Antwerp is one of those cities I can always return to. It feels like a second home, because teenaged Milou used to pop over the border for some retail therapy. It would take me only half an hour later of train travel until I found myself walking towards the Meir and leaving again a few hours later with quite the collection of shopping bags and an empty bank account.
Ever since I moved to a different city, further away from the Belgian border, I don’t visit Antwerp that much anymore. And if I go, I usually only visit for one day, I hardly ever stay over. Such a shame, because it’s a lovely city. However: I’ve been so many times now that I have a clear list of favorite things to do in Antwerp, so here they are!
1. MAS – Museum aan de Stroom
MAS is without a doubt one of the most beautiful design buildings of Antwerp. It’s located in the area called ‘t Eilandje, which is the area next to the harbour in the north of Antwerp, where you can find loads of hip restaurants and bars. You can spot the modern orange building with big windows from far away: with its 62 meters it offers a wonderful view of the city when you get to the top. And you can visit the top floor for free! The museum itself has different expositions on every floor. I really loved the museum, it’s beautifully decorated and designed and you can easily spend a few hours wandering around.
I’ve never been a big arts fan, but I still really enjoyed my visit to the Rubenshuis. The Rubenshuis is, as you might have guessed, where the painter Rubens lived and worked in the 16th and 17th century. On the inside it still looks like how it used to back in the day, including his paintings, so it gives you a great idea of how the painter use to live. I think it’s a very special thing to experience right in the center of Antwerp.
3. Onze Lieve Vrouwe cathedral
In almost every city I go to, I plan a visit to the biggest church or cathedral. I actually don’t know why. Usually it’s just a nice way of getting to know a little piece of a city’s history. The main spot where everyone got together… it’s a way of getting to know the architecture and the time people lived in. The Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwe kathedraal) is huge, so impressive! But what I actually found most impressive was the little artwork hanging inside, in remembrance of all the victims of sexual assault by the catholic church. Props!
4. Central Station
I don’t know if there’s something like the Oscars for prettiest train station in the world, but if there is, Antwerp would take home all the awards. If you decide to visit Antwerp, I highly recommend going by train. The current train station was built between 1899 and 1905 and looks like what you would expect from an old station in a big city like this, from a time where traveling by train was one of the most important ways of transport. The style actually reminds me a bit of Paris… and that’s not a bad thing!
5. The Meir
I still prefer to go shopping at the Meir. Yes, I know it’s not the most off-the-beaten-track location… but just give me 5 H&M stores and a huge Forever 21 and I’m the happiest girl on earth.
What was disappointing though, was that the Palace at the Meir wasn’t open… and it didn’t say so anywhere. Outside it said that the palace would be open every Sunday, but after walking in circles for half an hour someone told us it was closed. But the palace looks so beautiful on the inside :(!
What’s your favorite place to visit in Antwerp?
I received an awesome Antwerp City Card from the Tourism Bureau Vlaanderen & Brussel. This way I had free entrance to all museums in the city.