Erected in 1905 to reflect Belgium’s transportation prowess, the Antwerp Central Station is one of the world’s foremost railway beauties. Especially striking is its collage of styles. Louis Delacenserie, who earned a name for himself by sprucing up much of Bruges and returning the city to former glory, clad the ticket hall in gold and marble to recall the Renaissance. Meanwhile, railway engineer Clément van Bogaert used the materials of the industrial revolution to create a state-of-the-art train shed. Fanciful stone turrets guide the way when chugging in or out of the station.
Antwerp’s latest architectural prestige piece recalls a ship glittering with diamonds. In designing the new international Port House, Zaha Hadid Architects had to take into account the old firehouse already present on site, a protected monument. The eye-catching expansion on top usually elicits a love it/hate it response.
As far as avenues go, the Cogels-Osylei in the charming Zurenborg neighborhood is one for the books. This cobbled lane is lined with turn-of-the-century villas in every ‘neo’ style imaginable, with each more extravagant than the next. A great place for a walk.
While the sprawling City Hall on the Grote Markt Square technically dates back to the 16th-century, only its outer walls are that old. Even then, it’s often the over-the-top 19th-century baroque interiors that leave visitors breathless. Antwerpenaars have taken to calling the lush mayor’s chambers ‘t Schoon Verdiep, or ‘the beautiful floor’. The remarkable rooms are only open to the public on special occasions.