Antwerp is known as Belgium’s second city, and also as the diamond capital of the world; 85% of the world’s diamonds are cut, set and traded here.
Antwerp has an intriguing medieval heart with cobbled lanes, a riverside fortress and impressive cathedral that keeps tourists coming back for more. Explore a city full of fine art, culture, fashion and diamonds and allow yourself to get lost in the ancient beauty of the city’s Old Quarters.
The tree lined boulevard of De Keyserlei warrants a leisurely afternoon spent amongst open air restaurants specialising in local cuisine; linger over a pot of Belgian mussels with oodles of fresh bread. Belgium is famous for creating the most incredible beers and chocolates and the city of Antwerp is no exception to the rule; it’s impossible to resist the delicious variety on offer at every turn and you certainly won’t be leaving without sampling a selection or two.
The Grote Markt is Antwerp’s main square and is dominated by the grand 16th century city hall. Many gather in the Grote Markt to admire the surrounding buildings, in particular the house of the Guilds, and the Brabo Fountain; an imposing tribute to Antwerp’s most famous legend, Brabo, the mythical giant slayer. Café’s spill onto the square and create the perfect spot to relax with a glass of wine on a summer’s afternoon or a rich Belgian hot chocolate come winter.
The 17th century classical Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens helped shape the face of today’s Antwerp and his influence remains many places around the city, with thousands of visitors visiting to see some of Rubens’ most celebrated work. Onze-Lieve Vrouwekathedraal, also known as The Cathedral of Our Lady, was 169 years in the making and is the one of the finest Gothic cathedrals in the world, with a 123m high spire and interiors inspired by the late baroque decorations. Fascinating features inside The Cathedral of Our Lady include the work of Rubens’ ‘Elevation of the Cross’ and ‘Descendants from the Cross’. Great lovers of Rubens will also appreciate The House of Rubens, a reconstruction of how his home may have looked during the first half of the 17th century.
The Het Steen Castle is a photogenic beauty. Though the castle houses little of interest inside, the statue of Lange Wapper, the mythical demon known in many Antwerp tales, stands guard imposingly outside. Before leaving Antwerp you should take the opportunity to visit Antwerp Zoo; one of the world’s oldest zoos, housing over 5000 animals and over 950 different species. The beautiful buildings and gardens that surround the zoo are listed monuments and a whole day can be spent in the vicinity with a picnic or restaurant stop off along the way.