Although a fairly large city, Antwerp is still one of Belgium’s hidden gems. Antwerp is a city that fully embarrasses the Christmas spirit, from its gingerbread looking architecture, it’s many Christmas markets, cobbled streets and religious iconography.
Antwerp is famously known for a key painter in the world’s art history. His name is Peter Paul Rubens. He had his family home and workshop here in the centre of Antwerp. I have seen many of his paintings since living in London in the major galleries, so this made his house a trip highlight. Being from the time period of the 17th century, naturally his house was decorated with very dark furnishings making it feel like night time inside. The walls had impressive dark leather imprinted wall paper with many varying artworks throughout.
A lot of Ruben’s works symbolise periods of his life, especially in the gallery at the end of the house. He was employed by many powerful people, however his works revolved around religious life.
You can see the great spire of this Cathedral from anywhere within Antwerp. It has a dominating presence and draws you towards the heart of Antwerp old town. Inside the Cathedral itself, it has an extensive collection of Ruben’s works as well as many other old master paintings. It’s like an art gallery within itself. The stone work is impressive and you can easily spend an hour exploring in here.
St Paul’s Church
Towards the harbour, is the hidden church of St Paul’s. It has an interesting entrance outside with the outside crypt, and sculptures of those trapped in hell! The inside is large and white, decorated with dark woodwork.
In this fabulous house museum, you will find the oldest printing presses in the world. Plantin was Europe’s first major printer and became one of the most wealthy and powerful figures in his day. He used to be able to speak five languages so he could print a variety of books. He started up his business in the 1600’s and is still going strong in its 9th generation. The museum shows which famous researchers he worked with, as well as being one of the first printers to translate the bible from Latin to more common languages.
Het Steen is a little castle that sits on the riverside of Antwerp, and one of the cities most photogenic buildings. However, it is also very well known for the statue of Lange Wapper. A tall peeping Tom figure showing off his cod piece to diminutive onlookers.
Where we were staying in Antwerp, there was a cute Belgian pub underneath us. there were over 200 different beers you could try and was quite quirky! a good place to start the night off!