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Travel / Tours / Belgium / Antwerp
Visit Antwerp (Antwerpen, Anvers) in Belgium
  A Dog of Flanders
  Sint Jacobskerk
  Antwerp Cathedral
  Grote Markt
  Further information

Essential Antwerp
(guide book for Antwerp)
Author: Marc Willems
Publisher: AA Publishing
Date: August 2001
Top 10 Brussels & Bruges, Antwerp & Ghent
(guide book for visitors to Belgium)
Author: Antony Mason
Publisher: DK Publishing
Date: February 2004


This page gives some ideas about things to do if you want to visit the Belgian city of Antwerp (known as Antwerpen in Flemish, and as Anvers in French). It follows a route starting and ending at the main train station.

It is possible to see the centre of Antwerp on foot (you can print out the maps in the "Further information" section below and follow the route explained on this page). If you want to go directly to the cathedral and main square (Grote Markt), take a Metro from Diamant (just outside the main train station) to Groenplaats (3 stops away), or you can take tram 10 or 11 from Gemeentestraat (on the far side of the square Koningin Astridplein) to Korte Niewstraat. Alternatively, there is a "hop-on, hop-off" sightseeing bus (with commentaries in different languages) which leaves from near the main train station and passes all of the main tourist attractions.

Number 10

Sightseeing bus
(hop-on, hop-off)

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Japanese animated version of
"A Dog of Flanders"

People from some countries know Antwerp because of a book written by a British-born author called Marie-Louise de la Ramee (wroting under the name Ouida) in 1872, called A Dog of Flanders (the name in Flemish is "Een hond van Vlaanderen"). This story is set in Antwerp and Hoboken (a suburb of the city). In Japanese the story is known as "Furandaasu no Inu": an animated television series (made in 1975) is still very popular in Japan and Korea. Two American films have been made based on the story, in 1959 and in 1999. Some of the links with the places which you can see are explained on this page.

A Dog of Flanders [book]
Author: Ouida (Louisa De La Rame)
Publisher: R A Kessinger Publishing Co
Date: June 2004
Dog Of Flanders [VHS video]
(American film version)
Studio: Warner Bros
Date: August 2000

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Antwerp is perhaps best known as a centre for diamonds. About 60% of the world's diamonds are traded in Antwerp. The diamond district is just in front of the central train station. Turn left at the station exit to explore some of the jewellery shops along Pelikaanstraat, turn right if you want to visit the diamond museum (Diamantmuseum) at 19-23 Koningin Astridplein, or go straight (along De Keyserlei) and turn left into Appelmansstraat for several diamond boutiques, the largest of which is Diamondland.

Central station

Jewellery shops

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Opposite the station, walk straight down De Keyserlei, which becomes Teniersplaats and then Meir (one of the busiest shopping streets). Half way along Meir on the left is a street called Wapper, where you can visit Rubenshuis (buy a ticket in the office in the middle of the street, and leave your bags in a locker). This house was bought by the famous painter Pieter Paul Rubens in 1610, and he lived and worked there until his death in 1640.

Entrance to the house and gardens

Self-portrait of Rubens (in the Dining Room)

(guide to the life and work of the painter Rubens)
Publisher: Prestel Publishing
Date: May 2004

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If you return to Meir and take the next road on the right (Lange Klarenstraat), you will see Sint Jacobskerk (St James's Church) in front of you at 73-75 Lange Nieuwstraat. This was the parish church of Rubens, and has a beautiful interior. The body of Rubens is buried in a chapel here, and one of his own paintings (Our Lady with the Saints) hangs in the same place.

Church entrance


"Our Lady with the Saints" (Rubens)

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The official title of Antwerp Cathedral is The Cathedral of Our Lady (known in Flemish as Onze Lieve Vrouwe Kathedraal). It is the largest Gothic church in the Benelux region. Make sure that you check visiting hours before you go (in 2004 these were Monday-Friday 10-5, Saturday 10-3 and Sunday 1-4). There is a small entrance charge (unless you are attending one of the services).




A famous Rubens painting called Assumption of the Virgin is displayed above the altar. On either side are two Rubens triptychs (sets of three paintings, the largest of which can be covered by folding the two smaller ones): Raising of the Cross and Descent from the Cross. In the past the two triptychs were hidden by two curtains and payment was required to open the curtains. In "A Dog of Flanders" the boy Nello desperately wanted to see these two triptychs, but did not have enough money to pay to see them. At the end of the story Nello enters the cathedral at night on Christmas Eve and dies together with his dog Patrasche under these paintings.

"Raising of the Cross"

"Assumption of the Virgin"

"Descent from the Cross"

Outside the cathedral are two statues: one shows several workers constructing the cathedral (this is dedicated to Jan Appelmans, the designer of the cathedral), and the other is the painter Rubens.

Appelmans statue

Rubens statue (in Groenplaats)

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Grote Markt is the main square of Antwerp (the main Tourist Information Centre is at 15 Grote Markt).

The Town Hall (Stadhuis) was built in the 1560s. In the story "A Dog of Flanders", the winner of the drawing competition was announced here (despite his talent, Nello was beaten by a boy from one of the rich and powerful families).

In front of the Town Hall is a fountain with a statue of a Roman soldier called Brabo. It is said that Brabo saved Antwerp by attacking a giant called Antigoon, cutting off its hand and throwing it into the River Schelde. Some people believe that the name Antwerp comes from "Handwerpen", meaning "throwing the hand" in Flemish.

On the north side of the square is a row of attractive guildhouses. In the centre is the House of the Crossbowmen: the gold statue at the top represents Saint George and the Dragon.

Statue of Brabo (in front of the Town Hall)


A good way to enjoy the streets around here is to take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage or bus. The horse-drawn carriage is a fixed cost per trip, so it is cheaper if shared by a group of four people (it is normal to pay at the end, adding a small tip for the driver). The horse-drawn bus is a fixed cost per person - you should check the time of the next available trip because it can be busy.

Carriage rides

Horse-drawn bus

Alternatively, spend time relaxing in one of the nearby bars or restaurants. Perhaps you want to try a Belgian beer, a seafood meal, or a waffle ...

Enjoy a waffle topped with cream and fruit ...

... or Belgian chocolate

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From Grote Markt you can continue walking away from the cathedral. Next to the river is a fortress (Steen): this was built between the 10th and 16th centuries. For much of this time it was used as a prison. Inside you can visit a maritime museum (Nationaal Scheepvaartmuseum). Outside the entrance is a statue of the giant which was killed by Brabo (according to the local legend).

Return to Grote Markt via Vleeshouwersstraat if you would like to see the Butcher's Hall (Vleeshuis): an attractive building dating from 1504. Nowadays this contains a museum with a collection of old wood carvings and musical instruments [closed until September 2006].

Giant's statue in front of the Steen

Vleeshuis (Butcher's Hall)

If you walk back to Groenplaats (in front of the cathedral), some choices are:
(1) return to the central station by metro (it is just three stops from Groenplaats to Centraal Station)
(2) walk back to the station along Meir and the other main shopping streets (allow at least half an hour)
(3) take tram 8 to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten)
(4) take tram 2 or 4 for an excursion to Hoboken (see below)

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If you are interested in the story "A Dog of Flanders" you may want to visit Hoboken, a suburb about 5km from the centre of Antwerp. To get there, take tram number 2 - which passes through Diamant (the metro stop in front of the central station) and Groenplaats - or tram number 4. Hoboken is the last stop, called Kioskplaats. Buy a ticket from a machine and remember to stamp it when you get on the tram. The journey takes about 30 minutes.

Walk along the main street (Kioskplaats) towards the church. On the left is Kapelstaat, where you can see a statue of Nello and Patrasche, the main characters in "A Dog of Flanders". The statue (unveiled in 1985) represents the loyal friendship between the boy and his dog: the bond between them could not be broken, even in the most difficult situation.

Directly behind this is an information centre which sells souvenirs and has a special display about the story, including a stained-glass picture of Nello and Patrasche made by a local artist, and a painting of "Nello's dream" (opening hours in 2004 were Monday-Friday 9am-5pm).

In the story, the bodies of the boy and the dog were found hugging one another, and the two were buried together in a single grave in the village church. This church would have been the Church of Our Lady, which you can see at the end of Kioskplaats. Chocolates in the shape of Nello and Patrasche are made in a confectionery shop opposite the church. Walking back towards the tram terminus, there is a restaurant called Patrasche on Kioskplaats (opposite Kapelstraat). There is also a statue of De Hobokenaar (meaning "the people of Hoboken") showing an image of a typical farming person from the village, from when this was still mainly an agricultural area.

Church of Our Lady

Patrasche restaurant

"De Hobokenaar"

At the end of the main road, turn into Rodekruislaan and follow this along the left-hand side of a park (Park Broydenborg). At the end of this road (on the opposite side) you can see Sorghvliedt Castle. This is an example of one of the fine houses in the area which was either owned by rich townspeople or was used as a country house by a wealthy city trader.

From the end of Rodekruislaan, turn left into Marneflaan and left again into Oudestraat. Take the first road on the right called Meerlenhoflaan, which then becomes Eikenlei. This is the journey to the windmill which is described in the book. Although the original mill is no longer there, a model has been put up in the original location, which is now in the grounds of a school. In the story, Nello developed a friendship with the miller's daughter, but the miller was unhappy about this and accused Nello of being responsible for a fire there, causing the townspeople to turn against him.

Sorghvliedt Castle

This dog protects the windmill!

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* Visitor information
Antwerp Tourist Information:
Antwerp Cathedral:
Nationaal Scheepvaartmuseum:
Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten:

* Independent travel to Antwerp
It is easy to visit Antwerp by train (journeys from Brussels or Ghent take less than 1 hour). Make sure that you get off at the final stop, called Antwerpen Centraal (not at the previous stop, which is Antwerpen Berchem).

* Weather forecast for Antwerp

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Useful links relating to Belgium and the UK: Links/Belgium

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