In the second part of our street art in Antwerp story, we continue our tour through the city outside the actual centre, to visit Merksem, Deurne and Luchtbal for a look at the most beautiful urban art there as well.
Yes, these truly are exhilarating times for travel journalists. The number of subjects we can still write about might be shrinking by the day, but desperation is not an option. Self-stimulation is important in times of isolation, and since staring at my bedroom walls crying got a little tedious after a while, I decided to hop onto my faithful bicycle and treat you to some more of Antwerp’s most beautiful murals. You’re welcome guys.
My first article on street art in Antwerp focused on the city centre and the central districts of Berchem and Borgerhout. This time I decided to venture a little further from familiar territory. I carefully crossed the natural border of the ring road, and courageously faced the dark outer corners of Antwerp in the winter cold. These are wondrous and magical places, where the animals still talk, the nineties never ended and depression and worn-out Adidas jumpers dominate the streets. Strap in everyone, it’ll be a rough ride.
Street Art in Antwerp: Merksem, Deurne and Luchtbal
Ok I might have exaggerated a little above. There’s lots to see and do in Antwerp’s more archaic districts as well – not in the least as far as street art is concerned. To make things a little easier on yourself, I recommend (as always) downloading the Street Art Cities app. This gives you a handy interactive map to help you find all the walls with pictures, address and gps-coordinates attached. The city of Antwerp published a couple of street art walking tours on its own website as well. Everything downloaded and prepared? Then let’s get on with it.
1. De Luchtbal
*Concerning the pic on the bottom left: F*ck you, Gino!
De Luchtbal – the article is essential, like in “De Limburg” – is an area in the north of Antwerp squeezed in between the port, the E19 highway and the Oude Landen nature reserve. You know it from the nearby Kinepolis movie theatre, the popular Flemish cult show Familie Backeljau (look it up) and from absolutely nothing else. Stretched out along Noorderlaan – the only road on the planet where there is always a headwind for every cyclist in every direction – it’s home to some of Antwerp’s most dreary looking tower blocks. Venture a little further into the neighbourhood though, and you’ll see more positive things. Someone is clearly working on social cohesion here. In between the blocks you’ll find communal vegetable gardens with chickens, a couple of cultural centres and lots of well laid-out space for leisure and sports.
There’s a bunch of great street art to discover as well – even inside some of the residential blocks. You’ll find a giant mural by Steve Locatelli and Derm on the Antwerp-Luchtbal train station, with a couple of extra paintings inside – sadly often sprayed over by lesser artists. More north towards Ekeren, you’ll spot some very nice artworks as well. And if you follow Tour Elentrik, you can walk past a bunch of colourfully painted electrical cabinets. Perfect for a pleasant stroll through a neighbourhood you might otherwise never visit.
Maybe it’s me, or maybe just the scenic views of Bredabaan, but Merksem will probably never win the award for Antwerp’s most idyllic district. True: it has a couple of nice parks and the district house was featured in many a Hollywood movie, but other than that the number of tourist hotspots is pretty limited to say the least. Can’t win them all. What Merksem does have, is a ton of awesome street art: it’s one of the most densely packed areas of the whole city. One of the newest additions is the beautiful mural honouring Julie Van Espen next to the canal – a local girl tragically killed close to this spot in 2019. Closer to the centre of the district are a multitude of impressive works both big and small; the area around the industrial docks – great location for urban shoots btw has a whole row of paintings in one street, and even the Jan Palfijn hospital to the north was given a makeover with some giant flowers last year. If you want to see all of Merksem’s street art in one day, you better bring your hiking shoes.
3. Deurne: Sportpaleis area
The area around the Sportpaleis concert hall is another place that doesn’t exactly capture the imagination. Not only is it almost completely devoid of green space and cramped in between busy traffic routes, the poor souls living here have to listen to that awful piece of shit John Miles song for a whole month through every new Night of the Proms edition – the humanity. Luckily the streets at least got a little colour added to them in recent years. There’s a couple of quite intimidating monstrous pigeons on climbing hall Wall Street for example, and a bit further down the road someone sprayed a portrait of Muhammad Ali next to one of Napoleon Dynamite – big fan. Further into the neighbourhood you’ll find a bunch of giant fish and a couple of other more psychedelic creatures. Even Cinema Rix got an abstract layer of colour added to its façade – making it look nice and spry. “Music was my first loooooove! And it will be my laaaaast! Music of the futuuuuure! Music of my aaaaas!”
4. Deurne: around Herentalsebaan
When you start cycling from Cinema Rix and take a detour over Cogelsplein – tasty burgers to be had here – you’ll quickly move to a more photogenic part of Deurne. This is mainly because you would be crossing through Rivierenhof: one of Antwerp’s most beautiful parks. There’s an open air theater for concerts all through summer, a petting zoo and a little traffic park for kids to practice fatal car crashes in – great fun. Once you get past this green lung, you’ll find yourself in another area with some great street art. Next to the AZ Monica hospital, someone painted a brand new ode to the people working in healthcare, on a school building nearby are two huge portraits of children, and on a parking lot near Herentalsebaan is a splendid painting of a boy playing with his dog by Larsen Bervoets. The little alley next to the football field connecting Herentalsebaan to Boterlaarbaan, is completely covered up in graffiti from top to bottom. Perfect place to have a little go at it yourself, no?
There you go, this should give you enough material to get through another lockdown weekend. What’s your favourite mural in Antwerp? Did I forget some of the best spots? Do you live in one of the areas I mentioned above and you now want to punch me in the face? Let it all out in the comments below.
I wrote a couple of nice articles on Leuven and Mechelen this summer. There’s a lot of street art to discover there as well. Want to explore some corona free green spots in Antwerp? Find them here and here. Always wanted to stay in a hotel butt-naked? Read all about my adventures in Belgium’s only nudist B&B.
*Street Art shown above*
Main picture: Jungle smurf by Wilson
Luchtbal: Fashion city by Steve Locatelli & Future train by Derm (large picture), Child in prison clothes by Bustart, Leave your mark by Matthew Dawn and ugly disrespectful tag on a piece of art by Gino (f*ck you, Gino).
Deurne Sportpaleis: Lion’s roar by Linksone, Dead Fish by Kanter Dhaenens & Ekster, Stop Global Warming by Bird.
Deurne Herentalsebaan: These heroes wear masks by Bird, Andromeda by Bird, and Playing kid by Larsen Bervoets.