The Red Star Line Museum

Due to Covid-19, the museums in Belgium were closed for a while during the lockdown. But luckily they are open again. However when you want to visit a museum (even the smallest) you have to book a ticket in advance with a time slot. You’re only allowed to do the visit with your personal bubble, which are the members of your family you live together with and one other close contact. During the visit a month mask is obligated. So, this makes a museum visit a bit more complicated. Nevertheless, due to the fact that less people are allowed at the same time, you have lots of chance to see everything very well and take many wonderful pictures. 

Finally, on Sunday 7 March 2021 my husband and I finally could visit the Red Star Line museum. It was already on my wish list for a while.

About the museum

The Red Star Line museum tells the story of people who migrated from Europe, via Antwerp to North America with a Red Star Line ship. The museum focuses on their stories, that of the Red Star Line that transported them and that of Antwerp, the city and port from which they embarked on their journeys.

The Red Star Line Museum invites you on an eventful journey in the footsteps of the emigrants. Become acquainted with the passengers and accompany them on their trip from their native village to Antwerp. The ocean steamers of the Red Star Line are docked on the quay ready to depart for the New World. Exciting and personal stories accompany you across the ocean. On the other side of the ocean you say goodbye to your fellow passengers.

With their whole life packed in a few suitcases, millions of people sailed from Europe to America after 1800. The United States and Canada were the promised land for fortune seekers and everyone looking for a better life. For many people, the trip to the New World began in a warehouse in Antwerp. Red Star Line ocean steamers paved the way to a new life for about two million men, women and children between 1873 and 1934.

The historic sheds of the legendary shipping company with the red star in its flag currently house the Red Star Line Museum. The museum tells the story of the millions of Europeans who were courageous or desperate enough to leave their old life behind and look for a better existence. Via an emotional rollercoaster of high expectations and deep disappointments, racing adrenaline and sleepless nights the dream becomes reality for some of them. The former harbour sheds of the Red Star Line are the perfect place to make the stories of countless passengers palpable and visible. Their dreams and complaints are brought to life in this inspiring environment.

The Red Star Line Museum is a journey to the past and an encounter with the present. Migration might have a different face these days, but the human side of migration is timeless and universal.

Vintage poster
PHOTOGRAPH BY Red Star Line Museum

History of the museum

Until 1934 the buildings along Rijnkaai were used as a medical and administrative control centre for steerage passengers travelling with the Red Star Line shipping company.

After the shipping company declared bankruptcy in 1934 the Red Star Line complex was renovated a couple of times in keeping with other uses after which it fell into disuse. The buildings and the shipping company’s history were soon forgotten.

In 1992 the Red Star Line collector Robert Vervoort petitioned the town council to put up a plaque on the Antwerp quays to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the founding of the company. At the time there was no mention of listing the buildings as heritage.

On 27 September 2013, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians officially inaugurated the museum. The Red Star Line museum welcomed visitors the next day.

Vintage trunk
PHOTOGRAPH BY Red Star Line Museum

A visit

The Red Star Line museum really is intriguing, we were immediately taken by the story of migration. It also has a very special location: in an old pack house and on the place where people who wanted to go on board of one of the ships of the Red Star Line, had their medical check-up. Both exhibitions - the permanent and the temporary – were built up very well. They told us the real story of the immigrants. You even had the feeling you were on board of one of the ships of the Red Star Line company.

The Red Star Line museum has big open spaces, which I like, although sometimes the noise of the visitors was a bit disturbing. The museum also is built up with many touch screens (visitors received a clean pen before entering the exhibition rooms) so it’s excellent for children too.

We visited the Red Star Museum on 11.00 am and then it was rather quiet. I think in the afternoon it will be busier.

Normally the Red Star Line Museum has a restaurant but due to the Covid-19 measures this was closed, so we haven’t been there.

The personnel of the Red Star Line museum all were extremely friendly. They were happy to help you with questions and even with a talk! They knew hospitality very well and made our visit special.

Inviting big open spaces
PHOTOGRAPH BY Kathleen Van Lierop

Practical information

The Red Star Line museum is located at:

Montevidostraat 3 – 2000 Antwerpen – Belgium.

We walked to the museum from the city center which is about half an hour. During the walk, you’ll see other interesting things such as MAS Museum, another famous museum in Antwerp, and the

beginning of the harbour. You also will walk along Kaai/Hangaar 26 which is a famous restaurant and nightclub. (In my youth I spent many Saturday evenings there ☺ )

The museum also is reachable by car. You can park your car at the Rijnkaai Car Park (Waagnatie – Kaai 33). Remember that the entire city centre of Antwerp and Linkeroever (the Left Bank) are a low emission zone. Polluting vehicles may no longer enter the low emission zone. All vehicles with a foreign plate (except Dutch number plates) complying with the conditions for entry must be registered once-only. Registration is free and can be done up to 24 hours after entering the zone.

At Antwerp Central Station, take the underground: tram 9 or 15 direction Linkeroever, get off at the stop 'Meir'. Leave the underground station via the exit "Sint-Katelijnevest" and take tram 7 above ground to the final stop MAS. Then walk 600 mtrs to the Red Star Line Museum.

The Red Star Line museum is opened from Tuesday till Sunday and from 10.00 am till 17.00 pm.

Book your ticket and timeslot in advance!

A ticket for the museum costs:

Permanent exhibition : 8 €

Temporary exhibition: 6 €

Both exhibitions : 12 €

More about the Red Star Line Museum on the website:

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Kathleen Van Lierop

Kathleen Van Lierop (born in 1979) is married and lives in Belgium. She is an avid traveler and a real museum lover. She likes books / (royal) history, culture and tourism. She has two blogs: and My Crazy Life Full With Books