Top 8 Antwerp attractions you can’t miss. List of sights in the historic center with photos and descriptions.
Antwerp is a port city of Belgium, the center of arts and crafts. The city is an art center, and you’ll find something here for everyone: masterpieces of architecture and art, fashion items from all over the world, diamonds and, of course, diamonds, which are cut and polished in an entire city block. There are also world-famous sights that top the list of every self-respecting traveler’s must-see. The list below is a brief overview of the most interesting places in Antwerp.
Antwerp city tours
Itineraries from locals on Tripster are an unusual way to explore the city. It is interesting to start with a sightseeing tour of Antwerp. For the first acquaintance and to save time there is nothing better than a classic 3-hour tour. But to walk through the places of Rubens with the right guide is possible in the tour “Antwerp Rubens”.
8 places worth seeing in Antwerp
1. Cathedral of Our Lady of Antwerp
Address: Groenplaats 21, Antwerp, Belgium
Center façade of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Antwerp
Overlooking the cityscape, the Notre Dame Cathedral of Antwerp is one of the finest Gothic buildings in all of Europe. Construction of this Antwerp landmark began in 1352 and was not completed until two centuries later, in 1520. The interior of the church, with its seven aisles and 125 columns, is as beautiful as the exterior. Even more beautiful are the colorful stained glass windows decorating the vaults of the cathedral, rare icons and statues on the walls.
2. Rubens House Museum
Address: Wapper 9-11, Antwerp, Belgium
Rubens House is one of the most visited places in Antwerp
The house and former studio of Pieter Paul Rubens, the brilliant baroque painter, is now home to a museum, which has become one of the most visited sites in Antwerp. The mansion, built at the beginning of the XVII century, was bought by the city and was completely renovated in 1937. For several years the material for the exhibition was gathered, and today in the house with a checkered floor, a large semi-circular gallery and a portico you can see 14 Rubens’s paintings. Apart from the original works of the Antwerpian, the collection is enriched by paintings of his most talented contemporaries.
The living part of the house is furnished in Flemish style, and the artist’s studio and study in the Italian Renaissance style. Both parts are connected by a baroque arch, behind which there is a courtyard with a French garden.
A standard tour of the Rubens House includes a tour of the garden. The nuances of the visit can be clarified on the museum’s official website www.rubenshuis.be.
3. Antwerp’s market square
Address: Grote Markt, Antwerp, Belgium
What to see in Antwerp? The Market Square of course!
Every city in Belgium has its own Grote Markt (more simply, Market Square). As a rule, the historical point of reference is located in the heart of the city – Antwerp is no exception. The local Grote Markt was built back in the 16th century and today boasts a whole exhibition of ancient buildings whose facades sparkle with restored gilding and surprise with rich stucco. The most enviable place on the square is occupied by the statue of the warrior Brabo, who, according to myth, defeated the giant that threatened Antwerp and its wealth.
4. Plantin-Moretus Museum
Address: Vrijdagmarkt 22-23, Antwerp, Belgium
Antwerp sights: Museum Plantin-Moretus
The publishing house was founded in 1555 by Christofell Plantin and was one of the best industrial printers in Belgian history. For 300 years it was directed by the Moretus family. Today it’s one of the most interesting places in Antwerp: Visitors can see the world’s first printing press as well as a whole collection of unusual objects related to early printing and the art of printing.
5. Antwerp Central Station
Address: Koningin Astridplein 27, Antwerp, Belgium
What to see in Antwerp: Station building
For those arriving in the city by train, we recommend you not to immediately leave the station to reach the historic center. You could miss out on one of the most impressive sights in the city! The Antwerp Central Station, visited by thousands of tourists every month, is one of the five most beautiful stations in the world. “The fault” for this is the opulent baroque architecture of the building, thanks to which it is nicknamed the “railway cathedral”. The station was built between 1895 and 1905 on the basis of a monumental landing stage. At the beginning of the 20th century it was in decline and was even threatened with demolition, but still the authorities found a way to restore the building and make it part of the modern infrastructure of the city.
Today Antwerp train station not only performs its functions, but also is connected by tunnels to the stations Astrid and Diamant, where the underground streetcars depart from. If you come to the city not by train, take the time to visit the station: the abundance of marble, different kinds of stone, decor, statues turn it if not into a museum, at least into an opera house.
6. Antwerp Zoo
Address: Koningin Astridplein 20-26, Antwerp, Belgium
African penguin colony at the zoo
If you have enough time it makes sense to go to the local zoo, it is very well located – a stone’s throw from the train station. Opened in 1843, Antwerp Zoo is one of the oldest in the world. It is a great place not only to watch the animals but also to relax: the zoo is spread over 25 acres and the aviaries are large, the paths are wide and everything is done to preserve the nature in its original form. The Antwerp Zoo has 600 species of mammals, reptiles, birds and fish. The most beloved inhabitants are koalas, white rhinos, African buffalo, Siberian tigers and Baringo giraffes. It is rare to find such exotic company!
7. St. Anne’s Tunnel
Address: Sint-Annatunnel, Antwerp, Belgium
Antwerp’s places of interest: Sint-Annatunnel
Once outside the Old City, we recommend a walk to the St. Anne’s Tunnel, which runs along the bottom of the Scheldt. In Antwerp, in view of the fact that it is an active port, it was decided not to build a complex network of bridges to get from one side of the river to the other, but to dig a tunnel. The job is done: everyone can take an elevator down to a depth of 31 meters, and then walk along the bottom of the Scheldt. And at the exit, a panorama of the Cathedral and Antwerp’s first skyscraper – until 1952, it was the highest in the world!
8. Monument to the Sailor Alexeyev
Address: Kloosterstraat 143/147, Antwerp, Belgium
Unusual places in Antwerp: Monument to Peter the Great
When you have almost all the sights of Antwerp explored and exhausted, do not forget to take a picture against the background of the monument to Sailor Alexeyev. You don’t know it? No wonder: under this name, wishing to preserve incognito, once arrived in the city of Peter I. In Antwerp there is an amazing law for our country, which forbids erecting monuments to political figures. The only exception was a monument to the Russian emperor erected in 1998.
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About the author
I am a bus tour operator with 8 years of experience. I often go to Europe and write about it. I will tell you everything I know about Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
What to do in Antwerp: Top 9 ideas
I’m not going to sprinkle vanilla vanilla around and say that Antwerp is the coolest city I’ve ever seen in my life (I’ve been to Ulan Bator). But as an option for a short trip, it’s very good. There are old neighborhoods, cool examples of modern architecture, and lots of “hidden” attractions, hidden from prying eyes.
All in all – I liked this city. I climbed the free viewing, wandered through the remote corners, drove around neighboring cities, and struck by the unreal number of Jews on the streets … And to top it all, and even caught a powerful hurricane that struck Belgium on the last day of my trip. In short, there were many adventures. And if I can’t promise you the hurricane, I will be happy to share with you my experience. Ready to dive headfirst into the atmosphere of one of the most unusual cities in Belgium? Then let’s get started. Further in this article – 9 ideas how to spend an interesting time in Antwerp.
See Antwerp Station
It’s a good place to start. Antwerpen-Centraal Station is not only the transport gateway of Flanders, but also one of the main attractions of the region. The station really looks very beautiful inside and out. There are wide staircases, gilded coats of arms, and high vaults that take your breath away. Just look at these pictures – I think they can convey the grandeur of the place better than I can. Walking toward the trains, it seems like platform 9 and ¾ are just around the corner.
If you exit the station in the direction of Koningin Astridplein you will see on your left the local zoo which is one of the oldest in Europe. Tickets are expensive (€22 for adults and €16.5 for children under 11). But some families come especially for it. So I also had to say a few words about the place.
The address of the station is Koningin Astridplein 27. The address of the zoo is Koningin Astridplein 26.
Experience culture shock in the Jewish Quarter
Antwerp is the world’s diamond trading center. Almost 80% of all rough diamonds pass through it in one way or another. Over the years, diamonds have become the unspoken symbol of “Antwerp”. That is why the diamond quarter is mentioned practically in all the tourist guidebooks about the city.
I remember how, before my trip, I watched an episode of Eagle and Tails, where Lesya Nikityuk was breathlessly talking about Antwerp’s Diamond Quarter. And I remember how disappointed I was when I was there myself. The place looks something like this.
Local architects were apparently inspired by Chizhovka landscapes.
In general you can see the Diamond Quarter only to check it off. Personally, I much more remember the Jewish quarter, which is in the neighborhood.
The reason is that the sale of diamonds in Belgium was historically engaged by the Jews, whose community nowadays lives in the neighborhood of Isabellalei Street. If you walk 500 meters, it’s as if you are in another world. There are synagogues, kasher stores, Hebrew inscriptions, and dozens of people with hats and sidelocks on the streets.
If you want to be really surprised, step into this neighborhood. It’s a slice of Israel in the middle of Belgian Flanders.
Walk through the old town.
If you walk northwest from the Jewish Quarter, after about a kilometer you will encounter a beautiful building of the Bank of Belgium (Frankrijklei 166).
Beyond that is the old city. Personally, the first thing I did was to go to the Grote Markt …
Looked at the Antwerp Cathedral …
Castle Stan (beautifully decorated with scaffolding) …
Rubens House and the pedestrian street Meir, where almost every building is a separate work of art.
But at some point I just let go of the steering wheel – and began to wander the beautiful streets, not trying to find something specific. I recommend that you do the same. Just stroll around – and you will come across fine hotels, Gothic cathedrals, beautiful mansions, and… unusual statues. But about them – in the next paragraph.
Find as many strange statues as possible.
Like this one at the beginning of Korte Gasthuisstraat.
Or this one near Lange Sint-Annastraat.
If you don’t believe that a drinking fountain can be scarier than the movie “Astral” – be sure to look for this place.
Two unusual sculptural compositions can also be found near the MAS museum. This couple stands on one of its outdoor terraces (and can only be seen through the windows).
And this one is a hundred meters from the museum – on an inconspicuous building next to a row of flagpoles.
Most of these sculptures make you smile. But there is one statue that tells a rather sad story about an orphan boy and his dog. The composition is called “Nello and Patrasch” and is dedicated to the characters of a popular Belgian book.
It is located in the center of the city – on the Handschoenmarkt square, next to the Antwerp Cathedral. According to the story, both characters froze to death right inside this church. The moral of the story is that being kind is bad for your health. I’m serious – read its brief retelling online. They only died because they behaved with decency and honesty.
To live in an old mansion.
So that I myself wouldn’t have to sleep on the street during this trip, I rented myself an apartment like this near the old city of Antwerp.
Everything in the house had an air of antiquity, and the atmosphere of the neighborhood made me feel like a local rather than a tourist. For me, living here was one of the most memorable moments of my trip to Belgium.
I wanted to recommend it to you, but when I started to prepare my article, I was surprised to learn that the ad was no longer available. So I put together for you a new selection of great apartment options in Antwerp. Each one is in an old building and located right in the center. They have good reviews. In short. If you are too lazy to find options yourself – you can use my selection.
(8,5/10). The apartment is small (19 sqm), but very nice. For a romantic trip – a chic option. (8/10). Just look at these photos – and you’ll fall in love with it at first sight.
- And here is an option for connoisseurs of more modern design. The apartment is located in a historic building next to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Antwerp. The review rating is 8.8.
View of the city from the roof of the MAS Museum
The museum “an de Strom” is a tall building in the port of Antwerp. It features artwork, various ethnographic finds that tell the history of the city, as well as exhibits from numerous temporary exhibitions. Ticket prices depend on the particular exhibit (average price 10-15 euros, but there are also free shows). For more details, visit mas.be in the Order tickets section.
Even if you’re not a big fan of museums it’s still worth the trip. The building itself is made of red Indian stone and has unusual wavy windows. There’s a free observation deck on the roof. And the port of Antwerp itself is a place you don’t want to miss.
This is where the old city meets the new. A symbol of this is the futuristic port authority building (Havenhuis), built according to a design by the British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. It is located at Entrepotkaai 1, 700 meters away from the MAS Museum.
Wander in hidden corners of the city
I lived in Antwerp for 5 days, so I had a lot of time to explore the city, to wander around the courtyards and to look for places that I didn’t even think I would notice.
My first discovery was the University of Antwerp. I stumbled upon it almost by accident, just ducking into one of the arches in the city center. At the beginning I honestly thought that I entered some closed territory, but nobody chased me away, and one of the staff even showed me the way to the main building.
Anyway. If you too decide to search for this place – just go to Prinsstraat 13 and then dive into the inner yard and then through this little door (you can see it in the center of the screen).
There you can experience what Belgian Hogwarts is all about. It’s a very beautiful place. I think you will like it.
Another place I recommend to look for is the Beguinage (or Begeinhof) in Antwerp. It’s hidden behind a massive wooden door and a series of brick walls, so you might not even notice it as you walk by.
The Beguinage was once a kind of monastery, a refuge where women without husbands could engage in crafts and earn a living on their own (which was quite atypical in the Middle Ages). Today, the “beginoks” are no longer there. But the atmosphere of yesteryear still hangs over the place. When you walk in through the large door, you feel like you’re in a tiny isolated town with brick houses, a garden, and a chapel. It’s a very unusual place. I had never seen anything like it before.
The address of the Beguinage is Rodestraat 39.
A walk in the Berchem neighborhood.
I went here on the second day of my trip, when my supply of sights in the center of Antwerp had already run out. This part of the city has a collection of old Art Nouveau houses, and therefore is quite different from the rest of “Antwerp”.
As in the Grote Markt area, I walked here for nothing – without any apparent purpose. So I confess I have no idea what kind of buildings I kept seeing in my frame.
The brick complex on Albert Claude Street was the building I liked best.
And also the beautiful neo-Gothic castle at Professor Claraplein-32.
On the Belgian website I found a mention that both buildings used to be medical institutions (the first was a military hospital, the second – a children’s hospital). But how accurate this information is, I don’t know.
Take a drive through the neighboring cities
Belgium is a small country. It is slightly smaller than the Minsk region. So having arrived in Antwerp and settled there, you can easily schlep to Brussels, Ghent or Bruges for a day.
You can get to each of these cities in about 1-2 hours. I also recommend you to consider a trip to the neighboring Netherlands – for example to the futuristic Rotterdam. Below I will briefly write how much time and money it takes to make such a trip.
- Antwerp – Brussels: travel time 1 hour, the fare 4-7 euros.
- Antwerp – Rotterdam: 1,5-2 hours, fare 7-9 euros.
I recommend buying tickets to both of these cities on this site.
- Antwerp – Bruges: 2 to 3 hours, fare between 5 and 20 euros.
- Antwerp – Ghent: 1,5-2,5 hours. Travel time: 5 to 20 euros.
You can buy tickets for these cities on the Belgian Railways site – belgiantrain.be. If you go at the weekend – you can get a 50% discount on the fare. To do this, set the direction of the trip, and then select the Weekend Ticket tab. At the time of publication of this article the trip to Bruges costs 10.8 euros (round trip).
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments. And I’ll wrap it up with these words. Bye-bye, everyone! And happy travels in Belgium.