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Antwerp See And Do

Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal)
Handschoenmarkt
Antwerp
Belgium 2000
Tel: 32 3213 9951
www.dekathedraal.be

Antwerp's Cathedral of Our Lady is one of the most impressive Gothic churches in all of the Low Countries—and it is the largest. With construction spanning the years 1352 to 1521, a 403-and-a-half-foot spire liberally iced with Gothic frills, and a forestlike interior of seven aisles, the cathedral is a sight to behold. Sadly, religious turmoil over the years has stripped the interior of its original elements, and today it is larded with late (and uninteresting) baroque embellishments. However, there are four altarpieces by—wait for it—Rubens.

Het Rockoxhuis
10–12 Keizerstraat
Antwerp
Belgium 2000
Tel: 32 3201 9250
www.rockoxhuis.be

Nicolaas Rockox was Antwerp's mayor during the Golden Age, when commerce and creativity boomed, and was a personal friend of Rubens (though it sometimes seems every citizen during the 17th century claimed that status). Rockox's restored former home contains his own private collection, fleshed out with works acquired by the bank that now owns and operates the house as a museum. The collection includes works by Rubens (naturally), Van Dyck, Brueghel, Jordaens, Teniers, Massys, and more. Entry is free the last Wednesday of the month.

Closed Monday.

Historic Walks
Tourism Antwerp
15 Grote Markt
Antwerp
Belgium 2000
Tel: 32 3232 0103
www.antwerpen.be

For a real insider's view, Tourism Antwerp offers terrific two-hour walking excursions of historic Antwerp on Saturday and Sunday (starting at 11 a.m.). If you prefer to do it at your own pace, buy one of their maps for self-guided neighborhood walks geared to specific interests such as architecture, antiques, fashion, diamond district, or maritime history.

Koninklijk Museum Voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen
Leopold de Waelplaats
Antwerp
Belgium 2000
Tel: 32 3238 7809
museum.antwerpen.be/kmska/

Discover exactly what art historians mean by "Flemish Old Masters" at the Antwerp Royal Museum of Fine Arts. This is the native city of Rubens, and the collection not only contains the largest number of works under one roof by that master of voluptuous goddesses, but the museum's very entrance halls were frescoed by the man himself (or at least by his army of assistants). Other famed Low Country names abound too: Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Frans Hals, and Brueghel. The works on display span five centuries, all the way up to the 20th, but the Renaissance masters are why you visit.

Closed Monday.

ModeNatie
28 Nationalestraat
Antwerp
Belgium 2000
Tel: 32 3226 1447
www.modenatie.com

The ModeNatie complex is not only a fascinating foray into Antwerp's fashion history—dominated by Antwerp Six alums like Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester—it's also the most relevant museum in town. The complex is equal parts commerce and art: It houses the Mode Museum; Flanders Fashion Institute; the fashion department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts; a design library and bookshop; and the spanking-new, 10,000-square-foot Yohji Yamamoto flagship store, stocked with his women's and menswear, a new jewelry line he designed with Mikimoto, and his daughter Limi's feminine line of women's clothes. Recent exhibits at the Mode Museum have included Soviet-era head scarves, and retrospectives of contemporary designers like Veronique Branquinho and Bernhard Willhelm.

Muhka (Museum of Contemporary Art)
32 Leuvenstraat
Antwerp
Belgium 2000
Tel: 32 3260 9999
www.muhka.be

A grain silo and warehouse in the Zuid district of town have been converted into a 13,000-square-foot exhibition space devoted to art—both international and homegrown Belgian—from the 1970s onward. As with most contemporary art museums, the quality of your visit will depend largely on the caliber of the temporary shows on display. There's no permanent collection per se (the museum has no permanent venue to display works from its own archives). Instead, the museum's collection is constantly rearranged, often mixed with pieces commissioned for exhibition, to suit changing curatorial needs.

Closed Monday.

Museum Mayer Van Den Bergh
19 Lange Gasthuisstraat
Antwerp
Belgium 2000
Tel: 32 3232 4237
museum.antwerpen.be/mayervandenbergh

This glorious hodgepodge of paintings, decorative arts, and fine crafts (heavy on Dutch and Flemish pieces from the 14th to 16th centuries) was amassed by art collector Fritz Mayer van den Bergh over an amazingly brief period (he died in 1901 at the age of 43) and was opened to the public in 1904. Van den Bergh was one of the first to rediscover and popularize the works of Pieter Brueghel the Elder, whose Bosch-like "Mad Meg" hangs here.

Museum Plantin Moretus
22 Vrijdagmarkt
Antwerp
Belgium 2000
Tel: 32 3221 1450
museum.antwerpen.be/plantin_moretus

You don't have to be a bibliophile to be intrigued by Europe's oldest industrial printing house—UNESCO wouldn't have granted it World Heritage status for nothing. Above all, this museum is a gorgeously preserved window on the late 16th century. The displays trace the history of printing—both the technology of the presses and binding, and the glory of the antique books themselves—through the 300 amazing years that came after Gutenberg started producing Bibles. Rubens became a friend to this family of printers in its third generation and was responsible for several of the portraits on display, as well as the illuminations in some of the manuscripts.

Closed Monday.

Rubenshuis
9–11 Wapper
Antwerp
Belgium 2000
Tel: 32 3201 1555
museum.antwerpen.be/rubenshuis

Peter Paul Rubens liked his women fleshy and his home palatial, so when he bought this building in 1610, he set out to turn it into a Renaissance palazzo that befitted a painter who would one day occupy the top echelons of Old Masters. Out of the Rubens family hands for nearly 300 years following the painter's death, the house was finally acquired by the city in 1937, and it set about restoring the place with as much bona fide Rubens memorabilia as possible, filling in the gaps with period pieces. The ten Rubens paintings on display include a self-portrait, as well as a portrait of another young lad who showed some skill with a paintbrush: Anthony van Dyck.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.