1. Visit Chocolate Nation: A museum that honours Belgian Chocolate
Did you know that there’s a museum dedicated to Belgian chocolate, the best one in the world? And yes, it’s found in Antwerp!
Chocolate Nation takes you through a visual journey of how a humble cocoa bean becomes a finished product that drives the world crazy. Here, you’ll learn every step of the chocolate-making process and its origins via multimedia presentations and interactive exhibits.
After the tour, there’ll be sumptuous Belgian chocolates waiting for you. Enjoy your heart’s content by tasting the samples or buying from the museum shop. Sure, you can find a plethora of Belgian Chocolate shops in Antwerp but you’ll appreciate this world-class treat even better after learning their origins and crafting process.
2. Explore the Antwerp Central Train Station
Exploring a train station might not sound like an interesting thing to do with your family, but this station in Antwerp is an exception.
Antwerp Central Station (Middenstatie) is a breathtaking 19th-century edifice in the heart of the city. The train station, also dubbed the “Railroad Cathedral” is considered one of the most impressive and elegant train stations in the world.
Aside from its jaw-dropping grandeur, Antwerp Central Station is also historically significant. It’s the first station of Belgium’s public railway, which was the first of its kind in Europe.
Whether or not you’re taking the train, you can tour and admire the interiors of this treasured landmark. You can also find a lot of amazing hotels and serviced apartments in Antwerp, which serve as the perfect base for your city break.
3. Mingle with animals at Antwerp Zoo
What’s a family vacation without up-close and personal animal interactions? Luckily, you don’t have to travel miles to see majestic creatures because Antwerp Zoo is located right next to the Central Station.
Founded in 1843, Antwerp Zoo is one of the oldest animal parks in the world. It’s composed of several well-preserved buildings including the Egyptian Temple (1856) for giraffes, elephants, and Hartmann’s mountain zebras. Today, the zoo houses over 7,000 animals of about 950 species, including rare breeds like the white rhino, mountain gorilla, and okapi. Unlike most zoos, the animals here are kept in the most natural environment possible.
Thanks to its extensive variety of species, breeding success, utmost care bestowed on the animals, and impressive Art Déco architecture, Antwerp Zoo is considered one of the finest zoos in Europe.
4. Admire classical art at Rubens House (Rubenshuis)
If your family is fond of art, culture, and history, you’ll surely love Antwerp’s wide array of excellent museums and galleries. One vital stop in your Antwerp itinerary is the Rubens House (Rubenshuis). The Flemish townhouse with a lovely courtyard is the former home and workshop of Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), one of the most popular Flemish artists.
Today, the elegant home is a museum dedicated mainly to the work of Rubens and his contemporaries. Travel back in time as you gaze upon dozens of classical paintings and artworks installed in rooms, including his early Adam and Eve (c. 1600) and Annunciation (c. 1628) and a few period furniture.
5. Discover Antwerp by stepping inside the museums and galleries
Aside from The Rubens House, some other amazing museums and galleries should be a part of your city travel plan:
- MAS museum – explores the history of Antwerp and its role as a significant port city
- Museum Plantin-Moretus – a UNESCO World Heritage Site housed in a building that dates back to medieval times. The museum explores the world’s oldest printing press, a 17th-century library, and a variety of valuable artwork
- Museum Mayer van den Bergh – A four-story Neo-Gothic house that contains a remarkable collection of more than 3,000 artworks, collected by a fine arts connoisseur, Fritz Mayer van den Bergh.
- Royal Museum of Fine Arts (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten) – contains a prestigious collection of 20,000 works of visual art from the 15th to the 21st century.
6. Marvel at the Cathedral of Our Lady (Antwerp Cathedral)
Antwerp is home to many historic buildings and the Cathedral of our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwkathedraal) founded in 1521 is one of them. Antwerp Cathedral is Belgium’s largest Gothic church and one of the most iconic buildings in Antwerp’s skyline. Being the tallest cathedral in the Low Countries, the spire of the Cathedral of Our Lady is visible from many areas of the city.
The interiors flaunt a striking mix of Baroque decor and Ruben’s artwork. Religious or not, it’s hard not to worship the finest of the remaining works of art displayed in the nave, aisles, and cathedral treasury.
Throughout the centuries, the cathedral has endured a lot of serious damages, from fires to wars,. Only a few of the lost treasures have been recovered. But even with the 19th-century restorations, the old-world charm of the Gothic church seems beautifully preserved.
7. Travel back in time by exploring the town square
Want to travel back to the 16th century for free? Visiting Antwerp’s Grand Place (Grote Markt) is a must.
Grote Markt is a lovely square in the heart of the old town. It boasts a towering centerpiece: a town hall ( Stadhuis) built in Renaissance and Gothic styles. You’ll also see the huge statue of Silvius Brabo, a legendary giant slayer, standing at the centre of the square to greet you.
Bordering the impressive town square are charming guild houses, which originally served as headquarters of the city’s 16th- and 17th-century guilds. Walk towards the back of the town hall and you’ll see a former guild house, turned into a Folk Museum, housing an extensive collection of traditional arts and crafts. Another one is the Ethnography Museum, which highlights non-European cultures.
8. Have a food trip
Belgian chocolate is just one of the few nibbles Belgium is famous for. There’s still a wide range of treats to sink your teeth into. These comfort foods include Belgian fries, liege waffles, and for the adults, cold pints of Belgian Beer.
Antwerp is a great place to experience these gastronomic pleasures. You can have fries in Frites cafes, which specialise in serving the best fries around. You can enjoy these delectable waffles loaded with toppings in cafes and small kiosks. And for the beer, Antwerp is home to several great breweries to quench your thirst. Cheers!
Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is a content writer during the weekends, and a travel and food blogger 24/7. She may be an awkward introvert but she’s got a lot to say about travel, food, and cultural appreciation. To know more about hotels and travel blogs, you may visit PREMIER SUITES PLUS Antwerp.