Top Historic Sights in Antwerp, Belgium

Explore the historic highlights of Antwerp

Antwerp City Hall

The Antwerp City Hall was erected between 1561 and 1565 after designs made by Cornelis Floris de Vriendt and several other architects and artists, this Renaissance building incorporates both Flemish and Italian influences. The City Hall is inscribed on UNESCO"s World Heritage List along with the belfries of Belgium and France. In the 16th century Antwerp became one of the busiest trading ports and most prosperous ci ...
Founded: 1561-1564 | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

St. Paul's Church

The St. Paul"s Church exterior is mainly Gothic with a Baroque tower while the interior is characterised by rich Baroque decoration. A small church was built here by the Dominican Order and consecrated in 1276. The church is named after the patron saint of the Dominicans, St. Paul. As the church had become exposed to flooding as a result of a change in course of the Scheldt river, the Dominican Prior A. van Leent de ...
Founded: 1548 | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Cathedral of Our Lady

The Cathedral of Our Lady contains a number of significant works by the Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens, as well as paintings by artists such as Otto van Veen, Jacob de Backer and Marten de Vos. The belfry of the cathedral is included in 'Belfries of Belgium and France' in the list of World Heritage Sites. Where the cathedral now stands, there was a small chapel of Our Lady from the 9th to the 12th century, which acqui ...
Founded: 1352 | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Royal Museum of Fine Arts

The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, founded in 1810, houses a collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries. This collection is representative of the artistic production and the taste of art enthusiasts in Antwerp, Belgium and the Northern and Southern Netherlands since the 15th century. The museum is closed for renovation until the end of 2017. The neoclassical buildi ...
Founded: 1810 | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

St. James' Church

St. James" Church is built on the site of a hostel for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela. The present building is the work of the Waghemakere family and Rombout Keldermans, in Brabantine Gothic style. The church contains the grave of Rubens in the eastern chapel. From 1431 on, even before the church was built, the chapel on this site was a stop on the route to the burial place of Saint James the Great in Santiago d ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Het Steen

Het Steen is a medieval fortress in the old city centre of Antwerp. Built after the Viking incursions in the early Middle Ages as the first stone fortress of Antwerp, Het Steen is Antwerp"s oldest building and used to be its oldest urban centre. Previously known as Antwerpen Burcht (fortress), Het Steen gained its current name in around 1520, after significant rebuilding under Charles V. The fortress made it possibl ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

St. Andrew's Church

Construction of the St. Andrew’s Church commenced in the 16th century by Augustine friars who had built a convent with a chapel at the same location in 1513. The Augustinians decided to build a church there in 1514 but when they were accused of Lutheran sympathies the grounds were taken from them. In 1527 the site was parceled to finance the building of the church. The former convent chapel was expanded and then con ...
Founded: 1529 | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Plantin-Moretus Museum

The Plantin-Moretus Museum honours the printers Christophe Plantin and Jan Moretus. It is located in their former residence and printing establishment, Plantin Press, at the Friday Market. The printing company was founded in the 16th century by Christophe Plantin, who obtained type from the leading typefounders of the day in Paris. Plantin was a major figure in contemporary printing with interests in humanism; his eight- ...
Founded: 1576 | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Rubenshuis

The Rubenshuis ('Rubens House') is the former home and studio of Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) in Antwerp. It is now a museum. A year after marrying Isabella Brant in 1609, Rubens began construction on an Italian-style villa at the time located at the banks of the canal Herentalse Vaart. Rubens designed the building himself, based on studies of Italian Renaissance palace architecture that also formed the ...
Founded: 1609 | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Maison Guiette

Maison Guiette also known as Les Peupliers, is a house in Antwerp designed by Le Corbusier in 1926 and built in 1927. It was the studio and living quarters of René Guiette, a painter and art critic. One of the Franco-Swiss architect"s lesser-known works, it is an early example of the International Style. In July 2016, the house and several other works by Le Corbusier were inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Si ...
Founded: 1926-1927 | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Couwelaar Castle

Couwelaar Castle, also known as De Drie Torekens (The Three Turrets) is L-shaped and consists of a main building with wings, as well as several outbuildings including a coach house. The main building is characterized by two round towers at the front and a built-in, square tower at the rear. Over the centuries, the castle has been extensively altered and restored several times and has stylistic elements of the Neo-Renaissa ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Castle de Haar

Castle de Haar is the largest and most fairytale-like castle in the Netherlands. The current buildings, all built upon the original castle, date from 1892 and are the work of Dutch architect P.J.H. Cuypers, in a Neo-Gothic restoration project funded by the Rothschild family.

The oldest historical record of a building at the location of the current castle dates to 1391. In that year, the family De Haar received the castle and the surrounding lands as fiefdom from Hendrik van Woerden. The castle remained in the ownership of the De Haar family until 1440, when the last male heir died childless. The castle then passed to the Van Zuylen family. In 1482, the castle was burned down and the walls were torn down, except for the parts that did not have a military function. These parts probably were incorporated into the castle when it was rebuilt during the early 16th century. The castle is mentioned in an inventory of the possessions of Steven van Zuylen from 1506, and again in a list of fiefdoms in the province Utrecht from 1536. The oldest image of the castle dates to 1554 and shows that the castle had been largely rebuilt by then. After 1641, when Johan van Zuylen van der Haar died childless, the castle seems to have gradually fallen into ruins. The castle escaped from total destruction by the French during the Rampjaar 1672.

In 1801 the last catholic van Zuylen in the Netherlands, the bachelor Anton-Martinus van Zuylen van Nijevelt (1708-1801) bequeathed the property to his cousin Jean-Jacques van Zuylen van Nyevelt (1752-1846) of the catholic branch in the Southern Netherlands. In 1890, De Haar was inherited by Jean-Jacques' grandson Etienne Gustave Frédéric Baron van Zuylen van Nyevelt van de Haar (1860-1934), who married Baroness Hélène de Rothschild. They contracted architect Pierre Cuypers in 1892 to rebuild the ruinous castle, which took 15 years.

In 1887, the inheritor of the castle-ruins, Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt, married Hélène de Rothschild, of theRothschild family. Fully financed by Hélène's family, the Rothschilds, the couple set about rebuilding the castle from its ruins. For the restoration of the castle, the famous architect Pierre Cuypers was hired. He would be working on this project for 20 years (from 1892 to 1912). The castle has 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms, of which only a small number on the ground floor have been opened to be viewed by the public. In the hall, Cuypers has placed a statue with his own image in a corner of the gallery on the first floor.

The castle was equipped by Cuypers with the most modern gadgets, such as electrical lighting with its own generator, and central heating by way of steam. This installation is internationally recognized as an industrial monument. The kitchen was for that period also very modern and still has a large collection of copper pots and pans and an enormous furnace of approximately 6 metres long, which is heated with peat or coals. The tiles in the kitchen are decorated with the coats of arms of the families De Haar and Van Zuylen, which were for this purpose especially baked in Franeker. Cuypers marked out the difference between the old walls and the new bricks, by using a different kind of brick for the new walls. For the interior Cuypers made a lot of use of cast iron.

In the castle one can see many details which reminds one of the family De Rothschild, such as the David stars on the balconies of the knight's hall, the motto of the family on the hearth in the knight's hall (A majoribus et virtute) and the coat of arms of the family right underneath on the hearth in the library.

The interior of the castle is decorated with richly ornamented woodcarving, which reminds one of the interior of a Roman Catholic church. This carving was made in the workshop of Cuypers in Roermond. The place where later also the interiors of many Roman Catholic churches were made, designed by Cuypers. Cuypers even designed the tableware. The interior is also furnished with many works of the Rothschild collections, including beautiful old porcelain from Japan and China, and several old Flemish tapestries and paintings with religious illustrations. A showpiece is a carrier coach of the woman of a Shogun from Japan. There is only one more left in the world, which stands in a museum in Tokyo. Many Japanese tourists come to De Haar to admire exactly this coach, which was donated from the Rothschilds collections.

Surrounding the castle there is a park, designed by Hendrik Copijn, for which Van Zuylen ordered 7000 fully grown trees. Because these could not be transported through the city of Utrecht, Van Zuylen bought a house and tore it down. The park contains many waterworks and a formal garden which reminds one of the French gardens of Versailles. During the Second World War many of the gardens were lost, because the wood was used to light fires, and the soil was used to grow vegetables upon. At this time, the gardens are restored in their old splendor.

For the decoration of the park, the village Haarzuilens, except for the town church, was broken down. The inhabitants were moved to a place a kilometer further up, where a new Haarzuilens arose, where they lived as tenants of the lord of the castle. This new village was also built in a pseudo-medieval style, including a rural village green. The buildings were for the most part designed by Cuypers and his son Joseph Cuypers.