Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My first look at Antwerp (with photos)

Last Friday I got the chance to see Antwerp (Dutch: Antwerpen; French: Anvers) for the first time. It was a short but memorable visit.

It's a 55-minute train ride from Ghent, but my audio book made it seem much shorter. Now that I'm forced to take the train frequently, I'm going through books faster than ever, which is saying something.

I finally stepped off the train and onto the top level (out of four) of Antwerpen Centraal, the most beautiful train station I have ever seen.

One of the few train platforms in Belgium you can't smoke on. Antwerp made a fine first impression.

The original station building from 1905 is arguably Belgium's finest example of railway architecture.

With complete disregard for the directions to my planned rendezvous, I plunged into the new city.

To me, getting lost is a good way to get to know a new place and get a good first impression. In the case of Antwerp, my first impression was made up of Jews and diamonds.

As I made my way south down Pelikaanstraat, I noticed that it was lined with jewellery shops. Antwerp is notable for its diamond trading industry, and I was amazed by the spectrum ranging from respectable establishments to the diamond equivalent of a hot dog vendor.

Just around the corner, I started noticing the people who are responsible for selling the diamonds. I became aware of an increasing number of people, young and old, dressed in old-fashioned dark clothes, black hats with wide brims or kippahs, thick beards and side curls. I'd never before seen more than one or two of these people at a time, and now I was surrounded by them. A song I had never heard before began to play in my head:

I had stumbled into the middle of Antwerp's thriving community of Hasidic Jews. They control most of the diamond business in town, and it turns out that the area around the Central Station is their Little Jerusalem, where they live and sell diamonds. I find it interesting that people who make a point out of dressing so modestly make a living dealing in luxury goods.

Shaking off the culture shock, I proceeded through the city park, still seeing strange hats and long beards every now and then.

The park is about the same size as the Citadelpark in Ghent, but without the big ugly concrete building in the middle. The leaves are starting to change their colour ever so slightly, but the feeling of summer lingers on.

A large, beautiful lake covers much of the city park in Antwerp.

A man relaxes at the foot of the World War I memorial while his son plays with a ball.

That was all the sightseeing I got to do (apart from the huge electronics store near the station). I'm still hungry to see more, so I'm definitely going back soon. Stay tuned for a look at the shopping districts, the central square, the city hall and the guild halls, the churches, one of the oldest zoos in the world, the citadel...

Antwerp, I will be back.

Further reading on Wikipedia:
Antwerpen-Centraal railway station
Jewish community of Antwerp


  1. You should definitely come back! :D
    Then we'll have another look at the town, visit the zoo, the guild halls, anything you want :)
    Keep blogging, baby, I really love it! :D
    You're the best <3 <3 <3

  2. The Picture of the station is really impressive.
    I can't even say, what german station is nearly as beautiful as the Atnwerp station.