It has an art gallery section which was relatively ordinary, unless you like your art traditional, Australian or representative or all three – I don’t. The best bits though were the other bits. The natural history displays were truly lovely, particularly the presentation of stuffed animals in recreations of their national habitat.
Look at this display. Compelling and informative (different circles were different kinds of beetle.)
Great display of protest materials from Tasmania’s political past up to the present.
Loved this installation too. Though why the suit of armour has a pet bird of paradise is anyone’s guess. Reminds me of my favourite museum in the world: the Museo Fortuny in Venice.
Middelheim Museum is an outdoor sculpture park not far from Antwerp city. Entry is free, but note that it is closed on Mondays.
You could spend a whole day or more exploring the art in the park, there is genuinely ‘something for everyone’ from hyper-modernist work, to old school traditional sculpture.
The 21 or 32 from Berchem Station will get you there, or even better go on a bike. This is Belgium so there is of course a cafe in the grounds. Stop for a borreltje of jenever and a cheesy snack.
Park Spoor Noord is an example of urban renewal done well. As so often happens, a visionary but divisive mayor is responsible. The outcome is that an abandoned railway yard in a rough part of town has been turned into a beautiful park that is changing the neighbourhood around it. Go there on a sunny day, play in the fountains and lounge on the artificial beach.
There is of course a bar (we are in Belgium after all), but of note is the only healthy vending machine I have ever seen in my life. Fruit, yoghurt, cherry tomatoes and more – wish we had one of these at my work..
There is a gallery at Park Spoor Noord that is a converted hangar of some sort. When I went they were showing the amazing PIETAS by Jan Fabre. Marble brains and a pieta with carved insects crawling all over them – and the golden base that you needed to wear special slippers to wander about on. Quite an incredible exhibition.
The Tycho Brahe Planetarium is mainly designed for children, but is worth a visit if – like me – you’re a Tycho fan (and it’s free, always a bonus). The building sits on a gorgeous lake in the centre of Copenhagen. It also shows 3D films, will definitely catch one of these next time.
Isn’t that an awesome looking building? For those who are interested, there is a pretty awesome if rather small shop in here.
The ceiling inside is pretty special too. Tycho with his brass nose and drunken moose would no doubt approve.
Utrecht city is about an hour and a half drive from Antwerp. Sensibly, because this is Holland where all things are sensible, there are park and ride stations located on every major highway into town. You definitely want to park and ride, what makes Utrecht so lovely is how pedestrian friendly it is, and how few cars there are.
Utrecht is a University Town which means there is lots of great cheep food, fun bars and places to shop. It also means vibrant stencil work about town – like this one which marries Delft patterns with bombers.
Centraal Museum has this amazing Victor and Rolf gown that I covet. Perhaps for a wedding some day?
Apparently Dick Bruna himself still regularly pops by on his bicycle to visit the Dick Bruna Huis. My favourite bit of this museum were the cabinets with letters and handmade outfits for nijntje sent from around the world (very frequently from Japan).
After a hard day of museums and fabulous coffee it is compulsory to sit by the canal and have a nice beer with something delicious. The choice of restaurants is rather good, particularly liked the cheap vegetarian De Werfkring at 123 Oudegracht.
Whichever language you choose to say it’s name in, Gent is one of the most charming and lively cities in Flanders . It has great bars and nightlife, canals and historic squares, and more old buildings and churches than you could throw a stick at.
If you only visit one city in Belgium go to Gent. Brugge is pretty but Gent is vibrant AND pretty.
Here’s an example: art, old buildings, a canal and people drinking all in the one photo. My kind of place.
As it seemed time to do a little touristing we went to the Design Museum. It has an amazing mix of 18th and 19th Century design and art in a gorgeous old building, mixed with modern and post modern art and design pieces.
Loved this original wallpaper in one of the rooms – surprisingly modern.
And this mutant bear by Philippe Starck also took my fancy, pity he wasn’t for sale in the gift shop.
Then time for a proper coffee. This espresso from Simon Says sure hit the spot.The apple and cherry juice was also ace.
Possibly the best coffee I have ever had in Belgium. Highly recommended. This place is also a Bed and Breakfast – if I ever need to stay overnight in Gent will be at the top of my list of places.
Was served with some of the best frites I have ever had. A must try if you are in Gent.
Gentse stoverij is the local version of the more general “stoverij” or “stoofpot”. It is basically a rich beef stew with mustard and often Belgian beer in the sayce.
We couldn’t quite stomach the whole portion so asked for a doggie bag and got this. Fancy schmancy.
It is likely that this is in order to be in compliance with food serving rules, they have included the date etc on the packet.
Then at 10pm that night I did the “midzomernachtrun“. A 15 kilometre fun run through the old centre of Gent. There was also a 10 kilometer option. Total field around 3,600 runners.
My photo from the course shows some of the atmosphere but not a lot more. Amazing night and the most picturesque run I have ever done. That said cobblestones which formed quite a lot of the course are pretty horrific to run on!
The post race showbags contained the usual random product samples plus some Gulden Draak – an excellent beer from Gent.
Official tourism website for Gent If it’s your first visit you should probably at least see the Gravensteen Castle and take a tour of the canals on a boat.
Design Museum Gent is at Jan Breydelstraat 5 9000 Gent