Antwerp is a gorgeous Belgium city with great historical sights. It’s easily accessible by train that departs from Brussel’s Brussel-Centraal station which would make it a perfect one day trip! Antwerp is a large city with one of the biggest European ports, and it’s important economically and historically to the whole world.
No doubt, you can spend more time in Antwerp if you want but for now let me show you the most unmissable gems if you’re only visiting the city briefly.
UPD: the museum is currently under renovation.
The Museum of Rubens is an actual house with a studio where he lived and created his masterpieces for a long time and is one of the best sights you can visit in Antwerp. It’s a wonderful old house with objects kept as they were where you can explore the life of Rubens and his family, and it opened as a museum in 1946.
Some of his masterpieces are also on display such as his Self-portrait. The interesting fact is that the building reflects the painter’s needs, and he also added some features very unusual for a house like that. For instance, he made a replica of Panthéon and the house itself reminds us of an Italian Palazzo as he was really inspired by Italian art.
There is also a very nice garden, which was all in bloom during our visit.
2. Cathedral of our Lady
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal, or Cathedral of our Lady, is another must for your visit. The current Gothic cathedral’s construction started in 1352 and took 169 years, however, the second tower that was planned initially is still not there. Don’t hesitate to come inside as well, as there are some major works of arts such as the stained glass and the painting masterpieces, including three of Rubens’ hands!
Right opposite to the cathedral, there is a sculpture of Nello and Patrasche, characters of heartbreaking English novel ‘A Dog of Flanders’ which is actually very popular in Asia and has been only recently traduced into Dutch. The sculpture was created by the Batist Vermeulen.
3. Steen Castle
Would you like to see a fairytale castle in Antwerp? Then head to the Scheldt River where you find the Het Steen dating back to the first part of the 13th century! The name of the castle means ‘The Rock’ or ‘The Stone’ because the majority of houses at that time were built of wood. Later, in the 16th century, it underwent major renovations. The large statue near its entrance is Lange Wapper, a famous Flemish folkloric character overlooking two small humans.
You can observe it from the side or to pop in for a visit. By the way, Wagner’s Lohengrin takes place here too!
4. Grote Markt
Of course, no guide is full without the main square of Antwerp 16th-century Grote Markt, or the Great Market Square, lined up with the 16th century guildhalls!
You won’t miss the City hall built in Renaissance and Gothic styles as well as the Brabo Monument, one of the most easily recognizable sites of the city. It’s dedicated to the legendary Roman soldier who killed a giant who threatened those who wanted to cross the local river.
The Meir street is one of your main destinations if you’re planning to shop in Antwerp!
It’s a pedestrianised shopping street with cafes and numerous shops, which is located not far from the train station. Another bonus: you can enjoy the architectural beauty of the houses too, with one even being the residence of the Kings of Belgium!
Stadsfeestzaal is an architectural gem on the Meir street you mustn’t miss. Its construction began at the end of the 19th century after a design by Alexis Van Mechelen, the building was officially opened in 1908.
Sadly, a large fire almost completely destroyed the original building in 2000, but it was rebuilt in the coming years, and in 2007 it reopened again. Now you can explore the shops inside or have lunch in a cafe named after Antoon Van Dyck as we did!
7. Diamond district
Antwerp is often called a Diamond capital of the world for a reason: many big mining companies who distribute uncut diamonds are located here! The Diamond district is located very close to the train station, so you won’t miss it if you’re going to the city centre.
The Groenplaats, or Green Square, is another lovely site framed with trees to visit in Antwerp. There are lots of cafes, Hilton hotel and the statue of Rubens dating to the 1840s. You’ll also get a nice skyline panorama from it too!
9. St. Paul’s church and St James church
The St. Paul’s Church is another interesting religious and historical landmark of Antwerp that belonged initially to the Dominican order. Now it’s famous for its exterior of Gothic and Baroque style (because of this mixture it’s sometimes referred to as ‘a Gothic shrine for a baroque jewel’) as well as for its collection of art pieces: it includes Rubens, van Dyck and Jordaens.
Another church to visit is St James church: Rubens is buried here!
10. Antwerp Central Station
If you come to Antwerp by train, there’s no chance you miss this landmark! Antwerpen-Centraal is one of the most amazing historical train stations you’ve ever seen!
It has the gorgeous eclectic entrance and the clock, – and because of that it’s even something called ‘spoorwegkathedraal, or ‘a railroad cathedral”! It dates back to the early 20th century when this beauty was erected on the site of the previous wooden construction of the mid-19th century.
If you’re staying in Antwerp for longer, take some time to explore more of its museums, Antwerp Zoo, The chocolate line shop, Antwerp port and some modern architectural gems too!
Hope you liked my blog!|