Antwerp highlights route

Fietsroute-Antwerpse highlights-HET STEEN
Heritage lovers, warm up your legs. This cycling adventure takes us through the urban jungle called Antwerp. Today we cycle right through the city, from one cultural highlight to another monument.

Antwerp highlights route



Fietsroute-Antwerpse highlights-DE KONINCK

START: Antwerp

Our cycling adventures often take us out into unspoiled greenery, but today we tackle something a bit different. We choose the city as backdrop. We get on our bikes at Antwerp’s Central Station. This iconic structure is sometimes called the railway cathedral because of its imposing architecture. But more about that later. First we pedal cheerfully through Antwerp city centre. The Lange Kievitstraat, in the heart of the flourishing Diamond district, takes us to Stadspark. Fourteen beautiful hectares of greenery and water. An ideal environment for jogging, picnics or just being. It is also home to skaters and rollerbladers with their sometimes hair-raising tricks.  

We pedal on, along De Leien that connects Antwerp with the rest of the country. That brings us to a second green lung in the heart of the city. And also to the first heritage stop of the day: De Koninck, a brewery that first saw the light of day in Antwerp in 1833. This brewery is best known for its ‘Bolleke’. This typical Antwerp amber-coloured beer owes its name to the bulbous glass in which it is served. But the modernised city brewery has even more tricks up its proverbial sleeve. You can go there for a glass, a small or large meal, and for an interactive tour through the city brewery, with a tasting at the end of course. 

Fietsroute-Antwerpse highlights-KATEDRAAL

The arts quarter

After this catering stop, we pedal on further through the city. Immediately a special building catches the eye: the Provincial House. This is an apparently geniculated tower, constructed from triangular windows and facade elements. A state-of-the-art highlight in the Antwerp streetscape. We continue cycling along a pleasant, urban cycling street. We pass Saint Lawrence Church, a brick structure in Art Deco style, and cycle on towards the Antwerp courthouse. That too is an architectural gem. The courthouse is made up of six large four-storey glass wings. This is why it is sometimes called the ‘butterfly palace’.

We pedal briskly on and, before we know it, we find ourselves in the Zuid district. The wide avenues with their stately mansions lead us towards some top-class museums, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art (M HKA) and the Museum of Photography (FoMu). And so we end up at the Scheldt Quays. Because if you have not seen that mighty river, you have not really experienced Antwerp. After a brief introduction, we head back towards the city centre. Via the botanical garden, we arrive at one of the cultural highlights: the Rubens House. In this city palace, Peter Paul Rubens lived and worked, the baroque great and an icon of Antwerp. In normal circumstances, you can learn about his legacy here. Unfortunately, this historic place is closed for renovations and will be for quite some time. The reopening is planned for 2030. But we will get to know Rubens' oeuvre better a little later. 

Fietsroute-Antwerpse highlights-MAS

The proud cathedral

Via the Meir, one of the most important shopping streets in the country, we gradually move towards the heart of the city. There, the proud Cathedral of Our Lady towers above everything else. This Antwerp symbol was built between 1352 and 1521. We set our bikes aside for a moment and go inside. The interior takes our breath away and leaves us in awe, but then the best is yet to come: four paintings by Rubens. Two of them, The Descent from the Cross and The Assumption of the virgin Mary, were painted by the master especially for this place.

A unique experience that we are still digesting as we get back on our bikes. We cruise past some other highlights. First DIVA, an experience centre about diamonds. This is followed by Het Steen, the oldest building in Antwerp. Via St. Paul’s Church where, alongside Rubens, artists such as Jacob Jordaens and Anthony van Dyck are represented, we head towards Het Eilandje. This was once the city's oldest port area, but today it is a hip place, constantly changing. Right in the centre of this district we find Museum aan de Stroom (MAS). An impressive mosaic of red bricks on the outside, eight floors of Antwerp city museum on the inside. 

Fietsroute-Antwerpse highlights-HAVENHUIS

A contemporary architectural icon

In the meantime, if you are feeling hungry or thirsty: Het Eilandje is full of cosy cafés and restaurants. But we can go back there tonight. We carry on cycling steadily. The route takes us to yet another high point: the Port Authority Building. This contemporary architectural icon is shaped like a shiny, gleaming diamond, after a design by the legendary Zaha Hadid. The construction of this imposing building was only completed in 2016, but it is already a landmark in the Antwerp skyline.

Via the Antwerp Brouw Compagnie, a historic brewery that was revived in 2012, we pass by Park Spoor Noord, a gigantic leisure area and one of the most popular spots in Antwerp. We stop for a moment to enjoy the weather. People watching is always such fun. Then it is time for the bike again. We prepare ourselves for the finale of this urban cycling adventure. Via the multicultural Borgerhout, we set course for our starting point. But first we make one last culinary stop: Chocolate Nation, the world’s largest museum dedicated to the legendary Belgian chocolate. After our introduction to this edible heritage, we cycle the last few metres of our route. Just like tens of thousands of passengers on the train every day, we arrive at Antwerp Central Station

There we place our bikes in one of the many bike racks. It is here that we make a final stop. We walk into the imposing structure and are immediately dumbfounded. For this is not only a gateway to the city, it is also an attraction in itself: the so-called railway cathedral. The vaulted ceilings, the monumental clocks and the grandiose entrance hall have been opening mouths since 1905. As ours do. Of one thing we are certain: Antwerp leaves you craving for more.