Cobbled lanes, 16th-century architecture, modern skyscrapers, and all the beer: if you’re looking for a vibrant destination in Western Europe that’s easy to reach by train or plane, then consider a visit to Anvers, otherwise known as Antwerpen or Antwerp. Here’s the best of Antwerp in one day; an Antwerp itinerary to make the most of 24 hours in the city and discover the best things to do in Antwerp.
Admire Antwerp Central Station
Looking at a train station may not be one of the best things to do in many cities but in Antwerp, it is an absolute must. The Gothic architecture of the building’s impressive exterior will take your breath away and the main hall is equally splendid. The station is one of the city’s most treasured landmarks and has been rated as one of the world’s top five most beautiful train stations. The station is much more than just a pretty face however and has been fully adapted to operate in the 21st Century with its multilevel platforms.
Learn about printing at the Museum Plantin-Moretus
This former printing press was once one of the finest in the world. The site has been home to museum since 1876 and is now a UNSECO World Heritage Site. It may be unusual for a museum to be inducted into World Heritage Site status but once you visit this fascinating place. The building itself dates back to medieval times and, along with the courtyard, is alone worthy of a visit. Combine this with a museum exploring the world’s oldest printing press, a 17th Century library and a collection of valuable artwork and you will soon see why the Museum Plantin-Moretus is so highly regarded.
Shop for diamonds
Give a girl chocolate and diamonds and she will love you forever. Maybe! What’s sure though is that the two make Antwerp a pretty romantic destination.
The diamond trade has been flourishing in Antwerp for more than five centuries. Actually, as much as 84% of the world’s rough diamonds used to pass through this district, making it the largest diamond district in the world.
Antwerp’s diamond quarter is right next to its fabulous train station and strolling by the glittery shop windows is quite an experience. Imagine hundreds of diamond shops right next door to each other! Window shopping is a must. Buying is optional.
Also, the sparking, multifaceted diamond was invented here (okay, what was invented was actually a polishing tool to accomplish this). If you want to watch cutters and goldsmiths at work, stop by DiamondLand.
Visit the Rubens House (Rubenhuis)
Peter Paul Rubens was a famous 16th and 17th century Baroque painter from the Netherlands, and was a fan of Rafael’s, the Italian painter.
In his day, this was the house where Rubens created his masterpieces, watched his children playing in the garden, and received his high, noble, and even royal guests.
His home, now the Ruibenshuis Museum, accurately reflects Rubens’ quirky personality: a talkative, social, and multilingual speaker, but at the same time a simple middle-aged man who seeked nothing more than the peace of his own home.
Explore Het Steen
Het Steen is the name of a small but pretty castle just on the side of the river in Antwerp. The castle dates back to the early 13th Century and makes for some great photographs. Also worth photographing is the odd statue outside the castle of Lange Wapper, a large peeping tom character who is exposing his codpiece to passers by. There is nothing to be seen inside the castle itself but the nearby maritime museum, with its collection of historic barges, is worth a look while in the area.
Relax in the town square
Antwerp’s Grote Markt or town square dates back to the 16th Century and is a beautiful example of architecture from this period. The town hall is the centerpiece and is built in Renaissance and Gothic styles. The statue at the centre of the square is of Brabo, a legendary giant slayer, and dates back to 1887. The nearby street of Hofstraat is where the old stock exchange was located until the 16th Century.