Antwerp (Antwerpen in Flemish) is a delightful historic city; it is the home of Rubens, whose influence can be found all through the city. Antwerp is Belgium’s second biggest city and probably best known as the centre of the international diamond trade.
Visitors to the city will enjoy some magnificent architecture, fine art, museums, imposing churches as well as lively bars/cafes, clubs and shops.
The Grote Markt is the historic centre of Antwerp, a vast pedestrianized market square surrounded by Renaissance-style guildhalls, there is an assortment of bars/restaurants where you may want to relax and try one of the Belgian beers.
The square is flanked by the impressive Town Hall which was designed by Cornelius Floris and completed in 1565; daily guided tours are available which take in several of the rooms.
Another famous sight is the Onze-Lieve Vrouwkathedraal (Cathedral of our Lady) which took two centuries to complete 1352-1521 it is the largest and best Gothic cathedrals in Belgium. The 123m high spire rises above the city; inside the building you will see a collection of sculptures and paintings including The Descent from the Cross and the Raising of the Cross.
A visit to the Rubenshuis Museum is a popular visitor attraction it was the studio and home of Pieter Paul Rubens for the last 30 years of his life.
The city acquired the building in 1937, it was little more than a ruin it has been superbly restored. The building is divided into two sections to the left you will see the narrow living quarters furnished with period furniture and the art gallery, to the right is Rubens large, high ceilinged studio where he worked.
If you enjoy spending time in museums you might like to visit the Nationaal Scheepvaartmuseum, the riverside castle The Steen, houses this fine Maritime Museum. There are boats from around the world including an 18th century coracle plus model ships and maritime instruments on display.
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts is also worth visiting, it has Antwerp’s largest and noteworthy, fine art collection, housed in a huge 19th century building approximately one mile from Grote Markt. The gallery is on two floors with Flemish Old Masters on one and 19th-20th century works on the ground floor.
There are several large canvasses by Rubens including the Adoration of the Magi plus works by Van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens. Other artists of note whose paintings are exhibited are Paul Delvaux and an important collection by Rik Wouters.
Antwerp has been the location of diamond traders since the 16th century much of the trade is run from modest buildings that line the streets near Central Station. You should take a stroll along Pelikaanstraat and Vestingstraat the bustling diamond district if you would like to take a brief look at diamond trading. A visit to the Diamond Museum will give you an insight into the diamond processing trade you can watch craftsmen at work and admire the diamond jewellery on display.
You will find a selection of organized city tours on offer from horse-drawn carriage rides, walking or tram tours; there are also boat excursions available in the summer months. If you require more information and details on accommodation or on the various attractions contact the tourist office in Antwerp.
As you explore the city, wandering through the back and side streets and the cobbled lanes, you will find many restaurants and eateries with cuisine to suit most tastes and pockets. There are some fantastic terrace cafes and no shortage of pubs for food and refreshment. Antwerp has an energetic music scene with jazz bars, discos and clubs.
You may want to do some shopping while on your holiday break; you should head for the Meir; Antwerp’s main shopping area, here there are a selection of department stores as well as a mixture of small shops. For designer outlets go to Nationalestraat and Lombaard vest and for exclusive shops Schuttershofstraat & Korte Gasthuisstraat. In the old centre you will find some excellent chocolate shops to tempt you!
There is a choice of accommodation in Antwerp, from hotels, many of which are located in the old city centre to B&B’s and hostels, there are also two campsites nearby. Antwerp makes an ideal short city break destination with plenty to offer its visitors day and night.