Belguim: Antwerp – A Walk In The City

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.


City Hall

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 ūüôā


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 РBelguim is known for its chocolate! I recommend Nello as a place to get your chocolate fix!!


Also…

As mentioned in previous posts, you can visit Antwerp Zoo, Antwerp Catherdral and two museums in the city, The Rubens House and Mayer Van Den Bergh.

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.

 

Belguim: Antwerp – Museums

When visiting any new place visiting Museums is I find usually on the cards, learning about local culture and history are topics that always fasinate me whether it is abroad or at home.

In Antwerp, I visited two museums: ‘The Rubens House’ and ‘Museum Mayer Van Den Bergh.’ A duo ticket can be purchased to visit these two museums for 10 Euros or pay separately for 8 Euros each.

Both museums have a strict ‘No Photography’ policy and it is enforced by the staff, so none of my own photos today but please read on to learn more about these two museums.


The Rubens House Museum

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The brilliant and versatile artist Rubens lived in this palazzo with his family. Here he also painted with his colleagues and assistants. He created many of his paintings in this house, in the centre of Antwerp. The museum has an interesting collection but also shows visitors how the master lived and worked.

Extract from ‘The Rubens House Museum’

The Rubens House museum is currently under-going renovation works to the entire exterior of the building as well as the gardens but inside everything is as it should be.

You start your tour in the courtyard where you begin your journey reteacing your steps after the entrance to enter the old house. A leaflet is provided as well as audio guides in a variety of languages to delve deeper into the history of the place, numbers corresponding to artwork, sculptures and furnishings.

The Old House contains artwork produced by Rubens himself including Portico and a self-portrait, as well engravings and art produced by the artists Harrewijn, Succa, Adriaenssen and a few others. There are arrows to guide you to each room of the house and in a particular order to navigate staircases which you can only travel either up or down. The house is small so you can whizz through it but you would miss all the beautiful and extravagant artwork.

Moving onto The Gallery, a room to display the impressive collection of art that was built up by wealthy Antwerpians over the centuries including Rubens himself (and his own artwork too),  including oil sketches and items made out of the most interesting material. This includes Ivory, Gold, Silver, Marble, Terracotta and Oak. Artists featured consist of Rubens, Van Haecht, Petel, Faydherbe, Jordaens and many more.

The Gallery is where ou are going to spend most of your time, a large open space with interactive elements – To the art lover within in however small, will love this museum come gallery.


Museum Mayer Van Den Bergh

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The museum allows you to become acquainted with the impressive and highly admired art collection formed during the last two decades of the 19th century by Fritz Mayer van den Bergh (1858-1901). The museum opened its doors in 1904, three years after the death of Fritz Mayer van den Bergh. That it exists at all is due to his mother, Henri√ętte van den Bergh (1838-1920).

Extract from Museum Mayer Van Den Bergh’

Another museum come gallery that I accidentally came across whilst wandering around the city and what a little find it was. After paying for your ticket there is a cloakroom to store all your belongings before entering into the main part of the museum itself. The museum is divided into 14 areas spanning many floors and rooms, the areas either named after the room itself, genre, the type of art is contains whether portraits or named after an artist whom works are displayed there.

This museum is a lot larger than the Rubens House museum mentioned above so if you don’t have enough time, I would suggest you go here to fill your art craving. I had to cut my visit short as I was due to meet up with a friend but I could have easily stayed here longer.

Belguim: Antwerp – The Cathedral of Our Lady

I always seem to be drawn to buildings whether it is at home or abroad, modern or old yet it seems places such as Cathedral and Churches are the ones I seem to frequent most. Not only do they boast great architecture and attention to detail, they also contain artworks from paintings to scultures from across a time period spanning decades.

Most of all they are history, local history, traditions and versed in the reglion to which they represent. I have always loved history and so I often staying a lot longer than intended at such places taking in information and the atmosphere; this trip was no different.

The site where the Cathedral sits has a long history of being the seat of the Roman Catholic Church from a small chapel from the 9th-12th century, later given the status of a church and then replaced with a larger church in its place. It was later in 1352 that construction on the current Cathedral would begin yet at the time still having the status of a church, taking almost 170 years to complete the first stage of construction. Between fires, war damage (including the 80 years war and French Revolution), thefts, Antwerp coming under Protestant administration, as well as gaining, losing then regaining Cathedral status, restorations and refurnishings – You can’t say that it hasn’t had an eventful history!

All and all, I spent around 45 minutes exploring the Cathedral at a leisurely pace but many of you could complete the self-guided tour at a quicker pace. There is so much to explore, so many siderooms to gaze at and visit, including the opportunity to visit the crypts. The building is well-worth a visit if you ever fnd yourself in Antwerp – Check out my photographs below if you don’t believe me!


The Exterior

 


The Interior: Windows & Floors

 


The Interior: Paintings and Designs

 


The Interior: Side Rooms

 

The entrance fee to enter is 6 euros for individuals, 4 euros for students, aged 60+ and groups of 20 or more, whilst those 12 years and under go free. All proceeds go to the conservation and maintenance of the Cathedral. For more information about the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp you can visit there website here.

 

 

Belguim: Antwerp Zoo

Antwerp Zoo (Dutch: ZOO Antwerpen) is a zoo in the centre of Antwerp, Belgium, located right next to the Antwerpen-Centraal railway station. It is the oldest animal park in the country, and one of the oldest in the world, established on 21 July 1843.

Extract from ‘Wikipedia’

Antwerp Zoo is a place where you can easily spend your entire day exploring this beautiful place with plenty of creatures from near and far, amazing gardens to sit and enjoy the scenary (and to picnic too!) as well as a cafe and shop to check out. The zoo has plenty of seating throughout the park to admire the animals around you and if you’re fortunate some good weather too.

If you ever get a chance to visit this wonderful place, be sure to check out times for talks, feeding times etc but be aware the staff will be talking in Dutch throughout these talks.

At the time of my visit, the zoo was busy expanding into more land as well as new exhibitions, so lots of construction about. This inconvience was compensated by a lower admission piece but luck would have it as we arrived to pay our entrance was 5 Euros less due to a promo that had not been advertised – 19 Euros!

Below are my photos from the day – Enjoy!


Butterfly House


Monkeys, Meerkats and Koalas


Penguins


Birds


The Elephants


Reptile House


Aquarium


Big Cats, Zebras and Everything Else


The Gardens