Exploring Antwerp by Foot

The one thing I heard time and time again about Antwerp was that its train station is gorgeous. True enough, when Caitlen and I arrived, we were mesmerized by how grand and beautiful it was. It was even part of CNN’s 11 of the World’s Most Amazing Train Stations. Fascinated by what we had seen upon arriving, we were even more excited to see what else the city had to offer. When we exited the station, I got a whiff of the air and excitement filled my heart. It was one of the very few times I hadn’t planned where to go exactly, even if I can be quite obsessive compulsive when it comes to these things; though we knew we had to see the the Grote Markt, also known as the Market Square. As the title says it all, this trip was all about exploring the city we were both rather unfamiliar with on foot. We, then, headed towards the one place we wanted to see and passed by exquisite structures and rows of shopping stores that tickled both our fancies. After some twists and turns, and getting lost for a bit, we finally found our way to the lovely Grote Markt, whose main attraction for me was the City Hall that displayed 87 flags from around the world, including that of Antwerp and Flanders. What first was supposed to be of Gothic architecture joined the coming of age and developed into what was then the new architectural style of the Renaissance. In the late 1500s, the interiors of the City Hall were burnt down, but it wasn’t much later than that when its renovation took place. The exteriors, however, stood strong amid the flames.Onwards we went to explore the city, without a map in hand, we ventured to what seemed to be a river, which we saw from afar. Located in the old city center is Het Steen, a medieval fortress dating back to the early Middle Ages. Though it was used as a prison in 1303 until 1827, it later became the gateway to the river by which its stands beside, the Scheldt. After exploring the grounds of the fortress that wasn’t all too massive, we headed back towards the city center, but this time, through the small alleyways and not through the main road.Turn after turn, I was impressed with the architecture of the city that was exquisite in every way. As it was nearing lunch time, we decided to find a place to dine in. We passed by a restaurant that specialized in falafels and decided to take a peek inside. A middle-aged man of Middle-Eastern descent gave us a smile, and offered up one piece to try out. Being both our first time to try such, we took him up on his offer. It was free after all. And it was good! We decided to get ourselves one order each and this was what we were served with, together with a mini-bar that allowed us to choose toppings and sauces as we pleased.Aside from hearing about the city’s magnificent train station, pictured below, I was also told that the city zoo was worth a visit. On a whim, Caitlen and I decided to give it a visit, since we had about an hour or so to spare.

When we entered the zoo, the first thing that caught our eye was the whopping entrance fee. It was about 24EUR, if I remember right, nearly 1500 in PHP. We were hesitant at first, since we only had about an hour to make the most out our money’s worth; but since we realized, when else would we be given the chance to see the Antwerp Zoo, we went for it! As we walked past the entrance and into the attraction, I was amazed by how the area did not have that distinct animal smell that zoos often have, and also, everything was beautifully decorated, built and arranged. And yes, the photo below was taken inside the zoo. See what I mean?All the animals were in good health, unlike the zoos back home, sad to say. I saw animals that I never even knew existed, like the one pictured below. From cheetahs to panthers, camels, and zebras, an armadillo, a hippo, flamingos and so on, we were both beyond happy to be there. We definitely got our money’s worth, and even more, I believe.
  Also, the zoo is so close to the train station, that you could see it from afar.Everything about the zoo was perfect and all I could think as we explored the grounds was, “This is a zoo definitely done right.” Cutting it close to our train’s departure, we ran out of the zoo and made a quick photo stop at the main hall. Thanks to that stranger who willingly took our photo! We quickly passed by a souvenir shop and got ourselves a few snacks and city magnets, and ran to the platform our train was departing from.

Sad as we were that we were leaving the beautiful city of Antwerp, we were glad to have been given the chance to see it. I boarded the train with a smile, knowing that it was yet another city that I would visit again.