Green Guide to Antwerp
Belgium's second city is probably best known as the country's fashion capital. Despite its long and rich history, it is the city's present day dynamism that gives it an edge over other medieval towns in Belgium, packed with trendy bars and cafes, modern art exhibitions and festivals. The juxtapostion of the old and the new make it a great city break destination, especially as it's just under three hours by train from London St Pancras International Train Station.
1. Antwerpen Centraal Train Station: Before heading into town, it’s worth admiring the magnificent architecture of the late 19th century train station, one of the city’s main landmarks.
2. Fashion: The Fashion Department of the Royal Academy for Fine Arts of the Hogeschool Antwerp is one of the worlds leading fashion design schools. If fashion is your thing, don't miss the Fashion Museumon Nationalestraat, home to the famous Antwerp fashion designers, Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester, and a host of designer labels. I spent a few hours here and visited the fair trade and environmentally conscious fashion shop Today is a good day. There are several other ethical trading shops on Nationalestraat, such as Rewind and Hadhi. There's also a wide range of shops and many more chi-chi boutiques on Schutterhofstraat.
3. Museums and galleries Head to Kloosterstraat for antiques and galleries and stroll along the river to the contemporary art museum, Muhka. The mansion where Rubens lived between 1610 and his death in 1640 , at Wapper 9-11 (rubenshuis.be) has 10 of the artist's works and gives an absorbing insight into Flemish fine living in the 17th century.
4. Admire Europe's oldest printing presses The home of 16th century bookbinder and printer Christoffel Plantin is now the UNESCO listed Plantin Moretus Museum. It is believed to be one of the world's finest printing museums; housing an extensive collection of books and some of our oldest printing presses. If printing doesn't float your boat it is still worth a visit, the grounds and house are a beautiful place to wander around and there are often rotating art exhibitions and events. Info: The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Tickets are available until 4.30pm. Admission is 6 Euros, which includes an audio guide. www.museumplantinmoretus.be
5. Step into the extravagance of Belgium's past At the end of the 19th century, two wealthy entrepreneurs, Joséphine Cogels Osy and her brother Baron Edouard Osy decided to develop a new area for the rich residents of Antwerp. This extravagant design is still on full display today as you wander through the Cogels Osy area stumbling upon a French Chateau, a Venetian Palazzo, a Greek temple and eccentric Art Nouveau buildings. While in the area stop off at Dageraad Plaats, a huge square full of bars and cafes. Info: The Cogels Osy area is in the Zurenborg district, in the south east of Antwerp, near the railway station Antwerpen Berchem.
Written with Richard Hammond. To see the full article go to http://www.greentraveller.co.uk/blog/green-guide-antwerp . See also a similar guide to Valence http://www.greentraveller.co.uk/blog/greentraveller-guide-valence-france