Monday, October 28, 2013

A Visit to Antwerp (Belgium) - Part I




One of my favorite places to visit these days is the remarkably beautiful City of Antwerp, Belgium.




Antwerp is a city and municipality in Belgium and the capital of the Province of Flanders




Antwerp's population is about 512,000 making it the most populous municipality in both Flanders and Belgium. 




When you visit the city, you will notice the countless restaurants and bistros - one of our personal favorites is the adorable Bistrorant called "`T Hofke". Situated in an almost secret alleyway, the 16th-century Vlaeykensgang, this romantic little Antwerp restaurant with its antique interior also has an arched cellar, a lovely summer garden and the menue consists mostly of typical delicious French-Belgian bistro cuisine. And then there is also the well-known Restaurant "Sir Anthony van Dyck". This used to be a 2 Michelin Star-rated restaurant, until fabulously famous owner and chef Marc Paesbrugghe decided to change his concept in 1992. The restaurant was reopened and is still considered one of the leading, most popular dining establishments in Antwerp. It is named after Antoon van Dyck (his Flemish name) who was born in Antwerp. Sir Anthony van Dyck was a Flemish Baroque artist who became a leading court painter in England. Peter Paul Rubens referred to him as "the best of my pupils".




A visit to Antwerp will always be worth your while.




But one of the "must see" bulidings is certainly the Vleeshuis or "Butcher´s Hall". The plaque that is mounted on the outside wall next to the entrance refers to Herman de Waghemakere as the architect. 




This is a very impressive and elegant Gothic brick-built building sited a short distance to the North-West of the Grote Markt. Its facade was made of red brick with layers of white sandstone ("bacon layers" as it is locally known). It is certainly noteworthy that a Butcher's Hall was built here as early as in 1250. The building functioned as a meat market where butchers could sell their merchandise.




Construction of the new building started in 1501 and was completed in 1504. Originally used as a home for the Butchers Guild, the Butcher's Hall lost its prime function in 1810 when the French occupying forces abolished the guilds. During the 19th century the building was used as a storage depot and a theater.




The Butcher's Hall reopened in September of 2006 as the Vleeshuis Museum, a museum about the origins of music printing and the tradition of instrument builders. Concerts and operas are also being held here on a regular basis. In 2011, part of its collection was moved to the Museum aan de Stroom, a remarkable museum dedicated to the history of Antwerp.




The magnificent 16th century Stadhuis or City Hall dominates the relatively small city square. During the Spanish Fury in 1576, the new building was set on fire, leaving only the exterior walls standing. The City Hall was rebuilt three years later, in 1579.




Throughout most of the year, the main façade of the city hall is decorated with 87 flags. The central flags on the bottom row represent Antwerp, Flanders, Belgium, Europe and the United Nations. The other flags represent countries that are member of the European Union and nations that have a consulate in Antwerp.




A memorable way to get to know the city is by horse-drawn carriage.




Of course, our girls love those calm, impressive carriage horses.




The Onze Lieve Vrouwe Kathedraal or Cathedral of our Lady is a masterpiece of lace work in stone.
Begun in 1352, it is one of the finest gothic buildings in Europe. The church, which became a cathedral in 1559 replaced a Romanesque church built in the 12th century. 




The cathedral was the tallest structure in the Low Countries for several centuries.(Note: "Low Countries" make up a coastal region in north western Europe, consisting especially of Belgium and the Netherlands). Even now, the 123 meter (405ft) tall spire reigns over the city. Partly due to height restrictions in Antwerp, it is still the tallest building in the city.




The containers that were placed in the market square in front of the Cathedral are part of a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Fashion Department of the Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten van Antwerpen or Royal Academy of Fine Arts. The Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp is one of the oldest of its kind in Europe. It was founded in 1663, thus exactly 350 years ago.




The Fashion Department offers one of the most prestigious fashion courses in the world. Its 50th anniversary plus the 350th anniversary of the Academy is an ideal occasion for an exhibition at the Mode Museum or Fashion Museum that looks at its history and at the related success story of Antwerp fashion. The theme of the current exhibition is "Happy Birthday Dear Academie".




Pier poetry. The so-called "Kaaigedicht van Peter Holvoet Janssens" is actually 3 kilometers long.




Angels watching over the visitors at one of the many outdoor Cafés.




Of course, Belgium without those delicious fries would not be Belgium - we believe they are the most delicious fries you can find anywhere in the world.




But there is also streetfood vans to be found in Antwerp. The vendor in this truck offered fries with mayonnaise sauce, Belgian style. 




Cupcakes and coffee were sold from this wonderful pink food truck - a refurbished French firetruck.




When we visited, there was a rather long military parade which included this vintage-style milk truck...




...with all those wonderful milk bottles that were used to collect and deliver fresh milk a long time ago.




But these trucks are still fascinating.




Antwerp is also known as the city of bikes and bicycles - this one is packed with books and on display in front of a local bookstore, the "Othello Boekhandel"...




...and this pretty colorful one was parked right under a sign that states "Verboden Fietsen te plaatsen" - meaning that is "forbidden to park your bicycles here"...




...and you could also "rent-a-bicycle-for-a-day" - these bright red bicycles with a high recognizability factor, can be found parked and for rent throughout the city. At this particular bike rental there was a wonderful modern mural in the background.




There is also a bicycle stand in front of my all time favorite kitchenware store called "DILLE & KAMILLE". These stores can only be found in The Netherlands and Belgium. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you might have noticed that I did a blog post a while back on the Dille&Kamille store in Middleburg, The Netherlands. I also visited the Dille&Kamille store in Brugge, Belgium  in August of this year.




A personal favorite of mine are the mailbox slots made of stone ...




...that you can find throughout the city. So very different from and so much more pretty than the usual mailboxes.




This lovely doorbell belongs to the "Antwerp Kookhuys", another amazing cookware store not to be missed when visiting.




Another modern mural that attracted our attention.




How about those traditional streetcars.




Very charming indeed although this one was not named "desire".




Another view of the Tower of the Cathedral. It was finished in 1518. Of the two planned towers, only this northern tower was finished




As I already mentioned, Antwerp is known for its many fabulous cafés and restaurants - if you have a moment you could visit the Brasserie "´t Ogenblik" at the Grote Markt...




...or the Restaurant "Het Vermoeide Model" where you can enjoy classic Belgian fare such as mussels in a white wine sauce.




Next to the Cathedral, you will find this very interesting "Kathedraalcafé Restaurant" called "Het Elfde Geboed", meaning "The eleventh Commandment".




It is packed with old statues of saints and angels like the ones you will find in old catholic churches in the Low Countries.




Here you can enjoy many kinds of traditional Belgian beers with many wonderful and interesting names such as "St. Bernardus". On the menue you will also find a very good choice of local dishes. 




The collection of statues took my breath away.




A nostalgic look at a "Deux Chevaux" parked in front of the city hall on a Saturday morning.




Let us nor forget about "The Adventures of Tintin" -  a series of comic albums created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi (1907–1983), who wrote under the pen name of Hergé. The series is one of the most popular European comics of the 20th century. This scene was taken from "The Blue Lotus".




No real surprise that I liked this lovely lionhead doorknocker.




Statues at the corner of many buildings are colorful...




...and elegant.




When you leave the city center to go down to the Scheldt river,  you will come across a statues of the goddess Minerva. Minerva is the Roman goddess of crafts, wisdom, medicine, science and trade and also war, commonly identified with the Greek goddess Athena. 




There is also a statute of a lion that seems to be guarding the city - he seems to have a nice view of the city with our Lady’s Cathedral in the background.




While we were visiting, the Amerigo Vespucci was docked at the pier.




The Amerigo Vespucci is a tall ship of the Marina Militare, named after the explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Its home port is La Spezia, Italy, and it is in use as a school ship. Very impressive.




When you leave beautiful Antwerp after a long day of visiting, do make sure to take a last look at this marvelous city at night. And start planning your next trip - even if it is only for one day.

Part II of my series focuses on the International Exotic Market in Antwerp and can be found herePart III will focus mainly on one of the most beloved and utterly delightful cookie bakeries in Antwerp as I also continue on my "cookie crumb trail" in Belgium. My first stop back in August of 2013 revolved around those famous Speculoos cookies in Brugge. If you are interested, take a look at my blogpost here. The second stop will revolve around an Antwerp cookie specialty. So make sure to look out for Part III.





32 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading your article on Antwerpen, very nice pictures as well.
    best regards
    martina

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    1. Martina, thank you so much for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment. How wonderful that you enjoyed my post about Antwerp with all those pictures!

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  2. Ganz toll, Andrea! I love seeing Dille & Kamille in its homeland, wishing we had a store like this in Arizona! Your trip looks wonderful - and, until today, Antwerp had never been on my list of "places to visit." Now it is, thanks to you! Their chamber of commerce should give you a prize for bringing in tourism! Can't wait for the cookie crumbs to follow... ~ David

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    1. Lieber David, that list of "must visit" places seems to get longer and longer...why not...who knows, you might visit Antwerp one day - it is certainly worth a visit and I am sure you would be just as taken with this lovely city as we are. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful comment, dear friend!
      Und ganz viel liebe Grüße!

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  3. i think that belgium is a very good place to live and work there.. i love to visit belgium. but The distance from Belgium to Penang is 13700 km or 8513 miles. estimate 14 hours.. phew! i could only admire your wonderful pictures. thanks a lot for sharing with us.. I can imagine I am travelling with you.

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    1. The city of Antwerp along with the city of Brugge are certainly charming places to live at bu they are also very nice to visit. A bit far from Penang but still...who knows, you might get a chance to vist EU some day.

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  4. Loved the blog post on Antwerpen, it is truly a beautiful city... the pictures help too.

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    1. Dear Nicolas, so very glad to read that you enjoyed my blog post about the lovely city of Antwerp! Always so very nice to hear from you!

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  5. Andrea love, thanks for being our eyes. What a lovely trip. Hope your Monday is smooth. xo

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    1. Colette, thank you - my Monday was a tad busy as one of our daughters celebrated her 11. birthday today and there was food to be prepared, cakes to be baked, gifts to be wrapped...you know, the usual...

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  6. Beautiful!! Definitely in our list of to travel!!!

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    1. Thank you, you would love visiting the city of Antwerp - I know that you really enjoyed your trip to Paris this year, who knows maybe next time you will travel to Belgium.

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  7. My sister had been there and visiting the our lady cathedral,
    this post make me eager even more to visit it later on....

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    1. Dede, the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal (Catherdal of Our Lady) in Antwerp is amazing and there are even paintings by Peter Paul Rubens exhibited there - most certainly worth a visit if you get a chance to go one day! Thank you for stopping by!

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  8. Can you imagine getting fresh milk from those bottles? How lovely! I always enjoy when you take me to different places and cities...I learn so much and my breath is taken away by your photos. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Monet, glad that you enjoyed the "virtual tour" of Antwerp - it is so absolutely wonderful there and yes, those milk bottles were quite intriguing.

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  9. what a neat trip!!! so jealous!! I want to take my girls as soon as they can ride bicycles! :)

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    1. Alice, it is a wonderful city with many, many things and places and food to discover. If the girls are a bit older and are able to ride bikes, I am quite sure they would love to ride around Antwerp or another city in Belgium or the Netherlands. Glad that you enjoyed my virtual tour!

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  10. I read your article with great enthusiasm. I planned one-year tour of Europe. Now I'm traveling in Cologne. Today I visited Forstbotanischer garden. After 4 weeks I will visit Belgium. Thanks so much for travel ideas and suggestions.

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    1. Özer, so nice to get some feedback on my "travel posts" - I am sure you are spending a wonderful time in my hometown Cologne and visiting the "Flora" and the "Botanischer Garten" is always such a pleasure - have fun while there and let me know how you enjoy Belgium when you visit next month. I would love to know which cities you will be visiting there.

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  11. Vielen Dank fuer die wunderschoenen Fotos! Dille und Kamille kenne ich aus Utrecht, irgendetwas findet man dort immer, was man gut gebrauchen kann, nicht wahr ? :-)

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    1. Liebe Wally, in Utrecht war ich zwar noch nicht, weiß aber, dass es dort auch ein Dille & Kamille gibt - ich kann nicht genug von diesen Läden bekommen und kaufe immer unendlich viele Geschenke und Mitbringsel dort. Ganz lieben Dank für den Kommentar - es freut mich sehr wenn dieser Post gut ankommt, er liegt mir doch sehr am Herzen muss ich sagen.
      Liebe Grüße aus dem total verregneten Bonn,
      Andrea

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  12. Great post and photos Andrea. Antwerp looks like such an interesting city to visit, I would love to go there one day. I'm looking forward to part 2.....

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    1. Karen, indeed a "must see" ´when travelling in Belgium. Love to go for a visit, even if it is just for a day. Thank you for commenting!

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    1. Applesamanthalee, thank you very much for visting my blog and leaving such a nice comment - glad that you like my Antwerp post about the absolutely gorgeous city in Belgium.

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  14. Hi Andrea-
    My name is Amy and I'm with Dwellable. We are a vacation home search app and site, focused on big beautiful photos, no ads, and quality design.
    I was looking for insightful posts about Antwerp to share on our site when I came across your blog...If you're open to it, please shoot me an email at amy(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you soon!
    Amy

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    1. Amy, thank you for your interest - I contacted you via mail but since I was hospitalized for four weeks, it took way longer than anticipated. Still, I am glad that you enjoyed my pictures from Antwerp and that the blog post caught your attention!

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  15. The place were I was born, and where all my family is still living. But not me... I love these city : full of an incredible energy, very interesting places, a lot of history... Thnaks for this article about my "home"

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    1. Your are quite welcome - I have taken quite a liking to Antwerp, for us it is always like a mini-vacation if we get a chance to spend a day there and it is not that far away from where we live, it is only about a two-hour car drive away. I did not know that you were born in Antwerp - how fun that I know now! Do you still visit?

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