Walk in the footsteps of your forefathers

From 1800 onwards, millions of people travelled by boat from Europe to the United States with all their belongings packed in just a few trunks, suitcases or baskets. The new world was the Promised Land for all those in search of happiness and a better life. For many people, life in the United States and Canada began in a warehouse in the port of Antwerp. Between 1873 and 1934 the Red Star Line's ocean steamers sailed to the United States with more than two million adventurers and fortune-hunters on board.

In the fall of 2013 the Red Star Line Museum will open in the historical warehouses of the Red Star Line shipping company telling the story of the millions of Europeans who had the courage to leave everything behind in search of happiness and a better life. It is a story of high expectations and great disappointments, a story about adrenaline and sleepless nights. In the old buildings of the shipping company all these emotions and stories become tangible and visible.

Migration as a universal phenomenon

The Red Star Line Museum does not limit itself to the past. Migration is a universal, timeless phenomenon, shaping our present, and life in a port city. The museum highlights a different perspective on the city, allowing you to walk in the footsteps of people that could have been or maybe even are your forefathers. You are invited to linger for a while on a certain idea. Antwerp, and by expansion any place in the world, is what it is today because of the people who once lived here. And the city's future is shaped by the people who live there today.

  • Impression of the ticket desk and entrance.
  • Impression of the timeline. A timeline represents human history as a history of migration with twenty personal stories. Each of these twenty stories represents a period of massive migration.
  • Impression of the central space. Visitors enter the historic main story. From this point onwards from this point onwards, visitors truly follow in the footsteps of the migrants.
  • The spotlight is on six witnesses, some of whom are still alive.
  • The visitor will travel through eight thematic environments, from a travel agency in Warsaw to their new future in the United States.
  • The city of Antwerp seen through the eyes of an emigrant.
  • On the first floor, the visitor encounters a scene that represents a Red Star Line ship.
  • On board, the passenger facilities differed hugely.
  • Arrival at Ellis Island
  • Migration is a universal and timeless phenomenon.
  • The tower

The Red Star Line Museum tells the story of the millions of Europeans who had the courage to leave everything behind in search of happiness and a better life in America.

It reflects on the stories of the rich passengers travelling for pleasure and craving adventure and the poor immigrants who hoped to have a better life in America.

Some of the Red Star line passengers, like Albert Einstein, were already famous. Others, like Irving Berlin, would become very successful. But most of the passengers remained unknown although their friends and relatives loved them.

All these stories will have their place in the museum.

A few famous passengers

Fascinating stories

Irving Berlin

Among the two million Europeans who traveled to America on the Red Star Line was a five-year old boy from Russia. In 1893 his parents bought him a ticket for the ‘S.S. Rhynland’ bound for New York. The boy’s name was Israel ‘Izzy’ Beilin but today he is better known as Irving Berlin, the world-famous composer of songs like ‘White Christmas’, ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ , ‘God bless America’, and There’s No Business Like Show Business’.

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein and his wife Elza traveled to the United States several times on Red Star Line ships. In 1933, Einstein was returning from the United States when he learned that the Nazis had confiscated all his possessions. Upon his arrival in Antwerp, he decided not to return to Germany but instead travel back to the United States on the S/S Westernland.

Golda Meir

At age 8, Golda Mabovitz, along with her parents and sister, fled their home to escape the anti-Semitism in Ukraine. In 1906, they boarded the ‘S.S. Montreal’ in Antwerp for Montreal, Travelling on to New York. The family finally settled in Milwaukee, in the state of Wisconsin. Seventy years later, Golda Meir became the prime minister of Israel, the third woman ever to hold this post.

Sonia Pressman

Sonia Pressman Fuentes was born in Germany, to a Jewish family. When Hitler rose to power, the family decided to flee the country, settling in Antwerp in 1933. Unfortunately their efforts to establish a new business in the city amounted to nothing, which is why, in 1934, they embarked on the ‘S/S Westernland’, which was bound for New York. Five-year old Sonia went on to become an attorney and a well-known feminist, publishing a moving memoir which naturally also discussed her family’s emigration. She was able to draw on the diary that her brother Hermann had kept during his stay in Antwerp. Along with her brother’s diary, Sonia is one of the most important witnesses of the Red Star Line’s history.

The transit baby

Antwerp in essence was a transit city with migrants from all over Europe arriving here by train to board a Red Star Line ship after spending a few days or even weeks in the city. During this short stay in Antwerp life continued as usual as Rachel and Chers Janovsky, who had left Czernowitz (Ukraine) and were bound for the United States, experienced first-hand: their oldest daughter was born during their stay in the city.

The waffle iron family

On February 15th, 1892, fifty-year old Joseph Hutlet, his wife Félicité Clesse and their eight children left the Ardennes village of Halanzy in the Province of Luxembourg (Belgium) embarking on a great overseas adventure. They were emigrating to Canada in hopes of a better life. The family had packed a lot of valuable items for their personal in their luggage, including a precious item from their native Belgium. They carried tools, such as a large and a small wood saw, a cast iron waffle iron and a special pan for preparing the typical Ardennes meat pâté. Naturally they also brought the recipe for the pâté with them, as well as another recipe, to brew beer without hops. All these objects have been preserved and will be featured in the museum.

Your story?

Visitors end their tour of the Red Star Line Museum in the “knowledge corner” where they can delve deeper into the various subjects covered by the museum. Here they can also reconstruct their family's migration history, but more importantly, every visitor will also be invited to share his own story on migration here. All these stories will become a part of the Red Star Line’s museum collection!

Life on deck

People have always been fascinated by the idea of life on board of an ocean liner. Thanks to the film Titanic we now all know that there was a big difference between traveling in first class and the experience of the passengers in steerage. Nonetheless life on board was a sequence of great anecdotes and facts, which illustrate the grandeur of the Red Star Line’s ships.

The Belgenland II was the Red Star Line’s flagship. It measured 212 metres and moored at Antwerp for the first time in 1923. 

There are two bollards on the Antwerp quays, near the Rijnkaai, which are larger than the others. Larger bollards were needed for mooring the Belgenland II

The Belgenland II transported 800 passengers in first class and 2,000 migrants in steerage. 

Two of the Red Star Line’s most beautiful ships, the Belgenland II and the Lapland, were built in the same shipbuilding yard as the Titanic, i.e.,  Harland & Wolff in Belfast. 

The gigantic steamship carried no less than three chimneys. But only two of them worked at full speed, the third one had been put on just for decoration so that people would be even more impressed.

The voyage from Antwerp to America lasted approximately ten days. On board, the passenger facilities differed hugely.

First class passengers had lounges, salons, swimming-pools, dancing rooms and even fitness rooms at their disposition. The Belgenland II even boasted a beach with real beachsand from Ostend.

The Antwerp experience, similar to Ellis Island

It has been estimated that nearly half of all Americans today can trace their family history to at least one person who passed through Ellis Island in the Port of New York. More than 2 million of them came from Europe with the Red Star Line. In the Red Star Line buildings in Antwerp, hundreds of thousands of migrants closed a chapter in their lives in hopes of beginning a new one at Ellis Island. Just before their departure, the emigrants traveling in third class underwent a medical examination and their luggage was disinfected, whilst clerks scrutinized their documents. The Antwerp experience mirrors Ellis Island, in the sense that passengers had to follow the same procedures on arrival.

When we arrived at Antwerp my father heaved a deep sigh and said, “Now, thank God, we are with one foot in America already. Next stop New York.” Yuri Suhl

The Red Star Line buildings: one of the rare physical witnesses to the exodus of more than two million of Europeans to the New World have been preserved

Historic buildings 

The Red Star Line buildings are protected monuments, which, over time, have become a part of our collective memory. The New York based Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners ltd, who also designed the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in New York, are in charge of the restoration of these warehouses. Thanks to them, these buildings have now been restored to their former glory. Richard Southwick is partner at Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners Ltd. He is your guide in the film.

The tower

The aim of the architects was to create a new museum with respect for the building’s authenticity and with modern touches. It was clear to the architects that there had to be a vertical eye-catcher. The watchtower that they have designed is a modern element referring to the bow and the funnel of an ocean steamer. It is built in the location of another chimney, the last landmark for many migrants. The watchtower of the new museum will be a gem. Anyone standing on top of the tower will feel as if they are standing on the bow of a steamship.


A walk along the quays in Antwerp is always a pleasant experience, largely because of the nice view on the River Scheldt. You can sit down on one of the many bollards along the way to catch your breath. At the end of the quay however you will see two enormous bollards that were specially built for the Red Star Line shipping company.


Several descendants of the Red Star Line passengers were generous enough to share their personal memories and stories with the museum. In addition to this the museum and its activities are possible thanks to the financial and material contribution of several parties.

Diane von Furstenberg, Fashion designer

Sponsor of the Red Star Line Museum

“…The Red Star Line Museum will mirror Ellis Island. It is a place where people left for America. They were poor and did not know where they were going. But they were hopeful and they started a new life on the other side. It is a wonderful idea to create a museum to celebrate all of these people’s hope for the future. Being a Belgian emigrant myself, I can tell you this makes all the sense in the world…”

Marc Saverys, CEO of Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB)

Founder of the Red Star Line Museum

“…The Museum will testify to the tremendous hope which drove millions of Eastern Europeans, many of them Jewish, westwards to the New World. It will also uncover the almost forgotten role Antwerp played in this historic exodus. It is a story we need to tell to new generations. CMS, Antwerp’s oldest active maritime company, is proud of its partnerships with the Red Star Line Museum. This association is an exquisite way to give back to the Antwerp community and the global community we serve…”

Visiting Antwerp means arriving in the epicenter of style, fashion, diamonds, cultural and architectural masterpieces and more… The city is a hotbed of creation and innovation, where you can also enjoy the tiny marina and the water of the River Scheldt…

  • map

  • The Islet

  • MAS

  • Diamond

  • Station

  • Museum

  • Eugeen Van Mieghem Museum


The Eilandje District

The Red Star Line Museum is situated in the north of the ‘Eilandje’ district, formerly a port district. Today the district is undergoing a spectacular urban renewal process and is also a hotspot for maritime tourism. Antwerp’s city council and real estate developers are building an attractive neighborhood here, between the Scheldt, the picturesque old docks and the new ‘Park Spoor Noord’ landscape park. Here you can witness a real urban transformation, with the port becoming a hip and happening focal point in this bustling city. Monumental warehouses like the St Felix warehouse stand silhouetted against the water of the old docks. The true piece de resistance is the 62-metre MAS (Museum aan de Stroom), an architectural beacon for the 21st century and an international meeting place.


The MAS is an impressive building, a mere stone's throw from the Red Star Line Museum. It's a complete experience, with a museum, a stunning square with the artist Luc Tuymans’s mosaic, its vertical boulevard, a rooftop panorama and much more.

The museum focuses on the long history of trade and cultural exchange between the city of Antwerp and the world, telling new stories about the city, the river and the port. About the world in all its diversity. About Antwerp’s centuries-old links with the world, based on evidence of this mutual exchange.

Antwerp, a diamond’s best friend

Antwerp was a particularly popular port of emigration among Jews from Central and Eastern Europe. Many Jewish people did not succeed in emigrating to the United States but found work in the fledgling diamond sector either as traders or as setters. A Jewish quarter and community gradually formed in the streets surrounding the Central Station.


Today 1,800 dealers line the square kilometer around Antwerp’s Central Station in the Diamond district. The art of polishing diamonds was invented in the city and today the ‘Antwerp Cut’ has become internationally synonymous with quality and brilliance. With 80% of the world’s rough diamonds, 50% of the cut diamonds and 45% of industrial diamonds going through Antwerp you are in the right place to shop up a sparkling storm. If you need a best friend, Antwerp Diamonds shine eternal!

Central Station

The emigrants who were bound for America arrived in the city’s Central Station at the end of a long journey through Europe. Currently, Antwerp’s Central Station is one of the world's most impressive railway stations. Dubbed the 'Railway Cathedral', it is one of the main landmarks in Antwerp.

The domed building

The monumental main building has a huge dome and eight smaller towers of which six were demolished during the 1950s. Fortunately, these were reconstructed in 2009 together with several ornaments including large lion statues.

Station interior

The colorful interior is lavishly decorated with more than 20 different kinds of marble and stone. The main hall and the railway cafeteria can match the interiors of many palaces. Not a single square meter either inside or outside the building is not decorated.

Museum Plantin–Moretus

Exhibition About coming and going / 28.09.2013 – 05.01.2014

On the occasion of the opening of the Red Star Line Museum the Museum Plantin-Moretus will organise an exhibition on migration, developing the theme with prints and drawings from the museum’s amazing collection, including several works by the Antwerp painter Eugeen Van Mieghem. Trade, faith, love, violence, the hope of a better life: the works explore the motives of people who leave for the unknown, from the sixteenth century to the present. Five people who migrated to Antwerp and built a new life here share their experiences based on the works.

Vrijdagmarkt 22, 2000 Antwerp / More information at www.museumplantinmoretus.be

Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Eugeen Van Mieghem Museum

The Antwerp painter Eugeen Van Mieghem (1875 - 1930) grew up amidst the hustle and the bustle of the old port. His parents owned a pub near the Red Star Line sheds. His paintings portray life on the docks of Antwerp port and the thousands of migrants who left every day from Antwerp for the New World were also part of this picture.

Ernest van Dijckkaai 9, 2000 Antwerp / More information at www.vanmieghemmuseum.com

Open every Sunday and Monday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on public holidays)

Red Star Line Museum

Montevideostraat 3, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium redstarline@stad.antwerpen.be www.redstarline.org

  • Opening hours
  • Tickets
  • Bookings
  • Facilities
  • Getting there
  • Group visit
  • City walk

Opening hours


  • Tuesday to Friday 10 am till 5 pm*
  • Saturday and Sunday 10 am till 6 pm*

* subject to change


  • Mondays, except on Easter Monday and Whit Monday
  • January 1st, May 1st, Ascension Day, November 1st, December 25th



  • Standard price: € 8*
  • Trade price: € 6*
  • Combination ticket: Red Star Line Museum - Museum Plantin-Moretus - Eugeen Van Mieghem Museum: 12 euros

Visiting the Red Star Line Museum is an unforgettable experience. But to make your visit really worth your while we have developed a special offer. On the occasion of the exhibition “About coming and going” in the Museum Plantin-Moretus you can also visit the Museum Plantin-Moretus and the Eugeen Van Mieghem Museum at a discount rate.
Groups booking a guided tour of the Red Star Line Museum by phone as of 12 June can choose whether they wish to combine their museum visit with another visit. From 25 August onwards you can also book this combination ticket with the online booking system at www.redstarline.be.
When visiting the Red Star Line Museum you will also receive your tickets to the Museum Plantin-Moretus and the Eugeen Van Mieghem Museum. These are valid up to and including 5 January 2014. Book guides or group bookings directly with the various museums.

*subject to change


Due to the restricted capacity of the museum, advanced bookings are mandatory.

Antwerp City Card

The Antwerp City Card gives you free admission to the permanent collection of the Red Star Line Museum.
More information www.visitantwerp.be



Group visit: from June 12th, 2013
Individual visit: from August 25th, 2013


Antwerp Tourism & Convention
Grote Markt 13, 2000 Antwerp
T +32 3 232 01 03
F +32 3 338 95 91

Bookings and payment conditions for groups visit

  • The number of participants for a guided tour is limited to 15.
  • Guided tours should be booked at least 3 weeks in advance.

More information on payment conditions on www.visitantwerp.be.



Museum shop
An excellent selection of unique gadgets and gifts inspired on historic Red Star Line merchandising.

Drinks are served in a unique bar.

The tower can be freely visited during opening hours.

Research center
Reconstruct your family's migration history.

Gallery guide and catalogue
Printed and online gallery guide available in NL/FR/ENG/D
Catalogue available in NL/ENG/FR

Lockers in different sizes are available at level -1.

The Red Star Line Museum is fully accessible for persons with reduced mobility.

Getting there

By tram

Tram 7, get off at the terminus Sint-Pietersvliet

By bus

Bus 17, get off at the terminus Rijnkaai

By car

Parking Godefriduskaai
(Zeevaartstraat 11)

Hop-on and hop-off for coaches

The stop of the public transport company in RIjnkaai, near the museum, can be used as a hop-on/hop-off stop for coach passengers. Max. 10 minute

Group visit

Guided Group Tours

VIA Antwerp. Red Star Line, a story of people.

A guide takes you on a journey of hope, fear and dreams. Starting from passengers’ individual stories you will gain a better understanding of the bigger historical narrative. The millions of people on the move will most definitely move you.

  • Duration: approximate 90 minutes
  • Trade price: € 6 per person
  • Price per guide: € 65 (max. 15 persons per guide)
  • Reservation for guide and entry tickets is required
  • Languages: NL/FR/EN/D

Unaccompagnied Groups

Due to the restricted capacity of the museum, advanced reservations are mandatory. Access can be denied for groups without reservation.

  • Trade price: € 6 per person

City walk

Traces of a legendary shipping company

Today you can still see traces of the Red Star Line’s presence in Antwerp. While some are quite visible, others were concealed. The Red Star Line Museum offers a digital tour revealing these traces and their historical background. But there’s more: every trace reveals as a story of what it might have felt like to wander the streets of Antwerp as a migrant, on your way to the Red Star Line ship, in hope of finding a better life elsewhere.

  • Duration: about 2 hours
  • Languages: NL/FR/EN/DE/Other languages on request
  • Target audience: adults, last two years of secondary education
  • Price per walk: 65 euros (max. 20 persons per guide) + 5 euros administration fee
  • Departure: Friendship Building, Rijnkaai 37
  • Arrival: Red Star Line Museum
  • Visit of the museum tower included. Museum admission not included in the price.

Tales of the Red Star Line in the city

Antwerp is inextricably linked with the Red Star Line. Millions of migrants arrived and departed in Antwerp leaving their mark on the city. Often the unobtrusive traces of their passage conceal a bigger story however. Follow in the footsteps of an immigrant and walk through Antwerp to the quays from where the Red Star Line ships depart. A fresh start, a better life.

  • Duration: about 3 hours
  • Languages: NL/FR/EN/DE/Other languages on request
  • Target audience: adults, last two years of secondary education
  • Price per walk: 95 euros (max. 20 persons per guide) + 5 euros administration fee
  • Departure: Central Station at the desk of Antwerp Tourism & Convention
  • Arrival: Rijnkaai
  • Visit of the museum tower included. Museum admission not included in the price.



  • ITB Berlin 6-10/03/2013
  • Sea Trade Cruse Shipping Miami 11-14/03/2013
  • WTM London 4-7/11/2013
  • USTOA Annual Conference and Marketplace fall 2013

Press conferences

  • New York June 12th, 2013
  • Antwerp September 24th, 2013


Red Star Line Museum

p/a Hessenhuis
Falconrui 53, 2000 Antwerp (Belgium)
Tel: + 32 3 206 03 50, Fax: +32 3 206 03 60
redstarline@stad.antwerpen.be - www.redstarline.org

Antwerp Tourism and Convention

Grote Markt 13, 2000 Antwerp (Belgium)
Tel: +32 3 232 01 03, Fax: +32 3 231 19 37
visit@stad.antwerpen.be - www.visitantwerp.be

Flanders Tourist Office

The New York Times building
620 Eighth Ave - 44th Floor New York, NY 10018
T:+1 212 584 2336
info@visitflanders.us - www.visitflanders.us