A September 2003 trip
to Antwerp by davidx
Quote: Antwerp brings out thoughts about diamonds and palatial buildings, but there is so much to see, and it doesn't have to cost too many arms and legs.
I decided early on that I should have to give up the main art museum, and this was a major omission; in the end, I did not see the diamond museum, not the sort of thing that bothers me in general terms, but clearly something unique to Antwerp; the famous Plantin-Moretus Museum, so important in the story of printing, was another miss on the rather thin grounds that I had been to the print museum in Innerleithen, Scotland.
That leaves me with the old quays, the Steen, the Rubens House, the Museum Mayer van den Berg, and of course the cathedral and the Grote Markt. Also, something which I should not have dreamt of without my English guidebook, the almost unbelievable area of Zurenborg, which I shall try to describe in a separate page.
If these are not included among the best things to do, some of the others must be mightily good!
If you do want to go to the Provincial Diamond Museum - €5 with no concessions - you would do best to leave any major luggage at the station (very close, so it could be a good thing to do first or last). The lockers in the Museum are not big enough to accommodate anything wide.
The zoo is also near the station, if that comes in your scheme of things.
Hotel | "B&B Family Bousard-Rodiguez"
There was a double bed and a full-size single, en-suite facilities, a huge wardrobe, TV, telephone, and tea- and coffee-making facilities, plus a fridge, and it would all have fit in comfortably again.
For all this, I paid €45.00, which included a good continental breakfast.
The owner asked me over breakfast whether I had enough room! To be fair, he was smiling.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 24, 2003
B&B Family Bousard-Rodiguez
(3) 227 1530
Mama's Garden is one of these, and I was able to really enjoy a well (though quickly) cooked meal at low cost near to the cathedral.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 24, 2003
Oude Koornmarkt 41
Attraction | "Near the Cathedral"
1. THE GROTE MARKT
This is terrific - as good a square for the majesty of its buildings as I know anywhere at all. On one side is the superlative city hall and flanking it are the old guild houses. They are all built to 16th century pattern although some are reconstructions. I defy most people (me included) to tell which!
The tops are adorned by huge gilt symbols of the guilds.
Also here is the well known statue of what gave Antwerp its name (so they say.) It is a Roman soldier holding the hand of a giant which he had cut off.(a fitting punishment for the giant who had made a practice of such activities himself). Apparently Antwerp can be associated with the words for hand throwing.
2.VLEIGENSGANG Opposite the main entrance to the cathedral is a triangular area called the Handshoemarkt with eating places everywhere, as there are in the Oudekoormarkt the other side--not too expensive either. There is a sort of gap on the other side by number 16 and through it you get onto a totally unexpected little lane, more remniniscent of the country than of city centres. This is the Vleigensgang.
3. HET STEEN (Het is not misspelled!) I was surprised at how near the Grote Markt is to the river (I suppose it would be) and this is where the old fort, now a museum of shipping, is found.
4.HENDRIKCONSCIENCEPLATZ This lies on the other side of the cathedral, only a bit further away and is a lovely pedestrianised square. On one side is the Baroque church of St Carolus Borromeus. It is believed that the three tier façade was the work of Rubens.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 26, 2003
Attraction | "Museum Mayer van den Berg"
Fritz Mayer van den Berg had accumulated a fabulous collection of art treasures when he died in his forties at the beginning of the 20th century, and his mother had this house built in 16th-century style as a setting for the collection. The house itself would seem to justify a visit even if it were empty, with its beautifully carved woodwork and ornate fireplaces.
The main ground floor room was open and contained some early Flemish work. I forget the name of the artist, but one had learnt to paint eyes – very realistic, but it was somewhat off-putting when four paintings of different people were looking at me – all with identical eyes. The restorers did not want anyone going upstairs, but I had checked on one room before paying to go in, and they honoured this by escorting me in the lift. It was the room containing the picture by Pieter Brueghel the Elder of Dulle Griet [Mad Meg]. This picture on its own would have justified the full entrance fee to my mind, but then, I love Breughel’s paintings and I have not seen many of them. This is the painting of a horrifying, quite demented woman with all sorts of hell-based accompaniments.
Mayer-van den Bergh Museum
Lange Gasthuisstraat 19
Antwerp, Belgium 2000
+32 3 232 42 37
Attraction | "Cogels - Osy lei"
Since the building was done at the end of last century, even some otherwise sane enough websites call it an art nouveau area. In truth the houses were built in a great variety of styles of pretty well every period (including art nouveau but by no means confined to it). About all that they have in common is that all are big and all are amazingly ornate.
One guide book says it is like a film set, but what sort of film wants an ancient Greek house and an art nouveau house next door to each other? However, it is quite spectacular enough.
At one stage it was planned to demolish the houses and rebuild, but this was defeated. I am glad because, although I can't help wondering what sort of living conditions were enjoyed by the builders of these houses, it seems desirable from a historical perspective that we should be able to see this outstanding example of conspicuous consumption by the nouveau riche. This is what it was because I learned from this website that the inside of many of these externally sumptuous dwellings was plain to the point of being old-fashioned.
This does not stop them showing real or mock (depending on your point of view) magnificence from the outside--even on a foul day like this was.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 26, 2003
Antwerp, Belgium 2000
Attraction | "Antwerp Tram"
Basically it was a good introduction to the cathedral area and the Grote Markt and to the rver Schelde and its quays. These cover a huge area and the oldest of them was intended by Napoleon to be 'a pistol, aimed at the heart of England.' It gives a particularly good view of the Steen, the old fort of Antwerp.
I should never advocate one of these things as an alternative to walking to get your bearings, but for those whose walking is limited it can be invaluable, provided you can stand the bumps (and this is not a minor or humorous proviso).
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on September 26, 2003
There is a small entry charge (€2), but it is then possible to admire the Rubens works at really close range.
Onze Lieve Vrouw Kathedraal
Antwerp, Belgium 2000
+32 3 213 99 40
The virtue of this building is of a house typical of the wealthy citizen's home of the early 17th century, with the furniture and artifacts to match.
The entrance price entitles you to borrow earphones (which of course can be programmed to English) which let you hear a commentary on the garden, the house, the artwork, and the furniture. I thought it had terrific value as a museum rather than as an art gallery.
Antwerp, Belgium 2000
+ 32 3 201 15 77
Todmorden, United Kingdom