When visiting a new place big or small, the best thing to do is get out of your accomodation and explore, guided or not. Find your bearings, discover hidden places behind the major attractions and keep track of your route – As exciting as it is exploring the wonders of the world, always stay safe.
On this occasion I was in the company of a friend whom in a native of the city, so I was very lucky to get a local perspective on the town and Belguim as a whole. If you would like a more personal experience, then many major cities offer walking tours with various themes, duration and distance walked to suit everyone.
Completed in 1565, Antwerp city hall is an amazing and impressive building set in the heart of a square in the centre of Antwerp, apt as it is the centre of local government with the statue of Brabo (a Roman soldier that killed a Giant) in front of it. The building was meant to be built many years before but due to conflict and a re-design to keep with current trends, but restoration work was needed only a decade later as bing burnt to a shell in another conflict. More renovations took place to the interior in the 19th century.
I’m not really sure if I was more impressed by the buildings or the statue/fountain or maybe just enthralled by it all, the European feel tied in with it’s rich history. Whilst you are unable to go into city hall, there are walking tours available if you want to learn more about the building and of course, learn and see more of Antwerp itself.
Het Steen Fortress & Waterfront
Het Steen Fortress is Antwerp’s oldest building from the medievil period which has had many uses over its long history from a Fortress, a prison, a residence, a museum (numerous times) and now as place of children’s learning with workshops during and after school and a public meeting place for all.
We didn’t venture into the fortress but did take the opportunity to walk around the grounds, up the steps and onto the bridge which overlooks great views over the city and an opportunity to just watch the world go by with plenty of benches to sit upon. And we did 🙂
Eat & Drink
There are plenty of places to eat and drink in the centre of Antwerp catering to all cultural tastes with many independent eateries as well as the odd global brands that can be recognised on their logos alone. Many of these places can be found just off the market square and alongside the Cathedral, although many more can be found if you venture down the many streets that come off the square as well as some chocolate shops – Belguim is known for its chocolate! I recommend Nello as a place to get your chocolate fix!!
You are also only 2-2.5 hour train journeys from Paris, France; Cologne, Germany and Amsterdam in The Netherlands. Go can also get a direct train from Amsterdam Schipol Airport to Antwerp – The trains are superb with free wi-fi and decent prices too. A pleasant journey indeed!
Antwerp might not be the first city you think of when you think of Belguim but it a city that deserves to be visited at least once.