Het Steen - History and Facts | History Hit

Het Steen

Antwerp, Flanders, Belgium

Antwerp’s oldest building, Het Steen is all that remains from the once mighty medieval fortress which protected the city. The picturesque main gate can still be seen.

Lucy Davidson

09 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Wikimedia: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT / CC

About Het Steen

Het Steen, previously known as Antwerp Castle, is a Medieval castle and fortress in the old city centre on the Scheldt river in Antwerp, Beligum. Though it has undergone extensive demolishment and change over the course of its history, today it is a shipping museum, with some old canal barges displayed on the quay outside.

History of Het Steen

Originally used to control access to the Scheldt River and protect against Viking raids, the site has been in use since at least the 9th or 10th centuries and is considered to be Antwerp’s oldest building. Significantly updated from 1220–1225AD as a huge stone fortification (leading to its present name, which means ‘the stone’), Het Steen was again rebuilt around 1520AD by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

Much of the castle complex was demolished in the 19th century, leaving little of the original structure surviving today. In 1890, Het Steen became the museum of archaeology, and in 1952 an annex was added to house the museum of Antwerp maritime history, which moved in 2011. The most prominent element of the castle to survive is the picturesque entrance gate.

Het Steen today

In modern times, Het Steen served as the city’s maritime museum. However, the museum was moved in 2010 to the new Museum Aan de Stroom. In 2012, a new children’s play centre was opened at Het Steen as part of a youth educational centre which runs creative workshops and activities.

The external fortifications can still be viewed from the street by the wider public as part of the pretty and historic buildings in Antwerp’s scenic old town.

Getting to Het Steen

From the centre of Antwerp, Het Steen is reachable in around 5 minutes by car via the Ernest Van Dijckkaai road. By foot, the site is reachable in around 8 minutes via Suikerrui road or Grote Markt.

Featured In

Belgium Historic Sites

Explore the best historic sites in Belgium, from the medieval past of Bruges to Waterloo Battlefield.

.