„Hello and welcome! So you really came driving through the jungle to arrive here? Well …. you made it!” He showed us his sprawling smile: proud of his unparalleled city and happy to host us (next to being glad we found our way through a not so touristic (read: popular) part of the city called “the jungle”).
Our Bed & Breakfast host already summarised in his first sentence how we felt after a weekend in Antwerp: this city is a multicultural jungle. Not only because Antwerp beats New York in the number of different nationalities, but also because of the huge number of artists, (hidden) art galleries and impressive shop windows. I think we can call Antwerp an artistic jungle.
Just one of many interesting shop windows in Antwerp
Our trip to Antwerp wasn’t the most fortunate one. On Saturday morning it started to snow….on Sunday morning our host told us that we were experiencing a record late season snowfall: since 1955 Antwerp didn’t get that much snow this time of year (end of March). He almost felt he had to apologise as the cold and snow might have ruined our Antwerp experience.
What he didn’t know was how impressed we were with the artistic culture in the city. For regular visitors most of it unfortunately stays hidden behind doors. Lots of artists have small galleries in their garage or basement that only open a couple of times a year or for special occasions. If you are into art, make sure to contact some locals (preferably artists) who know what is going on and where.
Our private art gallery
We were lucky, as our Bed & Breakfast had its own gallery! Beautiful work inspired by the Asian culture was on display. Images painted not only on canvas but also on chairs, cupboards, car doors, plates and more.
Walking through galleries always makes me aware of the creativity of people: the unlimited design freedom of the artist’s mind. I am always a bit jealous of how artists can come up with these fabulous creative ideas.
But why should art be hidden, tucked away in basements and converted garages? Why do we have to search for art and are we forced to look at ugly things. What I mean with that? Well, our Bed & Breakfast was located close to the most ugly street of Antwerp: the Turnhoutsebaan. Really, talking about ugly, this street is really scoring points (and no, I did not take any pictures).
That ugly street is in total contrast with one of the most beautiful streets in Antwerp: Cogels Osylei. This street holds an impressive collection of architecture: Jugendstill, Ne0-Classical, Art Nouveau, Gothic, to name just a few.
Make sure to visit this street and gaze at the houses, wondering how the city of Antwerp could ever have considered demolishing the whole area in favour of building new houses as part of so-called economic progress. I think no one will deny that withdrawing that decision has been one of the best decisions the city has ever made. More than 170 buildings in the area are now protected monuments….
Bed & Breakfast
Look no further if you are searching for a nice place to stay in Antwerp. We were pleasantly surprised by Droom & Daad Bed & Breakfast: the modern design, the overall friendly support and advice from our hosts Ton & Bie, and the in-house art gallery made our stay perfect.
Droom & Daad is close to Antwerp Central Station and by hopping on the electrical tram you can reach every part of the city quick and easy. Ton & Bie will not just throw the regular sight-seeing spots at you. What they will do is ask about your interests and only then show you where to go. Just look at how much inspiration they gave us!
If you like to be surprised a bit more, don’t forget to visit the Cathedral Cafe Het Elfde Gebod in the city center. It’s like having a beer in a church!
So yes indeed, we spent some time in the jungle called Antwerp… and we loved it! We will be back….in Summer.