26.5.12

What's in Antwerp?

As you have probably read here, my visit to Antwerp came as a surprise. So a couple of years ago when we went back, I already knew where I was :) and what I wanted to see and taste.
A visit to Antwerp must include the following sights:

- Our Lady's Cathedral: It is so beautiful, in gothic style, it was finished in 1521 and it contains some masterpieces by native painter Peter Paul Rubens. I heard a story about how the south tower is smaller than the north one because they ran out of funds to finish it and they decided not to invest any more on it so it never got its south tower completed. There's also another cute story about a boy and his dog, Nello and Patrasche (very famous in Japan), Nello was very poor (with very bad luck, according to all the sad things that happened to him) and had no place to stay, he goes to the cathedral of Antwerp to see Rubens' triptych, The Elevation of the Cross, but he doesn't have enough money to enter. On the night of Christmas Eve, he and Patrasche find the door to the church open. The next morning, they are found frozen to death in front of the triptych.








- Central Station: This is one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. Originally from 1905, it has undergone a massive reconstruction in the 1998-2007 period and it has a very particular architectural style.


- Zoo: I visited it 13 years ago but I remember I liked it a lot, it is one of the oldest in the world.
- City hall and Great Market Square (Grote Markt): nice square with typical flemish buildings, in the center there's a statue of the roman soldier Silvius Brabo that gives the name to the city: Antwerpen means hand throwing, in the statue, Brabo is throwing the hand of the giant he killed to free the bridge over the river Scheldt.


- Het Steen (The Stone): this fortification is Antwerp's oldest building. It was used to control the access to the river Scheldt, then it was a prison and now it hosts a museum.
taken from this website

- Shops: Antwerp is also hometown to the Antwerp Six, 6 fashion designers famous worldwide: Ann Demeulemeester, Dries van Noten, Dirk Bikkembergs, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk van Saene and Marina Yee.
- Port: Antwerp is one of Europe's most important ports so a walk to see it must be on every sights list.


Things to eat/drink:
Mussels: In Antwerp -and throughout Belgium- mussels are served in the shell and in pots of 1.3 kg per portion. The 'Mosselen Nature' are served with a delicious white mustard dip sauce. The season used to begin in September until April (the tradition said that mussels are good in all the months that have the letter R in them). Nowadays you can get mussels almost all year round, although during the summer they may be hard to find and probably imported.

Cherry Beer: We asked a local friend which was the best place to drink beer in Antwerp. He told us to go to Den Engel. I did my research and when we got there we were a bit shocked... it was a tiny bar filled with smoke and old people, we ordered our beer (I always get cherry beer in Belgium, that's girly but delicious) and sat, by the time our draught beers arrived we had already made a friend among the locals. That was nice, and maybe the atmosphere of the place made our beers even more delicious. Later on the trip we found out the actual Den Engel that our friend was talking bout, it is a big lively bar with outdoor seating right in Grote Markt. The beer was also good over there but it was missing the bohemian atmosphere of the 'old' Den Engel.
The 'Old' Den Engel is on Sint-Jacobsmarkt 87, between the center and the train station.
The 'New' Den Engel is on Grote Markt 3. It is a nice place to have a beer while sightseeing though.
Cherry beer at the 'new' Den Engel
We stayed at the Hilton, right in the center. nice hotel with excellent location and delicious buffet breakfast in the winter garden. Definitely the place to stay in Antwerp.