a bit more difficult than in the case of a bicycle seat in the front or a cargo bike, for example. But I still find it hard to converse with my while he is in the front carrying cargo bike and the top is on.
Most models have a high step.
Equipping the bike as required requires extra investment.
Choosing the right Longtail.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT LONGTAIL
There are different types of longtail bikes. What should you pay attention to during your purchase?
What do you want to use the bike for? How much weight do you plan to carry? Depending on the model you can carry more (+200 kg) or less (+100 kg) weight. Attention extra weight also requires extra pedaling power. Try to be realistic about this. Carrying 200 kg without extra support is a challenge anyway.
A number of models use smaller wheels in the front and / or rear. This is to lower the center of gravity and thus create a more stable driving experience. A lower luggage rack also makes it more accessible for children to step on their own. A disadvantage is that your load space becomes proportionally smaller.
Are you a mileage eater or do you have another reason why you can use extra pedal assistance? In the case of a longtail cargo bike, the extra weight that you can carry provides an extra reason to consider electrical support. But just like with other bicycles, electric drive is accompanied by an extra financial investment.
Most longtail bikes are equipped as standard for transporting additional luggage. If you want to dress them up for the safe transport of children, then you are obliged to install additional accessories, which entails an additional cost. An advantage is that many different combinations are possible: Monkey Bars, two bicycle seats, one cushion, and one bicycle seat, an extra handlebar and footrests, and so on.
The different models available have a different range of gears. You need to be aware of the environment you will be biking in. If you cycle regularly through hilly terrain or over bridges, more gears can be useful. The more bicycle gears, the more cycling comfort.
Measure well in advance how much space you have available to park your bike. The length of the different models can vary considerably.
Be aware that the bicycle has a sound standard. The bicycle is intended to accumulate a reasonable amount of weight. For ease of use, it is therefore essential that the standard bears this weight when stationary.
Some models have a ‘one size fits all’ frame, others have different options. If it is intended that you and your partner both use the bicycle, this can help determine your choice.
THE LAST TIP …
Always try the longtail bike! A round at the bicycle repair shop in front of the door is really insufficient. A serious bicycle mechanic will always give you the opportunity to take a test drive. If you are going to test, take your children with you. So you know what it feels like when the bike is loaded. By testing different bikes, you notice the differences in weight, stability, ease of use, etc. Is the distance between the handlebars and saddle comfortable for you? Can your children get on it easily? Is the bike stable?
WHAT WILL I DO?
Well, I’m still busy with my driver’s license and that will take at least another 10 months. But even if I would have one, I would still ride a bike most of the time as I believe that it is better for the environment and I just enjoy this time together with my son.
Whether I would buy a Longtail, I have to say that I am inclined to. I have been riding a ‘normal’ bike with my son on the back (because of a flat tire on my cargo bike) for the past week and it does ride easier than a cargo bike, it’s just a bit too small at the back for my almost 6-year-old. Easier to handle. I have testdrived a Yuba already and would like to try out a few others and so who knows.
Bakfiets & cargo bikes-festival./ ANTWERP- This is only once a year (next one is on the 14th of March 2020) but it’s a great way to see what’s out there, hear testimonials and have some great truck food. 😀
The best work-friendly coffee shops in Antwerp? Why?
Have a big term paper due, studying for exams, or need a change of scenery while working from home? I asked my friends on social media where they love to go and I tried ALL the suggested coffee shops suitable for students and professionals alike. I grabbed some coffee and got down to business to find the top spots for (cold) brews, savory bites, free WiFi, and plenty of outlets. So order a beverage and look at my notes on Antwerp’s best coffee shops for studying or work. After all, espresso and efficiency go hand in hand, especially if your a mom like me, then you just need coffee to be efficiant.
Here are to my honest opinion, the best 5 work-friendly coffee shops in Antwerp.
This is probably my number 1 favorite place to go to, “Viggo’s coffee”. Not only because it’s near to the Roosevelt Plaats where I take the bus home from but because the owner and staff are a-m-a-z-i-n-g, the coffee (ask to smell the choices) is extraordinary. Pastries are delicious! I used to have a cappuccino there with oat milk, but now I usually order a “Dirty Chai” Yum, yum!
The sitting area is clean, retro and comfy just as I like it, plus there is a long communal table if you feel like chatting with other customers, or you can just go and sit somewhere more private, it’s up to you. Free Wifi of course!
Just behind the Central Station lies the quirky ‘Vitesse coffee shop.” I was drawn to it due to the weird combination of its slogan “coffee & cycling” — two things I LOVE! I was not disappointed. Vitesse is a pretty cool, cozy cafe where you can get some work done, read, do some people-watching, or just spend some quiet time over a cup of coffee. As its name suggests, the place has a cycling theme with some cycling-related gear artfully displayed throughout the shop. Most importantly, of course, is that the baristas here serve some really good coffee!
This place is on my list of the top 5 work-friendly coffee shops in Antwerp because it serves the BEST coffee e-v-e-r! They roast the coffee beans themselves. That’s just so awesome and so yummy. You can imagine the smell while walking in.
The interior has pretty eclectic mismatched furniture and a shelves covered in coffee paraphernalia. The atmosphere is really cosy inside and out. Plus the staff are so welcoming and great at making you a good coffee.
I’m really a coffee snob and so when I’m craving some good quality coffee, this is the place I go to.
Coming it to this place just made me happy. It had again the lovely retro feel to it that I like and that countertop!!! So Belgian, so inviting! A friend did comment that she found the coffee, so,so.
Located a few streets from the main shopping street, Meir, but located in a very nice shopping area also. Fresh, Bio, Local, Good and relaxing! It surely deserves a spot on the best work-friendly coffee shops in Antwerp list.
This place is a beat off track and located outside of the major touristic attractions. It is mostly visited by locals and visitors from the nearby hospital. You choose your food from the counter, and up you go. Food is fresh, delicious and healthy, there is plenty of choices, I highly recommend the “chili sin carne”. They have a large selection of coffee, tea and desserts or snacks. Finally, there is a nice courtyard out back to sit down and relax in the warm days. Take care it is closed at 8pm and also on weekends. I would avoid it during lunchtime as it gets packed.
They also have some toys and books to keep little children occupied while eating. Yay!
So these were my top 5 work-friendly coffee shops in Antwerp. I’m a mom, who loves coffee and needs a break from home from time to time and who wants to write somewhere other than her bed.
What other places should I also check-out? Always looking for the newest trendiest and yummiest place to-be. Extra points if they are child friendly (as in healthy children’s menu’s and some toys/books to keep them occupied. Major points if they have a play area.)
So bye bye July, what a month you were. The heatwave nearly killed me, thank God that it only lasted about 3-4 days.
EEEEEEEEEEH, I’m a born and bred Canadian. I like my summer’s warm, but not scorching hot. What I really love is the fall, it’s my favorite season but it was the winter that I was dreaming for during that heatwave. I made a promise to God that I would NEVER complain about the rain again and I’m sticking to it.
So for besides those 4 days in hell where you could hardly move, we had a great summer already.
I would not be a mom blogger if I did not share with you another list of must doe’s, just to give you all some inspiration so here are the best summer activities we did so far.
Just a reminder: I’m a Canadian native living in the suburbs of Antwerp Belgium. I’m a mom of three, with two “kids” still living at home. My 25-year-old daughter and my 5-year-old son. We are sometimes accompanied by our two Doxies Toby and Charlie. And we travel mainly by cargo bike or transit.
Looking for free things to do with kids in Antwerp?
The summer is almost halfway done. Some of you are having a blast, others are struggling with keeping their kids occupied. If you are like me, a single mom on a budget, you want to keep the vacation costs low. So here are a few of my favorite places to go in Antwerp with my 5 1/2-year-old son.
So what free things can you do in Antwerp with kids?
One of my favorite things to do with my girlfriends and kids is visiting a child-friendly summer bar. And “Antwerpen” has a lot of them. For all types of people. The family people, the hipsters, the fancy pants …and so on.
We have been to the “Zomerbar” at the Sloepenweg for a few years now, just because my son loves it so much, heck even my 25 year old and her boyfriend love it.
You have an open-air library and there is even a volunteer who will read a story to the children twice a day.
This year they built this awesome a boathouse with slide up in a tree.
And when it is really hot outside, they put out puddle baths for the kiddos to cool off in.
Coming by electrical bike? Great, you can even charge your battery there.
Have some spending money? Book a circus show. Or order some great food from the food trucs there. Believe me, you will love the Zomerbar, or you will find another one that suits your needs better. Give them a try.
Check out this LINK to see if there is a Summer bar near you.
PETTING ZOO’s (kinderboerderijen)
You have many of those here in Belgium. Most of them also have a tavern and/or a playground in the vicinity. For us, in Brasschaat we love going to the Mikerf Farm. It is situated in the ‘De Mik” domain where they also have a real castle and towers. You can picknick at the lake before or after visiting the farm animals. It is a magical place.
You can even order a “fairytale walk” (sprookjespad) for your child’s birthday. Have a look here, and use google translate.
If you are planning a trip to Bokrijk or would not mind driving out a bit further, we highly recommend the playground next to the open-air museum. IT IS HUGE! You can pack a picknick and easily stay there all day. Read about my review of our day trip to Bokrijk HERE.
They offer the opportunity to walk barefoot for some distance and to feel the natural ground and various materials with bare feet soles.
In addition, visitors can enjoy balancing or climbing and walk through brooks or even rivers. Some barefoot parks include playground sections designed for bare feet. These healthy combinations of barefoot hiking and playing have become popular tourist attractions.
I’m including a few small free ones, but if you don’t mind spending a bit of money on a memorable trail, then I would strongly recommend the barefoot trail in Zutendaal. (google translate if needed).
We absolutely loved it there. We went there when my son was a toddler and I carried him half way on my back in the carrier and will never forget walking through a deep thrench with water up to above my belly button, with a sleeping toddler on my back. Going back with my 5 year old again for payback time. Ha!
The swimming facility in the Boekenbergpark in Deurne is an ecological swimming pond. Plants purify the water in a natural way, so the pool contains no chemicals. There is a large pond of 73 m long with a depth between 1.80 and 2.50 m. There is also a small play pool with a depth of 50 cm and a large lawn area to sit and lie on.
I’m going to end this post with the cheapest and for me one of the nicest free activities, and those are playdates.
When it comes to playdates, I choose to keep it simple. I am not winning any “hostess of the year” awards—but I am totally okay with that. I keep the food and fanfare minimal these days, but I like to think that both the adult and child guests enjoy themselves while in our home. The kids get to play with other toys (kids love our dress-up rack) and mom’s get to relax, talk and enjoy some good coffee or tea. As simple as that. When you invite, you get invited back, especially useful in the summertime when in need of a pool. 🙂
Am I missing something you LOVE? Just let me know in the comments below.
Today I will be writing a review for my Babboe e-curve cargo bike. The opinions are mine. I did not receive any earnings from this post, but as you will be able to read towards the end of my post, I have been compensated. Just not for writing this blog post. 😉
To be honest, I am a bit ashamed to say that I am a grown 41-year-old woman without a driver’s license.
I don’t know how it is where you live, but here in Belgium I only have one other friend without a driver’s license so I always end up having to explain to people why I don’t have one. I just never came round to it and I am actually a bit scared, but fingers crossed, I will be going for my theoretical exam (together with my 25-year-old daughter.
But even if I do pass, it will still be months before I have a full permit and even longer before I can afford a car. So, my cargo-bike is a must in my life.
I am since July 2017 the owner of the Babboe e-curve cargobike. I have 3335 km on it. It is my main way of transportation. I drive my son to school in it, I bring him to and from swimming classes, I do my groceries in it, I run my errands with it, I even drive it 30km (18miles) on Sunday’s to church (Antwerp) and back.
I want to make it clear that my views expressed in this post are entirely my own and entirely based on my experience with this cargobike. I have provided a link to the Babboe website above for anyone who wants to look them up. Nobody has asked me or paid me to write a review. My only aim in writing this is to help others who may be thinking of buying the Babboe e-curve cargobike.
I did some research beforehand, I found some helpful Facebook groups where I could read experiences from other users and I wish that I had taken their advice. There were many complaints (mainly about the spokes), but I really fell in love with the e-curve Babboe when I saw it during a test drive. I made up my mind that I wanted a three-wheeler, I wanted something that also looked pretty and because of my chronic pain, it needed the battery-powered pedal “assist”. One of the most well-known brands here in Belgium is the Babboe and I fell in love with the e-curve when I saw it.
When my cargobike got delivered (then you could only buy it online in Belgium and it was delivered 4 weeks later) I tried it out straight away of course and oh boy….it felt really weird driving it. I constantly felt like I was going to fall off. But I was determined to make it work and so I drove it 40km straight to our fixed camping spot and once I got there, I was a confident cargobike, or how they call it here, even my expat friends, a “bakfiets” driver. I loved it. My son loved it, heck, even my two Doxies love it.
But…a few weeks later the first problems arose, my brakes and lights. One brake was not working, the lights were not working and so I emailed Babboe. I also inquired about when the technician would come by for the first maintenance (included in the price we paid. I had already received an email asking me if I was satisfied with the services…for the services that I haven’t received yet). It took exactly a month before the technician came. My brakes were then finally fixed and I had received new lights. My bike was riding smoother than ever.
Then the rain cover poles broke. I emailed again, Babboe said that they were aware of the poor quality of the poles and that they were looking for a solution. In the meantime they would send me new poles. And they did, the wrong ones. Emailed them again and soon after I received the first pair or rain cover poles. But the rain cover poles have broken off 5 times during the 18 months that I have owned my e-curve.
Another issue, the wheel spokes. They too have been broken multiple times. This is apparently something that many, many Babboe owners have experienced. This is a pretty costly thing to have to happen regularly. One of my back spokes is even broken now.
And something they forget to tell you…not many bike repair shops repair your electrical cargo-bike, definitely if you have not bought it in their shop. I have two bike repair shops in walking distance of my house, but they have refused to repair my bike (one will repair the spokes but nothing else) and so I have had to rely on friends to pick me up and drop me off at another bike shop further away. Not very convenient. You can always book a maintenance and repair service at home from Babboe, but be prepared to wait many, many weeks and with a broken spoke, you need to get it repaired as soon as possible.
Oh yeah, and my battery, remember at the beginning of this post I mentioned biking 40km to our camping spot? (I still drove around with it for a few more days before I had to recharge the battery) . Well now (18 months later) the action radius is +-15km. I alternate between modes 3 and 4 and transporting one child who weighs 21kg, I weigh 70kg. My friend who owns an “e-big” bike from Babboe even bought a second battery because she could not make the trip to school and back with her kids. Not ok.
I have emailed Babboe again (I have emailed them 8 times) I feel like a complainer, but when you pay almost 2.500euro’s for a bike, you expect it to work properly. Customer service is very unsatisfactory and while they are polite, they are evasive. They say they will get back but they do not and so I have spent a few hundred euro’s to date on reparation costs.
I am writing this post, review, because I am just so very upset about the quality of my bike, while it looks great. My brakes broke again two days ago, I have yet again a broken spoke and it is making a funny sound while driving, I am worried that it’s the motor. The key to the battery of the bike is so thin that it has been bent beyond use and I will have to get a new key made today, otherwise, I will not be able to recharge the battery. I am a single mom on a very low income and I have no way to get it repaired again, let alone the money to buy a new one might this break down completely. It saddens me, I have really enjoyed driving it, my son loves it so much too and it has given us so much pleasure and freedom and I really need it, I just cannot do without and so I’m again praying for a miracle.
It is very pretty to look at. Classy.
The finishings are much nicer than the cheaper models. Especially the “leather” handles.
The display is nice and easy and it’s digital, so you know how far you can still drive before the battery runs out.
The rain cover (not the poles) is cute and you have velcro on the top for stopping it to flap down while children are getting in or out. You can also roll up sides on warmer days. It has to be -20c degrees here before my son wants the sides closed though.
Comfy seat for the driver.
The spokes, just the wheel, in general, is not strong enough for the cargobike according to two repair shops.
The battery. I know, I know that a battery loses it’s power the older it gets and by usage, but going from +-50km a year ago to 15km now…that’s ridiculous.
The rain cover polls break very easily.
The brakes…ugh, I find that the scariest.
The rear light is powered by a battery. The two front lights are powered by four AAA batteries between them. It would be great if the front lights were powered by the battery or dynamo powered. The front lights don’t give much light, plus you need to slide them on and off, meaning that they also easily slide off by themselves. I have lost one like that.
I want to again remind you, dear reader, that this has been my experience. I am not technical, so I cannot comment on the motor or stuff like that, I can only write about my experiences and how people have advised me. I advise you to do your research before buying your “bakfiets”. Go try some out or rent one for the day and even if you think that you would not be able to drive a two-wheeler bakfiets, try it out, it’s like riding a normal size bike. I wish that I had because I know now which one I would have bought then knowing what I know now.
Do you have a cargobike? Which one? I would love to hear about your experiences.
EDIT: 4 February 2019
Since writing this post about the Babboe e-curve cargo bike review, it has been shared around on social media and was the talk amongst my friends. My bike actually broke down, the crankshaft broke, leaving me in a bit of a predicament. But I am truly, truly blessed by all the wonderful people around me. People were texting me, asking if they could help with the groceries or if I needed them to bring my son to and from school. Then one mom in school even lent me her cargo bike!!! *happy dance* That was really a lifesaver for me. Thank you all again! Big love.
Now what happened next; Babboe contacted me through this blogpost and I finally got to speak to this very nice lady Aimée. She said that they (at Babboe) were very sorry for all the difficulties that I have been experiencing with the Babboe bakfiets and said that they will be sending me a technician who will hopefully be able to fix all the problems. A week later the technician came (again a very nice person who really enjoyed my coffee and cookies) and he made me a very happy mom again by :
replacing the whole rear wheel (due to the crankshaft)
new disk brake
new battery and charger
and tightened the brakes and bolts
For my lights, I can also visit a bike repair shop to get some new lights installed and Babboe will reimburse me.
So I practically have a new bike now, all done under warranty, thank goodness!!! We are again zooming all around town overjoyed by having our little piece of freedom back.
Thank you all for sharing my Babboe e-curve cargo bike review.
EDIT 15th of April 2019:
So, my cargo bike has again, started to make funny noises. I’m afraid it’s the motor or something. So Babboe has gracefully proposed to replace my bike. They only do this when there have been many issues with a bike.
I am very grateful for this, it helps me to be independent, gives great joy to my son and me and I can continue to get groceries myself without having to rely on other people. It makes a big difference in our lives.
So thank you again Babboe, your generosity humbles me and alters my perception.
Thank you re-posters and thank you, dear friends, for sharing this post of my Babboe e-curve cargo bike review.
EDIT 9th of August 2019
I was a bit late with this update but I am very very happy to say that since writing my latest update:
That we have been so blessed by receiving a BRAND NEW Babboe cargo bike!
*Insert party ballons here*
The sweet (patient) lady who had been trying to help me sort out the problems with our previous bike realized that the problems that I had been experiencing with the cargo bike were really abnormal.
So we started a new adventure with a new e-curve. Since June we’ve had our new bike and I’m glad to say that we have not had any problems yet. I’m not going to lie, I seem to be waiting for something to happen, but that’s just me. If you know me and my life, you will know that it’s just something that stems from the very unconventional life that I’ve had up to now.
So even though we did not have much luck with our first Bike, Babboe really came through for us and I really stand by my opinion that they’re practical, beautiful, and damn fun to ride. They can haul everything from babies to groceries, to large pieces of furniture. They make moving gear through traffic-choked cities faster, and more fun, than any big air polluting car. I’m totally smitten again!
Thank you Babboe and thank you all for reading and sharing my Babboe e-curve cargo bike review.
Edit 14 January 2020
Since beginning September 2019, I have started to regularly experience flat tires. This has happened 9 times in total, 7 times it was my back tire.
It seems to happen for no apparent reason. A couple of times it had to do with the spokes breaking and puncturing the wheel. Other times have been just tiny holes. The Local bike shop has checked the outer wheel, there seems to be nothing there.
I have taken different bike routes, checked my garden for any debris, but it stays a mystery as to why I am getting so many flat tires. According to my repairman (and he guessed my bike was a Babboe without me even telling him), that this company, unfortunately, does not use the best quality and that it for sure is not made for the long distances and frequencies that I use it for and that he has had many clients of this make, with flat tires, bad batteries, and spokes breaking off.
So, maybe that is what it is. It’s a pretty bike, works well if not used for long distances.
Too bad for me I guess as I now have to look for another solution for getting my son to school and back. Making that a total of almost 25 km a day at least.