Antwerp sort of holds a unique place in my heart. I had never even heard of the city, but it welcomed me with open arms when Bryan and I got stuck in Belgium on 9/11 back in 2001. We were flying back to the US from our honeymoon in Italy on 9/11 when the US closed all airspace entering the country. Our plane, from now defunct Belgian carrier Sabena Airlines, turned around and landed in Brussels.
Despite the horrific circumstances, the airline was especially kind to the passengers. They took such good care of us, providing a shuttle bus and paying for our hotel stay in Antwerp, a city 45 minutes away from Brussels. My memory of Antwerp from that time is virtually non-existent (that whole experience was quite a stressful blur), yet I will never forget the kindness of the Belgians during this time of extreme anguish for the American people.
I haven't visited Antwerp since that time 20+ years ago. This time around, during a weekend when Bryan was away in Germany on a business trip, I decided to take a solo trip to revisit Antwerp, the second largest metropolitan region in Belgium, and the largest city-center in the country.
One of the most beautiful and impressive buildings in Antwerp greets you the moment you get off the train. Yes, it's the train station itself, and it's beautiful! I couldn't stop taking photos and just walking around, marveling at all the different details. It makes the Brussels train station pale in comparison.
Walking in Antwerp
I love walking through a city. I feel like I haven't really been to a city until I've had a chance to meander around its neighborhoods and explore its streets. Antwerp is an amazingly walkable city. You can start walking immediately after exiting the train station. The streets are lively, full of people, and there's tons to see. Most of the famous sites are accessible by foot.
Wandering the Streets of Antwerp
Museum Platin-Moretus: History of the Printing Press at this UNESCO heritage site
Het Steen - A Medieval Fortress from the 1200’s
Getting to Antwerp by train from Brussels is easy. There are many trains per day from Brussels to Antwerp Central. All of the main sites (at least the places you would want to visit in a day trip) are within walking distance. In fact, the walk is extremely pleasant, and I highly recommend walking as much as you can. The streets are filled with energy, and it’s actually quite fun just to explore.
I am so, so glad I took the time and effort to re-visit Antwerp. In a lot of ways, it ”redeemed” and replaced the confused and blurry I had of my time there in 2001. I highly recommend visiting this fun, interesting, and very easily explorable city for a day trip while you are in Brussels.