This city in Belgium has it all, history, heritage, art and architecture.
Antwerp's mercantile reputation and commercial success (the port-city is a world-famous diamond centre) have often overshadowed its awesome credentials as a destination for art lovers. Museums with priceless art objects, contemporary art galleries, the home of Rubens, a large literary archive, a very aesthetic town hall, and a railway station that is widely regarded as one of Europe's most artistic...Antwerp has it all.
Actually Belgium has a great deal to offer, but if you have time only for Antwerp it will still be a richly rewarding visit. And these are among its many lures.
Letterenhuis is now Flanders' largest literary archive and tells you a great deal about the region's literary heritage. It is a storehouse of manuscripts, documents, letters and portraits of Flemish authors. It is an impressive collection worth your time.
Located in Zuid, considered one of the city's trendiest places, the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (M HKA) is an international museum showcasing works of Flemish and global artists, and much more. Besides the exhibits, it is a dynamic space where you will see artists meeting and discussing art. It is also a centre where regular lectures, performances, concerts and debates are held.
A visit to the Plantin-Moretus Museum is a must. Its precious contents are recognised by UNESCO's ‘Memory of the World’ programme. Named after the famous printers Christophe Plantin and Jan Moretus, it was originally a printing and publishing house established in 1555. It now has a library with thousands of old editions of books, art objects, typographic material, besides a graphics collection. The worlds' oldest printing presses are here. One can get an overview of book printing between the 15th and 18th century. The Prints Room has invaluable prints and drawings by Antwerp masters ranging from the 16th to 18th century.
Another must is The House of Rubens (Friday Review, May 17, 2013 ), which has a great collection and draws lakhs of visitors every year. The legendary baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens (1577--1640) lived in this palatial house with his family for over 25 years. It was his home-cum-studio and a large body of his work is displayed here.
The buildings of Red Star Line shipping company, which transported lakhs of people from this port to Canada and America, are now a museum visited by tourists and contain interesting memorabilia. Egged on by host Raj Khalid, one visited the Antwerp Railway Station - not to catch a train but for sightseeing. The magnificent building deserves its fame. A vast aesthetic dome, large waiting hall, impressive viaduct, lavish use of marble (20 different kinds) and artistic touches at every point make it a superlative structure. No wonder it is often compared to a palace and a cathedral. The station has won a prestigious award for its cultural heritage.
The MAS museum has an Indian connection, the facade uses red sandstone sourced from western India! Housing around 4.7 lakh exhibits relating to the history of Antwerp's port and its people, over several levels, it also has a fine-dining restaurant on the top floor. At the foot of MAS, in the museum square, is the famous Dead Skull mosaic by Luc Tuymans, spread out over 1,600 sq.m. (Antwerp has a large Indian population, mostly Gujaratis engaged in the diamond business.)
The City Hall aka Town Hall is a 16th century building on the side of the Market Square and a big tourist draw. Marc Van Peel, who heads the Antwerp Port Authority guided one around the Renaissance building that has a large and impressive collection of art on display in its halls, alongside staircases, office rooms and corridors. The central area is richly ornamental and the whole building is noted for its stately decor and period elegance.
One of Antwerp's best-known landmarks has been the famous Royal Museum of Fine Arts or the KMSKA, but it has been closed for renovation since 2011. It is scheduled to reopen in 2018. However, its collections have been stored in select venues in and around Antwerp, where several masterpieces are on view.
The new headquarters of the Antwerp Port Authority, overlook the harbour and the city. Architecturally impressive, it is regarded as the city's new landmark. Scattered around the city are many more museums and interesting places - too numerous to enumerate here. One can walk or drive around to discover them all.