A traveler’s guide to traveling in Belgium’s port city Antwerp
Antwerp by all means is Belgian avant-garde is a Flemish city with green parks on River Scheldt in Flanders in the Schengen. It received its name from the giant called Antigoon according folklore. This novel capital city is the most populous city of Belgium. It is a slap bang European river city which does not have bridges. It is easy to cover the entire diverse pocket sized city on foot in an organised walk. Tramways, Carriage rides, Antwerp Ghostwalk, Hop and Stop trolley tour, Vintage and Diamond Bus tours, Antwerp Havenroute port tours, guided tour of underground Antwerp city and boat tours, hot air balloon tours, Segway tours, bike tours, golf tours and cycle tours are other ways to explore the city.
Summer is the best time to visit in Antwerp’s heyday for the Zomer van Antwerpen or Summer of Antwerp fest. The Antwerp City Card is a must have while on a trip to this city.
The Port of Antwerp with piers and broad walks in the hinterland and on the right bank of the Scheldt is one of the biggest European Ports in the world. Eilandje is the port area with the loading dock, warehouses, lanterns and hangars.
The inhabitants of Antwerp are called Antwerpenaren. Antwerp has an artistic reputation with the likes of Peter Paul Rubens, Van Dyck and Jordeans. It also enjoys a cult status in fashion world because of the posh boutiques, vintage clothing and haute couture binges in its most fashionable
street Nationalestraat on Sint Andries or St. Andrews district symbolic of the statue of the Virgin Mary on it. The clothes designed by the Antwerp Six on the Demeulemeester Street and Atelier Assemble for retro clothing are worth a shot in the triomfelycke coopstad or triumphant shopping city aka hebbedingetjes or Dutch for the little things.
The Cathedral of our lady is also called Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal with 123 metres high spire on Pelgrimstraat remains the largest building in the tapering city skyline and is the tallest Gothic cathedral with Handschoenmarkt its spire facing heavenward in Low Countries or Benelux is home to triptychs and remains to be the most premier and celebrated landmark reaching steeple of grace and glory.
The prolific works of 17th century Flemish paintings by one of the Flemish Masters Rubens are “The Descent from the Cross”, “The Elevation of the Cross”, “The Resurrection Triptych of Christ” and “The Assumption” are intuitive in nave and aisles in the interior are iconic treasury coming into life. The altarpieces and oak pulpit are out of this world.
Antwerp is a “market town” for its themed markets selling bric-a-brac. The local produce of Antwerp Bollekesfeest showcases Bolleke which is a traditional Belgian frothy amber beer from Brewery De Koninck served in goblets brewed in Mechelsesteenweg, mokatine sweetmeats, smoskes bread with garniture, Elixir D’Anvers liquor made from roasted coffee and sugar, Filet d’Anvers which is a smoked meat delicacy, Poolster pickled herring, Cava Aperitief, Belgian fries, Belgian frites,
Belgian friturr which is fries with mayonnaise and baked garlic sausage, Belgian beef stew or Stoofvlees, Belgian Pastrami, Belgian white coffee, Liege Waffles and Galettes campinoises, Antwerpse Handjes or Antwerp Hands are helpings of biscuits and pastries made with almonds and milk chocolate and Equinox horse meat are speciality foods and are a must try. A private tasting session is worth it enabling learning of brewing process, bottling, pairing ales and the artisanal produce. Trappist beers with Beer souvenirs and take home signature bolleke bowl glasses are an absolute hit. Van Tricht is an ethnic aged cheese is a must eat. The Belgian chocolates of Leonidas, Neuhaus and Godiva are must try.
The historic city center or Old Town city of Grote Markt or Grote Merckt Van Antwerpen or Big Market Square is the classic triangular main square and heart of the old city and houses the Antwerp city Hall which is Belfry in Gothic and early Renaissance style is a heaven for shopaholics. It has got cobblestone streets, immaculately restored guild houses or gildehuizen, guildhalls and art galleries. The car free city centre boasts of brasseries, sunny terraces serving strudel with the wafting aroma and basks in fashion
articles on the Groenplaats or Green Square is the largest shopping centre in the inner city and Hoogstraat and collectibles and souvenirs in Kloosterstraat. Antwerp Town Hall is the Renaissance architectural structure and remains the stateliest building in the Low Countries with the façade and the Brabo Statue with baroque fountain on the pavement depicting the giant killing protagonist of a legend holds a symbolic value for the residents of the city. The building of Stadhius on the plaza in the Gothic and Renaissance style has a palatial façade in the Flemish style with the imposing gable with a pruning gilded eagle laurel.
Antwerp Ruien is a remnant of network of underground canals, sluices, vaulted sewers and harbour inlets in the waterways and inland port criss-crossing the city beneath the streets.
The Antwerp underpass or Sint Annatunnel is a miniature pedestrian and bike friendly tight spaced passageway with original wooden stairlifts, escalators and tile work descents underneath the River Scheldt situated at the Sint Jansvliet to the left bank or Linkeroever.
Antwerp is the diamond city with 80 percent of the world’s uncut diamond traded in the Diamant Area. The Antwerp Exchange, Diamond Pavillion and Diamond Museum in the Stadspark City Park is a compelling financdial centre of the world’s diamond industry. The diamonds with the Antwerp cut are worth the buck.
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp in the Zuid District is a world-renowned collection of the works of Flemish artists and modernists.
Beguinage or Begijnhof is a 16th century halfway house with a secret garden worth a detour in the city centre with medieval monastery and well-kept garden and green outskirts.
The cramped hidden gangway and warren of narrow alleys of Vlaekensgang alley also known as Pie Alley and Insider tip is a gated community escaping the bustle of the city connecting Oude Koornmarkt, Pelgrimstraat and Hoogstraat with medieval front doors and holds carillon concerts easily accessible through the porch in the Hoogstraat.
Antwerp Central station or Antwerpen Centraal on Astridplein is a well laid out, dimly lit and turn-of-the-century Neo-Gothic and Neo-Baroque railway and the grandest architectural wonder in itself. The train terminal of the high-speed rail line brick station building with its soaring iron and glass vault and glass ceilings and train shed, proportioned dome, multilevel platforms, metal platform roof, massive stone clad walls, viaduct and escalators, elevated railway bed, steel platform hall and stairway is dubbed as Middenstatie or Middle Station or Spoorwegkathedraal or Railway Cathedral.
Antwerp Zoo or Dierentuin with its state-of-the-art breeding plan and 10-hectare site is in the middle of the town next to Central Station typical of its nineteenth century origins and unusual garden sculpture. The penguins in Vriesland with arctic enclosure, zebras, koalas in thatched roof structures, okapi, white rhinos, antipodean kangaroos, marabou Storks and Cape Buffaloes are some of the exotic species. The Diamond Quarter square mile is packed with shop windows to the left of the terminal.
Museum Plantin Moretus originally called The Golden Compasses or De gulden Passer in the Flemish Renaissance architecture in the Patrician style enjoys the status of being a World Heritage site is symbolic of a lineage starting in the mid-16th century being the world’s oldest printing press or Plantin Press with the exhaustive collection of Gutenberg Bible, priceless manuscripts, typographical materials, global maps, verdures and hand printed books, letterpress printing and original typesets and workspaces. The rooms and cover books on the shells lined with gilt leather are epochal.
The Guildhouses of the wealthy citizens of Antwerpia nummis Hanseatic and Fleming Leaguewith steeped gables and pinnacles have been well preserved throughout the city.
Boerentoren is the oldest skyscraper of 97 metres is a protected monument headquartered in the historical centre town in typical art-deco style with the observation deck with views of the city. The Art-Deco style Torengebouw is the first skyscraper built in Europe.
Steen Castle is Antwerp’s oldest stone fortress on the riverside mound on the original site of Gallo-Roman settlement rebuilt under Charles V after the Vikings incursions in the early 16th century lies on the Scheldt near peninsula known as De Warf or The Yard was a city fortification known for its stairways, façade, quays and historical value and houses the Maritime museum. The statue of Lange Wapper outside the Het Sheen is a peeping Tom figure showing off his codpiece to the onlookers is definitely an epitome of humor.
Paleis op de Meir surfaces among the former royal residence of Belgian Kings is a palatial set up of The Belgian Royal Family with the must see original murals.
The Bourla Theatre, Osterrirth House, Royal Museum of Fine Art or Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, Butcher’s Hall or Vleeshuis and Napoleon Bonaparte Royal Palace Koninklijk Paleis is a must visit.
The Antwerp Whisperer is a new attraction portraying the local and international character of overall Antwerp city and Het Eilandje which is also called “The Little Island”.
Het Zuid district of Antwerp city is the south of the city and also the centre for intercultural part with contemporary galleries which has a huge square called de gedempte zuiderdokken and yuppie stronghold. The Eco Café Haute Friture in the Zuid Quarter with a brasserie style menu is a must visit.
The Red light district or Schipperskwartier also known as Sailor’s Quarter is a bustling centre at the Verversrui and surrounding streets apart from the activities of partaking “window prostitution”.
Zurenborg is a belle epoque neighbourhood and a little off beaten track with many art noveau and eclectic architectural metropolitan and stately townhouses with individualistic fenestration on the streets of Cogels-Osylei, Transvaalstraat and Waterloostraat. It is near to the station Antwerpen-Berchem.
Meir is Antwerp’s largest shopping street stretching from the Keyserlei to the groenplaats. It is a wide and traffic-free pedestrianized street connecting Antwerp city Hall and Antwerp central station. The Keyserlei, Leysstreet and the Meir is the central shopping avenue of the city. The highlight of the street Meir and Jesusstraat is an angelic figure directed high above. The mazy shopping boulevard at the street level has rococo buildings have major European chain stores with first rate hand-outs.
The neo classical and eclectic atrium like Stadsfeestzaal or fest hall between Meir and Hopland is a neo-classical gilt laden hall with the shopping hub called De Wilde Zee or The wild Sea. The highlights of it are grand entrance, glass dome with gold leaf, gilt laden marble staircase, gilded facades, gold leaf stucco, mosaic floor, wall reliefs and its original oak parquet floors. The Wapper Square connects to the palatial setting of the celebrated Baroque artist Pieter Paul Ruben’s house Rubenshuis with main gate, inner courtyard, baroque portico, rear façade and formal garden is also a must visit. The pieces of Adam’s fig leaf, metal frame of ruff collar, linen press and self-portrait of the legend are just superb. Weekend markets often take place on the Theaterplein Square is very popular.
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