This giant Lego® brick-like structure lies in the heart of an old harbor neighborhood that’s been revamped by its presence. Either admire urban vistas from the MAS’s nine-floored horizontal boulevard (open for free to the public until 10 pm—midnight in the summer months) or learn about Antwerp’s historic status as a major European port inside.
MAS, Hanzestedenplaats 1, Antwerp, Belgium, +32 3 338 44 00
Red Star Line Museum
Those 12 million immigrants who landed on Ellis Island in the first half of the 20th century, looking to live the American dream? A great number of them set sail from Antwerp. At the Red Star Line Museum, housed in the old warehouses of the shipping company that sent steamer after steamer full of people westwards, the odyssey of these dreamers is laid out with an impressive eye for both detail and historical context.
Red Star Line Museum, Montevideostraat 3, Antwerp, Belgium, +32 3 298 27 70
Both the MAS and the Red Star Line have become large attractions in Het Eilandje, an abandoned port district until a decade ago. As the news and the excitement about the MAS project spread, coffee bars, artist ateliers and repurposed warehouses flowered to comfortably overtake Het Zuid as the hippest district in the city.
Even without a specific restaurant in mind, a stroll down Het Zuid’s terraces at dinner time has the mouth watering in seconds. Trendy restaurants and cafés dot the historic neighborhood’s wide boulevards and squares. The afternoon running up to the meal is well spent exploring the FoMu photo museum, the MoMu fashion museum, the stately Museum of Contemporary Art, or a couple of its many art galleries.
The Port House
When challenged to incorporate an old protected fire station into the city’s new international Port House, Zaha Hadid Architects decided to plop quite the juxtaposition on top. The monument now carries a glittering, glass-covered expansion simultaneously referencing Antwerp’s reputation for diamonds and its maritime culture. The piece of prestige architecture is begging to be admired in the sunlight.
Vintage hunting in the Kloosterstraat
Antiques and vintage are the Kloosterstraat’s forte. Visitors will find the oldest and oddest objects in the shops lining this street, from wooden rocking horses to winged designer lamps and seas of retro chairs.
Walking along Antwerp’s Cogels-Osylei, it can be hard to believe your eyes; with one villa more ostensibly opulent than the next, the entire long avenue is an exercise in neo-classical eclecticism. It’s a very worthy walk, and at its end is the Draakplaats, a lovely spot for a drink or bite.
Much-traveled as an ambassador and fond as he was of Italy, Peter Paul Rubens still chose to plant his personally designed house and atelier in Antwerp. The Rubenshuis, preserved as one of the most famous artist residencies in the world, is where the master’s own pieces, as well as those of other talented Flemish painters, can be admired alongside a peek into the home-life of Belgium’s ultimate uomo universale.
Rubenshuis, Wapper 9-11, Antwerp, Belgium, +32 3 201 15 55
It’s no exaggeration to say the Plantin-Moretus family ruled over the early European printing world. Like Rubens, Christoffel Plantin set up his workshop and sumptuous living quarters in the same place. The 16th-century printing presses and a library containing precious original manuscripts still bear witness to the flowering of European literature.
Plantin-Moretus Museum, Vrijdagmarkt 22-23, Antwerp, Belgium, +32 3 221 14 50