Antwerpen-Centraal (Antwerp Central) is the name of the main train station in the Belgian city of Antwerp. The station is operated by the National Railway Company of Belgium (NMBS).

Entrance hall

History and architecture

The clock at the upper level

The original station building was constructed between 1895 and 1905 as a replacement for the original terminus of the Brussels-Mechelen-Antwerp Railway. The stone clad terminus buildings, with a vast dome above the waiting room hall were designed by Louis Delacenserie. The viaduct into the station is also a notable structure designed by local architect Jan Van Asperen. A plaque on the north wall bears the name Middenstatie.

The station is now widely regarded as the finest example of railway architecture in Belgium,[1] although the extraordinary eclecticism of the influences on Delacenserie's design had led to a difficulty in assigning it to a particular architectural style. In W. G. Sebald's novel Austerlitz an ability to appreciate the full range of the styles that might have influenced Delacensiere is used to demonstrate the brilliance of the fictional architectural historian who is the novel's protagonist.

In 2009 the American magazine Newsweek judged Antwerpen-Centraal the world's fourth greatest train station.[2] In 2014 the British-American magazine Mashable awarded Antwerpen-Centraal the first place for the most beautiful railway station in the world.[3]

Train hall

The originally iron and glass train hall (185 metres long and 44 metres[4] or 43 metres[5] high) was designed by Clément Van Bogaert,[4] an engineer, and covers an area of 12,000 square metres.[5] The height of the station was once necessary for the steam of locomotives. The roof of the train hall was originally made of steel.[5]

World War II damage and restoration

During World War II, severe damage was inflicted to the train hall by the impact of V-2 bombs, without destroying the structural stability of the building, according to the National Railway Company of Belgium.[6] Nevertheless, it has been claimed that the warping of the substructure due to a V-2 bomb had caused constructional stresses.[5]

The impact of the bombs are still visible due to a lasting wave-distortion in the roofing of the hall.[6]

Visible wave-distortion in the roof of the train hall of the Antwerp Central Station (Antwerpen-Centraal), as seen from the roof of an adjacent building in the Pelikaanstraat (near the corner with De Keyserlei) on 13 September 2016. The warping of the structure can be seen at the far top-right end of the roof here.

In the mid-twentieth century, the building's condition had deteriorated so far that its demolition was being considered. The station was closed on 31 January 1986 for safety reasons, after which restoration work to the roof (starting at the end of March 1986 and finishing in September 1986) and façades was performed.

The stress problems due to the impact of bombs during the war was reportedly solved by the use of polycarbonate sheets instead of glass, due to its elasticity and its relatively low weight (40% less than glass), which avoided the need for extra supporting pillars.[5]

After replacing or repairing steel elements, they were painted burgundy. Copper was also used during the renovation process of the roof.[5]

Expansion for high-speed trains

The different levels

In 1998 large-scale reconstruction work began to convert the station from a terminus to a through station. A new tunnel has been excavated between Berchem station in the south of the city and Antwerpen-Dam station in the north, passing under Central station, with platforms on two underground levels. This allows Thalys, HSL 4 and HSL-Zuid high-speed trains to travel through Antwerp Central without the need to turn around (the previous layout obliged Amsterdam-Brussels trains to call only at Berchem or reverse at Central).

The major elements of the construction project were completed in 2007, and the first through trains ran on 25 March 2007.

This complete project has cost approximately €1.6 billion.[citation needed]

The station was awarded a Grand Prix at the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards in 2011.[7][8]

Station layout

Station atrium showing the four levels

The station has four levels and 14 tracks arranged as follows:

  • Level +1: The original station, 6 terminating tracks, arranged as two groups of three and separated by a central opening allowing views of the lower levels
  • Level 0: Houses ticketing facilities and commercial space
  • Level −1: 7 m below street level, 4 terminating tracks, arranged in two pairs, also featuring the world-famous twin level escalators that start off at a gradient, then become level, then resume a gradient again.
  • Level −2: 18 m below street level, 4 through tracks, leading to the two tracks of the tunnel under the city (used by high-speed trains and fast domestic InterCity services).

Train services

The station is served by the following services:[9]

Tramway in front of the station
  • High speed services (Thalys) Amsterdam - Rotterdam - Antwerp - Brussels - Paris
  • High speed services (Thalys) Amsterdam - Rotterdam - Antwerp - Brussels - Lille
  • High speed services (Thalys) Amsterdam - Rotterdam - Antwerp - Brussels - Chambéry - Bourg-Saint-Maurice (in winter)
  • High speed services (Thalys) Amsterdam - Rotterdam - Antwerp - Brussels - Avignon - Marseille (in summer)
  • Intercity services Amsterdam - The Hague - Rotterdam - Roosendaal - Antwerp - Brussels Airport - Brussels
  • Intercity services (IC-02) Antwerp - Sint-Niklaas - Gent - Bruges - Ostend
  • Intercity services (IC-04) Antwerp - Sint-Niklaas - Gent - Kortrijk - Poperinge/Lille
  • Intercity services (IC-05) Antwerp - Mechelen - Brussels - Nivelles - Charleroi (weekdays)
  • Intercity services (IC-08) Antwerp - Mechelen - Brussels Airport - Leuven - Hasselt
  • Intercity services (IC-09) Antwerp - Lier - Aarschot - Leuven (weekdays)
  • Intercity services (IC-09) Antwerp - Lier - Aarschot - Hasselt - Liège (weekends)
  • Intercity services (IC-10) Antwerp - Mol - Hamont/Hasselt
  • Intercity services (IC-15) Noorderkempen - Antwerp
  • Intercity services (IC-22) Essen - Antwerp - Mechelen - Brussels (weekdays)
  • Intercity services (IC-22) Antwerp - Mechelen - Brussels - Halle - Braine-le-Comte - Binche (weekends)
  • Intercity services (IC-28) Antwerp - Sint-Niklaas - Gent (weekdays)
  • Intercity services (IC-30) Antwerp - Herentals - Turnhout
  • Intercity services (IC-31) Antwerp - Mechelen - Brussels - Nivelles - Charleroi (weekends)
  • Local services (L-22) Roosendaal - Essen - Antwerp - Puurs (weekdays)
  • Local services (L-22) Roosendaal - Essen - Antwerp (weekends)
  • Local services (L-23) Antwerp - Aarschot - Leuven
  • Local services (L-24) Antwerp - Herentals - Mol (weekdays)
  • Local services (L-30) Antwerp - Sint-Niklaas - Lokeren
  • Brussels RER services (S1) Antwerp - Mechelen - Brussels - Waterloo - Nivelles (weekdays)
  • Brussels RER services (S1) Antwerp - Mechelen - Brussels (weekends)
Preceding station   Sncb nmbs.gif National Railway Company of Belgium   Following station
toward Paris-Nord
toward Lille Europe
Thalys Neige (winter)
Thalys Soleil (summer)
NS International 9200
Terminus IC 02
toward Oostende
Terminus IC 04
toward Lille and Poperinge
Terminus IC 05
Terminus IC 08
toward Hasselt
Terminus IC 09
From Monday to Friday, except holidays
toward Leuven
On weekends and holidays
Terminus IC 10
toward Hamont and Hasselt
IC 15 Terminus
From Monday to Friday, except holidays
toward Essen
IC 22
From Monday to Friday, except holidays
On weekends and holidays
toward Binche
Terminus IC 28
Terminus IC 30
toward Turnhout
Terminus IC 31
Terminus IC 31
toward Roosendaal
L 22
toward Puurs
Terminus L 23
toward Leuven
Terminus L 24
toward Mol
Terminus L 30
toward Lokeren
Terminus S 1
toward Nivelles
Terminus S 1

In popular culture

A staged "flash mob"-like event at the station in early 2009, featuring the song "Do-Re-Mi" from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music, became a viral video. It was performed by 200 dancers of various ages, along with several dozen waiting passengers who just jumped in and joined the dance themselves. The video was produced to publicize Op zoek naar Maria, the Belgian TV version of the BBC talent competition programme How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, about the search for an actress to play the lead role in a stage revival of The Sound of Music.[10]

The station is used in Agatha Christie's Poirot episode "The Chocolate Box" to represent a station in Brussels.

The beginning of Austerlitz, the final novel of the German writer W. G. Sebald is set in the station.


  1. ^ "Antwerpen-Centraal is mooiste station ter wereld" (in Dutch). 25 August 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2017. 
  2. ^ Jaime Cunningham, "Stations: A Destination That Matches the Journey", Newsweek, New York, 10 January 2009.
  3. ^ Dennis Green, "All Aboard! 12 Beautiful Railway Stations From Around the World", Mashable, New York, 25 August 2014.
  4. ^ a b Maraite, Louis. "Antwerp Central Station is linking history and future!". The Best in Heritage. SNCB-Holding. Retrieved 14 September 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Goethals, Violette. "Projects". Federplast.be. Archived from the original on 14 September 2016. Retrieved 14 September 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Erik Sclep (Communication Manager SNCB Holding), ed. (May 2011). "Welcome To Antwerp Centraal. The Railway Cathedral of the 20th and 21st century" (PDF). SNCB Holding (la Gare / het Station) National Railway Company of Belgium. 
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 June 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2014. 
  8. ^ http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-11-695_en.htm
  9. ^ Belgian railways timetable brochures Archived 5 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ Op zoek naar Maria video on YouTube

External links

Media related to Antwerp Central Station at Wikimedia Commons