What to see in Belgium
Tourist attractions Antwerp
Sat on the banks of the River Scheldt, Antwerp is famed for its glittering heritage as a centre of the diamond trade and its charming Flemish Renaissance architecture. Dubbed Belgium’s ‘capital of cool’, Antwerp is home to one of the largest ports in the world and is, therefore, one of the most important cities in the Low Countries.
Only 50 kilometres from the capital city of Brussels, Antwerp sets itself apart thanks to its on-trend fashion scene and spirited nightlife. Many visitors travel to Antwerp to indulge in a little retail therapy, either splurging on glistening gems in the centuries-old Diamond Quarter or shopping for the latest fashions in the designer boutiques of Antwerp’s numerous shopping streets.
With an elegant historic centre, a trip to Antwerp also offers the chance to discover the romantic atmosphere of its cobblestone streets and gabled guild houses. During the 16th-century, Antwerp was considered one of the wealthiest cities in the region, and the well-preserved mansions of Antwerp’s merchants are sure to transport you back to the city’s Golden Age.
Nowadays, Antwerp has a seriously cool food scene and vibrant nightlife, with a mix of typical Belgium beer houses and sleek underground bars. On the other hand, the city’s museums and galleries are another big draw, home to some of the most valuable pieces of Flemish art.
Things to see in Antwerp
The best place to begin a tour of Antwerp is at the Grote Markt, at the heart of the city’s historic centre. A characteristic Belgian market square, in the middle of the square you’ll find the ornate Brabo Fountain, flanked by beautiful gabled buildings and the impressive Stafthuis, or City Hall, dating back to 1565.
After soaking up the atmosphere of the centre, anyone with a penchant for Renaissance art will relish a visit to Rubens House, one of the best things to see in Antwerp. Built in 1611, this was once the residence and studio of Pieter Paul Rubens, undoubtedly Antwerp's most prestigious artist. Inside, you can step into the life of this art genius and view around 12 original Rubens canvases, including his famous self-portrait. The museum also holds a number of other works from a selection of 17th-century Flemish artists.
Perhaps the most recognisable landmark in the city, a holiday to Antwerp would be incomplete without contemplating the towering belfry and decadent architecture of the Cathedral of Our Lady. Constructed between the 13th and 16th-centuries, this Gothic cathedral not only boasts the tallest church tower in Benelux but also contains a showstopping three-piece stained glass window. Furthermore, if you venture inside you can view a number of priceless paintings by Antwerp’s favourite, Rubens.
Diamonds are synonymous with this Belgian city, and a stroll through the Diamond Quarter is one of the best things to do in Antwerp. Covering an area of one square mile, around 84% of the world’s rough diamonds pass through this historic district. Here you can find thousands of diamond dealers and diamond workshops, and the area has a strong Jewish heritage. Whether you’re here to splurge or are just browsing, the Diamond Quarter is a fascinating place to visit.
Finally, to learn more about the city’s heritage the Museum Aan de Stroom is one of the best places to visit in Antwerp. Perched on the banks of the River Scheldt, this contemporary museum has a modern glass and sandstone facade. Inside, the collections and exhibitions focus on Antwerp’s history and the city’s connections to the rest of the world.