- DO GO FOR A WALK IN COGELS-OSY and the surrounding streets. Ask anyone in Antwerp for the directions to Cogels-Osy, and you will be immediately rewarded with a smile; any passer-by will be only to happy to show the tiny street of the Berchem district in the map. Cogels-Osy is a unique open-air museum of architecture with an area that covers a single street (and a couple of side-streets) and an extraordinary history. In mid-1800s when Antwerp was experiencing a rapid growth - and that goes for population growth as well - two brothers, Edourad Osy and John Cogels, inherited a considerable piece of land from their father Baron Jean Osy. The plot was symbolically separated from the rest of the city by a railway line, and in 1876, when a new railway station was built here, the two of them realised the potential of the place and sold the land to the strategic developers of the district. From 1892 to 1900 hundreds of new buildings were constructed here. The architecture reflected the fashionable infatuation with all the neo-styles which were all the rage in the Belgium of the time: neo-gothic style, neo-renaissance, neo-classicism - you name it. The result - on view in the length of Cogels-Osy - is an incredible cocktail of architectural styles, and an unbelievably concentrated one at that. Neo-gothic buildings side by side with Art Nouveau... some of them look more like pages from a fairytale picture book than real houses. And yet the real paradox lies in the fact that it is only the façades of the buildings, seemingly created just to be looked at, that are so striking with their originality. As for the inside, it has often been found to be too boring and traditional. The rest of the history of this neighbourhood is equally outlandish: in the 1950s and 1960s it was pronounced "old fashioned" and completely ignored; the 1970s brought some changes. Today there is a bit of an aura of an alternative Antwerp about the district, made even cooler by the fact that it is the home of Dôme, the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Antwerp, as well as its sea food-serving sibling Dôme Sur Mer.
- DO VISIT THE CENTRAL RAILWAY STATION, the first impression of the city for all those who come to Antwerp by train. Nicknamed "the Train Cathedral", this 1895-1905 building designed by the architect Louis Delacenserie can literally be considered a symbol of the city. From outside it looks more like a palace than a railway station. 20 different kinds of marble and stone were used in the construction. The author of the metal and glass dome of the train platform was Clement Van Bogaert. Regardless of all the habits of 21st century travellers, the building does have this weird effect of making you feel as if time had indeed stopped and you should be looking for a capacious retro suitcase as the perfect accessory. Sadly, the main hall of the railway station is currently undergoing reconstruction, so the experience has lost some of its original force.Share it:
Keywords: Antwerp, central station