Antwerp : The Destination with Ancient Archaeology and Serene Beauty

Less known and less touristy than its neighbor Brussels, Antwerp, remains none the less one of the most exciting cities in Northern Europe. A city with the rich past (Antwerp was the second most populated city in Europe in the sixteenth century) is looking to the future, establishing itself as a premier creative metropolis. The result is a fascinating mix of genres, from historical heritage to new addresses, between UNESCO World Heritage sites and spots at the forefront of contemporary trends. To make sure you do not miss the city, we list for you the best of the town in ten essential experiences.

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Antwerp : The Destination with Ancient Archaeology and Serene Beauty:table of contents

1. Cathedral of Our Lady of Antwerp

A must-see landmark in the Antwerp landscape, the vast Cathedral of Our Lady of Antwerp is one of the unmissable historic sites of any visit to Antwerp. It must be said that beyond its only arrow (the second tower remained unfinished during the construction of the building) rushing to 123 meters above the ground, the monument impresses, both by its grandiose dimensions (more 8,000 sqm, more than the cathedral Notre-Dame d'Amiens, the largest in France) that the richness of its artistic heritage. The cathedral thus houses some significant masterpieces of Flemish painting, including eight monumental paintings painted especially for the cathedral by Rubens.

2. House of Rubens

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Another great historical site of the town is the Rubens House (Rubenshuis). In the city center and close to some addresses that make today's Antwerp), this house gradually transformed into a palace by the great painter Flemish Baroque Pierre Paul Rubens is an inexpensive journey through time.
Back in the seventeenth century, when Rubens lived in Antwerp (he bought the house in 1610, a year after his marriage to Isabella Brant) and where he imagined himself this urban palace inspired palazzo Italian Renaissance! The visit allows to discover the place where he lived (including many period furniture), his workshop, a monumental portico and a courtyard, particularly pleasant when the sun shines on the city.

3. Middelheim

Photo by Fabio

Want to think outside the box ? We head south of the city to discover the beautiful park Middelheim which extends over more than thirty hectares in the city. In addition to being one of Antwerp's green lungs, the Middelheim estate has an impressive open-air sculpture museum with hundreds of works scattered throughout the countryside. The collection includes more than 480 modern and contemporary sculptures, more than 200 of which are permanently displayed in the park.

4. De Koninck Brewery

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Who says Belgium says beer and who says beer in Antwerp says De Koninck, the ubiquitous local brewer. On the Mechelsesteenweg, in the middle of the city and less than two kilometers from the central station, are brewed De Koninck beers, including the famous Bolleke. And this summer, De Koninck opened an ultra-modern beer discovery center. Subtleties of the drink, history of the house, brewing process and bottling, the interactive course allows you to plunge body and soul into the world of beer, with a bonus, a tasting at the end of the visit.

5. Diamond District

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Did you know that 80% of the rough diamonds mined and 50% of the world's cut diamonds pass through Antwerp's diamond district, making the city the diamond capital of the world? As early as the end of the 15th century, Antwerp took over in Bruges the leadership in this area, thanks to its status as a hub of international trade. At the time, let's not forget that nearly 40% of the world's trade passed through the Flemish metropolis!

6. Palais du Meir

A link between the district of the cathedral and the central station, the Meir is the most important shopping street in Belgium. It includes all the major brands of mass fashion (H & M, Zara, forever 21, Urban Outfitters and recently Uniqlo who opened its first store in Benelux), most often installed in beautiful historic buildings. Among them, the Palais du Meir whose origins date back to the eighteenth century and saw an impressive list of sovereigns such as Napoleon Bonaparte, William I and the Royal House of Belgium!

7. MAS

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The MAS (Museum aan de Stroom) is in Antwerp what the Guggenheim is in Bilbao: an iconic museum, a symbol of the dynamism of a city in full artistic and cultural change! More than four years after its inauguration, it plays the role of a contemporary lighthouse at the heart of the port area of Eilandje, which became in the early 2010s one of the most fashionable and trendiest neighborhoods in Antwerp.

8. Zuid

With Eilandje to the north of the city, the Zuid, literally South in Flemish, is the other trendy district of Antwerp. Just a stone's throw from the banks of the River Scheldt and just a 10-minute walk from the historic center, this old-fashioned district has been experiencing an impressive revival since the end of the 1980s with the subsequent openings of the FoMu (the Musée de la Photographie Antwerp) and MuHKA (Museum of Contemporary Art of the city).

9. Plantin-Moretus Museum

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Less touristy than the Cathedral or the House of Rubens, the Plantin-Moretus Museum remains no fewer highlights of any visit to Antwerp. This museum, the only one in the world to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, makes it possible to trace the history of the French Plantin and his Antwerp brother-in-law Moretus, the "Jobs and Wozniak" of the printing press in the 16th century. Antwerp was the second most populous city in Europe.

10. The central station

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The easiest way to get to Antwerp is by train. It also gives you the opportunity to admire Antwerp Central Station which is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. This station works since 1905 but was transformed in its current form in the late 19th century by Louis Delacenserieet Clement Van Bogaert. It is challenging to attribute an architectural style to it because many influences were used during its construction. The station has four levels, 2 of which are used for the metro.

◎ Closing

Antwerp is a bustling port city located in the north of Belgium. It is a beautiful city with a picturesque old town, beautiful architecture, lots of art, the best shops in the country and first-class food.

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