Antwerp is an unassuming little city that offers a wealth of interesting sites for the curious photographer. In fact, what makes an Antwerp photography trip such a pleasure is the diversity of locations on offer, all so close to each other. Read on to check out some of my favorite places in Antwerp for photography.
Antwerp: a Photographic Diamond in the Rough
Antwerp is a city that I’ve never specifically gone out of my way to visit, but nonetheless always enjoyed immensely whenever I’ve ended up spending a day or two there for one reason or another. Sure, it might not have quite the same buzz as Berlin, Barcelona, or Lisbon. But with it’s rustic port area, seedy red-light district, and the strange combination of present day wealth coupled with faded remnants of the once ruthless and formidable colonial power that helped acquire that wealth, Anvers is nonetheless a fascinating little town.
The comparison with Europe’s top creative capitals isn’t entirely misguided though. Sure, Antwerp is perhaps not going to be the next big thing in the world of startups (despite attempts by local co-working spaces to make it exactly that). But with its surplus of old industrial spaces, a small handful of important museums such as the FOMU photography museum, and a world famed fashion school to its name, in recent years Antwerp has become quite attractive to artists and other creative types looking for a smaller and closer-knit community than Berlin can offer.
The city being as compact as it is, most Antwerp photography sites are located within easy walking distance of each other. Indeed, what makes Antwerp so great for photography is precisely the variety of subjects and architectural styles offered within such a small geographical area. Step just a couple of blocks away from the swish luxury fashion boutiques and diamond-dealing salons of the downtown area, and you’ll find yourself in a quaint old-world square. Move a few blocks more, and the scenery quickly turns to atmospheric dust blown docklands.
Planning a shoot in Antwerp? Here are a few of my favorite Antwerp photography locations.
5 of My Favorite Antwerp Photography Spots
1. Antwerp Central Station
Immortalized in W.G. Sebald’s photo-novel Austerlitz, Antwerpen-Centraal is undoubtedly the most iconic and internationally well-known of Antwerp’s photography spots. Indeed, it’s considered by many to be one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world.
From the turreted facade and fairytale entrance hall to the glass domed roof and multitiered atrium, the station’s design features an eclectic mix of styles, making it an almost inexhaustible subject for photography.
2. Antwerp Docks
Perhaps it’s because I come from a port city myself, but I’ve always found shipping harbors to be fascinating, romantic places: hinting at distant lands, and offering the promise of travel, adventure, and exotic encounters.
Among European ports, the Port of Antwerp is second only to Rotterdam in size – and perhaps second to none in terms of photographic appeal. From the charm of former colonial customs houses and grain silos on the old waterfront, to the forest of cranes and wind turbines stretching off along the quayside, and now Zaha Hadid’s cut-diamond Port Authority building, the Antwerp docks offer photographers a broad range of architectural periods and styles in a single location.
3. Antwerp Cathedral
Antwerp Cathedral – or the Cathedral of Our Lady – is almost too quaint to be true, looking as it does like an old fashioned wind-up music box. Both the exterior and interior make great subject for photography, and you can also check out work by Rubens while you’re at it.
4. Grote Markt and City Hall
The extravagant design of Antwerp’s City Hall and main market seem more appropriate to a luxurious cake or priceless candelabra than a real life town square. In the center of the square lies the Brabo statue: symbol of the city.
Not only is the Grote Markt probably the most charming of all Antwerp photography locations, but it’s also a great place to kick back and enjoy a famed Belgian beer in one of the many cafes lining the square.
5. Imperial Architecture
Q: What do Shanghai’s Bund, downtown Manhattan, Madrid’s Gran Via, the Port of Liverpool, and London’s Thames Embankment all have in common with Antwerp?
A: Towering, imperialist architecture.
Solid and imposing, buildings such was the Boerentoren were perhaps an attempt to reassert power by architectural means during the last decades of Belgian colonialism. Putting any dubious political messages aside though, they certainly make for interesting photography locations today.
Small, fun, laid back, and offering a wealth of architectural styles, Antwerp makes a great destination for a weekend photography trip. Here I’ve listed just a few of my favorite Antwerp photography locations, but with a little curiosity and a day or two to while away in exploration, you’ll no doubt be able to find plenty more unexpected Antwerp photography sites of your own.
Not a photographer yourself, but rather looking for Antwerp photography to use for a project? You might want to check out my Belgium photography gallery. Please get in touch if you have any questions or would like to purchase one or more of these images.