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Antwerp: museums and sightseeing

Parent categories: Antwerpen

Renaat Braem architecture - Boerentoren - Brabo - Middelheim park - Zuid (trendy neighbourhood) - Zurenborg (art nouveau neighbourhood)

MuHKA museum

Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, Belgium

The Royal Museum of Fine Arts (KMSKA) [...]

The collection preserved at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp provides a representative picture of art produced in our regions between the fourteenth century and the present day. The collection comprises works by Jan Van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling, Quinten Metsijs, Frans Floris and the Bruegel family, Jean Fouquet, Lucas Cranach, Titiaan, Peter Paul Rubens, Jacob Jordaens, Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Cornelis de Vos, Frans Snijders, Daniel Seghers, Frans Hals, Henri Leys, Nicaise De Keyser, Henri de Braekeleer, Jan Stobbaerts, James Ensor, Constantin Meunier, Eugčne Laermans, Emile Claus, Rik Wouters, Jakob Smits, etc.

MuHKA [...]

MuHKA’s full name is Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, or Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp. It has been housed in a converted grain silo and adjoining warehouse since 1987. The MUHKA’s 4 000 square metres of exhibition space devoted to art from 1970 to the present day. The building and the collection, which of course is constantly being added to, belongs to the Flemish Community. Moreover, the museum has the Matta-Clark Foundation collection in its possession for an indeterminate period of time. Initially it formed the basis of the MUHKA collection and consists of more than 150 works by Belgian and international artists.

Photography Museum

The Provincial Museum of Photography uses photographs, pieces of equipment and other object and documents to illustrate the history of this technique and art. It is one of the world’s major museums in the genre. Visitors can peruse such items as the photographic album of the World Fair in London (1851). A portable developing cabinet, the Dubroni cameras and an automatic stereoscope dating from 1905, also merit a special mention.

Plantijn-Moretus Museum

The museum shows the whole book production process as it was in the old days and an enormous collection of books, printed or collected by Plantijn and the Moretusses. Moreover, visitors can admire the original interior of the patrician house: antique furniture, tapestries, damask coverings and gilded leather walls, works by Rubens, Quellin, Van Mildert, Verbrugghen, etc. The eighteenth-century east wing houses a room devoted to the poet Emile Verhaeren. The City Print Gallery also belongs to the museum.


In a side-street (named 'Wapper') of the Meir avenue stands the former house of Peter Paul Rubens, the greatest and most famous of all the Antwerp painters. It now houses the Rubens House Museum. Nowadays visitors to the house should be aware that they don't visit a house as it was left behind by its most famous inhabitant, but rather a reconstruction of what it must have looked like in the first half of the 17th century. The collection of paintings by Rubens himself and by some of his contemporaries alone makes it worth to pay the entrance fee. During a visit one can stroll through the reconstructed garden, visit the work shop of Rubens and his private quarters.


This late-Gothic hall (1501-1504) was originally the only place in the city where meat could be sold. The Butchers’ Guild had a chapel, a banqueting hall, a meeting room and a kitchen here. This museum now houses archaeological finds, applied art and objects which document local history. A number of Antwerp’s most important industries and artistic crafts are highlighted such as harpsichord building, the pottery and glass industries and the manufacture of art cabinets. The first floor covers the period of the separation of the Netherlands between the Fall of Antwerp (1585) and the Peace of Munster (1648). The exhibits include drawings, paintings, weapons, jewellery, coins, etc. Concerts, particularly of early music, are held at the Butchers’ Hall at regular intervals.

Ethnographic Museum

A visit to the internationally famed Ethnographic Museum is like a journey that enables you to explore the art, ingenuity and wisdom of the peoples of the earth, or, in other words, the riches of the most diverse cultures. The museum shows objets d’art and utensils from Africa, America, Asia and the South Sea area. The total collection, which started in 1864, now comprises some 25 000 objects and it is still constantly being added to. Highlights include the masks and other wooden sculptures from Africa, weapons from Indonesia, sculptures from India, bronzes and roll paintings from the Himalayas and a very varied collection of textiles from every corner of the world.

Diamond Museum

Antwerp is the world centre of diamond processing and of the diamond trade. The famous Antwerp cut and the advanced scientific research are founded on the centuries of tradition, which are brought to life in this museum. The displays guide visitors through the whole production process from mining to the dazzling end product. The history of the fascinating industry and trade that have developed around these little gems is also covered. A complete nineteenth-century diamond workshop has been reconstructed in the museum, but the real centrepiece is the treasure chamber where priceless pieces of jewellery sparkle seductively. On Saturday afternoons and by arrangement in advance on weekdays, you can see a diamond cutter at work in the museum.

Middelheim Museum

The Middelheim Open Air Sculpture Museum is situated just outside the “Ring” in a park that was purchased by the City way back in 1910 to prevent it being cut up into lots. The permanent exhibition of modern sculpture was put together in the fifties at the instigation of the then burgomaster Lode Craeybeckx. The collection now consists of more than 300 pieces, beginning chronologically with Auguste Rodin. Most are out in the open air and share the seasons with the wonderful nature. However a number of sculptures require protection from elements and so are housed in a pavilion. The castle orangery is now the documentation centre. Many names, apart from Rodin’s, attest to the high artistic standard that is upheld at Middelheim. They include Rik Wouters, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Vic Gentils, Ossip Zadkine and Roel D’Haese.

Het Steen – Maritime Museum

Steen is the Dutch word for “stone”. In Antwerp the “Steen” is the name of the little castle that can be seen at the entrance of the city center, on the border of the river Scheldt. The castle is called that way because it was one of the earliest buildings in Antwerp constructed with stones (at a time when most houses were still built with wood). The name “Steen” can be found in other cities too. It always refers to a castle-like fortification (e.g.: the castle of the counts of Flanders in the city of Gent is also called “Graven-steen”, or (stone) Castle of the Counts). The Steen was used as a prison from 1549 until 1823. As from 1862 it was used as the Archeological Museum. It was again renovated in 1889-1890 and a Neo-gothic wing was added to the building. Since 1952 The National Navigation Museum has been housed here. Next to the castle are the large storage halls of the 19th-century harbor. Here old boats cranes, cargo handling equipment, etc., can be seen.


This museum was once the home of seventeenth-century mayor Nicolaas Rockox, art collector and friend of Rubens. Purchased by the Kredietbank in 1970, the house was refurbished according the inventory drawn up on Rockox’ death. The collection has since been added to and comprises works by Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens, Teniers, Bruegel, Matsijs and many others.

Fashion Museum

The MoMu collection consists largely of an inheritance from the former Textile and Costume Museum: it is a very diverse collection of clothing, lace, embroidery, fabrics and tools for artisanal textile processing, mostly from the Southern Netherlands. The oldest collection pieces date back to the 16th century, but the emphasis is on the 19th century. MoMu, with its contemporary vision and purchasing policy, will add creations by Belgian fashion designers in particular.

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