Historic Antwerp

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Antwerp was already a major trading center by the 14th century, with sufficient resources to begin construction of the spectacular Cathedral of Our Lady. By the 16th century, Antwerp was the leading commercial center in Europe and home to one of continent’s most respected publishing houses, operated by Christophe Plantin. This period also saw the start of Antwerp’s diamond industry that today trades 80% of the world’s uncut diamonds. Ornate guild halls from that time still flank the city’s main square, Grote Markt, rivalling Brussell’s more famous Grand Place.

Shortly after arriving into Antwerp, we spent a day touring the city’s historic sites, including the Cathedral of Our Lady, with its amazing interior and extensive art collection, and the Museum Plantin-Moretus, containing the world’s oldest printing press.

Below are trip highlights from January 28th, 2020 in Antwerp, BE. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.

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The MAS museum building has a viewing platform at the top that we checked out on a walk into town. The Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal (Cathedral of Our Lady) pictured, was completed in 1521 and is Belgium’s most impressive Gothic cathedral.
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The dramatic Justitiepaleis (Palace of Justice) court building, with the spire of Sint-Pauluskerk (St. Paul’s Church) at left, viewed from the top of the MAS.
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The Whisperer
The Whisperer is a collection of five large statues along the Antwerp waterfront. A figure standing on top of a waterfront building “whispers” messages that are received and repeated by another at dock level, while three other figures climb the building. Personal messages can be delivered through an app.

Every day as we get close to the boat, we enjoy hearing the familiar sound of the whisperer at dock level as we approach. This picture shows the other four figures. (The dock level figure is out of the picture at left).

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The entrance to Royerssluis, the lock we passed through two days ago to enter the Antwerp inner docks.
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Jachthaven Antwerpen Linkeroever (Antwerp Marina Left Bank), on the opposite side of the river from Willemdok, with its tide-constrained entry lock.
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The view northwest down the river Scheldt. Jachthaven Antwerpen Linkeroever is across the river and the entrance to the lock we passed through two days ago, Royersluis, is just visible at right.
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Loodsgebouw (Pilotage Building), completed in 1895, was the headquarters for Antwerp marine pilots until they moved across the river to Thonetlaan. The smaller building just visible to the left is Next to the building of the buoy shed where navigation buoys were dismantled, maintained and repaired.
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View east to our berth at Willemdok in Antwerp from the top of the MAS building (Dirona is moored roughly at center, click image for a larger view). It’s a fabulous place to moor—we’re loving it here.

The basin was completed in 1812 on the order of Napoleon, the second of Antwerp’s extensive interior docks to be built. Willemdok connects to Bonaparte dock, completed in 1811. Bonaparte dock originally had a lock, now closed, providing a connection to the river Scheldt.

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Grote Markt
Antwerp’s grand main square, Grote Markt, flanked by ornate 16th-century guild halls. The fountain in the center, erected in 1887, is of the city’s legendary hero Brabo.
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Antwerp’s Stadhuis (city hall) was completed in 1565. The building face is richly decorated, but currently is not visible due to renovations. What you can see is actually a cover that looks like the original building, put in place during the works.
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Medieval Antwerp
Map of the medieval walled city of Antwerp, oriented with north to the right. The river Scheldt is at the top, and we’re standing in Grote Markt, the large blank area at top center just south of (below) the river.
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Belgian Waffles
Delicious-looking Belgian waffles are for sale everywhere.
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Grand Cafe Du Nord
We had an excellent lunch of wonderfully fresh seafood on the enclosed terrace at Grand Cafe Du Nord near Grote Markt.
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Graffiti Team
Antwerp’s Graffiti Team at work in Grote Markt. The organization removes unwanted graffiti throughout the city free of charge. Based on what we saw, they seem to be doing a pretty good job everywhere, except on the trains where it looks like a losing proposition. But the trains probably are outside their jurisdiction.
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Cathedral of Our Lady
Inside Antwerp’s spectacular Cathedral of Our Lady, built between 1352 and 1521. The cathedral is richly detailed with beautiful carvings, sculpture and artwork.
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Descent from the Cross
Among the impressive art collection at Cathedral of Our Lady are several paintings by Antwerp resident and notable Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens. Pictured is the altarpiece Descent from the Cross, one his early works that established him as a leading painter.
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The Man Who Bears The Cross
The Cathedral of Our Lady also has some beautiful modern art. Famous Belgian multidisciplinary artist Jan Fabre created The Man Who Bears The Cross in 2015.
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Nello & Patrache
Statue of Nello & Patrache, the main characters in a 19th-century locally-set story that became one of the best-known children’s story in Japan after a Japanese diplomat sent a few books home from New York in 1908. The story was little-known in Antwerp, but after so many Japanese tourists arrived asking about the locations of various settings in the story, the city last year erected this statue in front of the cathedral where an important part of the story takes place.
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Museum Plantin-Moretus
In the mid-16th century, Christophe Plantin ran one of the most respected printing houses in Europe. The museum Plantin-Moretus has excellent displays and descriptions of his printing equipment and technology, including the world’s oldest printing press. We really enjoyed our visit.
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Colorful flowers displayed streetside in Antwerp.
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16th-century owl cup on display at DIVA diamond museum in Antwerp. The museum had some beautiful items in its collection, but wasn’t as diamond-focused as we were expecting. Given that 80% of the world’s uncut diamonds are traded in Antwerp, we were hoping to learn more about the diamond industry itself.
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Het Elfde Gebod
Having a drink at Elfde Gebod (Cathedral Cafe). The walls of this unique establishment are filled with religious statues and the place is very popular—shortly before 5pm we barely got a seat and any table that came empty was snatched up immediately.
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Delicious Mexican food for dinner over wonderful margaritas at Carambra in Antwerp.
Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.


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2 comments on “Historic Antwerp
  1. Erik Reid says:

    Its amazing to see the structures that were built hundreds of years ago, and now it takes 2 years to repave one mile of road lol. Enjoy your touristing and stay safe!

    • Yeah, I keep having related thoughts. Some of these buildings were built 300+ years ago and they are absolute works of art. Even looking at more modern parts of Europe, I’m impressed. As a comparison, Seattle has been working on a 2.8 km (not long by Norwegian or Swiss standards) tunnel through town since 2013. Tromso Norway is a small town of 71,000 people north of the arctic circle. This small town has a tunnel that goes from downtown to the airport and they have another that runs through town roughly at 90 degrees to the first tunnel. The two tunnels come together in a underground roundabout. No big deal. Just a bit of engineering :-).

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