Chambre Du Commerce, Antwerp

I could be lost for words with this one, just as I was when I first saw images of the place on the internet after just having got into the urbex scene. This was, to me, the ultimate derelict place. The grandeur, the architecture, the age of the place, the craftsmanship, the almost impossible access, all just made it more desirable and it was definitely at the very top of my list of places to explore, although realistically it was on the impossible, out-of-reach list. The fantasy one.
Our 2nd tour of Belgium this and the planning stage usually involved the 5 of us saying it was about time for another Euro trip, 2 months later repeating the same until the repetition became more frequent and someone announces "Let's set a date!". Then we run through a list of possible locations. Anyway, this came up - The old chamber of commerce/stock exchange. And whilst the idea should have had me excited, the reality was that I didn't think it was possible. Not only had I heard tales of many fails by numerous explorers, I'd also read recently that it was being renovated and the place was more locked down than ever. However there was scaffolding which presented a glimmer of hope prior to the trip......
The morning after the night before which had involved some duty-free whiskey and a stay in what appeared to be an abandoned hotel resembling The Shining, as we were the only folk in there and most of it looked like it had shut down years ago! The 5am wake up alerted me to the fact I maybe shouldn't have stayed up with one of the team drinking out of the bottle. With a heavy head we made our exit from the hotel of horror and headed towards the posher suburb of Antwerp. I'd protested so many times that I thought this explore was a waste of energy that I was bored of saying it now and just waited til I could say "Told ya so".
The city was very peaceful at this time of morning and after parking and a short walk we were there. "Where the hell is it?" I expected a grand facade, a towering building stood proud on it's own, but instead we had to look down a street to a dead end which was blocked off by the Commerce and the only part you can see as it's landlocked by all the buildings around it.

After puzzling over the lack of options, doing a bit of standing and staring, bit of chin stroking, and realising the scaffold was boarded off, I'd resigned myself to the fact I could be right, go back to the car and sleep the whiskey off.
"Lads, what about this?" We were at the corner to the main street we'd come in off and a 100 yards from the commerce so the grate cover that Shane had lifted seemed so unconnected with the place we were after that I found it laughable to drop down a random drain. But we were out of other ideas. One by one, as someone kept watch on the corner, we dropped down the hatch and slid down some concrete into the basement of a nearby building. A bit like The Goonies. We worked our way through the dark and up to the ground floor. This place also looked empty and under renovation with building material lying about. We reached a grandiose set of doors, out of place in this rather drab characterless office-type setting and as Alex grabbed both handles and swung them open, we all just stopped in our tracks. It was the best Eureka moment I've had exploring. There it was, unexpectedly presented before us, the most magnificent sight.......