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What to do and see in Antwerp: beer, history and fashion in Flanders

To feel like the king of Antwerp, in the Flandersjust a little: just sit on the Grote Marktthe large square of the guilds, holding a glass of De Koninck (or one of the hundreds of other beers that are born in this land that is the paradise of blondes). You will fill your mouth and nose with flavors and aromas and your eyes with beauty: and you will immediately realize that to understand what to do and see in Antwerpthe second city of the Belgium after Brussels and the largest in Flanders, they serve all the senses. Yes, because this city has many things to tell but with Flemish modesty often prefers to slip away and get lost in legends and fictional tales. Can you try it again? Ask an inhabitant of Antwerp why the city is so called and you will be told, without apparent embarrassment, that it is a simple story known to all: the name (Antwerpen in the difficult Flemish language) comes from the expression “hand werpen” which means to throw the hand. And then he will explain to you, foresto naïve, that the hand was that of a greedy giant and that it was a brave Roman legionary who severed the limb, before throwing it away, now portrayed in a statue and even reproduced in chocolate. Don’t believe it? Patience, it is not the verisimilitude that counts but the beauty of the story like almost everything in this city that is in its own way a capital but it shows itself and offers itself, as if it were a habit, as if it were little more than a village. Where, however, large pieces of the history of Europe. And where a rapid metamorphosis is taking place in recent years.

What to do and see in Antwerp: the city in transformation

And for this, too, the five senses are needed. What was for centuries a port has quickly become one of the liveliest cities for fashion and the design and so, not far from the museum dedicated to the local genius Peter Paul Rubens Dozens of new contemporary art galleries have sprung up across the neighborhood Zuid. The former red light district now buzzes with outdoor restaurants and clubs; in the summer, a disused hangar on the edge of the Schelde River turns into a club with an urban beach for young people Antwerpeners who want to go wild as if the (huge) river were a sea. The city also welcomes an ever-increasing number of concept stores alongside designer studios and even a handful of talented chefs have overcome the stereotype of the symbolic dish of the place: mussels and fried potatoes bringing the stars (Michelin) to the sky of the city. Not to mention the new museum, the MAS – Museum aan de Stroom – which houses nearly half a million pieces all centered on the city of Antwerp. And even the building itself is a thrill to the eye with its slanted facade brushed with red sandstone. So let’s do as we said: let’s sit down, raise a glass and enjoy what’s around us.

what to do and see in Antwerp

What to do and see in Antwerp: the beauty of the past

Let’s go in order: to understand what to do and see in Antwerp, let’s start from his heart, from Grand Place (or if you prefer the Grote Markt), the center where the splendid palaces of the medieval guilds still stand today, the ancient guilds which brought together those who carried out a trade. Although here, it must be remembered, they were the merchants to lay down the law: the traders of Antwerp in 1500 managed the traffic of the salt from the Atlantic coasts, the lane from Scotland and England, i wines from the Iberian Peninsula. All we needed was gold and that too came when the New World was discovered. All this created riches that can be seen still walking in the square dominated by the Town Hall built between 1561 and 1565 and in the halls of which hang 19th century paintings by H. Leys illustrating the history of Antwerp. Immediately behind the town hall, in Gildekamersstraata former guild house has been converted into a museum dedicated to reconstructing the stories of arts and crafts traditional while nearby is the Ethnographic Museumwhich collects everything related to non-European cultures.

what to do and see in Antwerp

Continuing our itinerary among the most interesting ideas on what to do and see in Antwerp, we arrive at the late Gothic church of St. Paulin the center of the Veemarkt, or the square that has also functioned as a market for cattle for centuries). The tower ofbaroque clock it dates back to 1680 but the beauty of three centuries after a fire seriously damaged the church and only the efforts of the inhabitants made it possible to save something even if a good part of the annexed monastery was completely destroyed. The church, after the reconstruction, houses Rubens paintings – the splendid “The flagellation of Christ” in the left aisle, “The Adoration of the Shepherds“And the” Dispute of the Blessed Sacrament “in the left transept – and works by Jordaens, Van Dyck and Pieter Verbruggen the Elder.

what to do and see in Antwerp

From church to church to find out what to do and see in Antwerp: next stop there Cathedral of Our Ladythe largest Gothic church in the Flanders he was born in Belgium. Its history is complex and deserves to be told: in the early Middle Ages the cathedral of the time in romantic style it was considered inadequate and it was decided to build a new one Cathedral in the same spot. The church was to become the most beautiful of the gods Netherlands and this effort was taken seriously: the work continued for over 160 years without reaching a definitive conclusion. Not only; even bad luck has put a hand in it: a fire in 1533 it damaged it then there was a dispossession at the hands of dissident iconoclasts in 1566, then it was the turn of the Calvinists in 1581 and even Napoleon he had thought of cutting it down to recover the metal to arm his armies. All in vain. The church is still there and is splendid and monumental. Inside there are some masterpieces: among these the most famous are two works by Rubens: the Raising of the Cross and the Descent of the Cross. But a visit to this church will offer many other opportunities for surprise.


What to do and see in Antwerp: where the books were born

Shall we change gender? So going on to find out what to do and see in Antwerp, let’s discover a place that belongs to Unesco World Heritage Sites. And it is the first museum in the world to have become one. This is the old printing house Plantin-Moretus, which dates back to 1576, where the modern art of printing was practically born. And here you discover its history by visiting that old patrician house full of atmosphere where you walk between walls covered with old books and works of art. Even if the real jewel are two machines: here the two are kept oldest presses in the world complete with everything needed to create the books or the matrices and molds. In short, the books we know were practically born here. And the proof comes by admiring a Bible in different languages ​​displayed among these display cases. If the world is what we know it is also due to these printers.

Continuing the visit of the city, we jump from a traditional museum to others that are decidedly less conventional: the first, very classic, is the Royal Museum of Fine Arts which is housed in a neoclassical building. The walls of the entrance hall are frescoed by Rubens. On the ground floor there are paintings by Ensor, Magritte, Permeke and Delvaux while on the upper floor there are works by artists of the Brueghel school. Of a completely different kind is the one dedicated to one of the icons of the city of Antwerp: the museum of shipping company The Red Star Line. A museum has been dedicated to this company that recalls how this famous company, with a flag with a red star inside it, transported more than two million people from the mouth of the Schelde River to the United States: poor European emigrants in search of the dream American, but also affluent passengers heading to New York. The warehouses on the banks of the river have been restored to become a place dedicated to memory, a place to reflect on emigration theme. Finally, strolling through the center, take a detour to discover between what to do and see in Antwerp a small extravagant pearl: the Central Station. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, it has a glass and iron dome that frames the waiting area giving it an airy and suggestive aspect. Judged by many among the five most beautiful train stations in the world it is also a place that many visit as the train remains the most comfortable way to travel around Belgium.


Aren’t we tired yet? So let’s allow ourselves a couple of more stops before getting into one of the many breweries and taste the best beers produced in this lucky land.
The first is at the Rubens house where the great painter lived and where, it is said, he created most of his works thanks to helpers): we are talking about 25 thousand paintings. Now, since 1930, the house, designed by the same artist in the Baroque style is owned by the Antwerp City Hall, and is visited by thousands of people every year attracted by the original works of art, the garden and the room where the painter worked. A detail: it was a real art factory but only two of its best students were then hired: they are Anthony Van Dyck And Jacob Jordaens. Finally, a dip in luxury, the real one.


Antwerp is the world diamond center and in an area of ​​just over a square kilometer, just outside the central station, there are practically all the largest shops for precious items. The bill is approximate: but we speak of 1,800 shops. You can also take guided tours to fill your eyes with precious reflections by going to a baptized place, coincidentally, Diamondland which is in a side street called De Keyserlei. In addition to being a shop that sells certified diamonds, you can also see cutters, cutters and goldsmiths working on the most precious stones. Antwerp knows it and boasts of it. And it feels a bit, in turn, a jewel.

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