Antwerp is the little city that keeps on giving. There is so much to see and do in Belgium’s second city that you’re guaranteed to want to visit again. The city goes by many names, perhaps because it’s difficult to summarise this bustling city under just one title, but most commonly it is known as the city of diamonds. It’s not just diamonds that you’ll find here though, famous for its fashion quarter, countless museums, long and fascinating history, striking architecture, and cultural scenes, Antwerp is a must-do city-break or a vital stop in any visit to Belgium.
The Old City
The area surrounding the Grote Markt, or Great Market Square, is generally known as the Historic City Centre or Old City of Antwerp. The square is surrounded by stunning, medieval guild houses and halls which are ornately decorated. If you’re needing a break then why not grab a coffee in one of the many cafés which surround the square – these are great spots for people watching too! The Old City is also home to one of Antwerp’s most famous landmarks: The Brabo Fountain. The fountain sits in-front of the 15th Century UNESCO listed building, The Stadius, and depicts the mythical legend of the city: ‘A cruel giant named Druon Antigoon would guard the bridge on Schedlt River; demanding a toll or a hand (literally) to cross. One day a young Roman soldier named Brabo killed Antigoon and cut off his hand throwing it into the river. This folklore tale is where the city found its name as Antwerpen literally translates as ‘to throw the hand’.
Antwerp is most famous for its diamonds. In fact 82% of all the world’s diamonds have passed through the Belgian town. If you’re not in the market for buying an engagement ring or fabulous new accessory then you can still enjoy the sparkle of the city. DiamondLand is found in the centre of Antwerp and offers free guided tours showing you diamond cuttings and crafting at work. If you’re looking for a more immersive experience why not book the Diamonds and Cocktails experience? Here groups up to 10 are treated to a class of sparkling with either a real diamond or fake diamond in each glass. The aim of the game is to find which are real and which are not, with DiamondLand’s experts on hand to examine each stone before revealing who has which – the best part is you get to keep your stone! - The perfect day of sparkles for group trips and hen parties.
Group Bookings of 10 are 22.50Euros. Party leaders can opt to have one diamond or more included with prices increasing per diamond.
Shopping and the Fashion District
When you think of fashion capitals you may conjure images of Paris or Milan but Antwerp is not to be forgotten, as this Belgian town has significant roots in the fashion industry. In the 1980s the Antwerp Six, comprised of 6 Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Antwerp graduates, changed the international fashion scene forever. The Antwerp based designers have left their mark on the city which is known, amongst other things, as the city of fashion. The fashion district is home to the Flanders Fashion Institute, the Fashion Museum (MOMU), Fashion Academy and scores of fashion boutiques. Located at the Modenatie on the corner of Nationale and Drukkerijstraat, this is a place for fashionistas!
Other great shopping locations include Meir, which is the main shopping street, and the Zuid District which features many designer shops, the Demeulemeester (owned by one of the Antwerp Six), and notable retro clothing store Atelier Assemble.
If street markets are more your style then you’ll be spoilt for choice in Antwerp. There are weekly markets every Friday, Saturday and Sunday where you can pick up an antique, enjoy the Exotic Market, or the Vrijdagmarkt which takes place every Friday at the city’s historic centre.
Art and Culture
With so much history, fashion, diamonds, art, and mythical legends it is not surprising that Antwerp is bursting with fantastic museums and art galleries. The list to choose from is almost endless and you’ll struggle to see everything in just one trip. Some great highlights include: Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp; the Museum at the River; Rubens House; Rockox House Museum; The Diamond Museum; ModeMuseum, or Antwerp’s Fashion Museum (MoMU), and Antwerp’s oldest building and first stone fortress, Steen Castle (Het Steen).
Good to know
If you’re visiting the city why not take advantage of the Antwerp City Card. The cards are great if you’re wanting to make the most of your trip giving free entrance to popular attractions, free use of public transport and discounts on shops and bike rentals. www.visitantwerpen.be/en/antwerp-city-card-en from EUR 27.