Cities for Cyclists: Antwerp, Belgium
We’re continuing our Cities for Cyclists series with Belgium’s Antwerp.
An up-and-coming contender for the best cycling cities in Europe, Antwerp is developing bicycle infrastructure city-wide, from the addition of over a hundred kilometres of cycling paths, to bicycle super-highways and a vast bicycle parking facility under the central station.
There are plenty of cycling routes across the city that facilitate uninterrupted travel across busy roads, waterways or intersections - it’s easy to get out on your bicycle and explore.
One highlight is Park Bridge, a bicycle and pedestrian bridge that connects a beautiful park (Park Spoor Noord) with Het Eilandje, one of Antwerp’s most popular districts.
You should also check out St Anna’s Tunnel or the Kennedy bicycle tunnel, two pedestrian and bicycle-only tunnels running under the River Scheldt.
In fact there is so much to see in Antwerp and it's easy to get to a lot of it by bicycle. But where to start? Here are a few exciting locations across the city to visit on two wheels.
Antwerpen-Centraal (Antwerp Central Station)
Depending on where you come from, you just might start your trip in Antwerpen-Centraal. This century-old station is known for its eclectic aesthetic and beautiful architecture. With 14 tracks and 8 platforms in use, Antwerpen-Centraal consists of a stone station building with its vast waiting room all hall covered by an expansive steel dome.
The original wooden station building was the first public railway in Europe, having opened in 1835. Then today’s magnificent, expansive structure was first used in 1905, having been in development since 1895 when King Leopold II decided to upgrade the wooden building under the eyes of some of Europe’s leading architects.
Between 2000 and 2009 the station was further renovated and expanded, but maintaining all of its original quirks, with more platforms opened, several additional underground levels added and space made for shops and restaurants, making it an effective central meeting point for train lines around the city.
NOTE: You can bring your bicycle on trains in Antwerp for only €4. Folding bicycles are free.
Meaning “little island”, Het Eilandje is Antwerp’s former harbour area. It is surrounded by water and full of coffee bars, artist ateliers, architecture, shopping and restaurants. Visit the MAS museum, an extraordinarily shaped building with a fascinating permanent exhibition and a horizontal boulevard, famous for its panoramic views of the city below, and stop off at the “Museum Dock” right behind it to check out a host of old, historical ships.
Check out the island’s coffee shops and restaurants or take a tour around the glittering Port House, an old 1920s fire station which has been expanded into an incredible glass ship. And there’s plenty more!
Kunsthal Extra City
An Antwerp-based arts organisation, Kunsthal Extra City offers a hub for artists, art lovers, city residents and tourists alike to come together and experience contemporary art. It is located in a former Dominican Monstery which is in itself a sight worth seeing. Check out the art organisation’s regular exhibitions and arts programs and get involved with Antwerp’s creative community.
This bustling street in Antwerp city is home to an array of unique, fascinating shops full of people from all over the world. Check out Chelsea Records which stock anything and everything on CD, record, even cassette tapes; visit WoonTheater Zuid for their eclectic collection of wooden kitchens and furniture; step into Vaneva for beautiful handmade jewellery; or just meander down the street taking everything in.
Café De Muze
End your day with a coffee or a drink at this eclectic jazz cafe. Opened in the 1960s, Cafe De Muze has been a stage for a broad array of well-loved, international jazz artists. Every night from 10pm the cafe is filled with live music, craft beer, speciality brew and delicious coffees, including the koffie verkeerd (‘wrong coffee’), a delicious take on café au lait.
Zomer Van Antwerpen (Summer Of Antwerp)
Finally, if you’re in Antwerp during July and August, make sure you don’t miss out on Zomer Van Antwerpen, an exuberant, cultural festival that claims to celebrate a range of divergent ideas about everyday things.
Expect music, dance, theatre and circus performances from all over the world in brilliantly unexpected locations, from pop-up tents to empty buildings. This festival is just as much a celebration of Antwerp as it is a celebration of culture.
Don’t have a bike?
No problem! Antwerp is home to its own bike-sharing project, Velo, empowering two-wheel travel for residents and visitors alike who may not own their own bike. Like other bike-share initiatives, Velo allows you to use a bicycle for travel around the city, as far as you want to go. Simply buy a year, week or day pass and help yourself to a bike from one of the city’s many bicycle stations.
MODMO in Antwerp
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