One of the best parts about European living, is the proximity to travel to so many fantasticly charming towns or major cities. And, after a few weekends at “home”, I was ready to get out there and get started.
I had already visited most of the small towns in the area, as well as the more popular Rotterdam & Amsterdam, so I was left searching for ideas outside the Holland region.
Luckily, Antwerp was a mere two hour train ride away and provided all the possibilities that come with somewhere new. Plus, with round-trip tickets costing under 30E, it was a done deal.
Sophie and I woke up early Saturday morning, threw a few things in a bag, and were off on our first journey.
After a relatively quick train ride, we arrived at Antwerpen Centraal. Walking up a couple flights of stairs, I had no idea what was in store, or what to expect from the city I had frankly heard so little about.
But, within minutes, I knew it was going to be something special.
Beams of sunlight flooded through the stone clad terminal, as what was left of the original 1895 building surrounded us. There have been some renovations over time due to structural damage and destruction in WWII, but the hall has now been restored to what looks like its original beauty.
And, if the first sight didn’t overwhelm you with beauty, the walk through the hall and down the main stairway will. It’s like stepping off the train and back in time.
After organizing my things and taking a thorough amount of photos, it was time to head on.
I had booked into the Hilton for the night, and I was eager to get there, settle in, and make a game-plan for the weekend.
Luckily, even though I was quite a few hours early, they had my room ready and quickly checked me in. Up to the fifth floor I went, where I found a king sized bed patiently waiting.
I couldn’t help but kick off my shoes and take a short rest. Even Sophie looked like she needed one.
But, as great as the room was, the best part of the hotel was its location. Smack dab in the old town of Antwerp, I picked it because it was prime for adventure, culture, food…all the necessities.
After a quick refreshment in the hotel lounge, I headed out with camera in tow, ready to see the sights.
At first, the Cathedral guided me through the winding streets, past the rows of restaurants and boutique shops, and through the swarms of locals & tourists alike.
I twisted and turned at will, sometimes ending up back in the same place shortly thereafter. Old Belgian architecture surrounded me, with a mix of Gothic and early Renaissance homes – some dating back to the 16th century. Large bay windows, steep rooftops, and dull colours were common themes throughout, looming down onto the cobblestone streets.
And somewhere while I was lost in the charming nature of it all, I found myself at City hall, in the centre of the Grote Markt.
There was some sort of celebration going on, with lots of clapping and photos. It looked like it was to do with the city hall’s 450th anniversary (in 2015), but I couldn’t be totally sure since I didn’t speak the language.
Plus, with the perfect fall weather – even in November – I couldn’t help but want to continue walking around and around.
After a thorough observation of the area, I made my way towards the river and to the edge of the old town. Antwerp was formerly a fortified city, but there are very few remains of the wall left. A replica of a castle has been somewhat rebuilt near the old quarter, which is meant to reflect the old fortifications from the 10th to 20th centuries.
Of course, after all that walking, I had a bit of an appetite. The tempting windows of the many chocolate shops lining the streets didn’t help either. I stopped into ELISA pralines, which caught my eye earlier, and picked a selection of caramels and nuts to tide me over. We all know Belgians know their chocolate, and these were just as good as I could have hoped.