The legend as to how Antwerp got its name is the best story, so we have to start with it. The green fountain in the first two photos depicts the legend of Brabo, who killed a giant who demanded a high toll for ships entering the city. If crews couldn’t, or wouldn’t, pay the toll, the giant cut off their hands. Brabo was fed up and wasn’t going to take it any more. He fought the giant, cut off his hand, and threw it into the river. So, Antwerpen comes from the two words,
hand werpen, meaning “to throw a hand.”
The city has quite an ancient history, having been invaded and occupied by both the Romans and the Vikings. The River Scheldt brought commerce and trading to the city, making it the leading port in medieval times, but it also made the city vulnerable to invaders. In the photos, we will show you a few things the Romans and Vikings left behind.
We found this off-the-beaten-track city to be quite wonderful, but didn’t schedule enough time to explore it fully. We took a tour to get an overview, but still missed most of the main shopping street and pedestrian walk, the Meir. We would also love to see the central train station one day, as it is very ornate and said to be the one thing you should not miss in the city (but unfortunately, we missed it!). There are also several museums we would love to explore, but there just wasn’t enough time. In the future, we plan to visit fewer cities wherever we go, but stay longer.
Grote Markt Antwerpen, the main square. You can see the beautiful Town Hall behind the Brabo statue.
The Brabo Statue, dating to 1887, with Brabo at the top throwing the hand of the Giant Druon Antigoon into the river. We loved that the fountain has no boundaries, such as a wall or fencing. The fountain spurts into the surrounding square. Sometimes the fountain is turned off, and if you are standing adjacent when it turns on again, unknowing, you will get wet! The next day after taking this photo, there was a little boy standing under it and splashing, just laughing and having the time of his life.
These guild halls from the 16th and 17th centuries are quite beautiful. (Some are reproductions, but we don’t know which ones.) Each represented a certain guild (occupation), and showed off their status, power, and wealth. The gold statues on the roof represented their profession.
More guild halls across the street.
In the Handschoenmarkt square is this lovely old well, with an elaborate black wrought iron top.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Antwerpen can be seen from many points in the Old Town. The outside is covered with scaffolding. As with most old buildings and churches, there is always something that needs to be done! (And again, notice the McDonald’s in the Old Town!)
The Het Steen, Antwerp’s castle and oldest building, sits on the river. Some of the lower parts were established by the Vikings, and it “grew into” the castle it looks like today.
Another view of Het Steen, which, additionally, was used as a prison from 1549 to 1824.
At the castle’s entrance is this statue. Meet Lange Wapper, a Flemish folklore giant and trickster. This statue is by Albert Poels and dates to 1962.
This statue at Het Steen is dedicated to all “who have resisted and fought for the liberation of Antwerp, September 4, 1944 – September 4, 1989.”
A view of the Scheldt River, which brought invaders, and then prosperity, to Antwerpen. It is still the second-largest port in Europe after Rotterdam.
We liked this collection of buildings!
The beautiful baroque tower of St. Paulus Church.
Our tour guide, Flip, who is doing tours “for fun” in his retirement. (Even though he lived in the US for a few years, he had never heard of Flip Wilson, the only other Flip we know of. We enlightened him.)
On our tour, Flip pointed out what is left of the old towns defensive walls – the dark stone on the right near the man with the blue shirt. You can see on the walkway that where the rest of the wall was torn down, the city paved it in dark stone as a remembrance. There is another part of the cobblestone, back just beyond our group, that is different from that you see in the front. It dates from Viking times!
Vleeshuis, the Butcher’s House, built between 1501-1504 of red brick and white sandstone. As an ancient guild hall, it provided space for 62 butchers to prepare animals for sale.
St. Charles Borromeo Church, opened in 1621 as the Jesuit Church of Antwerp and dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. There originally were 39 ceiling pieces by Peter Paul Rubens that were destroyed by fire in 1718.
These angels, and a bank of carved medallions and other figures, did survive the fire. They were carved by Jan Pieter van Baurscheidt. We liked how they look as though they are dancing, holding drums above their heads (but we confess we couldn’t find info as to what they are supposed to be holding).
Antwerpen had one of the first stock markets in the world, originally kind of a trading post. These are the three Stock Exchange buildings as they progressed – the first, on top, is now a cafe. The third, on the bottom right, was originally an open air building, but they built upward, and the date of 1872 is when the roof was placed.
When you climb these steps, you are on the highest “hill” in Antwerp!
A glorious array of 14 items – our Moroccan Salad from Msemen Moroccan Restaurant. It was so good! – a feast for both the eyes and tastebuds!
This is Msemen’s pretty back yard seating area. We also had a msemen, a grilled Moroccan bread stuffed with ricotta cheese, honey, cherry tomatoes, greens, sunflower seeds, paprika, chickpeas, and spicy olives. It was heaven, as was the salad above. With mint tea, and followed by a dessert made of couscous with cream, we were stuffed – and VERY happy!
One of the many fun streets we got to walk.
These are on the corners of many buildings in Antwerp – shrines to the Virgin Mary, all topped with an umbrella-type top, shielding Mary and her baby from the sun and rain.
Such a pretty shop!
We loved this takeoff on “Antwerp!”
The Wild West lives….in Belgium! Gotta love that embroidered men’s shirt with two horses!
We liked the name of this exhibition, although we initially thought it was a publication.