Antwerp Old City (Self Guided), Antwerp

Visit Pierre Bruno Bourla’s most famous work, the Royal Theater, and witness its extraordinary 19th century architecture. Take a walk in the peaceful oasis of the Botanic Gardens and be sure to see the remarkable Rubens house and admire his famous masterpieces.
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Antwerp Old City Map

Guide Name: Antwerp Old City
Guide Location: Belgium » Antwerp (See other walking tours in Antwerp)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: mary
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Vlaamse Opera
  • Meir
  • Rubenshuis
  • Bourla Theater
  • Stadspark
  • Diamondland
  • Antwerpen-Centraal
  • Antwerp Zoo
Vlaamse Opera

1) Vlaamse Opera (must see)

The Vlaamse Opera is the Flemish Opera financed by the Flemish Government and the city councils of Antwerp and Ghent. Directed by Aviel Cahn, this single opera company performs in both, Antwerp as well as Ghent. The Opera is carrying forward the trend of one opera company performing in two historical theatres of the Flemish region set in 1981 by Opera voor Vlaanderen.

The history of opera in Antwerp dates back to 1661 when performances were held at the Grote Markt. The influence of the French artists in the performance troupes led to the adoption of French as the official language for all performances. A theatre was first constructed in 1709 and even enjoyed royal patronage between the years 1815 – 1829. However, it never garnered the attention it deserved and was never big enough to entertain a large crowd. It was only in 1834 that a new theatre was built to this effect and is used to this date for theatre performances. After many discussions, work for renovation of the theatre was finally taken up in 2005 at a budget of 24 million euros. The seating in the main auditorium, office spaces for the theatre and a new heating system were put in place. Much of the renovation work still remains but the Vlaamse Opera’s contemporary performances are being conducted in the renovated building since 2007. The Opera never ceases to amaze its audience whether they are in Ghent or in Antwerp or whether they are performing a classic or something altogether anew.

2) Meir (must see)

Meir is a famous shopping destination for the city of Antwerp and along with the Rue Neuve in Brussels, one of the most important shopping areas in Belgium. The Meir shopping area encompasses the streets surrounding Our Lady’s Cathedral all the way to the Centraal Station. Once used to store wet wood for furniture, the area has come a long way to be recognized as one of the prime areas for shopping in the country. From being a small street on the outskirts of the city, Meir has become an integral part of the City Centre.

With the opening of the Stadsfeestzaal Shopping Centre in 2007, the Meir has become the most expensive shopping destination in the economic union of Benelux. The area is home to all major shopping brands and attracts over 200,000 visitors from neighboring states and even other European countries. Along with being a shopping capital, the Meir has also seen the richness of architecture and the lavishness of the rich. It is home to some exquisite buildings such as ‘Osterrieth House’ at number 85 and the Royal Residence of the Belgian Kings, both built in the old Rococo style by architect Van Baurscheit. Whether for a shopping experience of a lifetime or just visiting to catch a glimpse of the past, Meir is a place that all must visit.

3) Rubenshuis (must see)

Known for his Counter Reformation portraits, landscapes and paintings, Sir Peter Paul Rubens was a Baroque painter, book illustrator and a diplomat during the early 1600s. The Rubenshuis is a city of Antwerp-owned and curated building that Rubens designed himself and spent most of his lifetime in.

Located on 9, Wapper Street, Rubens purchased this house in 1610 and added a gallery, porch and a large studio in Greco-Roman classic styles and a hint of Italian Renaissance to the structure. Within the walls of this house, Rubens and his students, such as Anthony Van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens, created most of their works. Rubens’ work is categorized by various stages of productivity of his own life. However, all of Rubens’ work that is displayed in the House today came back only after great efforts were put in by the people of Antwerp once it was decided to make the building into a monument in 1937.

The Rubens House is home to paintings such as St. Claire of Assisi, The Annunciation and Adam and Eve made by the great painter himself in addition to the works of other contemporaries of his time. The House also displays various objects of art from the 17th century giving the visitor a peek at the lavish lifestyles of those times. The Renaissance Garden which was renovated in 1993 takes inspiration from Rubens’ paintings and must not be missed.

Operation Hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 10 am - 5 pm
Bourla Theater

4) Bourla Theater (must see)

Whether you are a theatre buff or not, you are sure to get captivated and enthralled by this enchanting little theatre in Antwerp. Standing tall, boasting a neat Neo-Classic style of architecture, the Bourla Theatre is a must visit in Antwerp.

Although there are bigger names that beat Bourla in terms of magnitude and status, they all lack the charm, brilliant design and sheer grandeur that the Bourla Theatre proudly showcases. Atop this magnificent structure are the noted figures of theatre right from Shakespeare and Mozart to Aeschylus and Gluck.

Built in 1827, the Bourla Theatre was designed by Pierre Bruno Bourla, a French architect who served the city of Antwerp since 1819. At a time when Europe was going through a Golden Era in theatre and performing arts, the only theatre that Antwerp possessed was the Tapissiers House, once a market for tapestry. When the rest of Europe boasted grand world class theatres, the main theatre of Antwerp lacked style and modern amenities. It was during the Dutch occupation when the Pierre Bruno Bourla was commanded to come up with innovative and revolutionary designs for a new opera house and theatre. The result of his hard work is the Theater that stands to this day.

Apart from its rich history, the Bourla Theatre is well known for its magnificent design and opulent interiors. And if you want to really get a feel of this majestic building without sitting through a play, you can stop for brunch at a restaurant in the foyer of the building.

5) Stadspark

The Stadspark is an English styled park laid out over 35 acres of land not very far from Antwerp Centraal Station. This triangular park located between Rubenslei, Van Eycklei and Quinten Matsijslei is the only park located in the city center of Antwerp. Constructed in the late 1860s by architect E. Van Cuyck, the Park is a conversion of an old Spanish fortification.

A pond in the Park adds to the scenery while also playing host to some common water birds. A white pedestrian bridge was constructed over the pond which makes it even more picturesque. Various statues decorate the Park along with war memorials. A World War II bunker has remained a part of the Park since it was created. Today, the Park is a destination for joggers, rollerbladers and elderly walkers. You can often see rabbits around the Park who are more than willing to jog (or hop) along with you. However, the Park is too centrally located and cannot manage to take you completely away from the traffic noises arising from the city.

The Park is filled with different kinds of trees, some of which are not even native to the land. Open all times of the day, you can visit the park anytime you prefer although a day light visit is recommended. Once here, you can always go back to shopping areas which are located just outside the Park.

6) Diamondland (must see)

Located in downtown Antwerp, this unique center attracts those who appreciate gorgeous jewelry. Visitors are offered a 20 minute guided tour with information about the procedures involved in diamond cutting. A wide range of diamond jewelry is available, from necklaces, wedding rings and earrings to loose diamonds.

7) Antwerpen-Centraal (must see)

Antwerp is a perfect blend of old and new, renowned for its great effort in preserving historic buildings one of which is the Antwerpen Centraal, one of the world’s most impressive railway stations. The mighty Antwerpen Centraal is voted the world’s fourth best railway station and one of the finest examples of railway architecture in Belgium. Built between 1895 and 1905, it still operates 14 railways tracts at four different terminals and plays a vital role in connecting various parts of the country. Due to its unique architecture, historians to this date find hard to attribute the Antwerp Centraal design to any particular style. We, therefore, recommend visiting the Station and defining it in your own way.
Antwerp Zoo

8) Antwerp Zoo (must see)

Established in 1843, the Antwerp Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the world and is home to the Centre for Research and Conservation (CRC) along with the many animals and their various exhibits. Open all seven days of the week, the Zoo is located right next to Antwerp Centraal Railway Station at the Astrid Square.

The Zoo that started off in a small area of about 4 acres occupies over 26 acres of land today and is home to almost 950 different species of animals. From penguins to sea lions, from zebras to macaws and toucans and from commonly occurring apes to the near threatened okapis, the Zoo has them all. For some period, the Zoo also housed dolphins but the infrastructure demands could not be accommodated by a Zoo that was right in the center of the city.

From its inception, the Zoo has promoted wildlife preservation and through its recreational and educational exhibits pitches the importance of conservation to its 1.5 million visitors every year. The Zoo participates in the European Endangered Species Programme and has helped in the breeding of okapis, peafowls, tamarins and otters to name a few.

The Antwerp Zoo deserves at least half a day’s attention and once you are there, we are sure you will stay for more. But do not forget to pick up the schedule of the feeding times for these natural wonders at the entrance to see them interact with the Zoo staff.

Walking Tours in Antwerp, Belgium

Create Your Own Walk in Antwerp

Create Your Own Walk in Antwerp

Creating your own self-guided walk in Antwerp is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Museums Tour

Museums Tour

Visit the famous home and studio of Peter Paul Rubens and see the works of this unsurpassed master. Admire Northern Renaissance art at Mayer van den Bergh Museum. Discover new depths of 14th century art at the Royal Museum of Fine Art and observe the evolution of fashion at the unique Mode Museum.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles
Antwerp Introduction Walking Tour

Antwerp Introduction Walking Tour

The diamond capital of Europe, Antwerp is a port city on the River Scheldt in Belgium that is otherwise famous for its Flemish Renaissance architecture and close association with the Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens. All these and other historical facts are duly reflected in this orientation walk, featuring, among other attractions, the landmark Grote Markt in the Old Town, 17th-century...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.3 Km or 2.7 Miles
Antwerp's Historical Churches Tour

Antwerp's Historical Churches Tour

Admire the unforgettable works of Peter Paul Rubens, Otto van Veen, Jacob de Backer and Marten de Vos at the Cathedral of Our Lady. Feel the spirit of antiquity at Beguinage of Antwerp. Listen to the music of the 18th century organ at St. James' Church and see the 18th century Baroque altar and the pulpit of Jan-Baptist Van Hool and Jan-Frans Van Geel at St. Andrew’s Church.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles
Deurne Neighbourhood Walk

Deurne Neighbourhood Walk

Visit the Silver Museum at Sterckshof castle to learn more about the art and technology of silver. See the City Hall, enjoy a meal at Rivierenhof Castle, enjoy a game with the Phantoms hockey team and much more in the beautiful neighborhood of Duerne.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles
Antwerp Shopping Tour

Antwerp Shopping Tour

Antwerp is the best place in Europe to shop for diamonds. Visit the famous Diamond District, or Diamondland, the most beautiful diamond center in the city. Antiquity lovers can find a lot of interesting items on Kloosterstraat. Admire the beauty of Asian markets and restaurants in Antwerp's Chinatown. Follow this unforgettable tour, shop the best stores and have fun!

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles
South Side Walking Tour

South Side Walking Tour

Visit Antwerp’s South Side and see Waterpoort, built in honor of King Filip IV. Visit Sint-Walburgiskerk, the place used by Rubens in many of his works. The Royal Museum of Fine Art and the Museum of Modern Art are great places to see the development of art in the region.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles