AN AFTERNOON IN ANTWERP
Another city that really wasn't anywhere near the top of my wish list, but hey, I found myself in Belgium for the weekend with a Belgian Rail Pass (10 single journey trips within Belgium for 77 EUR!) and figured, why not?! I expected nothing of this city, but Antwerp somehow managed to snag me in the moment I set foot off the train.
YOU'VE GOTTA SEE....
Most will arrive here via the Central Station (from Brussels, it takes about 35 minutes) - and I have to say, I've never seen a train station as impressive as this one. Even if you're not travelling by train, it's worth it to seek it out and admire from the inside out. The original building was built between 1895 and 1905, and it's no wonder that it also goes by the name Spoorwegkathedraal (Railroad Cathedral) and on Fodor's World's 20 Most Beautiful Train Stations.
Arriving at Antwerpen-Centraal
Stepping off the train, and greeted with this
Trying to find the exit, but amazed at this 'cathedral' look
Central Station's domed ceiling
Outside of Antwerpen-Centraal
Beautiful stone facade of the train station
Walking away but I can't take my eyes of this building
YOU'VE GOTTA SEE....
I had no idea that Antwerp was not only the Diamond mecca of Europe, but quite the shopping area too. De Meir is Antwerp's shopping zone, the place where you can find pretty much anything. Though most stores are big chain shops, they're all situated in beautiful old buildings and you'll find a few monuments here as well like the Royal Palace, the Osterrieth House and the De Kleine Koning building.
One of the largest squares in Old Town Antwerp is the "Green Place" (it used to be a cemetery, hence the name), then a parking lot (what a shame!) but now is a cute square with wonderful views of the Cathedral of Our Lady and surrounded with restaurants and cafés. A great spot for people watching!
GROTE MARKT & STADHUIS
The eye-catcher of the Grote Markt (town square) is the Stadhuis (town hall). It's comprised of several majestic buildings and the main one is usually covered with colourful flags - a beautiful sight! In front of the building is the Brabo Fountain - legend has it that this Roman soldier cut off the hand of a giant and threw it away.....and where it landed, Antwerp was built. Any truth to this legend? I think not, but it makes for a good story!
On the banks of the Scheldt River is the Het Steen (literally meaning "The Stone"), a former waterfront castle now converted to be Antwerp's Maritime Museum. Impressive looking from the outside, probably worth a look on the inside (others say so), but we didn't go in - remember we were only in Antwerp for a few hours!
Crossing the street to head over to De Meir, Belgium's largest shopping avenue
Impressive buildings everywhere you look
One of the entrances to Shopping Stadsfeestzaal
My travel buds are shopping for shoes, and I'm taking pics of lights....!
The facade is so detailed on every single store on this street
Handelsbeurs, an old stock market now closed and the city is wondering what to do with it
On Schoenmarkt, making our way to the cathedral
Groenplaats, a cute square that gives you your first glimpse of the cathedral
Checking out things at Groenplaats
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal (Cathedral of Our Lady) viewed from Antwerp's Grote Markt (Great Market Square)
Antwerp Stadhuis (Town Hall)
Fountain in front of the Stadhuis
Another view of the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal (Cathedral of Our Lady)
Het Steen (Steen Castle)
Statue of Lange Wapper - a Flemish folkloric giant - in front of the Steen Castle
Walking along the Scheldt River on Jordaenskaai by the fish market
Another cute square - Sint-Paulusplaats
Doors at Sint-Paulusparochie
Walking down Lange Doornikstraat because we hear music
YOU'VE GOTTA SEE....
CAFÉ AU LAIT STREETPARTY
We kind of stumbled upon this, and so glad that we did. Café au Lait holds this streetparty once a year (every July) and we just happened to be there that day. At first it was mostly house music, so we thought "oh cool" and continued to make our way through the drinking and dancing crowd. But then, the DJ starts playing reggae - like dancehall shit that you only hear in Jamaica and for some reason it's blasting through speakers in this little alley in Antwerp. How could we not stop and join in the party?
And we come across this
Still not quite sure what kind of event we've stumbled upon
But there's quite a few people gathered in the street
Everyone is drinking, eating or dancing
Guess I'll join in!
Drinking and dancing in the street at 2 o'clock in the afternoon
Time to try some local streetfood
Cheers-ing with strangers
Love the vibe here!
Time to start heading back to the train station
But maybe we need to grab something sweet first
Like a freshly made Belgian waffle
A waffle 'sandwich' .....
Filled with Nutella!
And another, topped with goodness
Back on the train to Brussels....Glad to have put the Belgian Rail Pass to good use!
Photos taken | written by JENNIFER MAHON
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