This so cool it’s hot city has received a lot of well deserved attention lately, especially since becoming one of Europe’s Cool Capitals. The nightlife is hot, the diamonds are cool, the Bolleke beer is served ice-cold and the innovative fashion is ultra-bold.
Much like the diamonds, Antwerp Belgium sparkles with an impressive range of architecture from medieval buildings to the Art Nouveau styles. Antwerp is also an art-loving city with which the name Rubens is eternally linked. More than 400 years after the birth of this brilliant painter, it is still possible to see the extent to which Rubens left his mark on the city.
Funky nightlife, historical buildings, rich cultural offerings and a veritable fashion catwalk throughout the city, Antwerp offers every visitor a wide range of attractions. For the city’s most notable sites see Antwerp Highlights below.
You might be in Antwerp if…
If its four o’clock in the morning and you’re knee-deep into some exotic clubbing while you’re sporting the latest in avant garde fashion and your pockets are filled to the rim with dazzling diamonds… you might be in Antwerp.
If you’re standing in a former master artist’s home and the paintings on display before you depict voluptuous women… you might be in Antwerp.
If it’s two o’clock in the afternoon on a Wednesday and you’ve got an amber colored Bolleke in your hand while you watch a mythical giant get his hand chopped off… you might be in Antwerp.
Known for being the ‘Bill Gates’ of his time, this artist’s former home portrays the life of this great painter. Discover his multifaceted talent: the painter, architect and diplomat, the collector and scientist, the husband and father. Above all, you will discover Rubens as the prince of baroque in Europe.
Antwerp and diamonds: two concepts that have been closely related for over 500 years. Antwerp’s diamond district is located close to the Central Station and contained within an area of one square mile. Antwerp handles more than 80% of the world’s rough diamonds. Among the city’s many other attractions is Diamondland where visitors can see diamond polishers, setters and goldsmiths at work. Free daily tours at 11:00 am
Het Steen are the remains of a castle which was once the center of the city Antwerp. Now located along the waterfront it is the National Maritime Museum. Het Steen served for many purposes throughout the centuries. It was once even a jail but that dark era ended in 1823. The city of Antwerp bought Het Steen in 1842. In 1864 it opened its doors again as a museum of local history and archeology.
The Antwerp Zoo, where more than 6,000 animals reside, is one of the oldest and most famous zoos in the world and is located next door to Central Station. The Antwerp Zoo has developed an international reputation because of its participation in international breeding programs for threatened species, such as the okapi, the bonobo, the Golden Lion Tamarin and the Congo peacock.
Momu (Mode Museum)
Fashion is a way of life in Antwerp with hip shops for the fashion addict. The MoMu collection consists of a very diverse assortment of clothing, lace, embroidery, fabrics and tools for artisanal textile processing. The oldest collection pieces date back to the 16th century, but the emphasis is on the 19th century.
Middelheim Open Air Museum
This museum hosted its first exhibition in 1950. It has an exceptional collection and offers an overview of modern western sculpture, including works by artists such as Rodin, Bourdelle, and Manzu. The sculptures from Rodin to the present day are presented in the surroundings of a splendid park.
The Antwerp port, which is the second largest in Europe, is largely responsible for the city’s prosperous and cosmopolitan character. It attracts people from all over the world: tourists, traders, young people who come here to study, artists who roam the streets in search of their muse, musicians, who provide the city with its soundtrack.
Cathedral of Our Lady
After 20 years of restoration work the architecture of the seven-aisled church has again been restored to its full splendor. Housed inside this gothic church, which became a cathedral in 1559, are two Rubens masterpieces, Raising of the Cross and Descent from the Cross.
Brabo Statue on Grote Markt
Legend has it that long ago the River Scheldt was in the hands of Antigoon, a giant who demanded heavy tolls from passing ships. A Roman soldier, Silvius Brabo, slay the greedy giant by chopping off his big hand and throwing it into the river. Hence the name Hantwerpen or “hand throwing.” The ‘hand’ has become the unofficial symbol of Antwerp and can be found as a bronze fountain in front of the town hall or sprinkled through out the city in various forms …including chocolate.
Saint Carolus Borromeus Church
This is the Rubens’ church par excellence. Not only did Rubens produce paintings for it, he also designed many of the sculptural decorations and the façade. This typical baroque church was built by the Jesuits between 1615 and 1621. The apse of the main altar, the Mary Chapel and the many sculptures and wooden carvings show the church’s former splendor.