Far from living in the shadow of Brussels – its larger, more famous neighbour – Belgium’s “second city” has a personality and pace that make it a favourite destination for both regional people and tourists. The 500.000 inhabitants call it the ‘Metropolis’. Arriving in Antwerp by train is like stepping back in time, thanks to the spectacular, fully refurbished neo-Baroque Central Station. This city has so many different facets and things to see that it takes a while before one gets to know it thoroughly.
It is also the second largest harbour of Europe after Rotterdam. Moreover, Antwerp is a great city with a lot of architectural highlights, most of which date from the 16th (the golden era of Antwerp) and the 17th century. There are plenty of monuments for those who like monument-hopping to spend a few days admiring them. The past is also represented by the numerous paintings of Peter Paul Rubens who lived in the Antwerp of the early 17th century. Antwerp has many excellent churches too, and its most famous are Sint-Jacobskerk, burial place of Rubens; Sint-Pauluskerk, repository of stunning sculptures and paintings by Flemish masters; and the towering Cathedral of Our Lady, the largest church in the Low Countries.
Antwerp, however, does not only live from the past. Nowadays, Antwerp has earned a place among the fashion cities of the world thanks to the efforts of numerous young Flemish fashion designers ( e.g.: Walter Van Beirendonck, Nadine Wynants, Ann De Meulemeester, Dirk Bikkembergs, Kaat Tilley and others). You can visit the fashion area of Antwerp near the Meir shopping street.
Antwerp is also known as the diamond center of the World. If diamonds really are a girl's best friend, than a lot of ladies will certainly have to pay a visit to the diamond district around the Railway Station. This area is also the Jewish part of the city. The presence of many 'Chassidic' Jewish people gives the city a flair that cannot be found in other Belgian cities.
What else to see in Antwerp?
? See the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, where more than 1,500 paintings by Old Masters are on permanent display as well as a first floor dedicated to more modern works. ? Relax and sit back with a coffee on Grote Markt, Antwerp's "Great Market" square is a popular attraction in the heart of the old city. ? Visit the world famous Rubens House – home of the great master. ? Listen to live music in the bars & clubs of the port or Cathedral areas. ? Spend an afternoon in the world famous Antwerp Zoo. ? Drink in one of the traditional ‘Brown’ pubs – such as Den Engel on the Grote Markt, one of the oldest in the city. ? Visit the the Antwerp Aquatopia. Over 100,000 fish are housed in the aquarium, with amazing viewing windows, regular animal displays and events for children. ? Antwerp is a great place for shopping so indulge the habit with a browse through the regular Friday night market (Vrijidagmarkt) and maybe enjoy a coffee in one of the local cafes.
As with any sizeable Belgian city, Antwerp offers a huge amount of bars that serve the nation’s favourite beverage – beer. Kulminator might be the most famous of these and it's the city's oldest beer specialist They have more than 500 brews are available. Den Engel is another pub with suds and a great atmosphere. Club kids from around the country – and from a few neighbouring countries – dance the night away at chic, trendy Café d’Anvers. Belgium’s other national drink – gin, or jenever – is the sole elixir (available in 200 formulations) served at De Vagant. Nights in Antwerp don’t have to be a blur of bars; however, since the Royal Flanders Ballet, Flanders Philharmonic Orchestra and the Flanders Opera all make their home in the historic city. Frequent theatre shows and musical performances can be seen at the Queen Elisabeth Concert Hall and at the Stadsschouwburg performing arts center.