I visited Antwerp in December as part of a business trip to Brussels. Antwerp is only about a half-hour from Brussels Airport and there are about two trips per hour from the Brussels Airport train station.
The main purpose of my trip was to visit the Museum aan de Stroom (MAS). The MAS museum “tells the story of the people, the past, present and future of the city of Antwerp and the world.” The building, as you can see from these photos is really spectacular. There are changing exhibits and permanent exhibits about the city and port as well as some more esoteric subjects. You can ride the escalators up the building to a lobby on each floor without paying admission. From the 9th floor you can walk up a set of stairs to the roof where there’s an outdoor area with spectacular views of the city and river. It’s a very neat museum and experience.
Next I had lunch in a restaurant called De Groote Witte Arend (Flemish only website) which specialises in Belgian cuisine and beer. It’s on the other side of the historic city center from the MAS museum, about 15-20 minute walk. The building is quite old, there’s a short history at the back of the menu. For many years it was a nunnery and there is still a chapel off the side of the courtyard. The restaurant has several rooms arranged around the courtyard. It was quite quiet at late lunch on a mid-December weekday, but I can imagine it being a lot of fun when it’s crowded.
I ordered one of my favourite Belgium meals: carbonnade (or: Vlaamsche Stooflees in Flemish). It’s beef stew cooked in the local dark beer and is said to be the national dish of Belgium. Generally served with “Belgium” fries, here with a chicory salad too. The version here was the best I have ever had, the beef was cooked just right and the fries were just out of the cooker, the salad was a great counterpoint. One of the best meals I ate all year! I drank a De Arend blond beer with it. The waiter was extremely friendly and helpful (in English) in helping me pick a beer. In short, a great place to visit for the food and the beer!
After lunch I walked over to the river, it was a very grey day, but it’s always fun watching the water go by. There’s a beautiful art deco building that serves as a boarding ramp for large passenger boats, now there’s a restaurant inside too. It has great Antwerpen signs.
Next I walked across the street to the St Anna pedestrian – bike tunnel located at the Sint-Jansvliet square (end of the Hoogstraat).
This historic landmark is a 572 meter long tunnel under the Scheldt river. It was built in 1931-1933 to link the old city centre with the settlement on the left bank of the river. The building looks like the Battery Tunnel entrance in Manhattan and so I fantasised about filming a Men in Black parody here … They have preserved the wooden escalators, but there’s also an elevator for bikers. Quite neat.
I walked back through the old city to the Central Railway Station. The station has been renovated in recent years to allow trains to travel through on their way from Brussels and south, to Amsterdam and north. I visited while it was under construction several years ago, but now it’s finished and it’s wild. At least four levels of trains plus connections to the city’s metro system. They managed to keep the historic train shed – beautiful – and headhouse building. The photos here do not do the station justice, it’s very hard to photograph … just visit it!
The trip back to Brussels took about half an hour (we did not go via the airport station). By the way, it was very easy to buy my railway tickets on line at the Belgium railway’s website www.belgianrail.be.