The Leien


January 26, 2022

De Leien are a series of streets in the center of the Belgian city of Antwerp. They connect the South (access from Brussels) with the North (the beginning of the port). They largely follow the route of the Spanish ramparts as it was constructed in the sixteenth century.


Lei is an older southern Dutch name for avenue or avenue. The Leien more or less follow the trajectory of the sixteenth-century Spanish ramparts. This wall from 1542 contained a few fortresses that had to guarantee the defense of Antwerp. After the independence of Belgium, Antwerp became the last defence. From Antwerp, more pressure was exerted on the government to be able to expand the city more. After all, there was also a non-aedificandi easement (military building ban) for the grounds within 500 meters of the ramparts. After the city regained ownership of the 154 hectares of ramparts in 1859, it was demolished and laid out in streets (1867-1869). Henceforth, the Brialmont Walling should provide for the defense of Antwerp. The street names were from north to south: Handelslei, Kunstlei, Nijverheidslei and Zuiderlei. After the First World War, the names were renamed resp. Italylei, Francelei,Britishlei and Amerikalei, to the victorious allied countries.

Current situation

The Amerikalei in the south starts at the Bolivarplaats. Below this square is the Bolivartunnel, through which the A112 motorway runs, which connects the Leien with the Ring and the A12. The Amerikalei and the Britishlei bear the number N113, the Frankrijklei and Italylei are part of the N1. Until the 1930s, the Leien were considered three parallel streets with two-way traffic. This also explains why the tram stops (on the part that has not been redeveloped) are so far from the footpath: the trams ran in the opposite direction. After the Second World War, the side lanes were redesigned for one-way traffic, until the end of the 1960s the trams (both the city trams and the neighborhood railways, the so-called farm trams) had doors on both sides and the stops were in the central reservation, so that passengers could use the central reservation. wait and get on and off there. The southern part of the Leien was redeveloped in the first years of the 21st century. The tram and bus got their own bed in the middle of the avenue. There are now 2x2 lanes for through traffic around the free tram and bus lanes, which are separated from the lanes for local traffic by a bicycle path. The northern part of the Leien will be reconstructed from 2015 according to the same model. In 2006, the Frankrijklei changed drastically in appearance, when the 'temporary' emergency bridge over Franklin Rooseveltplaats was removed after 33 years. A new square, called Operaplein, will be built between Italylei and Francelei. This has been installed since March 2016. Through traffic will be routed through a tunnel under the square.


The Leien are also called 'Den Boulevard'. The name "boulevard" is still used by older Antwerp residents in the Antwerp dialect; the name "De Leien" is mainly used by the media and younger residents. Previously, the name "Leien" was used for the streets of the chic south around the Hof van Leysen (between the Markgravelei and the Desguinlei): the Van Putlei, the Bosmanslei and the Arthur Goemaerelei. It is conveniently said that "Only those who are born within the Leien (or lived when he/she was born) may, according to tradition, call themselves a 'Sinjoor'". This title also dates from the time of the Spanish occupation and means lord. However, the tradition is that "Whoever was born within the Spanish ramparts (or lived there), may call himself 'Sinjoor'. De Keyserlei, an eastbound side street from Francelei to Antwerp-Central station, or Maria-Theresialei, Louisa-Marialei and Maria-Henriettalei, even

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