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Had no idea about this city at first, I’ve now fallen in love with it.
We parked our car at the hotel and opted to use the tram public transportation to explore downtown Antwerpen, a city previously unknown to me. Serendipitously, I included this city in our itinerary simply because it’s situated between Brussels and Amsterdam. This has turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made. The city exudes a charming, peaceful, and amazing aura.
The tram ride was enjoyable and extremely convenient, with routes spanning across the city. We frequently spotted trams during our city wanderings. Intriguingly, the tram even navigates through the city’s narrowest streets, often brushing closely against the old buildings lining the sides.
We arrived at this train station, touted as the most beautiful in the world. Indeed, it was magnificent, with a large dome-like ceiling and a cathedral-like grand entrance. We even managed to reach the platform on the second floor, which felt like floating in the air, without any security checks or tickets. This allowed us to fully appreciate the stunning architectural design.
We then strolled to Meir, a central shopping street in the city, which boasts an array of famous brands. These ranged from luxury and sports labels to fast food chains. As we arrived there quite early, before 10 am, the street was relatively quiet but tranquil. With the comfortable sunshine warming us, I could sense the city’s heartbeat, which instilled a sense of calm within me.
There is so much to say about this place. It is the largest Belgian chocolate museum in the world and offers a unique, interactive experience on how the special Belgian chocolate is made, right from its origin. We had the opportunity to see the actual machinery and taste the real chocolate in the museum. While the museum doesn’t contain an abundance of information, it presents what it has in such a thoughtful and creative way that it truly motivates visitors like us to learn about and fall in love with Belgian chocolate.
The last part of the visit was a tasting session where we got to try every type of Belgian chocolate, from the least to the most dark. It was so fascinating that I felt like I had experienced all the tastes of the world. I decided to buy the Ruby Chocolate, which was claimed to be the finest Belgian chocolate ever invented. However, the solid bar I bought from the gift shop didn’t quite live up to my expectations. This just goes to show how effective their advertising is. Nonetheless, I highly recommend this museum. It is a must-see in Antwerp.
Cathedral of Our Lady
This cathedral is a notable landmark in the city. Its towering height dominates the skyline, making it visible from virtually any location within the city. Although the 10 euro ticket price deterred us from exploring its interior, we had the opportunity to admire its grandeur and beauty from the outside.
Museum aan de Stroom
We visited another exceptional museum today that is a must-see. It was genuinely amazing, as it is a city-owned museum. The architecture of the museum itself was impressive, with red rock symbolizing the land and glass representing the city’s life-sustaining canals and waterways. This ten-story building is like a spiral as you ascend via the elevators. Each floor hosts an exhibition related to the city, ranging from concepts of home, the history of the cargo industry in the city, to a creative storage showcase of all the artifacts not currently on display. The museum excels in presenting information to the public in an engaging and accessible manner, complete with interactive features and compelling presentations. The love and grounded nature of the city’s residents are palpitably felt through this museum. I couldn’t recommend this place more highly.
In the end, we chose to explore the city’s waterways on a small boat. The experience was incredible, with the breeze blowing and the sun shining. The city’s charm was magnified from the perspective of the water, a view I couldn’t tire of.
We had the opportunity to see the harbor building, a fascinating blend of old and new. The structure combines the original harbor building with a modern, artistic design that resembles a boat up close and a diamond from a distance. This represents the city’s historic and contemporary aspects, as well as its diamond industry. The creativity reflected in this building is akin to that of the MAS museum.
This city is vibrant and a hidden treasure in Europe. I would relish the opportunity to return. Strolling through the city streets makes me feel that life is truly worthwhile. The museums, filled with passion, convey a clear message of how the inhabitants cherish their lives and strive to make the most of them.