No Belgians were harmed in this quickie (unless you count the truffles) so take your mind off the gutter. The quickie here refers to my overnight stopover in Belgium on the way to Paris. So, my aunt and uncle decided to drop off a few things at his parent’s house in Brasschaat, a Hampton-esque suburban town in Flanders about 1 hour away from Antwerp.
From there, I was gonna catch the Thalys train to Gare du Nord. This plan was great because I got to visit Belgium even if for a day. Stayed in the region for a grand total of 15 hours since the train left very early the next morning. Despite the very short visit, I think I was able to check out some pretty important sights.
Since I haven’t really had enough exposure with the place to make any recommendations, I’m gonna change my format a bit for this post. Instead of must-do’s, here’s a slightly different kind of list instead:
10 Things I Enjoyed in Antwerp:
1. The City Center
Cobblestones. Pigeons fighting over a piece of waffle. Musicians. Motorcycles parked by cafés. Rows of beautiful buildings. What’s not to love?
2. The Antwerpen- Centraal
The city’s crowning glory that left me awestruck and speechless. I’ve seen my share of Central Stations during this trip but none of them could compare. Hell, even Mashable magazine awarded Antwerpen-Centraal the first place for the most beautiful railway stations of the world for 2014. It was beyond anything.
3. The Cathedral
I don’t go to every town’s cathedral just because I’m Catholic. I go because the architecture and design is amazing. The churches are so massive that you have to crane your neck to look up (like way way up) with your jaw hanging open. The Cathedral of Our Lady is no different. Even though it was closed for restoration when I visited, the facade alone was enough to leave you breathless.
4. The Grote Markt
The Grote Markt or Great Market Square is located right in the heart of the old city quarter. Here you can find the grand City Hall, the guildhalls (no idea what’s in there) and the famous Brabo fountain which was created by Jef Lambeaux.
5. The Groenplaats
This is the most popular square in Antwerp also known in English as the Green Square. The Cathedral of our Lady dominates this square. There are a lot of outdoor cafés and restaurants where people flock to for some legit Belgian beer.
6. The Scheldt
This huge-ass river that spans 3 countries, is one of the reasons why Antwerp is a rich city. The port of Antwerp, the second largest in Europe, sits right on the banks of the Scheldt, connecting the region to France and Netherlands. Also, Antwerp is home to the Diamond District or Diamond Quarter, the largest diamond center in the world where most of rough diamonds from all over the world pass through. If you were into conspiracy and suspense and okay, loved the movie Blood Diamond, then you wouldn’t wonder how illegal diamonds could easily get into the city through the port. And no I didn’t see any diamonds.
7. The Graffiti
There are hundreds of awesome street art all over Antwerp. I wasn’t able to take any pictures – my biggest regret – but you can check them out in this site http://thisisantwerp.be/blog/see/walk-your-way-through-art. Anyway, the contrast between all those colors and images to the historical buildings is pretty cool. I did take a picture of my favourite one, although it’s not really street art so much as vandalism but hey, expression and all right?
8. The 6AM Commute
The next morning, I left Brasschaat at about 6:00AM to get to the Antwerp-Central really early. There was no other person on the tram except us. After my aunt and uncle left me at the platform (nope not 9 3/4), I had a very healthy breakfast of Arizona Green Tea, Sour Cream Potato Chips and Singaporean Spicy Tapa (this delicious pork delicacy traveled all the way from Changi to Amsterdam to Belgium and then Paris).
9. Leonidas Fresh Belgian Chocolates
Where else can you find street food that includes fresh waffles with chocolate or strawberries dipped in chocolate? It’s chocolate madness. No wonder Antwerp’s greatest master, Rubens, painted lush and well-fed women. So of course, I had to stop by the famous Leonidas for a box of legit Belgian chocolate.
10. Bistro Mojo
Capped off the day with dinner at Bistro Mojo for some humongous scallops and prawns.
Great food. Great views.
All in all, that was definitely quick.