Antwerp’s heyday may have been centuries ago, but behind its Flemish facades, a renaissance is underway.
The cultural capital of Flanders has earned its stripes as a fashion hub, an art history hotspot and a bastion of Belgian beer. Best of all, it’s friendly, picturesque and easy to tackle on foot.
Arriving at Antwerp Flanders International Airport
Antwerp Flanders International Airport is less than four miles (6km) from central Antwerp. The airport is compact and simple, with a few shops and restaurants, a VIP lounge and complimentary Wi-Fi. Grab a snack at Belgian supermarket Louis Delhaize just before security. For aviation buffs, the Stampe & Vertongen Museum, open on weekend afternoons, displays a collection that includes several World War I military aircraft.
The easiest way to get to central Antwerp is by taxi. Hail a ride from the roundabout in front of the airport and you’ll be in the city centre in just 15 minutes.
Alternatively, take a bus to nearby Antwerpen-Berchem train station and a tram into the city centre from there. There are buses every 15 minutes from the airport to Antwerp-Berchem Station. From there, take a tram to Silsburg and get off at Antwerpen Groenplaats for the historic city centre. For the zoo and Antwerpen-Centraal station, head towards Rooseveltplaats and get off at the final stop.
Peter Paul Rubens is the pride of Antwerp, the most famous artist of the Flemish Baroque style. The Rubenshuis is in the artist’s former home and studio, which dates back to 1611. The building was impeccably restored in 1937, and now features a collection of Rubens works as well as a lovely late-Renaissance style garden.
Cathedral of Our Lady
This Gothic beauty is the symbol of the city. The elegant cathedral was completed in 1521 after 169 years of construction. While its famous spire is often visible from Antwerp’s streets, you’ll need to step inside to see the four Rubens works on display.
The Museum Plantin-Moretus was the first museum to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. Housed in the former studio of the Plantin-Moretus printing family, the museum houses the oldest printing press in the world and a library that dates back to 1640.
One of the oldest zoos in Europe, the Antwerp ZOO is unique for its elegant 19th-century architecture and impressive collection of 950 species. As it’s so close to the city centre, the zoo is a lovely way to enjoy the fresh air.
The Museum aan de Stroom, commonly known as the MAS, is a striking 10-storey museum on the banks of the Scheldt River. The collection includes many maritime artefacts, but if you’re short on time, take the escalator straight to the top for a free 360-degree view of the city.