Antwerp continues to work on its appearance and give its streets a serious make-over where necessary.Antwerp of the 21st century gives buildings new uses, renovates and rejuvenates them in order to create a livable, open and modern city.
Old buildings are given different uses. Architects flawlessly transform existing constructions into something new and add surprising postmodernist elements. A grain silo is now the Museum for Modern Art, a goods station became a bank, a garage became the Permeke library. The ModeNatie and administrative centre Den Bell are housed in upgraded buildings. The old warehouses on the Eilandje are also starting a second life - as lofts, distribution centres, shops, offices and the city’s archives.
New buildings are also leaving their mark on Antwerp’s city centre:the Plantin Hogeschool, youth hostel, Design Centre, De Meerminne on the university campus. The new court of justice and Post Noord attract international attention. And the MAS inaugurated an era of residential towers like those on the Kattendijkdok.
Antwerp focuses on public space: laying streets, squares and green zones. Antwerp gives its residents free access to the quays and the edge of the Scheldt River – with promenades on the Eilandje and the renovation of the Scheldt quays.The new Theatre square and Kievit square, Sint-Paulusplaats, Ossenmarkt and Dageraad square are havens of tranquillity. Soon the city will boast a Lima square, Cadix square and Opera square.Park Spoor Noord is a green reprieve; De Konijnenweide and the renovated Stadspark will soon emit that same feeling.
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The Antwerp Central Station, also known as Middenstatie (Middle station) or Spoorwegkathedraal (Railroad Cathedral), was first used in 1905. The structure is made up from a steel platform covering and a stone station building in an eclectic style. Recently, the station was completely renovated and in 2007 a tunnel underneath the station and a part of Antwerp was opened, reverting the station’s status as a terminus where are all trains have to turn back. In 2009, the American magazine Newsweek chose the Antwerp Central Station as the fourth most beautiful train station in the world.
The secret Vlaeykensgang alley dates from 1591 and connects Hoogstraat, Oude Koornmarkt Pelgrimstraat with one another. Walk through the gate at Oude Koornmarkt 16 and you feel as if you have journeyed back in time. In the past this alley was where the shoemakers and the poorest people in the city lived. The shoemakers were also in charge of sounding the alarm bell of the cathedral. These days you can find antiques stores and art galleries here as well as the exclusive restaurant Sir Anthony Van Dyck. The atmosphere is very intimate which is why many people also like to come here to listen to the carillon concerts during the summertime.
St Anna’s Tunnel – or Underpass, as the locals like to refer to it – was opened in 1933. Both on the left and on the right bank, you can still access the tunnel using the authentic wooden escalators which were unique at the opening.
Those who want to discover medieval Antwerp must dare to look beyond façades and buildings.