If you didn’t know, me and Cameron went to Belgium in the first week of the New Year for a few days and on the second day of our little mini-holiday we gallivanted (lovely word) off to Antwerp for the day. We hopped on the train at Brussels and whizzed our way into Antwerp and spent as much of the day there as possible, it obviously wasn’t a full 24 hours but I know you won’t tell on me. Just so you know I am also working on my ’72 Hours in Belgium’ post where you can find out all about what me and Cameron got up to on our holiday.
I’ll be sharing with you what we spent the day doing and some sight-seeing opportunities which you can’t miss out when visiting. I’ll also be including the activities and Christmas Market we visited, but if you’re reading this in the summer months the market won’t be there anytime soon, for obvious reasons.
If you’re heading into Antwerp by train the station will obviously be unmissable, but it’s a sight you definitely should go see either way. The station is considered one of the most beautiful stations in the world and judging by the pictures you can’t help but believe it! Spanning across four levels the station is beautiful from the inside and the outside and made a wonderful start to our trip.
Later on in the evening before we went home we went tubing too, this was just in front of the stations side entrance and even though it didn’t look very high or long, we actually went very fast!
Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library:
This library is one of the oldest in Antwerp, starting over 500 years ago in 1481 and according to their site they have over one million volumes preserved in its walls. Studying English and having always been a book lover I had to go and visit, we paid a discounted rate for students of €3 but that also allowed us entrance into an art exhibition too. The books are obviously being preserved in the library, in the Nottebohm Room, so are caged off but it still an amazing place to visit and see.
Saint Carolus Borromeus Church:
We actually stumbled across this church by accident on route to the markets and originally thought it was the library but realised soon after we stepped inside! Even so, the Churches across Beligum are absolutely breath-taking, you don’t have to be religious to appreciate them and this one was no different.
One of the main reasons for coming to Antwerp and Belgium in general at the beginning of January was because the Christmas markets were still open until the 6th January. That meant that not only did we experience the markets in Brussels but we also experienced them in Antwerp too. With over 100 stalls to wander round there is something for everyone at the Christmas Markets, there are also a variety of activities which you can partake in too.
We knew when we planned our trip that we wanted to go ice skating and even though it wasn’t completely out in the open like we had seen photographs of, it was still a really good experience. I’m obviously the better skater and if Cameron doesn’t turn round to me and deny this I know he hasn’t read this post, it can be our secret!
Although there was some similarity between the market stalls at the Antwerp Christmas market and the Brussels ones, there were some stalls which differed which was nice to see. Cameron actually ended up buying some new gloves and we of course bought copious amounts of hot chocolate to warm up as it was very chilly!
These two sights are one of the very first things which you see when you turn the corner onto the Grote Markt and they made everything feel so festive! There was even a giant cauldron, I think you can call it, bubbling away which produced copious amounts of steam which everyone huddled around to keep warm. If anyone knows what this actually is, instead of my vague assumptions please let me know in the comments!
Make A Wish Stall:
This was a little side stall at the back of the market, away from the main one in the Grote Markt, which allowed you to make a wish and see it fly off into the sky, on a virtual screen, obviously – we would’ve been waiting a long time otherwise! I made a wish but I can’t go telling anyone else it won’t come true!
Aside from these activities / things to see there was also a Ferris Wheel and fire pits to sit and keep warm round, I had seen photographs of the castle illuminated in hundreds of lights online but sadly this was in scaffolding as I think it is being demolished. That being said, even though Christmas had sadly been and gone by the time we visited the markets made us feel suitably festive once more and it was lovely.
Nello & Patrasche Monument, Handschoenmarkt:
You may have spotted this monument already on my Instagram feed which we came across and only found out what it was when we returned home. It is a monument of Nello & Patrasche from the 1872 novel ‘A Dog of Flanders’ which embodies ,the story of true friendship, the story takes place in Hoboken and Antwerp. For more information visit here and here.
I imagine there are so many other sights to see in Antwerp but because we were restricted by train times, not wanting to be stranded in Antwerp and restricted by our bellies as we got ever more peckish as the day went on, we sadly couldn’t see everything that Antwerp had to offer.
We did of course have a little wander through the main streets on the way there and back to the markets and even though we went on a Friday it was surprisingly quiet throughout which we didn’t expect! We stood out like sore thumbs from the crowd, camera at the ready, wrapped in so many layers to keep warm and in my case near enough taking a photograph for every step I took but we didn’t mind at all. Oh, I also loved the fact that there were so many absolutely enormous Christmas trees dotted here there and everywhere!
There’s something about exploring a new place, not exactly knowing where you are going or what you will come across next, which is extremely exciting! Let me know in the comments if you have every visited Antwerp at Christmas or otherwise, I’d love to know what sights you went to see.
All photography featured in this blog post is my own.