Until 30 June, you can visit the Paleis on the Meir or Palace on the Meir. On the Meir, Antwerp‘s main shopping street. An audiotour guides you in 25 or 90 minutes.
The 25-minute tour gives you all the historic information you need. If you listen to all the audio clips, you get more information on the furniture. The clips are to be found on SoundCloud. The stories are interesting, but I enjoyed listening to them at home rather than when on the tour. Listening and making photos simultaneously is not easy.
History of the palace
The palace was constructed for Johan Alexander van Susteren in 1745. Architect was Jan Pieter van Baurscheit. Emperor Napoleon I had the palace refurbished in Empire style. Antwerp and the Low Countries were part of France in 1812. The present-day province of Antwerp was part of the département des Deux-Nèthes.
Napoleon was banished to Saint Helena in the Atlantic Ocean before his Imperial Residence was completed. So he never slept in his bed. The only emperor who did, was Tsar Alexander I of Russia.
When Belgium became an independent kingdom in 1830, the kings used the palace to receive foreign dignitaries.
The now controversial King Leopold II had the palace again refurbished and a Hall of Mirrors installed.
At the start of World War I in 1914, Antwerp was briefly the capital of unoccupied Belgium. King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth (with an s, yes) used it as a Royal Palace. They were the only residents. Napoleon’s Map Room was then used as dining room.
The royal family kept the palace until 1969, until King Baudouin ceded it to the state.
The Palace is now managed by Flanders‘ heritage trust Herita. A new forma usage has to be decided.