Discover Antwerp with Emerald Waterways 

Ancient meets modern in Antwerp, a place where beer and chocolate are as important as heritage and culture

Belgium’s major economic player, Antwerp’s affluence is immediately recognisable as soon as you step foot in the ornate, beautiful, historic centre.

The old centre of the city is rich with imposing buildings representing numerous historic architectural styles, complete with decadent flourishes. World-leading fashion houses, cutting-edge jewellers and some of the continent’s finest chocolatiers are present in abundance in the beautiful old centre, where a slow pace of life and attention to detail are thoroughly respected.

Charming, cultural and cool; Antwerp boasts an eclectic mix of fine arts, fine food and exhilarating entertainment. Few places on the continent so effectively revere its past whilst staying at the cutting edge of modern culture. Whether you’re interested in the Antwerp of the past or the present; this charming city is absolutely ripe for exploration.

Visiting Antwerp as part of an upcoming European river cruise and tour? Get acquainted with the city’s highlights and must-sees in our in-depth destination guide.

Antwerp, Belgium

Architectural Highlights

Antwerp is a clashing contrast of architecture, its medieval heart surrounded by state-of-the art contemporary buildings which tell of the city’s progressive, forward-thinking culture. Discover a handful of the city’s foremost structures below.

Central Station

central station
With an imposing façade, vast dome and highly-detailed flourishes throughout, Antwerp’s main railway station is also one of the city’s greatest architectural triumphs. Routinely voted amongst the world’s most beautiful railway stations, this historic terminal is a must-visit, even if you haven’t a train to catch. Designed by Louis Delacenserie and Clement van Bogaert, the station was built between 1895 and 1905, and replaced a humble wooden structure which had served as the city’s principal station since 1854. Due to its eclecticism, it’s impossible to pin down the station’s overarching architectural style. Indeed, Delacenserie deliberately sought inspiration from contrasting styles, adding to the station’s charm.

Museum aan de Stroom

museum aan de stroom
Significantly more modern than other must-see sights listed here, the Museum aan de Stroom is barely five years old, but the riverside exhibition space has won fans and plaudits the world over. The striking building may divide passers-by, but visitors are universally won over by the wonderful exhibitions delving into Antwerp’s rich history held within. If you decide to pay a visit to Museum aan de Stroom, be sure to make your way to the large rooftop terrace. Offering panoramic views over Antwerp, the museum provides one of the best vantage points to drink in the beauty of this old city.

Grote Markt

grote markt
If you are heading to Antwerp’s Grote Markt (Great Market Square) for the horse tram tour, be sure to spare an hour or so to enjoy the architectural highlights of this beautiful part of the old city quarter. Home to the City Hall, majestic Guildhalls and the Brabo fountain, depicting the legend of Antwerp’s formation (when Roman soldier, Silvius Brabo, reputedly killed a giant). If you’re lucky when visiting Grote Markt, you may be able to take in a show or presentation at the Antwerp Jazz Club, one of Belgium’s best-loved and most-respected music venues. Some of the continent’s most revered jazz musicians have graced the stage at this charming old club.

Cultural Features

Art, music and history make Antwerp prime for a cultural city break – whether you’re looking for museums, galleries or authentic medieval architecture. Here, we showcase a handful of the city’s must-see cultural highlights.

Cathedral of Our Lady

cathedral of our lady
Even more of Rubens’ works are on show in the Roman Catholic church, Cathedral of Our Lady, in the centre of Antwerp. However, these are not the only highlights of the beautiful 16th-century gothic cathedral. Complete with an extravagant spire peeking out above the rest of the Antwerp skyline, the cathedral is recognised by UNESCO as a site of unique heritage and intrigue. The site of the cathedral has held significance for more than 1,000 years, with a small chapel residing here from the 9th to the 12th century. Over the centuries, the cathedral has maintained a position of importance not just in local culture and religion, but also the arts.

Rubens House

rubens house
The former home of Peter Paul Rubens, and now a museum dedicated to showcasing the master painter’s works; Rubenhuis is one of the most popular spots in Antwerp among visitors. Unlike many of Europe’s great artists, Rubens did not live unappreciated in the depths of squalor, and was able to construct a rather decadent Italian-style villa in his beloved Antwerp. Dozens of paintings from Rubens are now exhibited in this lovingly-maintained museum, as well as works from his contemporaries. Rubens’ works exhibited in the museum range from early pieces such as Adam and Eve, to self-portraits completed later in life. The museum is even home to the Rubenianum, a centre dedicated to the study of the great artist

Vlaekensgang

vlaekensgang
If you prefer wandering city streets to jostling through museums, be sure to pay a visit to Antwerp’s Vlaeykensgang. An alleyway dating back to 1591, it’s one of the best-preserved areas of the city’s old quarter, with original brick buildings, street lanterns and cobblestones. In the medieval period, this was one of the poorest streets in Antwerp, occupied by shoemakers and other craftsmen. Walking through the alley today truly is a step back in time, with small antique shops and intimate art galleries adding to the charm and atmosphere of the district.

A glimpse into Antwerp's past

Settled since the Roman era, Antwerp was a key player in the development of Europe, its port becoming a world centre for trade in the Middle Ages. Discover the city’s rise in our interactive timeline.

Food and Drink Highlights

Antwerp is a much-loved destination for foodies, delivering vibrant street food, elegant restaurants and some of the continent’s foremost beer bars. Explore some of the dining encounters you can look forward to below.

Fries

fries
Fries may not strike you as the echelon of gourmet eating, but they’re a staple of Antwerp’s street food scene, and have been for decades. Belgian fries are recognised the world over for their crunch and flavour, and are simply irresistible served with a dollop of thick and creamy mayonnaise. You’ll find stalls and eateries selling fries throughout Antwerp, normally in large paper cones which make them easy to eat on the move – perfect for a light lunch as you take in the city sights.

Chocolate

chocolate
Antwerp has steadily earned a solid reputation for its chocolate, and is now home to several revered chocolatiers, including Del Rey, Burie, Dominique Persoone, Goossens, Pierre Marcolini and Günther Watté. Some chocolate varieties to look out for during your visit include the iconic Antwerpse Handjes. Developed in 1934, these chocolate biscuits are filled with marzipan and made in the shape of a hand, in reference to the legend of Silvius Brabo. They’re available from most chocolate shops and confectioners throughout the city, and make an excellent souvenir for loved ones back home.

Beer

beer
Belgian beer is arguably the most famous and historic in the world, and Antwerpians are fiercely proud of their city’s native brews. The De Koninck Brewery is the oldest and largest in the city, and brews Antwerp’s most famous beer: De Koninck Triple. Tours of the brewery are available for those with a passion for ale, while it’s well worth giving your patronage to any of Antwerp’s atmospheric beer bars. If you’re looking for an alternative to De Koninck Triple, try Bolleke, Wild Jo or Seefbier

Featured Tours

Charmed by the heritage and highlights of Antwerp? Our Holland and Belgium itinerary lets you see the city as part of an immersive tour of the Low Countries. For more information or to book your place, visit the homepage or call us today on 0808 231 2869.