Wednesday, January 29, 2020 | Written by Blanca
Last Thursday, partially fueled by a desire to scout out the best, most authentic Belgian waffle, I found myself, at the end of a five-hour train journey, stepping onto my final concrete train platform of the night. A sign informed me and my travel party that we had indeed arrived in Belgium in one piece, and, huffing a relieved breath of air into the frigid night, we were soon off to our Airbnb.
The next morning brought a wave of sleep deprivation that was soon overtaken by excitement; we were off to Antwerp, and ever a sucker for seeing new architectural styles in the flesh, I was eager to take in all of Antwerp’s stepped gable building fronts and perhaps even a peek of the Mosan Renaissance.
After hopping off our train at the Antwerpen-Centraal railway station, which is a stunningly eclectic architectural feat in itself (Mashable even crowned it the world’s most beautiful train station in 2014!), the first stop was brunch. I’m never one to pass up a meal in a cute café, or a photoshoot of said food, or a pan of shakshuka, for that matter, so on this day I did all three.
Traversing sidewalks and absorbing the buildings lining the streets is perhaps my favorite pastime, and I saw much of Antwerp this way. If you find yourself in Antwerp doing the same, don’t forget to look up! I soon noticed that there sat perched on many a building corner in Antwerp a Virgin Mary statue, which quickly presented the opportunity for a twist on the classic, “Where’s Waldo?”. I should warn you, however, that Mary and her cherubs can be quite elusive. Be prepared to run across the street in order to take a photo when you finally encounter one, leaving the rest of your travel party wondering what on Earth is wrong with you.
Later, I found myself passing through the famed Grote Markt in Antwerp’s old city quarter, lined with strikingly Flemish Gothic guildhalls. No doubt looking quite foolish (and even more like a tourist), I spun around in place to take in the full 360° view, which was still stunning, even on an overcast day.
Our meandering path across the city brought us along the Scheldt River next, where we made a stop in the Museum aan de Stroom. MAS houses collections on nine floors, although making my way around Antwerp with a group of eight other people meant that I wasn’t able to pore over each exhibit as I normally like to do at museums. I’d been warned of this before, but if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about traveling, it’s that the larger the group with which you travel, the harder it is to agree precisely on how to delegate everyone’s time collectively—which makes perfect sense, since everyone has different desires and interests. So, while staring longingly at impressionist paintings and gawking over ornate period rooms is absolutely my cup of tea, for others it might seem downright dreadful. Conversely, though, seeing new sights and exploring new environments with friends makes the experience all the more sweet, so no complaints here! The MAS roof offers an expansive panoramic view of the city, so up we went, viewing the city from 200 feet in the air and tracing the steps we’d taken to get there.
The rest of my weekend was spent still in Belgium, where I visited charming Ghent and strolled the streets of Brussels, lit up so magically in the night. Like Antwerp, these Belgian cities were both beautiful and full of character in their own rights, each with their own hidden gems (and each deserving of their own blog posts, if we’re being frank).
On a final note, in case you’re wondering, did Blanca ever get to eat her Belgian waffle? Yes, yes I did.