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Things to do in Antwerp-->
Things to do in Antwerp
Discover things to do in Antwerp while you attend the EuroSTAR Conference.
The second city of Belgium and home to the biggest port in the country, Antwerp is an obvious choice for travellers in the country. The city seems to ooze power and cool and this may be due to its historic status, dating back to the Middle Ages. It is the home of moguls and diamond dealers. Antwerp is known as the diamond capital of the world and the diamond industry plays an important role in the economy of the city and has done throughout its history. Alongside moguls and diamonds, Antwerp has a huge reputation for art and fashion. It is home to world-class meseums, art, beautiful architecture and of course known for great food and drink. A beautiful combination for a European city break.
Here are 15 best things to do in Antwerp while you attend EuroSTAR:
Arrive in style to Antwerp Central Station
Considered the world’s most beautiful railway station by many, Antwerp’s central train hub is mainly admired for its outspoken contradictions. The bringing together of Louis Delacenserie’s Neo-Renaissance aesthetic and engineer Clément Van Bogaert’s use of modern steel, iron, and glass is where its beauty resides. Looking at a train station may not be one of the best things to do in many cities but in Antwerp, it is an absolute must. The Gothic architecture of the building’s impressive exterior will take your breath away and the main hall is equally splendid. The station is one of the city’s most treasured landmarks and has been rated as one of the world’s top five most beautiful train stations. The station is much more than just a pretty face however and has been fully adapted to operate in the 21st Century with its multilevel platforms.
Antwerp Central Station is located directly opposite the 2020 EuroSTAR Conference Venue. So instead of travelling by car to the conference, do your part for the environment and take the train and visit Antwerp’s remarking Central Station en route to the EuroSTAR Conference.
Admire the work of Ruben
Sir Peter Paul Rubens was a Flemish artist. He is considered the most influential artist of Flemish Baroque tradition. Though his masterpieces include portraits and landscapes, Rubens is perhaps best known for his religious and mythological compositions.
You can visit his house in Antwerp ‘Rubenshuis’. The home was built by Rubens himself as both a place to live and also as a studio for him to work in. The building was in a bad way prior to restorative work that began in 1937 but with some careful work, the building has now returned to its former glory. As well as furniture from the period that the painter lived here, the house also shows off many pieces of his artwork.
Many locals collected art including Nicolaas Rockoxhuis, a lawyer and politician, in 17th Century Antwerp. You can view further artworks in his beautifully preserved home, complimented by a lovely courtyard and garden. The Rockoxhuis’ private collection features commissions by both Rubens and Van Dyck. The Golden Cabinet art exhibition is also housed here and is both fascinating and varied.
Learn about printing at the Museum Plantin-Moretus
This former printing press was once one of the finest in the world. The site has been home to museum since 1876 and is now a UNSECO World Heritage Site. It may be unusual for a museum to be inducted into World Heritage Site status but once you visit this fascinating place. The building itself dates back to medieval times and, along with the courtyard, is alone worthy of a visit. Combine this with a museum exploring the world’s oldest printing press, a 17th Century library and a collection of valuable artwork and you will soon see why the Museum Plantin-Moretus is so highly regarded.
It’s no exaggeration to say the Plantin-Moretus family ruled over the early European printing world. Like Rubens, Christoffel Plantin set up his workshop and sumptuous living quarters in the same place. The 16th-century printing presses and a library containing precious original manuscripts still bear witness to the flowering of European literature.
Explore the historic Antwerp Zoo
Antwerp Zoo was founded in 1843 and makes a great day out when you are tired of looking at museums and architecture. The zoo may be one of the oldest in the world but the facilities are modern and world class with state of the art enclosures and breeding programmes. Popular attractions at the zoo include a loved up koala couple who live together in a thatched cottage as well as a new reef environment in the zoo’s aquarium.
Antwerp Zoo is the 2020 EuroSTAR Conference Venue, also known as the Flanders Convention Centre. Join the testing community in Antwerp Zoo this November! View ticket options.
Take a piece of Antwerp home with you
Shopping centres don’t come much more stylish than the Stadsfeestzaal Shopping Centre in the centre of Antwerp. The building was once almost destroyed but due to its status as a listed building it was promptly restored to exactly how it should be. The architecture, marble staircase and mosaic floor will keep even the most reluctant shoppers entertained and if not, there is always the champagne bar to enjoy.
Antwerp is known for its so-called diamond district which is located west of the Central Train Station. Around 85% of the world’s uncut diamonds find their way here and result in the employment of more than 30,000 people. The diamond museum here is the largest of its kind in the world and will tell you everything you need to know about diamonds and the industry here. The diamond industry is largely run by orthodox Jews although more and more wealthy Americans and Indians are becoming influential.
Vintage shopping and flea markets are extremely popular in Antwerp. Find some of the most popular flea markets and thrift stores in this article.
Go vintage in the Kloosterstraat
Antiques and vintage are the Kloosterstraat’s forte. Visitors will find the oldest and oddest objects in the shops lining this street, from wooden rocking horses to winged designer lamps and seas of retro chairs.
Visit the Cathedral of Our Lady
The tallest cathedral in the Low Countries is one that can be appreciated both from outside and inside. It took 169 years to build before being completed in the year 1521. The spire is visible from many areas of the city and rarely fails to take one’s breath away. The interior is a striking blend of Baroque decor and Ruben’s artwork. An entry fee to the cathedral applies and guided tours are available.
Much like Ghent’s St. Bavo’s Cathedral, Antwerp’s Cathedral of Our Lady doubles as a temple for art. Major works by Rubens are displayed inside, while its 123-meter-high (403.5 feet) north tower qualifies it as the highest Gothic building in the Low Countries. Pay special attention to its spire of stone lacework.
Relax in the town square
Antwerp’s Grote Markt or town square dates back to the 16th Century and is a beautiful example of architecture from this period. The town hall is the centerpiece and is built in Renaissance and Gothic styles. The statue at the centre of the square is of Brabo, a legendary giant slayer, and dates back to 1887. The nearby street of Hofstraat is where the old stock exchange was located until the 16th Century.
The EuroSTAR 2020 Venue is located in a central Antwerp which is easily accessible by all public transport routes.
Take a Beer Tour
The Belgians are rightfully proud of their beer and it would be rude to visit Antwerp and not sample a few cold beers. Visiting the Antwerp Brewery is a good place to learn about Belgian beer as well as sampling a glass of De Konninck beer at the very site it was made. If this fails to quench your thirst, why not visit Paters Vaetje, located by the cathedral, which serves over 100 beers. You are certain to find at least one that you like.
They created Antwerp’s signature Bolleke beer (a malty pale ale with hints of caramel), and for that, locals will forever be grateful for De Koninck. It’s the oldest of the city’s breweries, and it recently added an impressive visitor center and tour that grants a glimpse into its brewing chambers.
Visit the Red Star Line Museum
The Red Star Line Museum exhibits the stories of many migrants who left Belgium, mainly for America, via the Red Star Line ships. Most of the passengers embarked from the very building in which the museum is housed. The exhibits are very engaging and use actual photographs and other personal items to vividly tell the story of the crossing from Belgium to the States. The observation tower, which was formerly the buildings chimney, has great views of the surrounding area.
Explore Castle Life
Het Steen is the name of a small but pretty castle just on the side of the river in Antwerp. The castle dates back to the early 13th Century and makes for some great photographs. Also worth photographing is the odd statue outside the castle of Lange Wapper, a large peeping tom character who is exposing his codpiece to passers by. There is nothing to be seen inside the castle itself but the nearby maritime museum, with its collection of historic barges, is worth a look while in the area.
St. Anna’s Tunnel
Crossing from the left to the right bank of the river Scheldt via the underpass (or St. Anna’s Tunnel) holds its own handsome rewards. The white-tiled pedestrian tunnel, built in the ’30s, still uses its authentic wooden escalators, a unique feature at the time. Once on the left bank, a splendid view of the historic core’s skyline is yours.
Visit the MAS Museum
If you have had your fill of historic sights within Antwerp (and there are a lot worth seeing) then you should visit the modern MAS museum. MAS is a museum that does explore the history of Antwerp and its role as an important port city but also features temporary cutting edge exhibits that are regularly changing. Temporary exhibits on display at the time of writing include one exploring different forms of body art. Whilst visiting the museum it is well worth taking the elevators to the open top roof for breathtaking views of the city. There is no charge for this.
Tour the city by bike
Like many great European cities, Antwerp is great to explore on two wheels. Hiring a bike yourself and planning a route is a possibility but the safer option is to take a bike tour with a guide. Most tours last for a few hours and will take in all of the cities major sights including the cathedral, MAS and central station. Even if you have already walked around all of the main sights, seeing them again on two wheels is a great experience.
If you would like to join 1,000 members of the testing community this November in Antwerp, check out EuroSTAR ticket options. See you in Antwerp!