Like all cities worldwide, Antwerp too has its share of parks. We have a few nice parks in the city itself. Many more are situated in the bordering districts like Merksem, Deurne, Borgerhout, Wilrijk. Up till the end of the 20th century these districts used to be separate villages, but then they fused into Greater Antwerp and became districts.
One of the most interesting parks in the city itself is Stadspark (City Park) in a triangle bounded by Rubenslei, Quinten Matsijslei and Van Eycklei: three great painters from three different eras. Rubens is the giant of baroque painting. Quinten Matsijs is a renaissance painter. He founded the Antwerp School and Jan and his brother Hubert Van Eyck are Flemish painters of the gothic period. People all over the world know them for the Ghent Altarpiece.
The area of the Stadspark also borders on the diamondquarter and the jewish quarters of Antwerp. Up till the end of the 19th century the park was part of the town’s defensive wall. We still call it the ‘Spaanse Vesten’. Water for the moat came via the Herentals Canal (now the Plantin-Moretus Avenue). Part of it was used for the moats. Another part was led into the city to furnish the brewers in the Kammenstraat with fresh water.
Typical for the park is the great many statues that decorate it.
Not so far from the Stadspark is the Botanical Garden. It belonged to the old Elisabeth Hospital and borders the Leopoldstraat. The present lay-out with balustrades and glass houses goes back to the early 19th century.
A third park, probably the most interesting one, is our Zoo. These zoological gardens are among the eldest in Europe. They house a great many different kinds of animals from all over the world. They also harbour some of the eldest trees in the city. The whole complex has been protected as a monument, trees included. At some other time I’ll certainly be back to tell you more about this shiny diamond in our city’s crown.
At a later occasion I’ll also tell you more about the parks in the different districts.