A quick guide to Antwerp in Belgium
History is one of the many lures that draws me to a place and Antwerp in Flanders, Belgium abounds with history and legends.
Cafés, restaurants, diamond jewellery stores, flank the cobblestone streets of the city steeped in art and history. The charming old town, Grote Markt, the heart of medieval Antwerp, boasts remarkable Guildhalls and Flemish Renaissance architecture, a delight for photographers and architects alike.
Antwerp, a hub for diamonds and fashion, is the 2nd largest city in Belgium. Perched on the river Scheldt, Port Antwerp is also the 2nd largest port in Europe.
Here’s a quick guide to Antwerp
1. Antwerp Centraal
A stone-clad train station with neo-Gothic architecture, a splendid dome and interiors gleaming like clusters of precious gems is one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. The train station itself is a premier attraction in the city. Three different entrances of the train station will lead you straight to three different hotspots of the city, the diamond district, China town, and high-end shopping avenue called Meir.
2. Grote Markt – Baroque Brabo Fountain, Antwerp’s story
As a big fan of handsome heroes slaying monsters, the folklore to tell the story of how Antwerp got its name appealed to me even more.
The Grote markt in the old town flaunts a stunning fountain of baroque Brabo. Legend has it that a giant named Antigoon lived close to the river Scheldt. He collected a toll from the boatmen crossing the river and chopped off a hand of those who refused to pay and flung it into the river. Then our hero Silvius Brabo entered the scene, took charge of the situation and severed the monster’s hand and threw it into the river, thus giving Antwerp its name. In Dutch Ant stands for hand and werpen is the verb to throw.
3. Stadhuis – The Town Hall
The town hall (Stadhuis) at the Grote mark, a Flemish Renaissance architecture, brandishes all the flags of EU. It is a fascinating sight especially when you can identify a few flags.
4. The Gothic Style Cathedral of our Lady
The Cathedral displays work of the popular Baroque artist from Antwerp, Peter Paul Rubens, highly recommended for artists, architects and architecture enthusiasts.
5. St Ann’s tunnel- A Pedestrians’ Tunnel
Quite an experience to use the wooden escalators, some of the oldest in Europe and cross the river Scheldt through the 572-meter underwater pedestrian and cyclist tunnel to reach the river bank for a stunning view of Antwerp.
6. Zoo & Aquatopia to appease the child at heart
Globally renowned Antwerp Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the world and for amphibian and reptile lovers like me Aquatopia is fun.
7. Learning about Belgium’s role in World War II
Belgium like Germany and many other countries in Europe constantly reminds its populace of the atrocities of WWII and wars in general in the form of movies, museums, and plays.
At Grote Markt, I had a chance to learn about Belgium’s role in World War II
8. Diamond Merchants
Antwerp is home for 1500 diamond merchants mainly made up of the Jewish community. The diamond traders dapple the streets of Antwerp adding to the culture and diversity.
9. A guide to Antwerp will be incomplete without the inclusion of Food and Beer
At the risk of going behind bars in Germany, allegedly Belgians make the best beer in the world. And their waffles are to die for, I can vouch for it. Some also claim the French fries originated in Belgium. In any case, you can’t leave Antwerp without trying them.
Other attractions in Antwerp:
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