St. Anna’s Tunnel: 572 metres of walkway beneath the Scheldt river in Antwerp

A pedestrian tunnel was excavated over 31 metres deep below the Scheldt between 28 June 1931 and 14 August 1933 to connect both banks of the Scheldt in Antwerp.

In 1810, Napoleon had designed a new district for the town of Antwerp, but the lack of a connecting road meant that his urbanisation plan for the Left Bank could not continue. All manner of plans for a bridge later disappeared into a drawer and were never put into action. Before the tunnel, pedestrians had to manage with a ferry service, the St Anneke’s Boat, which departed from Steenplein.

In 1931, a never-before-seen technical tour de force was constructed. At 572m long and 4.3m wide, it was a broad cylindrical shaft of cast iron segments, which connected two access shafts of reinforced concrete with one another. The walls of the tunnel tube are lined to head height with little yellow ceramic tiles. In each shaft of around 35m depth, a metal lift with simple art deco decorations provides space for a maximum of 80 people. Many authentic components have been preserved: the wooden escalators standing at over 31 metres high, old controls and warning signs and the two access buildings. The latter were erected in the New Objectivity architectural style which strives towards functionality.

On 10 September 1933, King Albert I, just about the entire Royal Family, both domestic and foreign dignitaries and the Mayor, Camille Huysmans, with no less than 20,000 schoolboys and girls in high spirits in their wake, took a celebratory walk through St Anna’s Tunnel.

If you find yourself in Antwerp, on foot or by bicycle, then be sure not to miss out on this unusual place.