Peter Paul Rubens was born in Antwerp in 1577 and by the early 17th century he had become immensely rich thanks to his incredible talent as an artist. No starving in a garret for him; in 1610 he was able to build his own spectacular mansion in the heart of the city at the tender age of 33.
Now a museum, his former home and studio is entered through an ornate Baroque portico; inside a series of period rooms are decorated with marble Roman busts, black-and-white floor tiling and fine furniture in the patrician style of the day and hung with reproductions of Rubens’ light-kissed works. Highlights include a portrait of Anthony van Dyck, who was a pupil of Rubens, and a glowing self-portrait that hangs in the wood-paneled dining room, painted when he was around 40 years old. Get there early in the day or you’ll shuffle around in single file, nose to toe in a long line as you are led along corridors and up and down stairs. Outside there’s a typically Renaissance-style courtyard garden with a colonnaded pergola in which to reflect on the sumptuous lifestyle enjoyed by Antwerp’s most illustrious son.
Wapper 9–11. Open Tuesday through Sunday 10am–5pm. Admission adults €6; seniors and age 12–25 €4; under 12s go free (free last Wednesday of every month). Walk through the Diamond Quarter from Central Station in 10 minutes; take bus nos. 22, 25 and 26 to Groenplaats and walk; or take trams 3, 5, 9 or 15 to Meir and walk.