Antwerp Favorite Tips by Norali Top 5 Page for this destination
Antwerp Favorites: 202 reviews and 221 photos
Peter the Great in Antwerp
Favorite thing: Peter the Great is reported to come here as often as possible.
In fact, he was interested in shipbuilding. This led him to go incognito to Antwerp, see the shipbuilding works.
This statue of him was built as a memory of his stays in Antwerp.
My guide, Dannie, told me that at some times, Russians who live in Antwerp use to decorate the plaque on which the statue stands with flowers.
Fondest memory: This is a kind of well-kept secret. Though, it witnesses the past of this city.
Brabo with his trophy...
Favorite thing: In the middle of the 'Grote Markt' stands the Brabo fountain. This area is obviously one not to be missed!
Sculptor Jef Lambeaux made it in 1887. A legend behind it and the name of the city "(H)Antwerpen":
A terrible giant, called Druoon Antigoon, lived on the banks of Scheldt river in old times. He "is reported" to cut hands of sailors on the Scheldt river which refused to pay toll to him. It didn't work on Silvius Brabo though. This Roman soldier managed to kill Antigoon. He cut off the hand of the giant , threw the hand away in the river. Untrue, of course!!
Thus, according to this legend, the name of the city : hand ( Engl.: hand) -werpen (Engl.: to throw).
The real meaning of Antwerpen derived from its "functionality": Antwerpen is a place where one used to download goods and commodities (werpen meaning the action of downloading, throwing). Personnally, I see more the connection with German "Anwerfen" ... More evident, he?
Fondest memory: This one is my favourite statue of Brabo: tiny and towering on a nice metal artwork... You will find it near the cathedral
Btw, "Antwerpen" reminds me of a channel in Madagascar: Ampanalana channel or Lakandranon' Ampanalana. "Ampanalana" means "place(s) where to download, get rid of goods (commodities)". In fact, there were many of those entries since the channel is of 700-km length. But the whole channel was named after its functionality.
Favorite thing: After renovation and some changes in functionality (sometimes), this can be the result... This is located in the summer fair area, edged by the impressive Zuidpershuis. Of course, the fair wouldn't be a landmark in summer. :)
It was, amongst others, while seeing those coloured renovated townhouses that I fell in love with the city. Dunno why.. found them nice and clean.
But once again, I guess the prices soared so much that the persons who used to live there (when the buildings were old ad ugly) can't afford either the price of the partments in there either the monthly rate.
Fondest memory: That's the problem with renovated urban areas of nowadays. Renovations just push the poor inhabitants to older and uglier areas whilst yuppies are replacing the renovated houses, paying the high rates. That, in return, contributes in the housing skyrocketing in those areas.
Madonna statues in every corner...
Favorite thing: Well, I am talking about the other Madonna, of course! Not our contemp singer!
Centuries ago, Antwerp was catholic under Spanish influence, hence the statues of Madonna the city still abunds with. Nowadays, the city still has Virgin Mary as its patron saint. Madonna statues decorate several house facades, inner courtyards and street corners.
Late 18th century, Antwerp area counted some 300 Madonna statues. Throughout centuries, and esp. when republican France ruled the area, there were some massive demolitions of statues. However, they have become parts of locals identity, beliefs and culture.
You may wander in the city, spotting 160 of them, of which 60 are of historical merit.
Efforts are made to preserve those statues. To know more about preservation activities, look at below website (Dutch only, sorry).
Fondest memory: It's not something I miss BUT a good striking one.
Madonna statue on this building whose name is Heilige Huisken (Little holy house). In fact, the house is a pub... Holy, they said!! *LOL*
Favorite thing: Antwerp is what I call a church city. Churches everywhere, each one having some specificty. Please, notice that I only visited one of them but intend to visit some of them in a near future. Amongst the most important, find those:
The most important has its cathedral status: Onze Lieve-Vrouwkathedraal. It is located on Groundplaats. It spreads out on 1 ha. It is the biggest gothic cathedral of the old Low Countries (Belgium and Holland). Venerated since 9 centuries, it is Antwerp symbol. With its 123 meters high spire and strange bulb cupola, it can be seen from wherever you are in Antwerp area. I like the tower design, like a lacework in stone...
Carrolus Borromeus kerk... A lot to say: an exuberant baroque façade, in a style adopted by the Jesuits. It is located on Conscienceplaats, formerly known as Jezuitsplaats. It is reported to be partly the work of P.P.Rubens. For me, the most beautiful of what I saw. It has a tower of 58 meter height. Its name came from it was dedicated to the Italian archbishop Borromeo. The interior is said to be of an unbelievable wealth. Nevertheless, it had to pay a heavy toll to a grand fire in 1718 (39 ceiling paintings of Rubens). Interior is said to be somptuous with wide range of colours as for marble pieces... and worth noticing, it took the Jesuits some 7 years to build it. Imagine, only seven years. The Carolus Borromeus church uses to host sacred music concerts that are reported to attract melomans of all cultures, Christians and non-Catholics alike.
Sint Jacobskerk. It is the tomb of the Prince of Painting, Peter Paul Rubens. The Church has twenty-three altars. Rubens’ tomb lies behind the main altar in the Chapel of Our Lady. The painting ‘Our Lady surrounded by saints’ was painted by him for his burial monument.
Fondest memory: The only church I visited up to now in Antwerp is Sint Andrieskerk. For me, it may have been the most touching since it was designed for miserable people. I will return there for better pictures and more learning.
Sint Andrieskwartier is the area where Hendrik Conscience was born (XIX century). He is the first author who wrote in Flemish... very prolific and is said "to have taught Flemish people to read". Given his backgrounds, one can easily guess some dark, moralistic and romantic touch in him.
I saw there some eclectical interior setting: woodcurving, iron-stained glass, impressive embroidery... and a gown designed by Ann Demeulemesteer, on Virgin Mary, of course. This is the most unknown of Antwerp's churches though it contains some pieces of art. Like this baroque high altar, which originated from the former Cistercian Abbey of St. Bernard in Hemiksem. Some pictures would be in an upcoming Tlog.
And by the way, do you now Antwerp's second cathedral? Drop me a line or look for answer through my must-see activities.. :-)
Red-brick townhouses along the Schelde
Favorite thing: Red-brick houses...
Not only you would see the *sailing-inspired* houses, you would find some more traditional red-brick houses that had been renovated.
I was told the quays became so hip that it is quite expensive to buy some apartment there.
Fondest memory: While walking along the quay, I remembered having seen a building that was wide and in the modern style (glass and iron).
Years ago, I saw in a design magazine a nice interior that was reported to be located along the Scheldt. I admired the renovated interior with some pilars that they torn down to create a loft. At same time, the magazine gave enough clues to enable one to imagine the facade... I think I've found it... No pic of it in my set. I am quite sure I saw the facade of this great interior. I was quite excited I cuold spot it. Oh well, silly me... I like the interior very much, in fact.
Wood lumbs, portholes
Favorite thing: Strolling along the quays, you wouldn't miss those buildings... modern style and inspired by the sailing activity.. Not only in the design of the buildings but also in the use of materials (wood, wood timbers).
I value wood in buildings. It gives a sophisticated touch but also warmth even on futuristic or industrial design..
Fondest memory: Diverse styles along the quays... Not only those that are inspired by the sailing world... Also some other dainty red-brick buildings.
Mosaics are common to Antwerp Art Nouveau facades
Favorite thing: For some reason, I always wondered myself why, in Belgium, some Socialist Headquarters (Maison du peuple, Volkshuis) were built by Masters of Art Nouveau?
In fact, I don't know that many but the one that used to be Brussels' Maison du peuple and Antwerp's are Art Nouveau buildings. Ghent's Vooruit too, if I am not wrong.
Well, I told ya! These are my pages so I tend to lay here things that come to my mind as long as they are related to discoveries, related questioning... Selfish? I know! :)
In fact, I am not the only one to have that question in mind. And I found out, on the net, lately, what would be the reason. Officially, Victor Horta built the Maison du peuple in Brussels, in 1895, not regarding to any political trend. Yet, it were the blue-collar trade unions who, first, asked Victor Horta to draw the plans of the then future Brussels' Socialist HQ.
It is reported also that the friendship that tied avant-garde artists (Horta and co.) with intellectuals who embraced Socialist ideology (after the social disaster of that time, strikes in Charleroi...) was determinant in the binding of Art Nouveau movement to Socialist ideology. Unofficial version. Those friends were Jules Destree, Max Hallet and Emile Vandervelde, lawyers from Charleroi area. They convinced leaders of Parti Ouvrier Belge (Belgian Labour party) to give to Horta the coordination of the design works...
Also, Hallet strongly supported Horta in his project of Institut des Arts Decoratifs.
Another reason behind the binding, maybe, is the fact that some painters switched from a more "egoistic" form of art : painting, only for few well-offs, to arts decoratifs. Mission is then rather into improving "people's everyday life" (quoting). That, IMHO, can be another inconscient motive of Art Nouveau and Arts deco artists in working for such projects.
More info: http://www.labellepoque.de/bruessel/brussels.htm
Fondest memory: - This now Steiner school, then Socialist Party HQ, is beautiful. The facade is just wonderful, with its retro twist. Enlarge the pic to see more.
- Cafe Horta, a cafe in Antwerp, near the sunday market and a ugly building, whose I don't remember the name, recuperated also some of construction elements (ironworks) of the Brussels' Maison du peuple that was torn down in the 60s. Cafe Horta integrated those ironworks elements into the structure.
- Art Nouveau facades:
Mosaics are used in Antwerp to adorn the facades whilst Brussels' Nouveau artists preferred sgraffites. Sgraffites are obtained from laying colours and scratching them while still wet to draw motives of one colour then applying same process for other parts, with other colours... till you have the whole image you want. Plus, use of golden foils to enlighten some parts and lines... Find them in Brussels facades. I think a Art Nouveau guided tour will be needed to see those wonders though... Oooh! You may already check here: http://www.eurobru.com/visag085.htm
Favorite thing: L'Entrepot du Congo used to be a general warehouse, now turned into a trendy bar.
It is located in the quays along the Schelde river. Also in the same area, you would find modern space or lofts, like those in NYC or London. They used to be grain silos or old warehouses in the past.
Side note: I remembered joking and telling Dannie something like... "Mmmm... L'Entrepot du Congo... This is one of places where Belgium used to hide plunders?"... She laughed. I suspect she was surprised by my joke. Well, what did she have to do with that? She was not even born at the settling time...
Yes, Congo is rich.. of people, of natural resources, of kindness. Yet, like many countries in the area, Congo and Congolese people were victims of this plea that enabled only a handful of persons (locals and foreigners) to benefit from this wealth... I wouldn't give any name on it for it involving many practices that are inter-connected to each other. Dictatorship? corruption? bad management? large-scale looting?
Not only that plea but tribal divisions and wars too. Plus, it has been housing some wars that involve the neigbouring countries, and not the Congolese anymore. Weird situation is that, no? Like having Italians and Spaniards fighting on France territory, without the war involving the French ...
Now, the quays... those refurbishments sure gave the area this modern and (post-)industrial touch with those buildings with sailing- related themes. Sometimes, though, you will spot here and there some places that hadn't changed facade yet their functional design has changed.
L' Entrepot du Congo
De Burburestraat 2
Fondest memory: While passing in front of this building, along the quays, I couldn't help but noticing that this should be one of rare French names there.
In fact, that is not the most striking though...
L'Entrepot du Congo ... The Congo Warehouse. The name itself evokes Belgium's past...
Congo was settled by Belgium and gained Independence in 1960. Still, effects are seen in the making up of Belgian population.
Congo and Belgium were, are, and will be tied for a long time (if not forever), I guess. Not only regarding governmental actions towards the ex-"daughter" Congo but also for young Belgians being of Congolese origin.
Many of them are from families that fled Congo decades ago. Some are making up the poorest layers of society, living in social housing, jobless. Others managed to find their way to success in Belgium... Academics people in private companies, others in public services. Some are doctors, lawuers, artists, sportsmen, businessmen(women) involved in many sectors. Just like any community living in Belgium, in fact. Like the Asian, the Maghrebian communities...
They are part of Belgian society too. A relatively important community amongst "minorities" since Belgium hadn't had that many old colonies: "only" the big Congo and the small "sisters", Burundi and Rwanda.
Fine arts museum area
Favorite thing: During our walking (Nov. 30), we reached it after leaving Leopold Dewaelstraat. You know? the one on which Ann De meulemeester boutique is. Your choice: entering the Fine arts museum (more of my style) or strolling in the neighbourhood.
Dannie explained the difference between a Art Nouveau house and a Art Nouveau influenced house.
Whilst the latter has the Art Nouveau "trimmings" on its facade (the whip lines, the flowers ..), the former requires, in addition, more research in its design. From outside, they may seem the same but the difference is the cohesion between interior and exterior.
If I understand it well, the Art Nouveau house was thought from the interior first then outside setting was designed accordingly, never separately.
For Belgian plots of land being cut deep, townhouses here use to be rather long than large. Art Nouveau houses are thought according to the need of light. For that, it requires the use of iron-glass structure, central stained-glass ceiling or dome in premices that need to me more enlightened. Windows are also designed according the need of enlightning. Wide windows for study rooms and dining- rooms and less light for smoking rooms, for instance. Inside, skylights are used for staircases too.
One can "guess" from outside, by looking at the buildings, the use of rooms, since you would notice wider windows..etc.. Yes, you read "guess" since they wouldn't show you all. Hence the use of a specific glass whose blurry effect allows to preseve intimacy, while letting light come...
Want to know more? I had a chance to find this website, user-friendly with infos to "get it all": historical facts, evolution, research in the use and properties of building elements, technical points, the influences, the trends, the Masters... Art Nouveau around Europe.
Website is in French and Dutch but it is edited by a team from Brussels, "Art Nouveau capital city".
Fondest memory: I remembered that during my very first walk (July), with Dannie in Antwerp, I didn't want a picture of this "boat house" on Schildersstraat. It was cute, yes! I knew it was Art Nouveau but I saw it as the obvious thing in Belgium.
It took the rehearsal mini-meeting in mid- October to arise my interest in the building. Meanwhile, what happened? I don't know.
I've been always interested in design, architecture but so far, I've never pushed it that far to make research on Art Nouveau. You know, going beyond the surface :) It's at that very moment that I started researching on it... and I recommend checking the above website. You'll learn a lot without being bored.
You may be interested in Horta museum too. English, French, German and Dutch there. http://www.hortamuseum.be/
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