Belgium has many gorgeous cities other than the famous Brugge that are worth a visit. Antwerp is one of them It is one of my favorite cities in Belgium and actually, the first city I visited in this country (if not counting Louvain-la-Neuve where I stayed as an Erasmus student back in 2009). Since then, I came back many times with friends or family or just to enjoy a girl’s day and to do some shopping. Come and join me on this virtual tour through the city where I will show you what to see and do in Antwerp during a day trip.
There is a direct train from Brussels to Antwerp each +/- 15 minutes. The journey takes about 40-50 minutes (depending on the train) and the return ticket will cost you about 15 EUR (half price during the weekend and national holidays). For detailed schedule and prices, click here. The city center is quite small and so easily doable on foot in order to see all the places of interest listed in this post. But you can also do it the Flemish way and rent a bike.
What to See and Do in Antwerp
Antwerp Central Station
The Central Station is one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. If you arrive by train, it is here where you will get off. The station was inaugurated in 1905 but since 2007, it has been completely renovated. You will be amazed by 22 platforms including the ones for high-speed trains in several levels. After you take the escalator which brings you to the main hall, you can admire the beautiful entrance hall.
From the station, you can walk through the Diamond District where the happy ones of you can buy a decent souvenir from Antwerp and for the others, window shopping is also an option. 😉 Did you know that Antwerp is the World’s Diamond capital? If diamonds are your best friend, visit also the Diamond Museum! This one is still on my list but maybe one day I will tell you more about it.
For shopping opportunities, head to the Meir Street, which is the main shopping street in Antwerp and where you can find casual clothing stores such as H&M, Benneton, or Morgan. If you prefer original and design stuff, you may find your happiness in the small streets around the main square and Groenplaats where such boutiques are concentrated. The Meir Street will also take you to the historical center.
Cathedral of Our Lady
Follow the Meir street until you arrive at the Groenplaats and you will see the tall spire of the Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwe Cathedral). Look well at this masterpiece as it is the highest Gothic building in the Low Countries measuring 123 m and the construction works took whole 169 years!
Here you are just a few steps from the Central Market called Grote Markt. Thanks to the Renaissance Town Hall and richly decorated 16th-century guild and town houses, it is one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Notice the statue of a man throwing a hand. According to the myth, there was once a Giant who asked money from people for crossing the river Scheldt and cutting their hands and throwing them into the river if they did not want to pay. A Roman soldier called Silvius Brabo killed him and threw his hand into the river too and this scene is illustrated by that statue in front of the Town Hall.
Stroll the cobblestone streets and find hidden spots
Discover the historical center by strolling the cobblestone streets. You can find hidden beautiful and calm spots that are far from the tourist crowds! An example of such a place is Vlaeykensgang Alley which dates back to 1591 and will take you back in time! You will find it near the Cathedral and you can get in from the Hoogstraat or Oude Koornmaarkt Pelgrimstraat.
Rubens’ House Museum
And we are slowly getting to museums! Rubens’ House Museum (Rubenshuis) located in Wapper street used to be the home of the famous Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens and nowadays serves as a unique museum and where you can admire the artwork in the Master’s own house. I loved this museum and I strongly recommend you guys to visit it if you like the Flemish painters.
At the bank of the River Scheldt, you will find a small castle which is the oldest building in the whole city. Het Steen as it is known in Flemish, was built as a part of the fortifications of the city at the beginning of the 13th century and served as one of three gatehouses. Later in the 19th century, it served as a prison and finally, as a Maritime Museum before the collection was moved to new premises in 2011. Nowadays, the castle is open to the public as a “question center” for visitors.
Part of the exhibition from the Steen Castle can be now seen at the MAS (Museum aan de Stroom). You can visit its large narrative collection of artworks and utensils, but don’t forget to take the escalators to the roof terrace for a great panoramic view of the whole city, river Scheldt and the docks.
St. Anna’s Tunnel
Once you are close to the river, check out the St. Anna’s tunnel (Sint-Annatunnel)– an underpass connecting the left and right banks of the city instead of a bridge. It was built in 1933 and there are still the original wooden escalators that will take you down there, so you have the impression you enter a metro. According to me, there is nothing special to see on the other side except another view of the city center.
Comic Strip Murals
If the comic strip is your thing, then pay attention to discover some comic strip murals! You can see some eye-catching murals from Belgian and international authors, although they are not so well known as the ones you can find in Brussels. Still though, a nice street art initiative!
So these are my tips on what to see and do in Antwerp. You can find more information here.
Have you been to Antwerp? How did you like the city? Is there anything else you would recommend? Tell me about it in the below comments!
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