We visit by cruise ship WORLD VOYAGER the Flemish port city of Antwerp. The second largest city in Belgium was already one of the leading trading centers and one of the richest economic centers in Europe in the 14th century. At that time, huge churches, historic squares and countless secular buildings were built, which today bear witness to the city's former wealth. Our ship is moored at the cruise pontoon Antwerp behind Het Steen during the day. The berth is only a few hundred meters from the city center. If our cruise ship were significantly larger, it would have to be content with a berth in the industrial port. This situation would require time-consuming transfers with shuttle buses. Luckily we are spared the shuttle bus.
Cruise pontoon Antwerp
Zuiderterras - berth for larger cruise ships
Our first destination – the Grote Markt
Behind the cruise ship pier on the Scheldt River rises Het Steen, one of the three gate buildings that once formed part of Antwerp's city walls. The Visitor Center is located in Het Steen. A courteous employee provides us with up-to-date maps and gives us some additional information about destinations off the beaten track.
Het Steen - facade detail
With this information we start our tour at Jordaenskaai, the street before Het Steen. We pass the Museum Vleeshuis and head towards the Grote Markt. The Vleeshuis, built at the beginning of the 16th century, was the butchers' guild house. It is typical proof that handicraft has always had "golden soil". We leave the Vleeshouwersstraat, follow the Braderijstraat for a short time and shortly afterwards we are on the Grote Markt.
Jordaenskaai with the Vleeshuis Museum
Museum Vleeshuis - Guild Hall of the Butchers
One side of the centrally located Grote Markt is occupied by Antwerp's magnificent City Hall. Rich merchants and guilds had equally magnificent buildings erected on the other sides. The most beautiful guild houses are De Oude Waag, the house of the cloth makers, the house of the tanners and the house of the coppersmiths called De Mouwe.
The Brabo Fountain is in the middle of the Grote Markt. Under Antwerp attractions we devote ourselves in detail to the martial fountain system.
Grote Markt - Brabo Fountain
Our next destination - the Sint-Anna tunnel
The Grote Markt and the Handschoenmarkt are just a stone's throw away. This triangular square is home to one of Antwerp's main attractions: the Cathedral of Our Lady. We'll visit them at a later date. In the center of the square is the figural group of Nello & Patrasche, an orphan boy and his dog. We also describe the sad background of both figures below Antwerp attractions.
Handschoenmarkt - figure group Nello & Patrasche
The Handschoenmarkt is followed by the Oude Koornmarkt with many restaurants and pubs, most of which have outdoor seating.
The little-known Vlaeykensgang starts at the Old Koornmarkt. The poorest of the poor used to live there; in the present, antique shops, art galleries and an exclusive restaurant use the hidden address.
We walk about a kilometer from the Grote Markt to the Sint-Anna Tunnel. At a depth of 34 meters, the tunnel connects the districts on both sides of the Scheldt. Opened in 1933, the tunnel has wooden escalators that have been in service for nearly 90 years. The Sint-Anna Tunnel is used by pedestrians and cyclists.
Sint-Anna Tunnel - historical escalator
On the way in the Sint-Anna tunnel
Don't miss - the Plantin Moretus Museum
We walk 300 meters from the exit of the Sint-Anna Tunnel to the Plantin-Moretus Museum on the Vrijdagmarkt. Unfortunately, there is not enough time to visit the museum and the private rooms of the Plantin-Moretus printer family. The family founded Antwerp's first industrial printing works. The museum - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - shows old printing technology and the exquisitely designed private rooms of the printer family.
The Rubenshuis – another Antwerp icon
Our way to the Rubenshuis takes us via the Groenplaats and the Schoenmarkt to the pedestrian street Meir. The spacious Groenplaats offers views of the Cathedral of Our Lady. There is also a statue of the painter Peter Paul Rubens on the square.
Groenplaats with Antwerp's Cathedral
Groenplaats - Monument to Peter Paul Rubens
The Meir is not just any old pedestrian zone. We do see chain stores, fast food restaurants, international fashion labels etc. However, three things stand out: The Boerentoren, the Paleis op de Meir and the posh Stadsfeestzaal shopping centre. Read more under Antwerp attractions.
Pedestrian zone Meir
Palace on the Meir
From the Meir it is only a short distance to the Wapper with the Rubenshuis Museum. The collection provides insights into the work of a great artist who, in addition to painting, was recognized as an architect, diplomat, collector and scholar.
Rubens House - inner courtyard
Theaterplein, Stadspark, Diamond District and Antwerp Central Station
From the Rubenshuis we walk 200 meters to the multi-genre theater Stadsschouburg. Its modern building is located on the Theaterplein. This is where Antwerpers meet on Saturdays for the Zaterdag market. In addition to flowers and products typical of the country such as cheese, food stalls ensure that visitors to the "Saturday market" are well fed.
Stadsschouburg on the Theaterplein
Theaterplein and Graanmarkt
We switch over to the – from a bird's eye view – three-sided Stadspark. We take a well-deserved break in the Grand Café Capital. Then it's off to the diamond district. We didn't take into account that work in this busy part of the city is closed on Saturdays. Nothing is open except for a few jewelry shops. It's boring to die for.
Sculpture Jong Meisje met Geit at the Rubenslei next to the Stadspark
It's less boring at Antwerpen Centraal Station, the city's main train station. First we look around the more than 160 meter long platform hall. Its glass roof construction is 43 meters high. The platform hall alone is fantastic to look at. The station concourse is even more impressive. We understand why Antwerpers proudly call their main train station the “Railway Cathedral”. We recommend admiring this great train station inside and out. The Koningin Astridplein offers the best view of Centraal Station. Incidentally, the zoological garden borders on the train station.
Central Station platform hall
In the Belgian city Bruges and in Amsterdam we got to know beguinages in the past. That explains why we also want to see the Antwerp Beguinage. We walk a kilometer to the Antwerp Begijnhof. On the way, to our surprise, we pass the archway that heralds Antwerp's Chinatown.
Antwerp - Archway to Chinatown
The Antwerp Beguinage is a venerable institution hidden behind high walls. Beguines were women who, from the Middle Ages onwards, lived in communities similar to a religious order, without ever having taken monastic vows. They did charitable work. Antwerp's Beguinage is a residential area made up of small, historic houses. In the center is a spacious garden shaded by fruit trees and shrubs. The Sint-Catharinakerk stands on the narrow side of the garden. The complex is without a doubt a place of tranquillity.
MAS | Museum aan de Stroom
The red MAS on Willemdok, which opened eleven years ago, is an eye-catcher thanks to its futuristic architecture. From the Beguinage we walk a quarter of an hour to the museum. On the way we pass the Hessenhuis, a historic warehouse, in the Falconrui. The handsome warehouse, built in the 16th century, was named after carters who came from the Hessian town of Frammersbach. The carters transported goods between Nuremberg and Antwerp. But this is another story.
Historic warehouse Hessenhuis
Arrived at the MAS, we have no time for the different collections. However, we take the opportunity to take the escalators up to the glazed panorama roof. On the way to the roof area we pass the dashing "Saluting Admiralspaar", a real eye-catcher. From a height of 60 meters we then enjoy free panoramic views of the former pilot building on the Scheldt, the city and Willemdok below us. Under Antwerp attractions we dedicate ourselves to the MAS.
We don't want to miss mentioning the "Amsterdam Whisperer". From the panoramic roof of the MAS we can see the Antwerp Whisperer standing on Godefriduskaai on the roof of a former warehouse. He is whispering a message to a figure sitting on the ground next to the Willemdok. On the facade three more people climb up the storage building. We don't understand the meaning. Possibly they may also want to hear the whispered message.
Group of figures Antwerp Whisperers
MAS and single figure of the Antwerpse Fluisteraar
Cathedral Onze Lieve Vrouwe
Our next destination is the seven-nave Cathedral of Our Lady, which we last visited ten years ago. UNESCO has rightly placed this magnificent Gothic cathedral on the World Heritage List. The church was completed just over 500 years ago. A major fire, the iconoclasm of the Calvinist zealots and looting as well as misappropriation of the church by Napoleonic troops repeatedly led to damage and the loss of numerous art treasures. The cathedral alone has four Rubens paintings and a multitude of other works of art. As new objects we get to know a modern "homage" to the Deposition by Peter Paul Rubens and the sculpture of "The Man Carrying the Cross". For entry fees and opening times, see Antwerp attractions.
Finally, we stop by the Grote Markt again. In contrast to the early morning, it is now very busy. We leave the square and walk through the Suikerrui - past the magnificent Hansa Huis commercial building - the few meters back to the berth of our ship. In front of Het Steen we marvel at the statue of the "Lange Wapper", which we also don't know yet.
Hansa House on the Suikerrui
Het Steen with the Lange Wapper statue
The statue represents a giant who is the subject of several legends in Flemish folklore. We are postponing the originally planned trip with the free ferry "DeWaterbus" to the opposite left bank of the Scheldt until the next stop in Antwerp.
Antwerp - Scheldekaaien
Instead, after casting off, we will enjoy the trip on the Scheldt to the North Sea. A pleasure that equals the trip on the Elbe from Hamburg to Cuxhaven. Many spectators follow the departure in Antwerp. This may also be due to a band that says goodbye to us with upbeat music.