Antwerp is the second largest city in Belgium after Brussels. Antwerp is a city that is not very popular, but when you visit it, you will be satisfied with your visit. Antwerp is one of the most important port cities competing with Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and the Schelde River running through the city has a big share in this.
Even bridges were not built over the river that divides the city in two so that ships could easily pass over it. If anyone wanted to cross, they would use the tunnels connecting the two sides. No bridge means no restriction on ships, which brings wealth to the city.
This is the main reason why Antwerp is the richest city in Belgium. This river is so important for Antwerp that with the development of shipping, they started to produce larger ships and they had to increase the depth of the river so that these ships could pass through here.
The original spelling of Antwerp is Antwerpen. According to the story, the word Antwerpen comes from Hand Werpen in Old English. A giant character named Antigoon used to collect tribute from the ships passing through the river, cut off the hands of those who did not pay their tribute and throw them into the river.
One day a person named Brabo defeated the giant and cut off his hand, and this time Antigoon’s hand ended up at the bottom of the river. Hand werpen, which means hand cutting, turned into Antwerpen over time.
Best 1 Day Itinerary in Antwerp
Antwerp Centraal Station
One of the most unexpected buildings in Antwerp is the Antwerp Train Station. Built on top of the train station, it is almost like a big cathedral. It is also beautiful enough to be one of the symbols of Antwerp.
The station building, built by Belgian architect Louis Delacenserie, was opened in 1905. 185 meters long and 44 meters wide, the building was voted the most beautiful train station in 2014 by Mashable.
You can get an Antwerp City Card from the information center inside the station. This card entitles you to free entrance to many museums and free use of public transportation.
From the station, near the intersection on Teniersplaats, you will see a statue. David Teniers was a painter born in Antwerp in the 17th century. He worked as a painter for his father and was indirectly influenced by Rubens through his father, and just like Rubens, he served the dukes and painted for them.
Today, it is possible to see Teniers’ works in the art museums of major cities such as St. Petersburg, Vienna, Munich, Paris, London and Brussels. You can take great photos with the two historical buildings behind it.
Rubens House Museum
After the statue, we arrive at Rubens’ house on Wapper. Those interested in art have surely heard of Rubens. Rubens is a world famous painter who lived in the 16th and 17th centuries. The building we visit is the place where Rubens himself built and stayed after he settled in Antwerp.
It also served as a workshop where Rubens painted with his students. Purchased by the municipality in the 20th century and later turned into a museum, the building was decorated with Rubens’ paintings and opened to visitors under the name Rubens House and Museum.
Mayer van den Bergh
Since we had an Antwerp card, we also entered the Mayer van der Bergh museum. Fritz Bergh was a collector who chased artworks all his life. After his death, his works were collected in a museum by his mother.
The museum exhibits paintings, sculptures and drawings from the Middle Ages. Entrance is paid and it can be visited between 10:00 – 17:00 every day except Monday.
Maagdenhuis is a building dating back to the 16th century and served as an orphanage for many years. There are about 150 paintings and sculptures in the building where temporary exhibitions are organized. It can be visited between 10:00 – 17:00 on weekdays and between 13:00 – 17:00 on weekends at Lange Gasthuisstraat 33. We only saw the exterior of the building.
About a 10-minute walk away, you’ll see the tallest cathedral in the Benelux. With its 123-meter high bell tower, it is impossible not to notice the Cathedral of Our Lady. You can enter the church for a fee and see some of the famous paintings by the famous painter Rubens.
It’s time to take a journey back to the Middle Ages. Close to the great cathedral, Vlaeykensgang is a passage that shortens the distance between the streets. Built in 1591, it is surrounded by pork-scented restaurants and living spaces. Many more crossings were built in the city later, but in the 20th century they were all demolished and replaced by new buildings.
In the 1960s, when it was about to be demolished, a rich antique dealer bought all the houses here and prevented its demolition. When you visit this historic street after the crowded and noisy city center, you are transported to another land with the silence that envelops you. Located close to the coordinates 51°13’13.05″ N 4°23’57.69 “E, don’t miss this historic alley during your visit to Antwerp.
Grote Markt and Brabo Statue
Right next to the cathedral, we move towards Grote Markt, which is used as the city square in many cities. Here we encounter a magnificent city hall (stadhuis). Many buildings, restaurants, cafes and shops are together in the square, which means Big Bazaar.
Napoleon is considered to be the pioneer of the numbering system in buildings, and the gold plating on the tops of the historical buildings decorating the square, each of the figures represents the building.
In the middle of the square, there is a statue depicting the legendary character of Antwerp, the Roman soldier Brabo, killing the great giant, cutting off his hand and throwing it into the river. Built in 1887, we do not leave the square without seeing this statue.
We head towards the Scheldt River from Grote Markt. Here we come across Steen Castle. Steen means “rock” and the entire structure is made of rock. Entrance to the castle is free, but there is not much inside. You can only watch the river view from the back.
After visiting Steen Castle, we take the bus number 291 from the bus stop in front of it and get off in a few minutes at the stop called Antwerpen Tavernierskaai.
Museum aan de Stroom
This stop will take us to Museum aan de Stroom, Antwerp’s maritime museum. After getting off at the stop, the museum will show itself with its unusual structure. We immediately go inside and learn about the history of the Port of Antwerp.
Since the museum has many floors and there are exhibitions with different concepts on each floor, it may take some time to visit the museum completely. After visiting the museum, don’t forget to enjoy the view of Antwerp from the terrace.
After visiting the MAS museum about the port of Antwerp, we will head to Middelheim Park, one of the oldest open-air museums in the world. This is actually a museum with various surreal sculptures, but the entrance is free.
After leaving the MAS museum, we take the bus number 17 from the stop called Van Schoonbekeplein and after about 25 minutes we get off at the stop called Beukenlaan – Dikke Mee. Then we walk about 500 meters following the road.
Kasteel den Brandt, which will be on the right side of the road, is a building where various seminars and organizations are organized. We are interested in its exterior and we continue on our way after visiting its garden.
Following the signs for Middelheim Park, we finally reach the entrance of the park. The park is a large park and the various sculptures scattered in various spots attract our attention as much as the visitors.
The works in the park were created by artists from all over the world. It is also a resting point to get away from the crowds of the city. It is also possible to see people doing sports in the oxygen-rich air.
After visiting the park, we need to get back to Central Station where we got off the bus. On the way to the bus stop, we don’t use the road this time, but the wonderful forest path of Nachtegalenpark. It is a long path through lush green trees. I guess it is just as charming in the fall.
We take the same bus number back the way we came and get off at the station stop. During our visit to Antwerp, there was a Ferris wheel in the square right in front of the Central Station, near the zoo. The top of the Ferris wheel is 55 meters above the ground. At this point you can see over the station building. The Ferris wheel makes a few satisfying turns.
Antwerp is also at the forefront of fashion and diamonds. Even though there are no diamond mines in the surrounding area, it is a place where diamond trade is at its peak. There is also a Diamond Museum in the city center.
Likewise, the Fashion Museum, where clothes from the city’s recent past are exhibited, is also close to the city center. We didn’t visit either of them because they didn’t interest us.
Where is Antwerp? How to get there?
Antwerp is a great place to visit on a visit to Belgium or the Netherlands, where one day should be enough. It is 157km (2h) by car from Amsterdam and 54km (50min) from Brussels. But of course, if you are traveling by train, you can reach Antwerp in a much shorter time.
Antwerp Central Station is located in the center of the city and you can easily find trains from Bruges, Gent, Brussels or Amsterdam. The train station is also close to the center of Antwerp, making it a good choice.