It is tempting just to leave this post calling this the building of flags, as that is exactly what it seems. However it is the Stadhuis in the historical centre of Antwerp and apparently has 87 flags decorating its façade. No, I did not count them, it was a hot day and there were too many bars around with beers with my name on.
Stadhuis means city hall; built in the renaissance period dating way back to the 16th century when it replaced the earlier building, considered too small for rapidly growing Antwerp. It even predates the first McDonald’s or Starbucks in Europe! Antwerp was at that time one of the world’s largest commercial centres and required public offices which were commensurate with its importance.
Construction was completed in 1565, and just 11 years later Spanish soldiers burned it down, possibly unhappy it was not a Starbucks. The exterior remained intact however, enabling restoration of the hall 3 years later.
It is an especially striking building, apart from the architecture, the flags make it stand out from historical buildings crowd. I love the colour they provide against the attractive but stark exterior. They fly almost year round and although the flags representing, Antwerp, Flanders and Belgium are predictably the most prominently displayed, the flags of the United Nations, Europe, European Union states and countries with consulates in the city are also flying.
The historical centre is a great place to take a walk with many impressive buildings displaying the heritage of attractive Antwerp. Guided tours are available, and it is possible to take a hop on, hop off open top bus tour, which is another useful way to fit in all the major sites of interest.
With many coffee shops, brasseries, bars and restaurants to keep hydrated and with plenty of options if you’re feeling a little hungry the day can pass quite quickly. My companions and I had lunch at Appelman’s Brasserie which serves some very tasty meals, has a good choice of beers and is apparently the best cocktail bar in the city!
Sounds ike a good reason to make a return visit!