11 of the Most Impressive Buildings in Antwerp

Antwerp skyline
Antwerp skyline | © Dave Van Laere / courtesy of Visit Antwerp
Nana Van De Poel

Being an old port and merchant city, Antwerp has sumptuous guild houses and historic churches aplenty. In recent years, ambitious contemporary projects like the MAS Museum and the Port House have joined the landscape, leaving the Belgian city with an exciting architectural mix. Here are 11 of the most impressive buildings to check out.

1. Boerentoren


The Meir and Boerentoren | © Jan Crab / courtesy of Visit Antwerp
© Jan Crab / courtesy of Visit Antwerp
Towering above the far end of Antwerp’s widest shopping boulevard is Europe’s first skyscraper. Also known as the Boerentoren, or ‘Farmer’s Tower’, and now serving as a bank building, the Art Deco colossus was built on a site left in rubble in the wake of the Great War.

2. Cathedral of Our Lady


The Cathedral of Our Ladys lacework spire
© Jan Crab / courtesy of Visit Antwerp
There are many awe-striking things about Antwerp’s Cathedral of Our Lady. Its 123 meter height, for one. Its summer carillon concerts are another. But its most impressive feature can be found way up top: a spire in Brabant Gothic style, with flourishes in white stone so detailed that they resemble lace.

3. Rubenshuis


© Dave Van Laere / Courtesy of Visit Antwerp
Peter Paul Rubens knew more than how to produce a nice monumental painting. The artist was also a diplomat, scholar, and — as proven by the Antwerp villa he left behind — a talented architect. The residence and atelier he designed for himself heavily draws on the palazzos he saw during his long stint in Italy.

4. The MAS


© Sarah Blee - Neutelings Riedijk Architecten / courtesy of Visit Antwerp
From afar it looks as if Neutelings Riedijk Architecten pasted Antwerp’s maritime museum together out of red sandstone-colored Lego. The actual building blocks for the MAS were 10 enormous containers stacked on top of each other, with long strokes of undulating glass filling in the cracks. No doubt its idiosyncratic design and comfortable spot in the middle of a water basin has contributed to this contemporary gem becoming the most popular museum in town.

5. Butchers' Hall

Building, Market, Museum

Butchers Hall | © Dave Van Laere : courtesy of Visit Antwerp
© Dave Van Laere / courtesy of Visit Antwerp
A product of Antwerp’s Golden Age, the 1501 brick and sandstone Butchers’ Hall is an inspiring example of the style, and a telling leftover from prosperous times. The monumental building rose at the behest of the cities’ butchers, and functioned as both their guild headquarters and their meat market. Nowadays, the stately construction houses the Museum for City Sounds.

6. St. Felix Warehouse

Restaurant, French, Belgian, European

St. Felix Warehouse
© Dave Van Laere / courtesy of Visit Antwerp
Sitting diagonally across from the MAS and overlooking Het Eilandje’s waters, the St. Felix Warehouse used to store cheeses, coffee, grains and other essentials. Now it fits neatly into the neighborhood’s gaggle of gorgeously repurposed storage houses. Besides the Felix Archives, also referred to as ‘the memory of the city’, it hosts summer food festivals and a restaurant that does elaborate Sunday brunches.

7. St. Charles Borromeo Church


St. Charles Borromeo Church
© Sigridspinnox.com / courtesy of Visit Antwerp
Its original ceiling was by the hand of Rubens himself, but the St. Charles Borromeo Church on the peaceful Hendrik Conscience Square suffered a lightning strike that burnt up the Flemish master’s work. Luckily the Baroque façade, also believed to be designed by Rubens, remains, as do its portico altar, rich marbles and detailed wood carvings.

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