Round 1200 the Suikerrui formed the Southern border of the town, but pretty soon the city started to grow and the Suikerrui only held its function as an inner harbour. If you see a streetname that ends on rui, vliet, vest or brug, it means that there used to be water in the neighbourhood in former times. Unfortunately all this water has disappeared from the city, or maybe it is better to say that it is kept from sight, because under street level the complete canal system is still present.
Through the Ruihuis you can explore this underworld city: together with a guide you stroll from Grote Markt to the Keistraat, which is situated right next to the river, in the neighbourhood of the red light district. In the Ruihuis you get a pair of boots, an overall and a backpack to carry your personal shoes and coat in. At the end of the walk you turn in boots, overall and backpack and you can continue to explore the city in bright daylight.
A walk through the Antwerp underworld is sure to give you a completely new look on town.
The former police station is being restored. Later this year a completely new museum will open its doors here. A museum devoted to silver and diamonds. The collection is largely based on the collections of the former Sterckshof and Diamond Museums, but it will offer more than a traditional museum. There will be demonstrations and interactive displays that show all aspects of silver and diamond. Undoubtedly Diva will be one more reason to come and visit our town.
The building on the corner of Suikerrui and Jordaenskaai was built by a German banker, Mallinckrot and designed by Joseph Hertogs, who drew plans for a great many buildings for members of the German colony in Antwerp. The statues that adorn the façade were made by Jef Lambeaux, who is also responsible for the Brabofountain on Grote Markt.
In between the two oldest docks of the Antwerp harbour a remarkable building stands, built in a striking red colour: the MAS. Collections of more than three separate musea have been gathered here to tell the story of our town and its harbour.
Each floor of the museum tells a part of this fascinating story. The 2nd floor allows you to have a peek at how a museum works. Here you can see part of the depot: the objects that are not (yet) on display, but form a reserve. Floor 3 has temporary exhibitions.
The permanent exhibition
Floors 4 to 8 have more or less permanent exhibitions. At least: the aspect they try to tell remains the same. Floor 4 is about wealth, power, prestige and its symbols. The next floor is called ‘Antwerp à la Carte’ and shows you how towns are responsible for feeding huge masses of people. Follows a floor devoted to the harbour. Floor 7 is about death and the afterlife and how the different religions that are present in the city deal with these questions. Floor 8 has a very rich collection of pre-Columbian art from South-America.
On floor 9 you can enjoy a delicious meal in “‘t Zilte” a two-star restaurant lead by Vikki Geunes. From floor 10 you have a fantastic view over the city and its harbour.
Floors 2 and 10 can be visited for free, for the other floors there is an entrance fee.
The different floors 4 to 8 all have the same lay-out which starts with a short introduction to the theme in question. Then you enter the exhibition space as such. After that there is a section where you can find some more information, where kids can enjoy an interactive game, …
Another attraction is the hallways. As you travel from floor 1 to floor 10 you will pass a series of photographs that again tell a story about town. At this moment the theme is ‘Koekenstad’ (Cookietown). This was the nickname people from the country gave to Antwerp. Antwerp had many industrial bakeries, candy and chocolate factories. About twice a year the theme of these photographs changes.
One of the key figures in the history of Antwerp is Christophe Plantin. He was a French bookbinder who decided to come to the booming town of his day, Antwerp, and try his luck there around 1548. There’s a story that tells that one night, while he was delivering books to a client, he was attacked, robbed and stabbed in the shoulder. The injury made that he couldn’t practice his job as a bookbinder anymore, so he chose a new profession and became a printer.
He could have made a worse decision. His printshop was a huge success, he set up printshops in Paris and Leiden, and became friends with the important people of his days like e.g. Rubens. After his death the shop was taken over by his son in law Johan Moerentorf, who, as was custom in those days had changed his name into Moretus. The Moretus family kept on printing for almost three centuries, but eventually new technologies took over and the family left the building and all its contents to the city on condition that it be turned into a museum.
The museum not only gives one a unique insight into the history of printing, but it is also a lively showcase of how people used to live in the sixteenth century. Some of the printing presses are still in working order, and if you book it in advance, the visit to the museum can be completed with a real printing workshop in which you will print your own document on a replica of the ancient presses.
Recently the exposition has been completely renewed, and should you pass the museum, which is situated at Vrijdagmarkt, but run out of time and be unable to visit it, feel free to take a look at the inner garden.