Ask any Antwerpenaar what’s prompted ‘t Eilandje’s transformation from a scruffy dockside neighborhood to a revived hub of cool and they’ll point to the lego-like structure rising from the water. In its five-year lifespan, the imposing MAS, a museum telling the story of Antwerp’s crucial port history, has become a massive draw.
The MAS, the ‘Museum aan de Stroom’ – or ‘Museum by the Stream’ – is a 60-meter-high, red sandstone giant that towers over harbor district ‘t Eilandje (the little island). It has been part of the Antwerp skyline since 2011, which makes the museum, in human years, a preschooler. It was Dutch architectural firm Neutelings Riedijk that came up with the design: ten enormous stone containers stacked atop each other and connected by large strokes of undulating glass. In other words, its windows are waves. The whole construction is a dedication to the city’s relationship to water, after all, an explanation of how, why, and when Antwerp became the second biggest port in all of Europe.
The love affair is told via a rotating cast of 500,000 maritime objects that are spread over five different floors. Antwerp’s identity as a port city – which it has the invaluable river Schelde to thank for – is explored in four themes that range from the hunt for prestige in Displays of Power to the influence that constant exotic exchanges had on local cuisine in Antwerp à la carte. In between themed levels, there’s the opportunity to gaze through the wavy glass at the Antwerp skyline, with a two-star restaurant and a 360-degree rooftop panorama when you make it to the top of the structure. Many an afternoon will also see the ‘MAS Boulevard’ – these halls that can be accessed for free anytime – full of students and artists trying their hand at sketching the Antwerp skyline, perhaps in a last attempt to capture ‘t Eilandje mid-transformation.
Part of the MAS’ origin story will always be how it was the catalyst for an entire area’s rejuvenation. When plans for a port museum first surfaced in 1998, the location was an easy pick. Before the rundown warehouse that was there at the end of the 20th century, the Hanzeplaats boasted the ‘Hanzehuis,’ or ‘Oosterhuis’, a monumental 16th-century merchant complex that burned down in the late 19th century. Now, the MAS has again made this spot on the docks a buzzing hub, attracting artistic projects and hip coffee houses to the neighborhood like flies.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
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Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.