You won’t have any trouble finding visit-worthy historic and cultural sites in Antwerp, Belgium, but there’s one that’s among the most exceptional in the world. The Plantin-Moretus Museum is the only museum in the world that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Everyone who visits Antwerp should at least consider visiting this superb museum.
The Birth of Mass Printing
In the 16th century, printer Christophe Plantin moved from Paris to Antwerp, a city that was basically the beating heart of northern Europe in the 1500’s. He established a printing business in the city center. The business was well-supplied by its huge harbor and home to many skilled craftsmen.
Plantin, along with his son-in-law Jan Moretus, was one of the leading figures in the early days of printing. It’s no stretch to state that his business was the first one capable of mass production of books, pamphlets and maps. In 16th-century Antwerp, printing became the world’s biggest-ever medium, a method of communication that would transform the world forever. For the first time in history, scientific and social progress was so swift and so easily spread that legislators couldn’t keep up.
The Plantin-Moretus Museum is housed in the actual building where printing was perfected. Located at the pretty Vrijdagmarkt, a brief stroll from Antwerp’s massive Cathedral of Our Lady, it’s been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005.
Visiting the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp
The museum exhibits a wealth of historic books, prints, maps, calendars and the like. It features a huge library, a beautifully furnished interior, paintings by Rubens (who was a family friend) and complete collections of letters and dies. The star attraction in the Plantin-Moretus Museum, however, is the couple of historic printing presses, the oldest surviving pair in the entire world.
Another absolute highlight is Plantin’s Biblia Polyglotta, an eight-volume Bible in no fewer than five old languages—Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Syriac and Aramaic—all shown translated next to one another on the same or adjacent pages. This is a printing masterpiece, a real tour-de-force.
A visit to the Plantin-Moretus Museum involves a self-guided walk around the building’s two floors. It’s a fascinating place. You should count on 1.5 to 2 hours for an in-depth visit.
The museum is open from Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. Tickets cost 8 euros for visitors between 26 and 65 years old. If you’re older than 65 or between 12 and 25, a ticket costs 6 euros. Children younger than 12 may enter for free.
You shouldn’t have any trouble finding the museum at all. Numerous maps and signposts dot the historic city center of Antwerp, pointing out all major highlights. The official address is: