At a time when cities are in fierce competition to attract travelers for a weekend, Antwerp has a new museum whose vocation is to retrace the history of the city. Located in the dock area, the MAS or Museum aan de Stroom (literally, museum along the river) opened with great fanfare on May 17, 2011. Prestigious collection, spectacular architecture, restaurant in the hands of a starred chef: barely inaugurated, this building is already creating the event. Discovery.
The MAS, an iconic museum
It was the Dutch architect Willem Jan Neutelings who designed this liner, posed at the edge of the Bonaparte basin on the old port of Antwerp and which will have required an investment of more than 50 million euros.
Like Beaubourg in its time, this tower dynamises the codes of classic museums. We stroll through the 10 floors of this 60-meter-high building as if on a vertical promenade, each window offering a different point of view on Belgium's second city. At the top of the rooftop terrace, the 360-degree view amazes visitors.
The architecture and the materials used echo the old warehouses that border the Scheldt, thus allowing this mastodon to fit perfectly into the urban landscape, and at the same time to revitalize the Het Eilandje district abandoned for several decades.
Outside, a number of red stones are covered with small hand-shaped sculptures, the symbol of the city of Antwerp. Each of them corresponds to an individual donation of 1 euros. The MAS represents the new face of the city and its inhabitants have not hesitated to contribute their contribution to the building.
A museum anchored in its time
The MAS brings together the collections of several Antwerp museums, in particular those of the National Maritime Museum, the Folklore Museum and the Ethnographic Museum. The temporary exhibition, Masterpieces at the MAS. Five centuries of images in Antwerp presents, for its part, some of the most beautiful pieces of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, currently closed for renovation work.
The MAS has a permanent collection of 470 objects, distributed in galleries organized on a thematic basis: demonstration of power, metropolis, port, life and death (000 floors). More than any museum, it is intended to be a place open to the public, which is why “the depot, located on the 2nd floor, gives visitors free access to some 2 pieces”, explains Sven Grooten. from the Antwerp firm B-architecten who designed the scenography. Some are accessible through a system of drawers.
The museum plays the card of interactivity on all floors. When leaving the rooms, visitors are invited to participate, as on the floor dedicated to the Port (a particularly successful gallery), where they can slip a small message into an empty bottle to place on the sand, like a bottle in the Wed Another visitor may leave with this note.
“The museum also makes the 5 senses react,” continues Sven Grooten. Indeed, the sound illustration is very present "certain humorous comments are made by the puppets of a bicentenary theater in Antwerp" adds the scenographer.
And for those who want more information, there is no need to rely on a classic audio guide. There is a flash code on some windows to be used with a smartphone (we lend you an i-pod if necessary) in order to obtain comments for free.
A place of life
Several spaces are accessible free of charge, in particular the corridors, renamed “promenade”, which remain open until midnight in summer! Indeed, each of the ten floors offers a different point of view on the city; high point, a panoramic view on the top floor.
This is where the t'Zilde restaurant by Vicki Geunes, a two Michelin star chef. The reservation schedule is complete several weeks in advance. In addition to the depot on the 2nd floor and its 170 objects, accessible free of charge to the public, you can admire other works, such as the frescoes by Anne-Mie Van Kerkhoven, or the photos and works exhibited in the corridors of the elevators.
Consult our Belgium sheet.
Hanzestedenplaats 1, B-2000 Antwerp
- Summer timetable: boulevard du Mas from 9:30 am to midnight from April to October. Exhibition rooms from 10 a.m. to 17 p.m. from Tuesday to Friday and until 18 p.m. on weekends.
- Winter hours: 9:30 am to 22 pm from November to March. Exhibition rooms from 10 a.m. to 17 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday.
- Permanent collection: full price € 5 (€ 3 for groups and over 65s 26; free for children under 12).
- Masterpieces Expo at the MAS: full price € 8 26 years old; free for children under 12.
- Masterpieces + permanent collection: full price 10 € 26 years; free for children under 12.
Read our Antwerp weekend idea, a diamond in Flanders