Hidden Gems in Antwerp
Must see Antwerp
Yes, I know, I’ve posted about Antwerp a lot on my blog. Whether it was a post on the Christmas lights, the Zoo or to express my love for this city, it’s definitely one of my favourite towns to promote.
What I’ve learned over the years is that every city has hidden gems that are right under your nose, but those are exactly the ones that are being overlooked. Antwerp is no exception in this.
Feeling very bare with solely my Iphone, and not my DSLR, in hand, I traveled down to Antwerp again a few weeks ago. Determined to find new places to visit. Was my trip successful? I would say, yes.
Our first ‘catch of the day’ was an interesting one. The futuristic-looking Havenhuis, or Port House, was designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid. The building is truly eye-catching, and was opened in September 2016. Sadly, Zaha didn’t have the chance to attend the official opening, as she passed away earlier in the same year.
The building below the diamond-shaped structure is an 100-year-old fire station. Apparently, visitors are welcome to visit Havenhuis during the weekend. Something I probably should do soon too.
2. Jardim – Antwerp’s summer pop up bar
Right where we parked our car (on ‘t Eilandje – the Small Island), we found our second discovery of the day. With a similar look to Boxpark in Shoreditch, London, a pop-up park was opened filled with dark containers. These now house Jardim: a summer pop-up bar.
We arrived when it was still early, so the bar was closed. However, a flea market was set up right in front of the containers, so we had a quick peek to see if there was something to our liking. Not entirely convinced, we made our way to the city center without buying anything.
3. Art exhibitions
While walking around town we noticed quite a few admission-free unique exhibition spaces scattered around. We managed to visit two during our day in town.
The first one was GAST, situated in the Oude Beurs. An absolute joy to visit, as the building that dates from 1485 is hidden behind the 19th century facades of the Hofstraat, near Market Square. I read after our visit that Oude Beurs was as a place where they traded spices back in the day. Now, it’s inviting artists to create, grow, and experiment their arts. This all with some very interesting results!
The second exhibition place we stumbled upon was Gallerie de Zwarte Panter (Gallery the Black Panter). Also located very close to Market Square, this gallery is based in the former Saint-Julianus Guesthouse (1303) and the adjacent chapel (1505). We found work of different artists here, and I was told that De Zwarte Panter is extremely popular among artists, musicians and authors. That’s why their are quite some events being held here on a regular basis.
4. Vlaeykensgang – Medieval Antwerp
A hidden alley just like in the Harry Potter stories. That’s the only way I can describe Vlaeykensgang. It takes only a blink of an eye to pass by this street without noticing it (something which I always did until a few weeks ago).
Only a few minutes’ walk from Antwerp’s Cathedral, Vlaeykensgang is hidden between two main streets and can be entered through a gate that isn’t any wider than 1 meter. The passage dates back to 1591 and was originally a street of shoemakers. Today, you can find some restaurants and beautiful historical houses here. The best bit I find about this street is that it feels like you’ve entered a completely different world. A must-do!
5. Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library
Visiting Antwerp during the weekend? With a bit of luck, the doors of the Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library are open, and you can have a glance over more than a million books in this repository library dating back to 1481. Very much a movie location, if I may say so. The collection consists mainly of Dutch literature, pre-1830 books, works on the history of the Netherlands, and Flemish folk culture.
The Nottebohm Room of the Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library in #Antwerp is like a set from a Harry Potter movie. The library has a collection of over one million books and its history ranges back to 1481. The Nottebohm Room is only open to the public during certain activities. We visited it yesterday, including the exhibition on social media and its impact on society.
6. The Calvary at St. Paul’s Church
St. Paul’s Church itself is a beautiful example of a Gothic style church (with a Baroque tower) in the heart of Antwerp. However, what fascinated me most was the statue garden, called the Calvary (1697).
I learned that this garden was created by the brother’s van Ketwigh, who were both Dominican friars. The structure of the garden itself was built on an ancient cemetery and includes 63 statues and nine reliefs. The statues are assigned into four groups, called: the angel path, the garden of prophets, the garden of evangelists, and the Cavalry itself. Christ can be found at the cross on the top. What do you think? Did they go overboard with the number of statues?
Don’t forget to read part two of the hidden gems in Antwerp.