One of the alternatives when planning your first trip to Flanders is whether or not to include the city of Antwerp . The great tourist attraction of some of the Flemish cities, such as Bruges or Ghent , and even Leuven , conditions the inclusion of Antwerp in a route in which surely you will also have Brussels as one of the objectives of the trip. Therefore, to make the decision, it is convenient for you to know what to see in Antwerp , although I tell you that it is worth visiting. Corner of the central Groenplaats in Antwerp
For its population, with its 500,000 inhabitants, it is the second city in Belgium , but although it is a large city, I will tell you that the tourist visit is very concentrated in the historic center . In addition, for its characteristics you can perfectly visit Antwerp in one day , of course, seeing the corners and the most important monuments.
How to get to Antwerp
Antwerp is only 55 kilometers by road from Brussels , and one hour by train from the Belgian capital. Antwerp Central Station
Therefore, it is very easy to include this city in a travel route through Flanders , more taking into account what was said before, that a full day may be enough for your visit.
Antwerp history keys
Antwerp is a city historically marked by its membership of the Spanish Netherlands , which conditions many aspects of its culture, such as the preeminence of the Catholic religion, which you will be able to verify when you visit its cathedral and its churches.
Tower of Antwerp Cathedral in Flanders in Belgium
Its economic development takes place from the fifteenth century and has always been one of the most important commercial cities of northern Europe in large part due to its activity as a river port. In this respect, at present what most strikes you is knowing that Antwerp is considered the world center of the diamond , which you will see when walking through the small Jewish neighborhood next to the Central Station where many companies are concentrated and diamond stores. Shop in the Diamond neighborhood of Antwerp Therefore, Antwerp is now one of the European cities with the largest Jewish population, which will be very easy to check in that neighborhood and its surroundings, which is the residential area of that community.
Transports in Antwerp
As I said, Antwerp is an easy city to visit so you may hardly need to use public transport.
Of course, if for example you are staying in a hotel near the aforementioned Central Station , although you can walk to the historic center, you will save time if you use the Metro . Now, do not expect a suburban like that of big cities like Paris, London or Madrid. In Antwerp it is called Metro to the trams that in the central axis that is the Meir street circulate through an underground tunnel as if they were a meter, although when they move away from the center of the city they already do it by surface.
Meir Avenue in Antwerp
You also have the option of visiting Antwerp by bicycle . In the underground parking of the Central Station , in Fietshaven , you can rent a bike for the whole day, which will only cost you 13 euros.
What to see in Antwerp
In the face of your tourist day in Antwerp , it is easy to assume that you can start it in the same Central Station , an already interesting building that has been renovated some ten years ago and which is now a commercial center with several floors.
As you exit the station through the main door, on the right you will see the entrance to the Antwerp Zoo , and on the left is the aforementioned district of diamonds , with numerous shops, many security measures, and where you will also see that next to the Jewish community, there is a lot of Hindu population that also runs this business. From the station you have a large avenue, Meir , which will take you directly to the historic center. Shopping center in Antwerp
When crossing this avenue you will see the great cosmopolitan and commercial atmosphere of the city of Antwerp , with a style very different from other Flemish cities such as Bruges and Ghent. In this area you will see several shopping areas with numerous brand stores.
Line chocolates at the palace of the Meir in Antwerp
You will also pass through the old Royal palace , now known as the palace of the Meir . It is a renovated building with a long history, which in its time was owned by Napoleon and King William I of the Netherlands . In its interior is the Line chocolate shop , owned by a famous chocolatier of Antwerp, whose chocolate workshop is located in the room that was the kitchen of the palace.
In this commercial avenue it will be easy to distinguish the Boerentoren Tower . It was the first skyscraper in Europe built after the First World War in art deco style. Before you can see (and visit if you want, entrance, 10 euros) the Rubens House Museum , This is the house that the famous artist Pedro Pablo Rubens lived with his family during his 25 years of residence in Antwerp.
Commercial street in the center of Antwerp
Currently, in this Flemish city, up to 52 works by Rubens are exhibited, both in the house and in various churches and museums. Soon you will reach the historic center of Antwerp that make up two large squares and the streets that surround them.
First, the Groenplaats , in whose center you will see a statue of Rubens, and from where, behind a beautiful front of the facades, you can see the tower of the Antwerp Cathedral , one of the must-sees, considered the largest Gothic church in the world.
The Netherlands .
You will already be in the most tourist area of the city.
After passing through the charming square where the entrance portico of the cathedral is located, you will arrive at the main square of Antwerp , the true heart of the old town. There you will see the Renaissance building of the town hall , although undoubtedly the most charming corner is the front of guild houses of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with an almost twin image.
And in the center of the great Plaza Mayor , the statue dedicated to the Brabo , whose legend says he was the founder of the city of Antwerp. Near the Plaza Mayor you have the church of San Carlos Borromeo , a good example of the baroque in the seventeenth century, where you can see numerous paintings and sculptures by Rubens. Statue of Brabo in the main square of Antwerp
Although if you like the baroque, you should move away from the center and go to the neighborhood of the Mariners to see the church of San Pablo , from 1571, with a bright interior where you will see sumptuous Baroque altars, more than 200 sculptures and works by Jordaens, Rubens or Van Dyck. When you reach the edge of the Scheldt River , you can visit a historical monument, T Steen (the Stone) , a 13th century castle that was reformed by the Spaniards, and which is currently being rehabilitated for visitors.
T Steen, Antwerp castle
As a curiosity, do not miss the very old escalators that will allow you to see a long subterranean tunnel that leads to the area of the city located on the other side of the Scheldt. I will also tell you that cruise ships depart from this area of the wharf that sail through the port area.
Church of St. Charles Borromeo in Antwerp
In the streets around the historic center you also have another corner to see, such as the Vlaeykensgang alley , whose image will take you back to the 16th century. Also worth mentioning is the Plantin-Moretus Museum , a 16th-century mansion where you can see what is considered to be the oldest printing press in the world, more than 400 years old, declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco .
Vlaeykensgang alley in the historic center of Antwerp
I can not finish the review of the tourist attractions of Antwerp without mentioning the MAS , a new museum that has become a favorite attraction of tourists and residents of Antwerp, and which I could not visit in my recent trip to Flanders.
Printing at the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp
The MAS , whose main theme is the city of Antwerp and its history, is located in the new area of the port, in a modern building with an original design that combines reddish stone and glass. Enjoy your visit to Antwerp!