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Visiting the City Hall, Antwerp, Belgium: remarkable, Renaissance-style structure dating from the 16th century

Updated on May 28, 2012
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Antwerp City Hall, Grote Markt, Antwerp
Antwerp City Hall, Grote Markt, Antwerp | Source
Frontage detail, Antwerp City Hall, Grote Markt, Antwerp
Frontage detail, Antwerp City Hall, Grote Markt, Antwerp | Source
Map of Antwerp, around 1598
Map of Antwerp, around 1598 | Source

Hub of a leading urban centre

This remarkable structure in Antwerp (Dutch: Antwerpen ) was commenced in 1561 and completed in 1564, during the reign of Spanish King Philip II, when what is now Belgium (Dutch: Belgiƫ ).

Among the building's most striking features is the ornate gable facing the Market Square (Dutch: Grote Markt ).

The architect responsible was Cornelis Floris de Vriendt (c.1513-1575). He is said to have been influenced in the general styling of his works by the design of the Sistine Chapel, Rome, which he visited in the 1530s. Other architects and artists are also known to have contributed to the design of the City Hall.

In the Market Square onto which the City Hall faces there is a statue of Brabo, a mythical personage from Roman times, whose name is said to have given rise both to the provincial name 'Brabant' and the city and provincial name 'Antwerp'.

Although the building was designed as the City Hall, and indeed retains this municipal function, part of the building's frontage was previously divided into commercial units. The ground floor of the frontage has a series of arcades, within which these units functioned. The top storey of the building actually forms an open balcony, without windows, overlooking the Market Square.

This quite sumptuous building thus reflects the strong commercial standing of the port city of Antwerp which the city had attained by the 16th century, making it in its day among the most outstanding urban centres in the world. Despite Antwerp's relative decline after the 17th century, the city remains one of Belgium's leading commercial centres, with much architectural, artistic (1) and historical heritage.

Antwerp is situated in a province of the same name in Belgium's Flemish region (Dutch: Vlaams Gewest).

May 28, 2012

Note

(1) Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), the Baroque painter, maintained a studio in Antwerp.


Also worth seeing

In Antwerp itself, visitor attractions include: the Cathedral; the Steen castle and the Plantin printing museum; its Central Railroad Station is a remarkable, opulent building.

Mechelen (distance: 26 kilometres); its 97-metre cathedral tower dates from the 15th century.

..

How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. The Belgian railroad company NMBS / SNCB maintains a frequent service between Brussels and Antwerp . Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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