In Rubens’s footsteps in the baroque city of Antwerp

Larger than life, surprising, lusty… These are just a few of the terms used to describe the baroque art movement. When you walk around Antwerp and gaze up at the lavish façades and the interiors of the city’s chapels and churches, it’s easy to see why Antwerp is called the premier ‘baroque city of the Low Countries’. Follow in the footsteps of the baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens and find out how opulent and flamboyant a city can be.

Corona news

Visit Antwerp is following the measures imposed by the higher authorities to limit the further spread of the coronavirus. Unfortunately, shops, cafés and restaurants are currently closed, museums and culture houses are keeping their doors shut and organised tours are on pause. Please note that some of the activities in the articles below may not take place for a while, but be inspired in advance and look forward to a visit to Antwerp.

Tour the city with the Rubens walking guide 

Let the Rubens walking guide direct you around the city. During your walk, which is inspired by the seven virtues and the seven cardinal sins, you’ll learn more about the life of Rubens and his contemporaries. You’ll gain an insight into life in seventeenth-century Antwerp and find out how Rubens came to be the most famous painter of his time. What’s more, you’ll also have an opportunity to admire some stunning artworks from Antwerp’s Golden Age. The guide costs just 3.5 euros. You can buy it from the Visit Antwerp visitor centres. Do you want to understand the master even better? Visit the Rubens House, the city palace where Rubens painted his masterpieces, where his children played in the garden, and where Rubens rolled out the red carpet for his distinguished and even royal guests.

St. Charles Borromeo Church: heaven on earth

Even though the baroque’s heyday is long past, this lavish style still has a way of popping up on Antwerp’s streets where you least expect it, as well as in the beautiful interiors of the city’s churches, chapels, and houses. A baroque explosion pretty much sums up St. Charles Borromeo Church in intimate Conscienceplein. As a painter, interior designer and architect, Rubens was involved in the design of the tower, the façade, the main altar, the ceiling, and the chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In the 17th century, somebody famously likened this church to heaven on earth. When you walk back out into Conscienceplein, take a deep breath. Can you smell the books? The Nottebohm Room is a hidden gem, where the first 150,000 books of Antwerp’s Heritage Library are kept today. Usually you can only visit this reading room during exhibitions, concerts, or talks. Fortunately you can catch a glimpse of its unique interior here.

More baroque locations

The smaller St. Anne’s Chapel in Keizerstraat is also worth a visit. Originally a gothic chapel, it was later embellished with several baroque elements, including the altar, the pulpit, the confessionals, the marble floor, and the resplendent monstrance. Another gem is Huis Schockaert, a house at 33 Mutsaardstraat. The volutes on the façade, the lion’s masks, and garlands all combine to create some very lavish decoration. Continue your walk past Hof van Liere, Museum Plantin-Moretus and Snijders&RockoxHouse to discover even more exuberant luxury. 

Can’t get enough of the baroque? How about the luxuriant interior of Antwerp’s festival hall, the Stadsfeestzaal? Alternatively you can also visit Museum Vleeshuis and the recently-renovated Stock Exchange.

Take a tour with an expert city guide

Want to learn more about Antwerp as a baroque city? Then find a group of like-minded people and book a tour Rubens’s Antwerp with an expert guide. You can also take Slow Travel Antwerp’s Baroque flavours tour. During Antwerp’s Golden Age and the baroque, many new flavours found their way to Antwerp from the other side of the world. Find out what Antwerpians thought of this, where they shopped for these specialties and how they used these new ingredients in interesting dishes.

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