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

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4.2/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Théo D. (5 months ago)
The vast majority of the castle can be visited for free, even the panoramic view. Definitely worth a visit. The paid part for 7 euros is alright. Might or might not be worth 7 euros. If you're a family and need to pay for like 4-5 people then not worth it. By yourself, likely worth trying it. It has two movies, a few paintings and sculptures and a room with essentially advertisement for Antwerp/Belgium. The free exhibition on table screens right before the paid entrance honestly tells you more about Antwerp's history than the paid exhibition.
Helmut Dons Olieslagers (7 months ago)
Beautiful historic castle. Was used as prison in 16th century, later as ship museum. Now you can go to the roof top for a nice view over the Schelde river towards the harbour and city and the tall ships on the day I visited.
Trang Nguyễn (7 months ago)
I have heard that this was an old building but my impression was that it was quite new (probably they have just renovated it) ?? There were tourist information center, Antwerp story and when you go to the top you can have a nice view of the city from above (don't expect a view from very high), it is just high enough. Great location, near the port and the water bus
Meng Yau (8 months ago)
Oldest building in Antwerp. Has a tourist information center inside which provides very good information, with interactive technology. On the top floor, you are able to get a nice view of the river. Must visit.
Andrzej Dec (10 months ago)
Beautiful small castle with option panoramic views from top tower. Entrance to tower is for free, highly recommended Stein castle and view from top when you visit Antwerpen. Also here is located tourist information center where you can get map of Antwerpen for free.
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