Author: Abhay Singh
Date of Trip: March 2016
Five Surprising Things to do in Antwerp
One year ago I was on a train to Bikaner from Delhi when I met this guy Kevin and his girlfriend. He was from Antwerp, Belgium and studying at the law college in Berlin. Delhi to Bikaner is a 7-hour journey and since I’m so smart and attractive (okay, I am kidding) we became friends. It started with a debate over the US president elections plus he’s a very interesting guy to talk to. So they both stayed in Bikaner for a couple of days and in that time we connected really well. Ivins was profoundly interested in Indian culture and wanted to try every local dish and go to every historical place. And so we had been in touch for this one year, and last month he sent me an email telling me that he was going back to Antwerp for a week and that he would very much like to have me over while I was on my tour to Europe.
15 days later my flight landed at the Berlin Tegel Airport from where Kevin and I rented a car and drove to Antwerp. It’s was an eight and a half hour drive, with one of the most amazing sights of my life except the rough patch where the construction was going on. I was going to stay at Kevin’s so I didn’t need much money but I had still brought my prepaid forex card from this place called Buyforexonline.com as I got it at a best euro exchange rate, better than anything I got after landing in Europe. I drove the whole time so I dozed off as soon as we got there. From the early morning of the second day till the time I checked in for my flight back Kevin was with me, he showed me the places which are not on Google’s top sites list but are a must visit and told me everything about the rich culture and history of Antwerp.
So folks, here goes a list of five places which you may or may not find on google but give you a great insight of Antwerp. At least I would like to think so!
1. Museum Mayer van den Bergh Josephine Rutherford.
In the course of only a short period during the 1890s, a connoisseur of the fine arts, Fritz Mayer van den Bergh, assembled a remarkable collection of more than 3,000 items. These are now displayed on four floors of a Neo-Gothic house at Lange Gasthuisstraat 19 known as the Museum Mayer van den Bergh. The collection includes some superlative works of art, among them paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Rubens, Jordaens, Bouts, van der Weyden, van Ostade, Lucas Cranach, and Quentin Massys. Also of great interest are the Flemish and French religious statues, the outstanding collection of ivories, and a unique 16th-century Flemish breviary.
2. The Central railway station
The Antwerp railway station has four levels and 14 tracks and is a wonderful mixture of architectural styles. It is also efficient and well laid-out. Antwerpen’s Central Railway Station is unique! It’s the only train station that looks like a cathedral – not so much from the outside but more so from the inside. It gives you an almost religious feeling that life is a journey and that you’d better not miss your train. This place is awarded the world’s fourth greatest train station by American magazine Newsweek and the most beautiful railway station in the world by British-American magazine Mashable.
3. Diamond Museum (Diamantmuseum)
Right outside the Central train station The Diamantmuseum explores all the different aspects of the trade in diamonds, including sections on their extraction, processing, and industrial use. Diamond cutters can be seen at work. There is also a display of cut and uncut diamonds (genuine) together with copies of the most famous stones. Immediately south of the diamond museum lies the triangular Stadspark (City Park), on the site of one of Antwerp’s old defense works. Stocked with a fine range of plants, the park is attractively laid out with an ornamental lake, footpaths, and several monuments.
It is located in the Diamond Quarter and consists of several square blocks covering an area of one mile, over 12000 Gemcutters and polishers work within the district.80% of the World’s rough diamonds pass through this area every year, making it the largest diamond center in the World. There are 380 workshops that serve 1500 companies with 3500 brokers and merchants. The district is dominated by Jewish and Indian dealers, known as diamantaires.
4. The Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwkathedraal), is Belgium’s largest Gothic church.
The Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal or Cathedral of our lady with its 123 meters high tower still is the highest building in downtown Antwerp. Construction of this huge church started in 1352 and completion of the first stage took 200 years; even today the works on the Gothic style church are not finalized. Work on the interior began in 1965, starting with the nave where repairs were completed in 1983. The church has suffered serious damage on a number of occasions over the years, depriving it of many of its most precious works of art. First came a fire in 1533, then despoliation at the hands of dissident iconoclasts in 1566, Calvinists in 1581, and French Republican troops in 1794 and 1800. The finest of the remaining works of art are displayed in the nave and aisles as well as in the cathedral treasury
5. The Royal Museum of Fine Art
The nucleus of the collection inside the Royal Museum of Fine Art belonged originally to the Lucas Guild of Painters and Sculptors, founded in 1442. Following the winding up of the guild in 1773, the works of art accumulated over the years passed into the possession of the Academy of Fine Arts. The ground floor is largely devoted to 19th- and 20th-century paintings and sculpture, some 1,500 items in all, providing, among other things, an excellent overview of the development of the plastic arts in Belgium since 1830. The exhibition of Old Masters on the first floor comprises more than 1,000 works, mostly from the Flemish and Dutch schools. Note that the museum is undergoing renovation until 2018. Check the website for details on exhibitions of the museum’s collection at other locations in and around Antwerp.
Apart from these five places, there are a lot of other points of interests in the city which you’ll easily find on Google. After the historical places you visit try the eco Café Haute Friture in the Zuid Quarter for the best frites you’ll ever have, choose from more than 100 samples of incredible Belgian beer at Paters Vaetje, check out the famous ‘Vrijdagse Markt’ which is organized every Friday morning and explore the Grote Markt and Stadhuis at the heart of the old city of Antwerp where you’ll find an impressive array of former guild houses and the current city hall also the beautiful renaissance building has UNESCO heritage.