Half-term and we fancied a long weekend away. I don’t know why we picked Antwerp, but that was the destination. We like Belgium (apart from Brussels) but we’ve done Bruges to death, and after my recent Frontline Walk I fancied a break from Ypres (our usual destination), so Antwerp or Ghent seemed the logical choice.
I think the last time I was in Antwerp I was about 10 or 11 so my recollections aren’t really relevant these days. We decided on Eurostar rather than flying. It was the first time we’ve used Eurostar and we were really impressed, it’s a great service. A train from St. Pancras to Brussels, a 10 minute wait in Brussels, and we were in Antwerp’s majestic main station within 4 hours of leaving London.
We stayed in the Radisson Blu opposite the station, not much to say about the hotel – it was clean, comfortable, served a good breakfast, and is very close to the tram stops. The trams are the easiest way to get about the city and you can buy a travel card which is very good value. If you get the tram from the station to Melk Markt you are then within walking distance of the Grote Markt, the cathedral, and the main sites.
The MAS museum is well worth a visit. A brutal, modern building, guiding you through the development of Antwerp and its docks, as well as the influence of Belgium’s maritime activities. It also has an excellent cafe on the ground floor which is a great stop for lunch.
A highlight was a visit to the Plantin-Moretus museum, a world heritage site, with over 400 years of history on the one site. It contains the world’s oldest printing press and a huge collection of significant texts. The wealth on display (for the time) is staggering.
The Grote Markt is a pleasant place to spend a couple of hours people watching, and enjoying the local brew De Koninck, served in bollekes. A tip – ask for a bolleke, they’ll know.
A great city, easy to get around, lots of history and museums, some good shopping, some great beer, and of course the famous waffles and frites (not together!). We’ll be back.