Antwerp is a chic port where art, architecture, fashion and diamonds vie for your attention…
Antwerp is a popular city in Flanders. Situated on the banks of the river Scheldt, it is Belgium’s second city. Antwerp is a popular attraction for everyone from art and culture lovers to fashion and diamond enthusiasts. In the sixteenth century, it was the centerpiece of Europe’s Golden Age. Fast forward to the twenty-first century and Antwerp leads the modern entertainment and fashion industry; yet retains its old world charm. A petite city so crammed with sights and activities that you will end up wanting too extend your trip. Eindhoven News brings you a pick of some of the best things to do on a day trip to Antwerp, the Belgian jewel.
Antwerp is reached in 90 minutes via E34. Another option is via A58 and E19 through Tilburg/Breda. Choose to park at a free P+R on the outskirts or in a paid one in the city. Plan your parking here.
Regular trains options are available from Eindhoven. Travel takes around 90 minutes including a change over in Breda. Perhaps, the best way to arrive in Antwerp as the railway station is a true beauty.
Ride on a FlixBus and reach Antwerp in about 75 minutes. Frequent services exist and you can look up the actual schedule on their website.
Antwerp Central Station
Would you have imagined a central railway station as a must see attraction? But, this one is truly unique and aptly christened as the “railroad cathedral”. The church like building constructed in 1905 and recently modernized, is a railway station like no other. One can be forgiven for thinking they have disembarked into a palace with its marble staircase and impressive glass dome. No wonder, it has been voted as one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world.
When (and if) you can tear yourself away from the rail station, you would step out quite near to the Diamond District. Around 70% of the world’s gem quality diamonds pass through Antwerp to be traded, cut and polished before being sold. Indulge in a fair bit of window shopping and enjoy being in the midst of all the bling. Another sparkling attraction is the Diamond and Silver Museum (DIVA) near the centre where you can learn more about diamond trade and even virtually try on the collections. Now, that is one attraction that will stay in your memory forever!
Another crowd-pleaser quite close to the rail station is the Antwerp Zoo. If you are travelling with kids, do plan a visit. One of the world’s oldest zoos, there are close to 950 species of animals including giraffes, elephants and even koalas. You could wander around this green haven admiring the Greek style reptile house or the Egyptian temple. Do keep a tab on the time as you can easily spend a half or even full day right here. More details can found in the website.
- Museums Galore
Antwerp is home to many unique and interesting museums. In fact, the city is synonymous with Paul Rubens, the great painter. While on a trip, you have a chance to visit the very home where Rubens created a majority of his masterpieces. Designed by the master himself, this house offers visitors a peak into the life and work of one of the most renowned artists. Plan your trip to this must see attraction here.
The next museum on our itinerary is another home and this belongs to the Plantin-Moretus printing family. You will be surprised to know that this museum is on the UNESCO heritage list. Here you can see the oldest printing presses in the world. The ground floor celebrates Plantin and his family while the museum also includes a great book and fine arts collection as well as a delightful garden. More details about this museum can be found on their website.
Other popular museums are the MAS (Museum aan de Stroom) and the Red Star Line. View the complete list of museums in the official tourism page.
Be charmed by the historic city centre:
This lovely warren of cobblestone alleys is centred around the Grote Market. It is here that the majestic City Hall stands surrounded by charming architecture and the rich facades of the beautifully restored Houses of the Guilds. There is a fountain with a statue of Brabo, right in the middle of the square, tossing the severed hand of the giant Antigoon. This celebrates how Antwerp got its name (hand werpen meaning ‘hand throw’).
Admire the Cathedral of our lady:
The gothic building with the tallest bell tower in Belgium, this cathedral took 169 years to complete! The pieces of art, the seven aisles and the Ruben masterpieces that it houses are more than worth a visit. Check out more information here. Enjoy a quick bite or grab a coffee at one of the many restaurants at Groenplaats while admiring the beauty of the cathedral from outside. The statue of Rubens and the monument of Pieter Appelmans dedicated to the creators of the cathedral can also be visited here.
Walk along the banks of Scheldt :
The pleasant walk down the Grote Markt will lead you to Het Steen, the medieval fortress. This lovely fairy-tale like structure is the oldest building in Antwerp. Dating back to the 11th century, this used to be a prison, home for disabled soldiers and then part of the Maritime Museum. In 2020, it will be inaugurated as a tourist welcome centre. Do not forget to capture your perfect picture with the castle and the river at the background. Walk along the waterfront for some lovely views of the harbour. St. Anna’s tunnel which runs under the river connects the banks of Scheldt and the original wooden escalators are a retro attraction. The new port house of Antwerp in the North looks like a dazzling diamond ship and a new addition to the skyline.
Feel the Fashion in Flanders :
Antwerp is home to a renowned Fashion Academy which has churned out some of the most popular designers across the world. This city of the Antwerp Six hosts stores and workshops celebrating fashion from Antwerp and abroad. Be inspired at the Fashion Museum MoMu or get lost among the big brands in the Meir street. Even the buildings echo fashion here and it is a splendid shopping street indeed. Check out the Palace on the Meir where great rulers like Napolean and Willem I of Netherlands have resided. Antwerp’s Stadsfeestzaal is a shopping centre in the beautifully restored city festival hall.
Belgium is world renowned for fries, waffles, chocolate and beer and these are of course part of Antwerp’s culinary delights. The Grote Market and Groenplaats are dotted with cozy little cafes, pubs and restaurants. Taste the Antwerpse Handjes (Antwerp Hands) as a chocolate tribute to the legend of Antwerp. Wash them down with the heavenly coffee that you can get in Antwerp. Walk down the Vlaeykensgang with its antique shops and art galleries and indulge your taste buds at the Sir Anthony Van Dyck. Satisfy your sweet cravings with chocolate from the Sjokolat around the corner. Antwerp offers plenty of fine dining at extraordinary locations. The Jane is a Michelin star restaurant in the chapel of a former military hospital while the Zuiderterras transports you to a ship dishing up some exceptional fish and meat delicacies. Het Elfde Gebod (the 11th commandment) is a popular cafe in the shadow of the cathedral where you should try out the homemade beers and sit and enjoy it against the unique backdrop they have created.
The view from the top of the MAS museum. By now, Antwerp is sure to have captured a place in your heart. The free 360 degree prospect from the tenth floor of MAS will etch it further in your memory. For, this is a panorama worth savoring with sweeping views across the city, the lovely Schedlt and the port. The last stop on the way back home should be Chocolate Nation, the newly opened Chocolate Museum which is the largest in Belgium. Located near the central station and open up till late evening, this is a chocaholic’s dream. What a way to wrap up a delightful day and start planning your next trip to this addictive Belgian city…
For Eindhoven News: Muktha Kartik Iyer