Monday, January 4, 2016

Visiting Antwerp an Overview

Antwerp is Belgium’s second largest city yet still maintains it's small town ambiance. Walking the beautiful streets you are never far from its historic past. The architecture is spectacular yet familiar. 

I am not the kind of person who usually sits and just drinks in the atmosphere, I invariably have an agenda and it doesn’t allow for much sitting. In Antwerp, I sat on the Grote Markt and stared at the beauty of the buildings and the wonderful statue of Brabo. Even in the January cold, it warmed my heart.

The Cathedral is one of the most spectacular in Europe. I can’t begin to describe its glory. It is jam packed with great pieces of art and the ceiling of the dome is so utterly magnificent that some people were literally lying on the floor to photograph it. I didn’t go that far but I certainly did my share of photo taking. A hand full of other churches are also worthy of a visit.

Quick Suggestions

 Diamonds are not the only gems in Antwerp. The artwork and churches are certainly gems as well. Antwerp has been home to Peter Paul Rubens, his talented student Anthony Van Dyke, Quintin Metsys, and my favorite, Brueghel.

A visit to the Rubenshuis is a must. Here you get to see not only where the master lived but also where he worked.

If you only have time to visit one museum in Antwerp make it the Mayer van der Bergh. This is the brainchild of one man, Fritz Mayer van der Bergh and is a superb collection of paintings and sculpture mostly from the Middle Ages.

The Nicholas Rockox House is another small gem and the Plantin-Moretus Museum is just fantastic.

My only disappointment was that the Diamond Museum was closed for the month of January. I guess all the sparklers need to be cleaned.

We drove into Antwerp from Laarne. I would not recommend it to anyone unless like us you need your car for the remainder of the journey. Traffic is heavy and the signs are very confusing. We had difficulty finding our hotel but we eventually did much to our delight. 

A tram and bus system is available but from where the hotel was located on the Stadpark, it didn’t seem to help us much. We traveled by cab or walked. The Groenplaats is a good location to pick up trams, buses, and cabs. Taxis can be hard to find except at hotels. 

The old city is very easy to navigate and we were able to cover it easily walking. This is a very visual city and is much more enjoyable on foot than speeding around. 

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