Rubens' city of diamonds
On the very northern border of Belgium, adjacent to the Netherlands, we find one of the largest ports in Europe and the second largest Belgian city, Antwerp. The city itself lies on the river Scheldt, which flows through several other large cities in Belgium and is their connection with the port. Antwerp is a beautiful historic city with picturesque old and modern architecture. Famous is the local historic train station, diamond shops or the fact that the famous painter Rubens lived and worked here.
Historic train station building
The historic Art Nouveau-style station building was built between 1895 and 1905, replacing the old railway station on the Brussels-Antwerp-Mechelen route. The building boasts many awards for the most beautiful train building in Europe from many world magazines. In 2011, Antwerpen-Centraal was also awarded the European Union Grand Prize for Cultural Heritage. You may also be familiar with movie screens, as several films have been made here, such as the stories of Hercule Poirot.
Cathedral of Our Lady
Since 1523, the dominant feature of the city is the Gothic cathedral of the Antwerp diocese on the Scheldt embankment, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Its construction lasted 269 years. The cathedral has respectable dimensions, measuring 117 m long, 65 m wide and includes 7 naves and 14 chapels. The building has only one completed tower with a height of 123 m. The main vault is supported by 125 supporting columns. The cathedral is located in the historic center of the city, where you can visit the popular Christmas markets in the square below.
Antwerp City Hall is within sight of the Cathedral of Our Lady on the Grote Markt. This 67 m long Renaissance town hall stands on a square surrounded by guild houses from the 16th and 17th centuries with rich sculptural decoration.
On the main Grote Market, right in front of the town hall, you will find the Brab Fountain, which is a reminder of the most famous local legend associated with the city. The giant Druon Antigon once ruled on the river Scheldt, forcing sailors coming to the port to pay him high fees. If someone refused to pay, the giant ripped off both his hands and threw them into the river. The Roman soldier Silvius Brabo matured into a giant. It was he who in turn cut off the giant's hand with his sword and threw it triumphantly into the river. This scene is also illustrated by a statue on a fountain. According to legend, it was then that the city got its name „Antwerpen“ from the Dutch connection „hand werpen“ – „tear hands“. The hero Brabo is said to have named the province of Brabant again. If you look closely, you will come across reminders of this story in Antwerp at almost every step.
At the very beginning of the port of Antwerp, you can stop at the local castle Steen, which is a very popular stop for a walk through the city. The castle was built after the Viking invasions in the early Middle Ages as the first stone fortress of Antwerp and is the oldest building in Antwerp, which formed the former oldest city center.
MAS - Museum at the Tree
In the very docks of the port of Antwerp, it is definitely worth visiting the new MAS Museum (Museum aan de Strom), which was opened in 2010. The museum introduces visitors to the history and operation of the port in an interactive way. But you can also go to the top floor for free and enjoy the view of the city and get an idea of the entire size of the port.
Distant views of the city from the viewpoint of the LAG museum in the port.
View of the harbor from the museum
You can observe the monumental area of the port of Antwerp from the top of the LAG museum, which is located in the docks. You can observe large ocean-going cargo and course ships here.
Among the historic buildings of the center is, among other things, the building of the Plantin-Moretus publishing house from the 16th century, which has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Here you can learn about the historical techniques of the tools used for engraving. It was founded by the printer Christoffel Plantin and then his whole son-in-law Jan Moretus took over the whole company. As time went on, the publishing house was inherited from generation to generation in the family and gradually became one of the most famous publishing houses in the country.
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