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Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Antwerp

Antwerp (Flemish Antwerpen, French Anvers) is situated on the right bank of the river Scheldt (Flemish Schelde, French Escaut), 88km/55mi from its mouth in the North Sea. Antwerp is the capital of the province of Antwerpen and the second largest seaport in Europe.

The city's remarkable reputation does not rest solely on its trade and industry however; it is also the cultural capital of Flanders. Centuries of prosperity have bequeathed an inheritance which includes the magnificent cathedral, the town hall, many other outstanding historic buildings and, above all, the city's paintings, an incomparable collection of 15th to 17th century masterpieces from a time when the work of artists of the South Netherlands school attained extraordinary heights. Quentin Massys, the "Velvet" Bruegel, Rubens, van Dyck, Jordaens, Cornelis de Vos and many others all lived and worked in Antwerp. This rich cultural tradition is maintained today by the city's numerous museums, theaters, three universities and several academies and institutes, in recognition of which Antwerp was chosen European City of Culture 1993. Among the groups contributing to Antwerp's cultural diversity are 20,000 members of the Jewish community, the largest in Europe.

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Antwerp Zoo

Home to a large diversity of animal species, Antwerp Zoo is one of the must-see tourist attractions in the city. The Zoo ranks amongst the best in Europe and is located in the heart of Antwerp city.
Highlights:

St James' Church

St James' Church displays a richly decorated Baroque interior containing numerous important pieces of art.

International Port

A ship in Antwerp's International Port.

The Port of Antwerp is second only to Rotterdam among the major seaports of Europe, fully justifying its claim to be one of the largest in the world. The harbor installations alone cover an area of more than 10,000ha/25,000 acres, with a further 3,400ha/9,300 acres of land in industrial use. A total of 124km/77miles of wharves provide berthing for sea-going ships and inland craft, while 387 quayside cranes, 12 floating cranes,19 loading gantries and 20 container hoists handle their cargoes. Access to the harbor basins from the Scheldt is via six sea-locks on the east bank and one on the west, among the former being the 500 x 57m/1640 x 187ft Zandvlietsluis (cubic capacity 613,000cu.m/733,150cu.yd) and the Berendrechtsluis (765,000cu.m/914,940cu.yd), the largest lock in the world, opened in 1989.

Address: Port house, 1 Entrepotkaai, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium
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Docklands Tour

The enormous size of the port rules out any attempt to explore it on foot. This leaves the option of joining one of the boat tours or resorting to bicycle or car.
Given sufficient time public transport offers another possibility, though not all parts of the port area can be reached in this way. The No. 37 bus goes as far as the Van Cauwelaertsluis and back, the No. 76 much further north to the Zandvlietsluis. But traveling by bus does not always guarantee a close look at the harbor installations.

Havenroute

Plantin-Moretus Museum

Originally the residence for a French Printer by the name of Christophe Plantin, the Plantin-Moretus house now serves as a Museum. The Museum is a fine example of Flemish Renaissance Architecture.

Cathedral of Our Lady

Built in Gothic Style, The Cathedral of Our Lady is the largest church of its kind in Antwerp. The Cathedral houses some fine, original works of art which are displayed in the nave and aisles.

Butcher's Hall

The elegant rooms of the late Gothic Vleeshuis (Butchers' Hall) in the Vleeshouwerstraat include the former council chamber of the butchers' guild. The impressive brick building, built in 1501-04, was deliberately sited close to the Scheldt, allowing the blood of slaughtered animals to run off into the river.
The Vleeshuis is now a museum of applied art and archaeology with collections of pre-historic, Egyptian, Roman and Merovingian artifacts; weapons and armor; ceramics; furniture; sculpture and woodwork; and coins. Among its most prized possessions are a depiction of the conversion of Saul in 16th C. Antwerp tiles, the Averbode Retable by Pieter Coecke van Aelst.
Address: Vleeshouwerstraat 38-40, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Musical Instruments

Located in the Vleeshuis is an outstanding collection of musical instruments including the remarkable harpsichord from the workshop of Ruckers the instrument-makers.

Grote Markt

The Grote Markt is one of the principle tourist attractions in Antwerp. On the square stands the town hall and guild-houses.

Nightingale Park

Nachtegalenpark (Nightingale Park), on the southern side of the city, was laid out in 1910 on land formerly belonging to three estates: Den Brandt, Vogelenzang and Middelheim.
A biennial festival of sculpture is held from July to September every odd-numbered year in the section of Nachtegalenpark adjoining Middelheimpark.

Open-air Sculpture Museum

The gardens of the Middelheim mansion have been made into an open-air sculpture museum, a sylvan setting for more than 300 works of art by well-known sculptors including Auguste Rodin, Aristide Maillol, Henry Moore, Rik Wouters, Louise Nevelson and Alexander Caldin. Smaller items are displayed in the pavilion.
Address: Middelheimlaan/Wilkrijk 61, B-2020 Antwerp, Belgium

Te Boelaerpark

This park, a popular recreation area for the people of Antwerp, is in Borgerhout, a district in the southern part of the suburb of Deurne where, every year in September, the "Parade of the Little Giants" is held, as it has been since 1712.
Te Boelaerpark is planted with several rare species of tree and also has an arboretum.
Every year in September, the "Parade of the Little Giants" is held, as it has been since 1712.

Central Station

Keyserlei, a particularly lively place in the evenings, lined with cafes, restaurants, cinemas and hotels, runs from Tenierplaats to Centraal Station, Antwerp's main railroad terminal. The "Middenstatie" (the middle section of the station building) with its imposing steps and impressive dome was built between 1895 and 1905. All the materials used in its construction came from Belgium itself.

Royal Flemish Opera House

Near the Centraal Station intersection stands the Koninklijke Vlaamse Opera (Royal Flemish Opera House) built in 1907.
Address: Frankrijklei 3, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerp Tourist Office

To the north the Centraal Station opens onto Koningin Astridplein, again a popular focus of city life and site of a branch of the Antwerp Tourist Office.

Jewish Quarter

Antwerp's Jewish Quarter, home to the largest and most influential Jewish community in Europe, extends from Frankrijklei south as far as Koning Albertpark and eastwards to beyond the main railroad line. Most of the Jews are orthodox and there are several synagogues in the area.

Provincial Diamond Museum

The Provinciaal 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 more famous stones.
Address: Kon. Astridplein 19-23, B-2018 Antwerp, Belgium

City Park

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.

Museum Ridder Smidt van Gelder

With its fine period furniture and collection of fine porcelains, the Ridder Smidt van Gelder Museum, found in an 18th C. mansion, retains the atmosphere of a patrician house of the day.
Address: Lange Nieuwstraat 24, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Royal Palace

Walking east along the Meir, the handsome Roccoco facade of No. 50, the former Koninklijke Paleis (Royal Palace), is the first to catch the eye. Having begun life as a patrician mansion in 1745, the house was Napoleon's Antwerp residence during the French occupation. In its latterday role as an international culture center (I.C.C.), it provides a venue for exhibitions of contemporary art.
Address: Meir 50, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Rubens' House

Immediately beyond the old Koninklijke Paleis the open Wappersstraat turns south off the Meir. Peter Paul Rubens acquired No. 9 in 1610 - a year after his marriage to Isabella Brant - living there until his death in 1640. He arranged the house to his own taste and requirements, making his home to the left of the entrance and turning the right wing into his studio. The two parts are joined by an elaborate and much admired portico. In the 18th C. the house was owned for a time by an English aristocrat. Following the French Revolution it was used as a prison, thereafter falling more and more into disrepair.
Rubenshuis (Rubens' house) finally came into the possession of the City of Antwerp in 1937 and, between 1939 and 1946, was meticulously restored with the aid of old documents and drawings.
Address: Wapper 9-11, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Anterp - Rubens' House Furnishings

The ten rooms of the house are furnished in the style of the period and contain numerous original paintings. These include works by Rubens (self-portrait, ca. 1625/28, in the dining room) as well as by Snyders, Jan Bruegel, Veronese, Jordaens and Otto Venius. The large studio contains several more works by Rubens ("Adam and Eve in Paradise") and others by his pupils.
Address: Wapper 9-11, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Rubens' House Courtyard and Garden

The Baroque facade of the studio overlooks the courtyard, from which three archways lead into the garden. Both portico and garden were designed by Rubens himself.
Address: Wapper 9-11, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Bird Market

The Wapper continues at its southern end into Maria Pijpelincxstraat and then Oude Vaartplaats where a Sunday bird market is held, a major tourist attraction. Plants, clothing, food, antiques and junk are among the items sold, as well as birds.

Meir Theaterplein

Both Maria Pijpelincxstraat and Oude Vaartplaats open out onto Theaterplein, a large amphitheater-like square with, on its north side, the Theater Center and Stadsschouwburg (Civic Theater).

Sint-Andrieskerk

Building started on the church in 1515. The interior boasts a fine choir stall (1821) with a depiction of St Peter's miraculous catch of fishes, a reliquary of "36 saints", and several splendid altars. One of the piers in the south transept bears a memorial to Mary Queen of Scots, erected by two of her exiled ladies-in-waiting.
Address: Sint-Andriesstraat 5, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Museum Mayer van den Bergh

In the course of only a short period during the 1890s, a connoisseur of the fine arts, Fritz Mayer van den Burgh, 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. The collection includes some superlative works of art, among them paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, ("Dulle Griet" and the earliest of the artist's signed works "The Twelve Proverbs", both in Room 26), 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 C. Flemish breviary, and in Room 14, a polychrome group "Christ with St John" (1300) by Henry of Constance and a Netherlands diptych (ca. 1400).
The second floor features a collection of porcelain, while 17th C. furniture and paintings occupy the third.
Address: Lange Gasthuisstraat 19, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Maidens' House

A few doors from the Museum Mayor van den Bergh on Lange Gasthuisstraat, part of a 17th C. former orphanage for girls known as the Maagdenhuis (the Maidens' House, No. 33) has also been turned into a museum and archive. In addition to tracing the history of the orphanage and its orphans, the museum possesses important paintings by Jordaens, Venius and van Dyck and a rare collection of Antwerp faience bowls.
Address: Lange Gasthuisstraat 33, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Museum of Fine Arts (closed for renovations)

Antwerp's Museum of Fine Arts was established in 1879 in a Neo-Classical style building. The Museum showcases works of art that are both ancient and modern in origin.

Museum of Contemporary Art

Opened in 1987 the Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst (Museum of Contemporary Art) occupies an old corn silo with a lovely Art Déco facade at Leuvenstraat No. 32, off the Waalsekaai. The museum promotes the latest in modern art, not just through its own collection but also by inviting artists to exhibit their work. Nor are the works on show the only items of interest; equally worth seeing is the cafeteria wall sprayed by the New York graphic artist Keith Haring.
Address: Leuvenstraat #32, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Provincial Museum of Photography

Aficionados of the camera will find a treat in store at Waalsekaai No. 47, an old warehouse recently given a new and rewarding lease on life as the Provinciaal Museum voor Fotografie. The museum charts the history of photography with the help of an important collection of cameras and old photographs.
There are more than 20, 000 books related to photography in the museum's library.
Address: Waalsekai #47, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Miniatuurstad

This is a model of Antwerp on a scale of 1:87 with scale models of ships, which sail along a miniature version of the Scheldt.
Some of the highlights of a visit to the miniature town include a workshop where builders produce exact copies of Antwerp's buildings, a gallery where where the history of miniatures can be viewed and Snail Country, an exhibit of snails from all over the world.
Address: Hangar 15a, Scheldekaai, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Events

Throughout the year, there are a number of notable events that are of interest to visitors.

Flanders Festival

This annual month-long festival runs from early September to early October. The events include operas, orchestral, choral, chamber and organ concerts, recitals, dance performances and theatrical productions. Three performances are usually organized for each week of the festival and the venues include some of the most prestigious buildings in Antwerp.
Address: Theaterwinkel, Sint-Jacobsmarkt 74, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Mechelen - Hanswyk Procession

This annual parade is held on the Sunday before Ascension to pay homage to "Our Lady of Hanswyk." Thousands of residents participate in the colorful, religious parade.

Christmas Fair

Christmas fair, one of many in the south of the country, with so-called Krippana (exhibitions of Nativity scenes).

Surroundings

Mechelen, Belgium

Lier, Belgium

Geel, Belgium

The town of Geel is situated in the center of an agricultural region in Kempenland in the eastern part of the province of Antwerp. It is well known for its pioneering method of treating psychiatric patients and the mentally ill. They receive treatment at a large psychiatric hospital but live in the community with families, taking part in everyday life. There are about 1,400 patients living in Geel.
This tradition is derived from the legend of St Dymphna or Dimpna, the patron saint of the possessed and insane. Dymphna was an Irish princess from the sixth C. who fled from her father who wanted to marry her after the death of his wife. With her confessor Gerebernus Dymphna sought refuge in Geel, but she was discovered by her father who, in a frenzy, is supposed to have decapitated her. The town soon became a place of pilgrimage for the mentally ill. The pilgrims who came to visit the tomb were accommodated by the townspeople, a custom which has remained, although in a different form, until the present day. An annual fair, the oldest in Belgium, resulted from the pilgrimages.

Sint-Dimpnakerk

Situated on the road to Mol, Sint-Dimpnakerk is late Gothic, built 1349-1479. The massive tower (16th C.) made of alternating white sandstone and brown ironstone was never finished.
The church's art treasures include the Sint-Dimpna retable of 1515 on the main altar with fine wood carving, a Brabant retable of the Passion in the right transept (wood; 1490), a stone retable depicting the 12 apostles (14th C.) and the silver reliquaries of St Dymphna and her confessor, Gerebernus. In the choir the Renaissance mausoleum in marble and alabaster of Jan III de Merode and his wife was the work of Cornelis Floris de Vriendt in 1554. From 1484-1601 Geel was owned by the de Merode family. The so-called "sick room" built against the church tower housed the sick during the nine day pilgrimage and from here they were carried into the church three times a day to pray.

Sint-Dimpna Gasthuis

The first hospital was founded in Geel in 1280; the present day buildings are primarily from the 17th C. and have been converted into a local museum with collections of furniture, paintings and church exhibits.

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