Known for its diamond industry, cult fashion sense, architecture, and friendly people, Antwerp is a must-see destination when visiting Europe. It is situated in the Flanders region of Belgium and is also the second-largest city of the country after Brussels. Antwerp's port is second only to Rotterdam in Europe and is an important part of city's economics. The architecture of Antwerp cannot be missed, be it the medieval fortress, churches, cathedral, museums, art galleries, statues and the charming boulevards. The old city centre is the hub of Antwerp's rich historical architecture.
Places to See in Antwerp
Cathedral of Our Lady: This beautiful gothic cathedral is an iconic structure in Antwerp. It is also one of the largest in Northern Europe, built in 1351. The cathedral has an exquisite collection of artworks and a series of paintings by the famous painter Rubens. Some of the highlights here include Rubens' Elevation of the Cross and his Descent from the Cross.
Ruben's House: Want to know how the famous Baroque artist Rubens lived? Go see his palatial house where he created some of his best work. Europe's rich and famous used to visit him here. Rubens stored his impressive art collection in a lovely art room. His house in Wapper stands as an intriguing structure, home to this wonderful artist's workshop and attracting many every year.
Antwerp Zoo: It is one of the oldest zoos in the world, home to over 400 animals and numerous 19th century architectural designs.
Plantin Moretus Museum: French printer Christopher Plantin started his printing and publishing house here in 1555. After him, the Moretus family, his successors took the legacy forward. The museum is a delight for book lovers who want to understand and explore typography and printing. The museum also has many paintings by Rubens apart from pieces of art and sculptures. In the 2005, the Museum Plantin-Moretus/Prints Room was named as a UNESCO world heritage. It is the only museum worldwide to have received this honour.
Shopping in Antwerp
The Meir is the main shopping area in Antwerp which is also one of most famous shopping streets in Belgium. The Hopland and Schuttershofstraat streets have shops of major fashion brands, where the rich and the famous come to buy their exclusive and trendy attires. The fashion-conscious Antwerp houses many leading designers' boutiques. It boasts of being at par with other fashion hubs like Paris, Milan, and New York.
For more local shopping, you can browse through the alleyways. Diamond shopping is a must-do here if you have the money. DiamondLand on Appelmansstraat is the most famous and biggest diamond shop in Antwerp. But if you can't afford them then don't forget to buy diamond-shaped chocolate pralines. Apart from these, there are many weekend markets that take place on the Theaterplein Square in Antwerp to give you more local flavour.
Shops in Antwerp usually open from Monday to Saturday, but at Kloosterstraat and Hoogstraat many shops remain open on Sundays as well.
Fast Facts of Antwerp
Main languages in Antwerp: In Antwerp, residents mostly speak the local Brabantian-Antwerp dialect of Dutch. Other important languages spoken here are Belgian version of French and German.
When to go to Antwerp: There is no such time when you can't visit Antwerp, but May to September is the best time to explore this cosmopolitan city. Late spring and summers are preferred by travellers because the weather is pleasant during this period and the average temperature is around 16 degree Celsius. And if you love winters, Antwerp will present you a charming picture to you as temperatures fall. Also, it snows here around Christmas time, making it perfect for a year-end vacation. Just be prepared for unpredictable weather in Antwerp as it rains here on and off.
Local Transport in Antwerp
Air: Antwerp has its own airport which lies 7 km southeast of the city centre. Airlines operate flights that connect Antwerp to London, Liverpool, Jersey and Manchester in the UK. Other airports near Antwerp are National Airport Zaventem in Brussels and the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.
Rail: Belgium has an extensive network of trains which connect Antwerp with Brussels and other parts of Europe like Paris and Amsterdam. Trains are the best way to travel in Belgium. Antwerp's railhead is the Antwerpen-Berchem station which is 4 km away from city centre. Trains running between Brussels and France stop here.
Road: The roads in Antwerp are well-built and sprawling. An excellent network of buses connects Antwerp to Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and to London and Amsterdam. Antwerp has Eurolines (at Rooseveltplaats) and Ecolines (at Berchem station square) offices with buses coming from all over Europe.
Cycling: Cycling is an easy and comfortable way to travel on one-way roads in Antwerp. So if you want to rent a bicycle, go to these towns - Ligfiets, Windroos, or Fietsdokter (verschransingsstraat). Don't forget to lock your bicycle to an immovable object or else it might get stolen.
Walking: If you want to discover every nook and corner of Antwerp, then walking is the best way to do it. Most places to see are within boulevards and can be explored by walking.
Currency: The national currency of Belgium is Euro. (1.00 GBP = 1.2 Euro and 1.00 USD = 0.83 Euro)
Voltage: The voltage in Antwerp is generally 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Round European two-pin plugs are standard here.
Time Zone: GMT + 1 throughout while GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October.
Phone code: Belgium's dial code is 32 and Antwerp's code is 3 which must be dialed even within city.