Centered on Antwerp’s Grote Markt and the surrounding streets are some outstanding guild houses, built during the city’s 16th- and 17th-century Golden Age as trading was expanding and its citizens were getting seriously rich. Just north of the square stands the former Butcher’s Hall, a lovely Gothic structure built of alternating stripes of white sandstone and red brick by Flemish architect Herman de Waghemakere, completed in 1504 and adorned with gables and round towers at each corner. This handsome building was started life as the city’s meat market but during the struggles for power in northern Europe in the early 19th century, the French took over Antwerp and disbanded its guilds; the Butcher’s Hall became a storage depot and was largely forgotten until it was given new life as a museum in 1919. In 2006 a themed “Sounds of the City” permanent exhibition opened in its cavernous interior, highlighting the musical life of Antwerp. Its floors are stacked with antique musical instruments and outstanding examples include lovely Delftware mandolins delicately painted in blue and white, harpsichords and pianofortes; the lower floor has reconstructions of a bell foundry and a workshop making brass instruments.
Vleeshouwersstraat 38–40. Admission €5 adults; €3 ages 12–25; free ages 11 and under. Opening hours are Thur–Sun 10am–5pm. Best accessed on foot from the Grote Markt; otherwise take trams no. 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11 or 15.