With a population a little over a million, Antwerp is the most densely populated city in Belgium. It has a well-connected transportation system that consists of buses, trains, trams. The city is very compact and appropriate for walks by foot. This is why this is the best way to enjoy the city.
If you arrive in the city by train, the first thing that will charm you is the wonderful train station. Do you know that it is present in the top positions of absolutely all charts for most beautiful stations in the world? It is called “the cathedral of the railway stations” and it’s something more than just a regular station.
Antwerpen-Centraal railway station ( Antwerp Central)
The central railway station, known also as Middenstatie (Middle station) was built between 1895 and 1905. It is like a substitute of the original terminal of the railway line Brussels – Mechelen – Antwerp. It was built by a steel platform and a brick building in eclectic style. The interior is richly formed with over a 20 different types of marble and stone. Between 2000 and 20009, the station was completely modernized and expanded. Quite often it is the arena for exhibitions, fashion events and other attractions.
As soon as you exit the station, you can take the De Keyserlei Street. Its extension Meir is the main commercial street in Antwerp. Meir is the de facto place which connects the central railway station with the town hall in Antwerp. During the duration of your walk, you will have the opportunity to see the beautiful city architecture.
In about 20-25 minutes by foot, you will reach from the central railway station through the commercial street, to the main square in the city – Grote Markt.
The central square is an architectural treasure and it is seated in the heart of the old city neighborhood. Here are located also a significant number of fine buildings, each one of them more and more beautiful and elegant than the other. They are called also “guild halls”. While they were burned in 1576, the original building was reconstructed in the traditional Flemish Renaissance style.
Next to them is the impressive Renaissance building of the municipality. The town hall has been included in UNESCO’s list for world heritage in 1999. The building has a long history and it is a bright example for a Renaissance architecture in the Low Countries.
Unfortunately, during the time when I visited Antwerp, the building was in the process of reconstruction. Aside from that, the day matched with the UCI Trials World Cup Antwerp. The participants from different nationalities competed for two days in this hard race.
In the middle of the square is the beautiful Baroque fountain, depicting the mythic hero Brabo. The legend speaks of the Roman soldier Brabo, who cut the hand of the giant Antigoon and threw it into the river.
Cathedral of Our Lady
Another interesting landmark is the Cathedral of Our Lady, which is at a close distance from the main square. This is the largest gothic church in Belgium with 123 m. height. Its construction continued for 169 years before it was completed in 1521. Inside you will find some of the masterpieces of the painter Peter Paul Rubens. The visit is free for people, living in the Antwerp province and it costs only 6 euro for the rest.
Aside from that, Antwerp is the capital of the diamond world trade. The first building in the world, meant for stock and commercial exchange, was built in Antwerp in 1531. Subsequently it was burned down when there was a fire but it was reconstructed in the 19th century. In 1997, the building was completely abandoned, and right now there is a plan to be turned into a luxurious hotel. Of course, we visited the building, hoping to see the sparkling interior but we didn’t have access to it.
Where to grab a bite
How to reach Antwerp
The easiest and most convenient way to reach the town is by train. The Thalys Company provides an excellent connection with the big cities Paris and Amsterdam. Aside from that, you can get here with the National Belgium Company NMBS.