CNS 2017 Antwerp: Local Info


1. Direct International Flights connecting Antwerp, Brussels, or Amsterdam-Schipol

Antwerp has a small airport connected with up to 4 flights per day to London City Airport (see CityJet airlines), with (seasonal) additional connections to Spain (Alicante, Barcelona), Switzerland (Geneva), and Germany (Hamburg). 

The closest international airport is Brussels-Zaventem, among the busiest in Europe with more than 23 million passengers every year. It is located only 40km far from the center of Antwerp, and it can be reached in ~30-45min by (direct) train or shuttle bus. Train tickets can be purchased online or at self-service machine at the airport railway station, at a cost of ~11eur, while bust tickets at a similar price can be purchased from the driver onboard.

Amsterdam Schipol-airport is another option (~160km far from Antwerp), as it is connected to Antwerp by a fast train (Thalys, ~60min, ~50eur/ticket).

Note that the main railways station of Antwerp (i.e. Antwerpen Centraal) is one of the few railway stations in Europe with its own IATA code (IATAZWE). Many airlines might then offer integrated (flight+train) tickets directly to Antwerp. Depending on demand and time of travel, these can turn out to be much cheaper than flying to the nearest airport and taking the train on your own. In practice you will then first fly to e.g. Amsterdam, Paris or Düsseldorf Airport and upon collecting your luggage - you may register at the transfer desk to collect a "boarding pass" for a high-speed train or bus connection to Antwerp.


2. Train connections

Fast trains, such as Thalys, Eurostar, TGV, ICE, quickly connect Antwerpen-Centraal (i.e. downtown Antwerp railway station) to London, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Paris, Lille, and to other destinations in Germany, France, and the Netherlands, directly or via Brussels. Please refer to the international website of the Belgian Railways for planning your itinerary and for purchasing your tickets.


3. A Google map for own use, downtown Antwerp around the conference site

Get around by public transportation

The public transportation company De Lijn operates a dense network of buses, trams, and underground tram connections in the city and its surroundings. If you plan on taking a bus or tram more than 5 times, then buy a 10-ride card (Lijnkaart) costing €14. They can be bought at self-service machine (no electronic payment means accepted however) or at fixed points in town (e.g. most supermarkets and any place that sells newspapers, just ask the cashier). Every time you enter a bus or tram, just put that card in one of the yellow ticket machines. A single ticket bought from the driver in the bus costs more (€3.00 per ride). 

For one fare, you can ride up to 1h within the city boundaries. The central bus station is the Franklin Rooseveltplaats, walking distance from the congress venue and also very close to the central railway station. Nearly all buses leave from there, or from the Antwerp-Central or Antwerp-Berchem train stations. 

Maps of the bus/tram network in the entire region can be found here

Get around by taxi

Taxis are available, but they can be quite expensive. They await customers at specific locations around town (waving your hand will seldom work) like the Groenplaats (near the cathedral) or the central railway station. You can recognize these places by an orange TAXI sign. The prices are fixed in the taximeter. Beware that Antwerp and Brussels were names as the most congested cities in Europe and North America. 

On foot

Most things to see are within walking distance from the venue of the conference. These are near or within the Boulevards, the half-moon of avenues where there were once 16th century city-walls. This old town center, with a diameter of about 1.5 km can be walked, but there is excellent public transport.

By horse (!)

Horse tram (paardentram) leaves from the Grote Markt every hour. It is an approximately 40 minutes / 1.5 mile ride through the city.


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Tourist attractions

  • Rubenshuis+32 (0)3 201 1555. Wapper 9-11. The house of painter Peter Paul Rubens (a Baroque painter) is now a museum of his life and artwork. Entrance fee: €8, under 26 and older 65 €6. Free audio guide (recommended). Bring light earphones to plug in to the audio guide. 
  • Museum Plantin-Moretus+32 (0)3 221 1450 or +32 (0)3 221 1451. The home of 16th century bookbinder and printer Christoffel Plantin. Regarded as one of the finest museums dedicated to printing in the world. Its extensive collections of important books and printing presses along with its role in spearheading the technology of printing have seen it added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
  • Antwerp Zoo (here) — One of the oldest zoos in the world, with over 4000 animals and lots of 19th century design and architecture.
  • Cathedral of Our Lady (here), (Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedraal). One of the most impressive and largest Gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe, built in 1351 it stands over 400 ft tall. It also houses some of Rubens' most famous paintings. Entrance fee (2015): Adult: 6 euros, Concession (student/senior): 4 euros, Audio guide: 2 euros.
  • Saint Paul's Church, (Pauluskerk). A beautiful mixed gothic and baroque church formerly part of a nunnery. Noted for its Calvary monument. It is a short distance north of the Grote Markt on Zwartzustersstraat.
  • Carolus Borromeus Church — Unlike the cathedral, this is a Baroque church. With a safe and minimal exterior, you would not know the beautiful decorations (done by Rubens' studio) are inside. Located on the picturesque square Conscienceplein.
  • Central StationEven if not arriving or leaving by train the station is well worth a visit. Platforms are on three levels, all constructed beneath the very impressive original structure. 
  • City Hall/Old Market Square, (Stadhuis/Grote Markt). This is the historical centre of town. The market square is surrounded by the typical medieval guild houses you can find in most Flemish historical towns. The city hall is designed in special architectural style with a combination between Gothic and early Renaissance. This style is almost exclusively found in this region of Europe.
  • Museum Vleeshuis (here) — Literally, this is the "Meat house". It was built as the guild hall for the butchers. Every day tonnes of meat switched owners here. The building is famous for the original masonry and is made to resemble stacks of bacon (switching between white stones and red bricks). It now houses a museum, of which the main part comprises a musical instrument collection, including some examples of old harpsichords built by the local Ruckers family.
  • Het Steen (The Stone) — This is a rather small castle, with a medieval foundation upon which new structures were built until the 19th century. It lies on the banks of the river Schelde, where it used to function as a city fortification. Until recently it was the site of the naval museum, of which only the open-air part can still be seen there. The main collection has moved to the new MAS museum. The inside of Het Steen is now closed until a new function is found for the place. It is the starting point of the Wandelterrassen, a scenic boardwalk with a cafe/restaurant at either end.
  • MAS | Museum aan de Stroom (here) - Antwerp's newest and largest museum was built to gather together the collections of many smaller museums that were scattered around the city. It's main theme is "Antwerp is the world". You can visit the building for free and go to the rooftop, which offers a very wide view accross Antwerp. Visiting the museum collections itself costs about €5, possibly more for special exhibits.
  • Boerentoren (Farmers' tower) — Now called "KBC-tower" after the company that owns it, this skyscraper (97m) in the historical center of town is said to be the oldest one on the European continent. It was built at the beginning of the 1930s. It is located at the end of the Meir shopping street. There is an observation deck on the 25th floor with fantastic views over the city and the nearby Cathedral, but that is now closed to the general public. The tower is renowned for its typical art-deco ornaments. The term skyscraper is a little bit irrelevant if you compare it to buildings that were erected on the American Continent (e.g. the Empire State Building in New York, built in the same period, measures 381m).
  • Bourla theatre — 19th century neo-classicist theatre building. Charming from the outside and even nicer if you manage to get in for a theater show or a concert. It houses a spectacular pastry salon inside the large cupola above the theater itself. Great place to have tea with cake or waffles, of course.
  • Red Light District — Like other cities such as Amsterdam and Hamburg, Antwerp also has its own red light district which at the Verversrui and surrounding streets. Even if you have no intention of partaking in the festivities, it is worth strolling through to catch a glimpse the atmosphere. Though illegal by law, the city of Antwerp decided to tolerate prostitution in these particular streets, and installed a permanent police presence to assure safety of the workers and to repel other criminal activity often tied to this industry - expect to see police patrols. The immediately surrounding area is poor and you might stumble into beggars and drunks. While few of these are particularly hostile, they can be bothersome and should be ignored.
  • Diamond District — This is the district to the southwest of the central station. As the name already indicates, this is an area where you will find countless jewellery shops, as well as the Antwerp Diamond Exchange, arguably the most important financial centre of the world's diamond industry. The district is also interesting from an ethnic and cultural perspective, since the diamond industry is dominated by the Jewish community of Antwerp - though the influency of Indian merchants is rapidly increasing. 
  • Aquatopia (here) — Reasonable aquarium in the basement of the Astrid Park Plaza hotel, tickets also available from the Zoo.
  • The hidden street Vlaeykensgang, which connects Hoogstraat, Oude Koornmarkt and Pelgrimsstraat. It is a real street, but only accessible through unassuming medieval front doors in the streets. The medieval equivalent of a gated community. It now houses nice, but informal restaurants and chic, discrete flats. Easiest to enter through a porch in the Hoogstraat.
  • The Antwerp Ruien, the remnants of the old network of waterways that used to criss-cross the city in late medieval times, now located beneath the streets whose names end in "...rui". You can take a guided tour of the "underground city of Antwerp" [27]
  • The Begijnhof (beguinage) (here) — Not as well-known or as large as similar structures in e.g. Leuven or Bruges, but still worth a detour. A sort of medieval monastery for women. The well-kept gardens are great photo opportunities.
  • The Jewish Quarter (Joodse wijk), Antwerp has a sizeable Jewish population (about 15,000 people), many of them Hasidic Orthodox. Antwerp is one of the main Jewish Centres in the world with the beautiful 'Van Den Nest' and 'Bouwmeester' synagogues.
  • Extra City Kunsthal (here) - ECK is an art space for contemporary visual arts, based in an old bottling factory. Its shows are mostly experimental, but always intriguing.
  • Middelheimmuseum (here)
  • Red Star Line Museum (here).
  • Museum Mayer van den Bergh (here).