13 Best Things to see in Antwerp (2024)

Things to see in Antwerp

Best Things to see in Antwerp – Antwerp is one of the typical cities that you have to see in Belgium. I have to admit that it is somewhat overshadowed by Ghent and Bruges . You could say that it is a bit “second-rate”, but there is no doubt that it is next on the list as a strong candidate to visit and, furthermore, I have no doubt that you will love it. Here I am going to tell you all the things that you have to see in Antwerp in one day .

Antwerp can boast of being one of the best day trips from Brussels . It is the second most populous city in Belgium and is located only 45 kilometers from Brussels . It is a great city to visit in one day. The city center is relatively small and the most interesting places are quite close to each other .

Among the things to see in Antwerp in one day are the Grote Markt, the city’s famous square, the Diamond District, full of luxury shops, or Rubens’ house , where the famous Flemish Baroque painter lived until his death. To start getting to know the city, I recommend taking a free tour. This way, you’ll visit the most beautiful places in the city while learning about its history. And be careful, because Antwerp is not just any city; in the 15th century, it was the most important city in the area .

13 Best Things to see in Antwerp

Below, we are going to tell you about the best things to see in Antwerp. A tour of the essential places in the city, a perfect plan to visit in one day.

1. Grote Markt

Grote Markt (Antwerp)

Like all major cities in Belgium, the Grote Markt is the most beautiful square to see in Antwerp . It is the heart of the city, here you will find the 16th century guild houses with very cute facades. In the middle of the square is the Brabo Fountain , which is linked to the most famous legend of the city . In fact, the name of the city of Antwerp comes from here.

Apparently, the heroic Captain Brabo killed the giant Druon who demanded a high toll from every ship that wanted to enter the city. The procedure was this cruel: if the toll was not paid, Druon cut off the ship’s captain’s hand. If you don’t pay the toll, then goodbye to your hand. The statue symbolizes Captain Brabo throwing away his hand.

To give you an idea of ​​the significance of this story, the name Antwerp in Dutch is Antwerpen , which translates to  Ant  (hand) and  werpen  (throw). The full name can be translated to something like “throw a hand.” And this statue in the center of the square symbolizes this legend. You’ll never go to bed without learning one more thing.

2. Antwerp City Hall

Antwerp City Hall (Antwerp)

The Antwerp Town Hall deserves a special mention in this square . It is the building that stands out the most in the GroteMarkt. The building is in the Renaissance style with Flemish and Italian influences and was built in the 16th century. What most characterises the building is the number of flags on its façade, giving a touch of colour to the square. In total there are 27 flags from all the member countries of the European Union and other countries that have a consulate in Antwerp.

3. Vlaeykensgang Alley 

This alley took me a little while to find, but the effort and the little turns I made were well worth it. It is located in the very centre of Antwerp, near the Cathedral . To enter it you have to go through a small door in the middle of the street. I hope you have better luck than I did in finding it. Its exact address is Oude Koornmarkt 16 .

Don’t hesitate for a minute and head to the end of the alley. It’s super cute! Today you’ll find art galleries, antique shops and the elegant Sir Anthony Van Dyck restaurant . By the way, it’s not an alley where you can enter one way and exit the other. You enter and exit on the same side.

The beauty of this alley is also its history. The origins of the alley date back to the Middle Ages and its courtyards were once used by shoemakers who could not afford to have a house on the Grote Markt. In addition, it was close to the cathedral because the shoemakers’ guild was in charge of ringing the bells .

4. Cathedral of Our Lady

The Cathedral of Our Lady is another of the must-see places in Antwerp . It is the largest cathedral in Belgium and one of the main Gothic churches in Europe . It was built in the late Middle Ages (1521) and its tower belongs to the group of towers and bell towers of Belgium and France declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site .

If the exterior catches your attention (although we saw it under construction) wait until you see the interior because it is even better. It has a lot of works by super-famous Flemish painters such as Rubens , Otto van Veen or Marten de Vos and some spectacular stained glass windows. The cathedral often hosts art exhibitions, mainly of painting.

5. Groenplaats

Groenplaats (Antwerp)

Next to the cathedral, if you fancy replenishing your energy and having a quick drink, I recommend the Groenplaats square, which translates as green square . The city cemetery used to be here, and today the Rubens statue is in the middle . It is one of the most lively areas of the city centre, with both terraces and restaurants. A Belgian beer or a waffle here? I would never say no.

6. Rubens House

Rubens was born in Germany, but he lived in Antwerp for the last 29 years of his life until his death . The 17th century house-workshop where he lived and also painted is another of the places you can’t miss in Antwerp . You can visit the house inside while you are told the whole story with an audio guide, his workshop, his art gallery and also see works by Rubens and other painters such as Van Dyck . It is a perfect combination of visiting places in his house while looking at his paintings. In addition, it has a very nice garden.

7. Antwerp Central Station

Antwerp has two stations, of which the Central Station is the one with a direct connection to Brussels City and I warn you right away that just seeing it is a marvel. Antwerp Central Station can boast of being one of the most beautiful stations in the world . The building is impressive, but inside it is even more beautiful. You cannot miss entering the main hall with its clock and glass dome . Just to see the station is worth the trip to Antwerp.

8. The Antwerp Diamonds

Antwerp is considered the diamond capital of the world . The Antwerp Diamond Quarter is located next to the Central Station . It has four pedestrian streets Schupstraat , Pelikaanstraat , Rijfstraat and Hoveniersstraat , full of restaurants, bars and cafes and of course diamond shops.

To give you a little background, you should know that Antwerp has been a key point for the diamond trade from Africa and India since the 15th century . Because the port of Antwerp was one of the most important in Europe at the time, a powerful diamond cutters’ guild was created in the city.

The diamond district is also closely linked to the Jewish community . Many Jews have lived in this area since they arrived there in the 16th century. It is easy to see Jews among the diamonds, synagogues and kosher restaurants. In addition, many of them are also dedicated to glitter.

By the way, it is very easy to see the police around this area guarding the shops and another thing that caught my attention is that there is a specific stamp for Antwerp diamonds. Hey, if you want to treat yourself or propose to your partner, you know that you are in the right place to make a good purchase.

9. Church of St. Charles Borromeo

St. Charles Borromeo Church (Antwerp)

This church is one of the most beautiful in Antwerp . The church was built in the 17th century and if you like the Baroque you cannot miss it. In addition, it is the oldest church in Flanders .

As an anecdote, I was struck by the fact that there is a pulley mechanism on the main altar that, with human help, allows the paintings that can be seen just behind the altar to be changed . Just think, these paintings are huge and weigh a lot. Currently, there are three paintings that are changed on special days.

This church is also closely linked to Rubens (like everything in Antwerp) as the painter participated in its façade and there were also some works by him on the ceiling in the past, but due to a fire in the church they passed on to another life.

10. Het Steen

This castle is another of the places you have to see in Antwerp . It was built during the medieval period as a defensive fortress against Viking attacks, guarding the entrance to the city, although it was later used as a prison. It is the oldest building in Antwerp . You can visit it inside, although we admit that its exterior is more beautiful. but we have read that there is not much interesting inside. It is up to you.

Read Also: Where to Stay in Algarve, Portugal (2024): Best Hotels Guide

11. The Best Museums in Antwerp

Antwerp is a very cosmopolitan city, with a great cultural offer and this can be seen in the very modern museums it has. Beyond the Rubens House Museum, these are the best museums in Antwerp :

  • Plantin-Moretus Museum : a museum that still houses the two oldest printing presses in the world , as well as valuable books, including works by Rubens.
  • MAS – Museum aan de Stroom : Located right next to the Scheldt River, this is the largest museum in Antwerp and is a real eye-catcher from the outside. In fact, I recommend going to see it, even if it’s just the outside, because the façade will not leave you indifferent. Inside, the museum deals with various topics related to the city of Antwerp, such as the evolution of its port. It has a terrace at the top with good views of the city.
  • Diva (Diamond Museum) : This is the home of Antwerp’s Diamonds. Here you can learn more about why Antwerp is the Diamond capital of the world.

These are the most important ones, but if you want to see more art, I also recommend the Mayer Van den Bergh Museum or the Rockox House Museum .

12. Eilandje

An old port of this size like Antwerp deserves a district to match, and that is what happens in Eilandje, which is the same as the old port of Antwerp . Here you will find the old sailors’ quarter Schipperskwartier , but also ultra-modern buildings such as the MAS (Museum Aan de Stroom) , the Red Star Line Museum or the Havenhuis (Port House), where the headquarters of the Port of Antwerp Company is located, which simulates a ship on an old building.

13.  Meir Palace

Right next to Rubens House is the Meir Palace , where Napoleon Bonaparte once lived . But what this place is famous for today is the chocolate shop here: The Line . You have to go in and buy something! Good Belgian artisanal chocolate. You won’t be able to resist.

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