The Top 10 Things to Do in Antwerp, Belgium
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Discover the beautiful Antwerp, enjoy things to do & places!
Antwerp is one of Europe's relatively unknown gems, with which visitors immediately fall in love. It has spectacular historical and modern architecture to see, the Scheldt river for sightseeing, and museums that can occupy your entire vacation. There is something for everyone here, from the fabulous Peter Paul Rubens House to the Red Star Line Museum, where the days of the great ocean liners come to life. Don't miss the MoMu Fashion Museum, as Antwerp has always been at the forefront of fashion design.
There's the extraordinary Plantin-Moretus Museum, which is the only museum in the world to have UNESCO World Heritage status ... and much more. Antwerp is one of Europe's relatively unknown gems, with which visitors immediately fall in love. It has spectacular historical and modern architecture to see, the Scheldt river for sightseeing, and museums that can occupy your entire vacation. There is something for everyone here, from the fabulous Peter Paul Rubens House to the Red Star Line Museum, where the days of the great ocean liners come to life.
Don't miss the MoMu Fashion Museum, as Antwerp has always been at the forefront of fashion design. There's the extraordinary Plantin-Moretus Museum, which is the only museum in the world to have UNESCO World Heritage status ... and much more.
How to Get to Antwerp
If traveling from London, take the Eurostar train from London St. Pancras to Brussels Midi. There are regular Eurostar trains throughout the day, lasting 2 hours and 1 minute. Book your Eurostar ticket here. Your Eurostar ticket offers courtesy travel from Brussels to Antwerp and from Antwerp to Brussels with a return ticket, and the connection is direct from Brussels Midi. The train journey between Brussels and Antwerp takes about 56 minutes.
If you are traveling from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to Brussels Midi, the direct train takes 1 hour and 20 minutes and there are regular trains throughout the day. You will need to buy a separate train ticket from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Brussels Midi.
1. Step Into the World of Peter Paul Rubens
Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) was not only one of the world's greatest Old Master artists, but he also became an international diplomat in the complex political world of seventeenth-century Europe. His charm and good looks helped him work for the notoriously difficult. Marie de Medici (widow of Henry IV of France) and later Charles I of England (designing the roof of the Banqueting House in Whitehall for the king).
Since he was 10 years old, Rubens has lived in Antwerp in this elegant house that was transformed into a museum in 1946 and recently remodeled. The house was designed as an Italian palace with a Baroque portico, a gallery of semi-circular statues, and wood-paneled rooms ranging from the kitchen to the richly decorated bedrooms. There is a large studio where the artist and his students produced works for the royal and noble families of Europe, who were his main patrons, and a charming formal garden appreciated by the painter and his family.
The house offers a wonderfully intimate view of many of Rubens's works, but is also filled with what is described as "Illustrious Visitors," a series of paintings by contemporaries like Van Dyck that are on more or less permanent display in museums. and galleries from around the world. world.
If you're a true fan, after seeing the house, visit Rubens' tomb in St. James's Church, the parish church of most Antwerp citizens. More of his works are on display in Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal, the Cathedral of Our Lady.
2. Visit a 400-Year-Old Printing House
This large, stately and stately home is located on a side street in the center of Antwerp. You walk in and out of the house and workshops of the Plantin-Moretus publishing house, the most important and largest printing press in Europe at the time.
The house was built around a charming 17th century formal garden with rooms on four sides. The first rooms you visit are domestic, a splendid series of dining rooms and living rooms that show the wealth and power of the family. Some have oak-paneled walls; others have walls lined with gold leather or hung with portraits of family and friends.
But the house was more than just a house and the rest of the building was used for printing. You can see rooms filled with important wooden presses that are the oldest in the world, and you can see demonstrations of how the presses worked. The old bookstore takes you back to the days when wealthy customers came to buy their heavy silver and gold coins to check their value before they were allowed to take their precious books home.
The Plantin-Moretus company produced 55 works a year, employing 22 men who worked 14 hours a day. They served as official printers of Antwerp and royal printers to King Felipe II of Spain. His eight-volume Polyglot Plantin Bible with texts in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Syriac was the most sophisticated production of the time; other of his publications are shown here in facsimile.
The Plantin-Moretus Museum is a true treasure, the only museum in the world declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
3. Learn About the Emigrant Journey From Europe to the New World
The Red Star Line Museum tells the stories of some of the millions of poor emigrants who left Europe via Antwerp in search of a better life in America in the 1800s and 1900s. It tells their stories in the most compelling way. You see the faces of the emigrants in the old photos; Follow your trips from all over Europe to Antwerp on maps, trips that usually take months of harrowing effort and, in many cases, you can listen to them on headphones that isolate the rest of the world around you and lead them to live in an extraordinary way.
You have real sympathy for little Ita Moëll, who suffered from trachoma when she was examined on Ellis Island for illness and was sent back to Europe. Cholera, typhoid, and trachoma were the diseases the United States feared most, and any outbreak in Europe brought stricter controls in both Antwerp and New York, as well as a backlash against immigrants.
Thousands of immigrants were absorbed into American life, taking on the humblest manual jobs. And there were immigrants who enriched American life, like Israel ('Izzy') Berlin. Many were Jews, fleeing prejudice and real danger, especially in the 1930s, from countries like Russia, Germany, and Eastern Europe.
4. Tour the Unusual MAS (Museum aan de Strom)
You can't miss the MAS - this tall asymmetrical red brick building functions as a lighthouse on Eilandje, an island that is fast becoming Antwerp's coolest neighborhood. The exhibitions are organized over 10 floors, each with a different theme. One of the most surprising is the first in which more than 180,000 museum objects are stored that are not on display. Labeled and numbered, they are hung on the walls or placed in special cabinets, waiting their turn to be presented to the public. It gives a good idea of how complex it is to organize a museum. Other exhibits deal with life and death; Pre-Columbian art; the history of power and prestige and how it is displayed and used; and Antwerp's place as one of the major ports in the world.
Then climb to the top floor for the best 360-degree view of Antwerp. You see domestic houses where heads of households made creative use of their roofs, church towers dotting the horizon, the curve of the Scheldt and, in the distance, the port of Antwerp with its endless industrial clutter of cranes, piers and power plants. . .Energy.
Tip: get on the Panorama platform when it gets dark during the summer months (April to October). This free attraction is open until midnight and offers a spectacular night view of the city.
5. Experience Antwerp Fashion at the Mode (MoMu) Fashion Museum
For decades the "Antwerp Six" group of influencers from around the world has highlighted the preeminence of Antwerp fashion designers, so if you're interested, make the Mode Fashion Museum one of your stops. It only has temporary exhibitions, but they are impressive.
Only Dries Van Noten from the original Antwerp Six still has an independent shop located on the fabulous corner of Het Modepaleis, just a few minutes' walk away. The other designers, such as Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester, sell in their own homes and in other major stores.
Antwerp still produces a formidable crop of young designers and in May and October current designers hold their special sales (including Van Noten, Margiela and Demeulemeester).
6. Visit Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal, the Cathedral of Our Lady
This imposing and vast Gothic cathedral was built between 1352 and 1521 on the site of a smaller church. Its 123 meter high spire stands out like a beacon from anywhere in Antwerp and was once the magnet for pilgrims who gathered here by the thousands. Step inside to see Rubens 'early paintings and other painters' Old Masters scattered throughout the cathedral, framed in glorious red against the bare white walls.
7. Marvel at the Great Grote Markt Square
The medieval square that is the heart of the city is as extravagant as any of the other great Flemish squares like Brussels and Bruges. The Grote Markt, once home to the merchants and guilds that enriched the city, now vibrates with the tourist beat. It is a pedestrianized place, so sit in one of the cafes along the square and admire the extraordinary Brabo fountain and the wonderful Renaissance-style town hall that was completed in 1565.
8. Visit one of the world’s oldest Zoos
When you arrive in Antwerp, you immediately find two wonderful pieces of architecture. If you come by train, you will be impressed by the splendid Central Station from 1905, one of the most striking in Europe. Walk outside and on your left, you will see another architectural glory - the Antwerp Zoo.
Founded in 1843, it is one of the oldest zoos in the world, with a worldwide reputation for its special breeding program. It has beautiful buildings like the Egyptian temple, built in 1856, and the antelope building built-in 1861 in oriental style. It has been recently renovated and a reef environment area has been added to the aquarium, making it a must-see for anyone visiting the family.
9. Drink the beer
Like all Belgian cities, beer and beer cellars are an important part of life here. Take tram number 9 or 15 to De Koninck, Antwerp's historic brewery, for a tour of the brewery and a chance to sample some of their products. The brewery is located in the original early 20th-century industrial building and the tour takes you through interactive brewing exhibits and a walkway from where you can look down over the brewery hall to the cozy " pub".
There is a good store that sells beer and the famous bolleke glasses. Also on the premises, there is a first-class cheese shop and a very good independent butcher shop.
10. Try the frites
French fries are an important part of the Belgian diet; Belgians are the biggest consumers of French fries in Europe. And the fries they produce are very good, especially in Antwerp, which claims to be the city that invented the concept of friterie. While there are plenty of places to stop for a quick meal of French fries, the must-try is the Frites Atelier at 32 Korte Gasthuisstraat. It's always crowded, but you can be lucky and get a chair at the four or five indoor tables. Otherwise, stay outside at a high table.
And the french fries? They are very delicious, but they should be. Frites Atelier is a small chain founded by Michelin star chef Sergio Herman. You can get plain fries and then choose the sauce that you get from the big stone dispensers. Or go for a real treat and top the fries with Belgian stew or boudin blanc.
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