Next to Germany, Belgium is also one of our most visited countries. We have explored many of its major cities such as Brugge, Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, and Belgian Ardennes to name a few. We are still in the process of exploring every corner of Belgium since it is very accessible from the Netherlands. In this blog, I focus on Antwerp Belgium. Almost every year we come to Antwerp Belgium, thus this city deserves to have a written blog too. In addition to Antwerp, if you are interested to know more about Brugge Belgium, check this link. Just like Brugge, Antwerp is a city in the North of Belgium and thus very close to the Southern cities of the Netherlands. Going to Antwerp takes only one hour and 40 minutes by car and less than 3 hours by train from our home in Wageningen.
If you happen to visit the Netherlands or Belgium, it is a nice idea to stop in Antwerp Belgium. There are many interesting reasons why Antwerp Belgium is worth a visit. Just like any European city, Antwerp is very rich in history and culture. Some of the stories you’ll hear could be quite familiar, such as the story of Nello and Patrasche in the Dog of Flanders, or the story of a giant Antigoon, whose hand was chopped off by Brabo and threw in the Scheldt river in Antwerp. Others believe that the name Antwerp originated from this story of ‘hand werpen’, which means ‘hand throwing’ in English. Unfortunately, there is much more to this story on why Antwerp is currently called in its name. The Scheldt river still has something to do with the origin of the name Antwerp. This tidal river makes a difference of 5 to 6 meters during low and high tides. During high tide, the river takes the mud deposits to the river bank, which results in accumulation of mud deposits in the river bank over time. This process is called ‘aangeworpen’ in Dutch, and it leads to the place being called as Antwerp. In this blog you’ll find seven reasons why Antwerp Belgium should be on your lists of places to visit.
Why Antwerp Belgium is worth to visit?
1. Antwerp Centraal station in Antwerp Belgium is considered as the most beautiful railway in the world.
The moment you step out of the train in the central station of Antwerp Belgium, you’ll be surprised by the magnificent façade of the Antwerp central station. This central station was originally built between 1895 and 1905, but you can still see the well-preserveness of this century old structure. Antwerp central station is an important hub for many train connections coming from the Netherlands and many Belgian cities. What I find interesting in this train station is that it gives you an impression of Antwerp as a Belgian city – rich, magnificent, historical and touristic. No wonder that in 2014, Antwerp Centraal Station has been awarded as the most beautiful train station in the world by the British-American magazine Marshable.
2. The great market square (Groter Markt) of Antwerp Belgium is surrounded with magnificently designed architectures.
The market square of Antwerp Belgium is boasting with restaurants, bars, and spectacularly designed buildings. At the middle of the market square is the Brabo Fountain, which depicts the story of Brabo who chopped off the hand of the giant Antigoon and throwed his hand in the river. You will also find in the west of the market square the beautifully designed city hall, which has an Italian-Flemish renaissance influence. During December, you can witness the Christmas market in the market square and the ice rink during winter.
3. The largest port in the world is located in Antwerp Belgium.
The Port of Antwerp is considered as the largest port in the world. Since it started over centuries ago, the port covers exactly 12,068 hectares, which is equivalent to approximately 20,000 football fields! In the history, invaders such as Romans, Vikings, Spaniards, and Napoleon clearly saw the strategic importance of the Scheldt river situated in Antwerp Belgium. This is a reason why this city was not immune to the eyes of the invaders. But due to its strategic location on the river, Antwerp was able to transform into what it is today a metropolis that houses an international port.
4. The medieval influence is re-live in the city of Antwerp.
In addition to the beautifully designed architectures, you can still find many traces of the medieval period in Antwerp Belgium. For instance the oldest building in Antwerp called Het Steen, which is a medieval stone fortess between 1303 and 1827, is still proudly standing in the old city center in front of Scheldt river. The close location of Het Steen in the Scheldt river made it possible to control access to the river. Before docks were built in Antwerp during 19th century, many historic houses and the oldest church were part of Het Steen but later on were demolished. Now only the castle and the Statue of Lange Wapper, a giant character in a Flemish folklore were the remnants of Het Steen.
You can also find De Grotte Ganz restaurant in the heart of Antwerp. This restaurant offers Flemish dishes on a medieval Flemish setting. In order to have access to this restaurant, you need to pass stairs going down the basement and from there, you will find some paintings, fires, and tables surrounded by the cobblestone walls. Indeed, this is an extra ordinary experience for people who would like to know the life during the medieval period.
5. The city hall of Antwerp Belgium is enlisted in UNESCO’s world heritage lists.
One thing good for visiting Antwerp is that visitors can see another UNESCO heritage – the city hall of Antwerp, for free! Yes, this architecture is open for public at no costs. The city hall of Antwerp is inspired by a Flemish-Italian Renaissance style, known as the Floris style, during the 16th century. This design was an eye catching innovation from the Netherlands (during that time Belgium was still part of the bigger Netherlands), which influence Scandinavian countries to also immitate this design. The city hall of Antwerp is considered as the oldest (and possibly the most beaufiful) archtecture in the bigger Netherlands. Outside the city hall you can find 87 flags, which are represented by Antwerp and Belgium, Europe and United Nations, and other countries that have consulates in Antwerp.
6. Antwerp is the setting of the nostalgic story The Dog of Flanders.
Who would not fall in love with the worldwide story of Nello and Patrasche? These two are the characters in a famous 1872 novel the Dog of Flanders, which is actually set in Antwerp Belgium! Nello is a boy who delivers milk to the town everyday and who became friend with the abandoned dog in the cart named Patrasche. They often visit the cathedral since Nello admires the paintings of Ruben. On the day of Christmas, these two were found dead due to the hardship in life, but their story shows the symbol of true friendship. If you happen to visit Antwerp, you can find the tomb of Nello and Patrasche in front of the Onze Lieve Vrouw Cathedral near the market square.
7. Antwerp has many corners worth taking photo.
As you walk along the old city center of Antwerp, your eyes might get mesmerized in every corner that you see. When you are sitting in a restaurant or in a cafeteria or walking along the river Scheldt, you’ll end up finding yourself in a romantic view. Take you camera ready and capture this memory since every corner of this city is worth taking photos.