A sewer passage in The Ruien in Antwerp

Secrets flow under the city

Descend into an underground world and discover a forgotten piece of Antwerp history! In the Middle Ages, countless Ruien, vlieten and vesten traversed the city. When these waterways lost their function as source and port, the Ruien were covered and a unique piece of heritage disappeared from the cityscape and our memory. A visit to this hidden system of corridors, with its old vaults, canals, bridges, sewers and sluices, takes you on a journey through time. During a walk through these special surroundings, you will learn about the history of De Ruien through surprising facts and anecdotes and meet its current residents. An experience not to be missed for everyone with a heart for architecture, history and the city!
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The Ruien underground corridor with green/blue lighting
Now you can rediscover this hidden heritage. These underground passages remain a fascinating testament to the city's rich history. A visit to The Ruien, with its ancient vaults, canals, bridges, sewers and locks, will bring the historic city centre to life above your head with plenty of interesting facts and mysterious anecdotes from a distant and recent past. Did you know, for example, that The Ruien was largely vaulted by the Jesuits, in order to make room for the magnificent Sint-Charles Borromeo church on Hendrik Conscienceplein?
Visitors at The Ruien in a blue, protective suit

We take you on a special walk in the underbelly of Antwerp.

The City of Antwerp has entrusted the operation of The Ruien to the social employment project Werkmmaat vzw.
Old map of Antwerp


Around this time, Antwerp could rightly and justifiably call itself Ruienstad (city of canals); an extensive network of canals and waterways provided the city with transport and defence, among other things.
Old map of antwerp


Antwerp grew into a real metropolis. Canals, waterways and streams grew along and eventually formed a water system as long as 8 km.


The Ruien, however, did not only bring wealth into and out of the city; they were also a breeding ground for waste, stench and disease... And these are only a few of the reasons why the Ruien were gradually covered.
Old image of people in the streets of antwerp


This is how the streets of Antwerp looked just before the covering of the Ruien.
old image of the saint-peter's vliet
old image of the brewersvliet
old image of the Koolvliet
old image of the St. John's Vliet
St. Jansvliet
people in The Ruien in the year 1882


With the covering of the Brouwersvliet, the Ruien and a piece of Antwerp history threatened to be forgotten forever... until they were opened to the public in 2005. Welcome!

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