Het Steen

Antwerp, Belgium

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 possible to control the access to the Scheldt, the river on whose bank it stands. It was used as a prison between 1303 and 1827. The largest part of the fortress, including dozens of historic houses and the oldest church of the city, was demolished in the 19th century when the quays were straightened to stop the silting up of the Scheldt. The remaining building, heavily changed, contains a shipping museum, with some old canal barges displayed on the quay outside.

In 1890 Het Steen became the museum of archeology and in 1952 an annex was added to house the museum of Antwerp maritime history, which in 2011 moved to the nearby Museum Aan de Stroom. Here you’ll also find a war memorial to the Canadian soldiers in WWII.

There are some beautiful plaques on the back side of the Steen Castle at Antwerp. Canadian visitors will especially want to see the plaques thanking the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry for their part in the liberation of Antwerp, in 1944.

At the entrance to Het Steen is a bas-relief of Semini, above the archway, around 2nd century. Semini is the Scandinavian God of youth and fertility (with symbolic phallus). A historical plaque near Het Steen explains that women of the town appealed to Semini when they desired children; the god was reviled by later religious clergy. Inhabitants of Antwerp previously referred to themselves as 'children of Semini'.

At the entrance bridge to the castle is a statue of a giant and two humans. It depicts the giant Lange Wapper who used to terrorise the inhabitants of the city in medieval times.



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Founded: c. 1200
Category: Castles and fortifications in Belgium


4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Niliam Joy (2 months ago)
An astounding breathtaking remains of a medieval castle in the city center of Antwerp. Don't miss to visit and have an instagramable pose
Georges Younes (3 months ago)
Said to be the oldest building in Antwerp, this fort-like structure has been renovated extensively. At this stage, it's used mainly as a tourist center giving out information on the attractions of the city. The views from the roof of the building are worth the climb. There are beautiful perspectives on the waterfront and on the roofs of old Antwerp. There are also items to buy at the shop in the building, but they're unreasonably priced.
Akshaya Gawand (3 months ago)
This was the first museum we visited after reaching Antwerp. Great historical architecture from the Medieval times. Very well maintained. There is a souvenir shop inside. The staff is very well informed and helpful. There’s a cruise terminal which is one of Europe’s biggest ports.
Jennifer Yeo (3 months ago)
Highly recommended place to start if you just reached Antwerp. It’s like a museum and visitor centre where you learn more about the history, culture and different attractions. We topped up 7 Euro for The Antwerp Story and it was so worth it. The exhibits were interactive and informative. You get to see snippets of the various museums so you know where to start or go because there are just too many attractions.
balesh bhatt (4 months ago)
Nice small castle next to the river. You can have a nice view of the city from the roof. There is no ticket to visit so there are no dents on the pockets ?.
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