Antwerp is Belgium’s second largest city and the world’s largest diamond processing and trading center. At the same time, it’s the most densely populated region in Europe. Whether you’re at the Central Railway Station or the city’s landmark MAS Museum, you can feel the unparalleled charm of these buildings. There are a variety of architectural styles, from the impressive town halls and squares of medieval architecture to contemporary courts and the fascinating treasures of New Art everywhere. The stylish architecture and beautifully decorated window design make Antwerp a charming city. Let’s discover this great city with our list of top 10.
1. Cathedral of Our Lady
The Cathedral of Our Lady is the largest and most impressive Gothic cathedral in Belgium and is a symbol of Antwerp. It has been designed and built by several architects and has a history of 169 years. Its 123-meter spire was the most beautiful landmark in Antwerp at the early time. This majestic building covers an area of 1 hectare and is the largest Gothic building at the time. Even now, the 123-meter spire still overlooks the city, which is known as the “medieval skyscraper”. It guides the ship into the port of Antwerp. You can see the representative works of Rubens: the altarpieces “The Rise of Jesus”, “The Fall of Jesus” and “The Assumption of the Virgin” in the cathedral.
2. Grote Market
The market square is irregularly shaped. There is the city hall building, the cathedral, and the chamber of commerce around it. The City Hall and five beautiful Chambers of Commerce buildings are of the Renaissance style built around the end of the 16th century. This area is like a maze that is full of narrow streets and pedestrian walks. The statues of the Virgin are also everywhere with a total of more than 300. The City Hall was built in 1564. The style of the decoration is obviously of Flemish and Italian Renaissance style.
3. Brabo Fountain
Brabo Fountain is in the middle of the Grote Market that is in front of the Antwerp City Hall. A bronze statue stands there. The burly man holds a slap in the palm of his hand and makes a throwing posture. There’s a giant struggling with a broken hand under his feet. This sculpture vividly tells a legend of Antwerp: In ancient times, a giant named Antogoon forcibly occupied the bank of the Scheldt and asked the sailors to pay him a lot for crossing the river. He broke his hand cruelly if someone does not give him the money. Finally one day, a young warrior named Brabo defeated the giant and broke his hand in the same manner and threw it into the river. It is said that in the Flemish language, the term “Antwerp” means “broken hand”. The stunning Baroque Brabo Fountain spray from the stone pile. It was designed and built by Jeff in 1887 and depicts the legend of the brave man.
4. Rubens Huis
The former residence of Rubens is a two-story building with a huge back garden, which is worth seeing. It’s the studio and residence that Rubens has built during 5 years since 1610. At that time, European aristocrats and artists often came here to visit him. It is now used as a city art gallery. The first floor of Rubens Huis displays Rubens’ own paintings and many paintings he bought from abroad. Rubens had a hobby of collecting paintings, so he did not hesitate to buy them no matter how expensive they were. On the second floor, in addition to a variety of paintings, there are Rubens’ medals and souvenirs from the emperors and kings of various countries, as well as valuables such as gold coins found in the tomb of Rubens.
5. Stern Castle
Stern Castle is one of the oldest and largest castles in Europe that is located in the heart of the old town of Antwerp. Built between 1200 and 1225, the castle is the oldest building in Antwerp. The name of the building “Het Steen” means “stone”. In 800 AD, the Norwegians looted here, and the castle was later rebuilt as an important defensive fortress of the Roman Empire. The construction of the castle made it possible to control the Sheld River across Antwerp. It was used as a prison between 1303 and 1827. The crossroads outside have been the place of prayer for the death penalty for centuries. Rubens also lived here in his later years, and now it has been converted into the Belgian National Maritime Museum.
6. Paul’s Church
St. Paul’s Church located near the Scheldt River is made of white and black marble and is the highest altar in Belgium. It was built in 1517 and was not completed until the beginning of the 17th century. The church is blended the Gothic style with the style of Baroque architecture. St. Paul’s Cathedral covers an area of 3 hectares and has only reserved the 17th century church section due to many fires. There are 200 statues, as well as 60 paintings by Rubens and Jordans, which are subtly blended with the wonderful carvings inside the church.
7. Museum aan de Stroom
The Museum aan de Stroom is located in a prosperous area between the two piers and is a multistory building built for a specific purpose. The building itself has an aesthetically pleasing appearance. It is a very modern spiral-rise tower with 9 floors inside and the 10th floor as the viewing platform. The museum brings together exhibits of Antwerp from ancient times to the present. The museum is based on the history of the city and port of Antwerp. It’s a city museum but most people come here are for seeing the full view of Antwerp on the top floor. You can see the historic buildings in the city center. You can also see the high ranking residential area in the vicinity and the yachts and freighters docked at the port. Therefore, an old and modern, fresh and extravagant Antwerp is completely present in front of your eyes. Attention : Access to the museum and viewing platform is free, but tickets for exhibits are required to purchase.
8. Plantin — Moretus Museum
The Plantin –Moretus Museum is a World Heritage Site with the world’s first industrial printing. On the first floor is the family of Plantin – Moretus and printing method, and on the second floor is the actual printed work. The museum completely shows the history of the past. The exhibition is clear and easy to understand. The building also houses a well-stocked library and a large collection of precious archives and works of art, including a Rubens painting. This fascinating museum flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries and was founded by the printing industry’s giant family Christopher Platin. Platin moved from France to Antwerp and then established a bookbinding company in 1548, which was in operation until 1867.
9. Antwerp Zoo
The Antwerp Zoo opened in 1843 covers an area of 10 hectares and is located in the center of Antwerp. Organized by the Royal Animals Association of Antwerp, the zoo is the largest that has most types of animals in Europe. The total number of animals exceeds 6,000, including approximately 300 reptiles and 1,700 fish (representing 1160 species). Among the mammals on display, the rare elk and white rhinoceros are of particular importance. The most commendable aspect of the park is the creation of a special exhibition technique for the display of reptiles with using a cold barrier (freezing zone) instead of iron fences or glass windows to limit animal activity.
10. Stadspark Antwerpen / City Park
The city park is located in the heart of Antwerp. The entire park is triangular and surrounded by green trees. Wild animals such as rabbits are often seen. There is a pond in the center of the park. What is notable is the iron bridge designed and built by the architect Édouard Keilig from 1867 to 1869. The swans and ducks in the lake have a lot of fun, and there are all kinds of interesting sculptures. If you want to blow the breeze and take a break, it’s a good choice to stay here.