"Second Day in Antwerp" Antwerp Travelogue by EasyMalc
Antwerp Travel Guide: 2,853 reviews and 7,112 photos
I got to bed at 2.45 this morning after having a 24 hour day yesterday - and I’m up and back on my feet at 5.30. How keen is that?
One of the reasons I’m up so early is because whenever possible I like to see - and photograph - the main sights of a place before everyone else is around. There were a couple of other reasons as well. Firstly, today is the anniversary of the first Antwerp Meeting and so I want to socialise as much as possible and secondly, it’s going to be even hotter than it was yesterday, and so it’s going to make sense to do some sightseeing before it gets too hot.
A shower and a cup of coffee from the in-room coffee-making machine sorted me out before I left for the metro station to take me back down to Groenplaats. There were still a few individuals wandering around Astridplein on their way home from their Friday night out - and that made me feel better as well - I think.
Peter Paul Rubens is arguably Antwerp’s most famous inhabitant, and when I emerged from the metro station at Groenplaats, there he was, in all his glory, underneath the backdrop of Antwerp Cathedral in the sunshine. This promised to be a good day - and I wasn’t going to be proved wrong.
The VT itinerary this morning was for a visit to the zoo but I gave myself a free morning in the city centre instead which is why I find myself at the Grote Markt, just a short distance away from Groenplaats.
Dominating the square is the 16th century Town Hall and in the centre is the Brabo Fountain, Antwerp's favourite symbol. On the north side of the square is a collection of magnificent Guild Houses.
Surrounding the whole lot are a host of outdoor restaurants, bars and cafes and it was to one of these cafes I was heading next. It was still early but it was already hot and I ordered an ice cold drink to go with my coffee and Croque Monsieur. My breakfast break under one of the Guildhouses gave a grand view of the Cathedral but I wasn't going to venture inside this morning because, especially with the weather being so good, I had other ideas.
(See separate tip on the Grote Markt for more info on the square).
Antwerp is the second largest port in Europe, after Rotterdam - and my next port of call, so to speak, was the River Schelde and the Flandria Boats pontoon at Steenplein. Tomorrow I intended taking the 'Long Harbour Tour' and I thought it best to check out where it departed from. The office wasn't open when I got there and there was no information anywhere outside as regards sailing departure times or anything but everything seemed to be ok.
A short walk along the riverside brought me to 'The Steen', Antwerp's oldest building and originally the gatehouse to the castle. In front of it stands a statue of a giant and two small people staring up at him. The giant isn't Antigoon (of the hand throwing fame) but a chap who goes by the name of Lange Wapper, and another unsavoury character by the sound of things.
Until last year The Steen housed the Maritime Museum before it was transferred to the Mas Museum. Fortunately some old historic craft are still on display in some sheds next to it. After a quick 'Butchers' at the boats I crossed the main road to the Butchers Guild or Vleeshuis as it's officially known.
(see separate tip on The Steen and Lange Wapper)
The Vleeshuis is built in alternate strips of brick and stone which gives it a streaky bacon like appearance. I didn't go in because there was another place I wanted to visit this morning - the Plantin-Moretus Museum.
To get there I had to cross back over to the other side of the Grote Markt and then up Pelgrimsstraat, with its fine views back towards the Cathedral, and into Vridagmarkt.
The reason I wanted to visit this museum was because Christopher Plantin was an icon in the world of printing, an industry I was involved in all my working life.
This museum turned out to be a real gem. It covered the great man's life and work with many historic printing artifacts all within the 16th cent. building in which he lived and worked. It also includes his own personal library and even a Gutenberg Bible. I spent quite some time in here but I could have spent a lot more, but I had to move on because I was meeting up with Mick Owens outside the Rubenshuis at 12.15.
From the museum I made my way along to Meir, the city's main shopping street. While most people were diving in and out of the shops I couldn't take my eyes off of the KBC Tower, which when it was built (1929-32), was supposedly the tallest building in Europe.
Although, at 97 metres high, it wouldn't be called a skyscraper these days, it does have a nostalgic Art Deco appearance. There were plans to demolish it in the late sixties but today it's a protected building.
A bit further along Meir on the right hand side was Wapper (where have I heard that name before)? and the Rubenshuis where I had arranged to meet Mick.
(See my tip on the Plantin-Moretus Museum for more info)
Making my way up Wapper I saw some children cooling down in a fountain and I have to say I envied them. It's blistering hot and when I arrived at the Rubenshuis, unlike the Plantin Museum, there were hordes of people waiting to go in - and they say only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
I needed somewhere to sit and cool down and found a table outside a nearby cafe. I've come to like this Belgian beer and the ice cold Bolleke the waiter brought me didn't touch the sides - and when Mick turned up I had to have another - just to be sociable you understand. By the time we finished our drinks the queue had died down but we still had to queue up for our tickets.
Just like Plantin, Rubens worked in the house he lived in and there are similarities between the two buildings - not surprising really as they were both built around the same period in the 16th-17th cent.
Personally I preferred the Plantin Museum for various reasons (see my tips on the Rubenshuis) but you can't really come to Antwerp and not come here can you?
It was now time to meet up with the rest of the group who had met up earlier at the Cafe Monico.
The two of us walked back down Meir and took a pit stop at Cafe Blauwmoezel near the Cathedral. Mick contacted Dannie to let her know where we were but when the group arrived there was no shade for them to sit under so they carried on to the Grote Markt where we caught up with them after we finished our drink(s).
Antwerp isn't supposed to be like this. We had it on good authority that the temperature here today has reached 36 degrees but that didn't stop us marching on towards the Vleeshuis where I'd already been this morning. We only stopped for a brief look outside before continuing on past St. Paul's Church, through the Red Light District (Does anybody bother with any of that stuff in this heat?) and on to the Eilandje (Island), and more specifically the MAS.
The MAS (Museum Aan de Strom) is a modern construction with a host of things to see but unfortunately we were a bit too late to see any of them. We weren't too late though to be able to climb the escalators to the Roof Terrace for its panoramic views of the city and port (or at least a part of it).
Apart from the views it was also a bit cooler up here but we couldn't stay here for ever because we had a 10th Anniversary celebratory meal to get to.
From the MAS we hauled ourselves around Willemdock where, at Bordeauxstraat, was Fogos, the Brazilian restaurant where we were to spend the evening eating, drinking and chatting. It was a new experience for me and very enjoyable. At the end Dannie conjured up a box of goodies sent over from the VT hierarchy including T shirts, caps, mouse mats and stickers. Best of all was a special award for Dannie herself for all the efforts she's put in for VT - and well deserved too.
The evening wasn't over yet because next up was a walk to the riverside and Bocadero, a local beach bar in an old hangar on the dockside. It was unusual to say the least, but it was a great way to finish off the evening. All the deck chairs on the 'beach' had been taken by the time we got there but we found some room inside the hangar. It felt more like Ibiza than Antwerp.
All good things come to an end though and it was time, for me at least, to head back to the hotel.
I joined Jonathan, Dannie and her husband on the metro at Groenplaats while some of the others went on to an Irish bar. By the time I got to bed it was 02.45 again - but what a day.
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