Antwerp has so many different facets that it takes a while before one gets to know it thoroughly. There are enough monuments for those who like monument-hopping to spend a few days admiring them. The past is also represented by the numerous paintings of Peter Paul Rubens who lived in the Antwerp of the early 17th century. Thanks to artists such as Rubens and also Van Dyck, and Jordaens, the town was one of Europe’s leading art centers.
But Antwerp is not only a place to see the work of Old Masters.
It is also on the cutting edge of contemporary art and fashion.
Some of the most famous attractions are:
The gothic Saint Paul’s Church, built from 1530 to 1571, is known for the collection of art it displays. The more than 50 paintings include three by Rubens, as well as early works by Jordaens and Van Dyck, and there are more than 200 17th- and 18th-century sculptures. The towers and interior are in baroque style.
Sint-Pauluskerk was restored in 1968 after damage from a major fire. There are walking tours and presentations – available in English, French, and Dutch – on the church’s history, art and artefacts.
This is a gothic cathedral, the Cathedral of Our Lady is topped by its 123 meter high north spire. Work on the cathedral began in 1352 and continued in fits and starts until 1584. The tower holds a 47-bell carillon. The carillon plays Fridays from 11:30 AM-12:30 PM and Sundays 3-4 PM, as well as on Mondays in the summer from 8-9 PM.
Inside you can admire an outstanding collection of 17th-century religious art. Highlights are the famous “Kruisafneming” and “Kruisoprichting” by Rubens.
Vlaeykensgang is a quiet cobblestone lane in the centre of Antwerp and it seems untouched by time. The mood and style of the 16th century are perfectly preserved. It is a very good place to spend some time on a Monday night in the summer, when the carillon of the cathedral is playing. The alley ends in Pelgrimsstraat, where there is a great view of the cathedral spire. Nearby you can find the Jordaenshuis. This was the home of Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678), the painter many saw as the successor of Rubens.
The Ethnographic Museum
The Ethnographic Museum explores the art, myths and rites of the native people of Africa, the Americas, Asia and the South Seas. You can admire a collection of 30,000 masks, tools, weapons, sculptures and other objects. The Museum possesses several unique pieces. Even some of them are described in Le Musée Imaginaire. Le Musée Imaginaire is the French novelist André Malraux’s compilation of the world’s most important art and artefacts.
The Grote Markt is the heart of the Old Town, it is a three-sided square dominated by a huge fountain crowned by the figure of the legendary Silvius Brabo, the giant-killer.
Antwerp’s Renaissance Stadhuis (City Hall) flanks on one side of the square. The Stadhuis was built in the 1560s, the city’s golden age. Guild houses flank the other two sides. There is a 16th-century guild house topped by another famous monster slayer, St. George, while the dragon appears to be falling off the pediment.
Diamond-cutting began in Bruges but moved to Antwerp in the 16th century. As mentioned in the section “Antwerp” some 70% of the world’s uncut diamonds pass through the city. The industry employs some 18,000 people, divided among 6,000 independent firms. Below the elevated railway tracks, a long row of stalls and shops gleams with jewelry and gems. Bounded by De Keyserlei, Pelikaanstraat, Herentalsestraat and Lange Kievitstraat.
You also can visit Diamondland. A spectacular showroom, it was created to enable visitors to get a sense of the activity that goes on behind closed doors in the security-conscious Diamond District. Diamondland has three floors of slide shows and films, showcases of rough and polished diamonds and several diamond cutters at work.
The Antwerp Zoo is one of the oldest and most famous zoos in the world but also one of the most modern and progressive zoos in the world. The Antwerp Zoo presents more than 6000 animals from 750 different species. The zoo was created 150 years ago in 1843. The zoo is situated in the centre of Antwerp. Today animals are allowed maximum space, and much research is devoted to endangered species. The zoo also has dolphin tanks, an aquarium and a house for nocturnal animals. Depending on the hour of your visit 1 to 3 restaurants are opened. When you decide to visit this zoo, you probably will need half a day because there is so much to see.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons.