Visit Antwerp, Belgium: quick guide
The name Antwerp is related to the word anwerpen (mound hill), which was a geographical feature during the period of early settlement. The earliest records relating to this historical site go back to the 7th century BC. But it was in the 17th century that the city grew, and it was then that artists such as Rubens and Van Dyck became popular. It was Napoleon who recognized the strategic importance of Antwerp and undertook to modernize its port. Today, Antwerp is the thirteenth largest port in the world .
See the main tourist attractions in Antwerp
Antwerp’s Grote Markt (city square) is an architectural marvel of the 16th century. The Stadhuis (city hall) is a famous Flemish Gothic Renaissance structure. In the center of the square is the fountain with the statue of Sylvius Brabo, Antwerp’s first hero. Legend has it that this Roman soldier killed a giant who was regulating the flow of the river and stealing money from innocent locals. Brabo cut off the giants hand and plunged it into the Scheldt River.
See the main tourist attractions in Antwerp
The Cathedral of Our Lady is another important attraction to see when visiting Antwerp. Its 123-meter tower with Gothic architecture, an amazing sight.
The Antwerp Castle, known as Het Steen (stone castle), is so called because in the 13th century castles were usually built in wood. Het Steen was the first stone castle of the time.
Meir is another place worth seeing when they visit Antwerp. This shopping street, is considered one of the busiest in the city and is one of the best places to explore old and new Antwerp. Two of its most important buildings are the Maison Osterriet and the former royal residence of the Belgian kings in Antwerp. The world’s first stock exchange building was also built on Rue Meir.
See the main tourist attractions in Antwerp
Things to do in Antwerp
Every tourist can count on the fascinating museums and galleries of Antwerp. The city has been well-planned and well-run for centuries. That is why it is very easy for travelers to visit Antwerp, because the main attractions and most of its beautiful sights are within walking distance.
Walk the cobblestone streets of Antwerp like a labyrinth. You’ll be surprised to see streets with royal mansions, ancient churches, and museums as you walk. The city is a funny mixture of old and new, with stores, restaurants and bars opening all the time.
One thing you should do when visiting Antwerp is go to the Dutch Museum of Fine Arts. The museum is divided into two parts, one containing works of old masters and the other for 19th century and later artists. The museum’s collection of European paintings includes works by Rubens, Van Dyck, Hals, Van Gogh and many others.
Things to do in Antwerp
Since the city is well known for its diamonds, you can visit Diamondland, its largest showroom, when you visit Antwerp. Here you can see how craftsmen process and polish the most precious object known to man: fine diamonds. You should also visit the Antwerp Diamond Museum to learn about the history and development of diamonds.
Eating and drinking in Antwerp
The people of Antwerp love Belgian food . Their cuisine consists of traditional Flemish dishes with strong French and Mediterranean influences. Mussels paired with chips and mayonnaise are a hot favorite. Certain fish, such as herring, are also preferred and eaten raw. Other favorites are the water zoo, a special kind of soup with cream and chive, and eels, which are served with vegetables and herbs.
French wine of good quality is preferred. However, the most favorite drink of the country remains beer. In fact, Belgium has more than 100 brewers producing more than 400 different kinds of beer. In fact, there are three types of beer consumed by locals: lager, white beer and lambic. Light beer is a deep double or triple brew. White beer speaks for itself, while lambic is a strong drink of natural fermentation with a fruity flavor.
T Fornuis is one of Antwerp’s most popular restaurants with rich French cuisine served in a traditional Flemish setting.
Eating and drinking in Antwerp
There are a number of fun bars and restaurants here that can compete with any other European city for your money. If you are in Belgium and want to enjoy the best nightlife, go to Antwerp !
Belgians love their alcohol, and it’s no surprise that this passion has led to a plethora of bars and pubs across the region. These bars are open at all hours of the day and night and sell a variety of Belgian beers, cocktails, long drinks and wines.
Dan Engel is considered Antwerp’s most popular bar. Conveniently located on Grote Markt, it welcomes guests at any time of day or night for a refreshing glass of beer. But the best time to enjoy Antwerp’s nightlife is on a Friday or Saturday night.
Antwerp for families with children
Antwerp makes everyone happy, whether you’re adults or children. When you visit Antwerp with the head of the family at the Antwerp Zoo, the oldest and largest zoo in Belgium. Children are in love with the dolphinarium, and they also have the opportunity to see tigers, giraffes, monkeys and reptiles. Even though the zoo is old-school, it is still a favorite place for kids.
Antwerpen (Belgium) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. The main sights of Antwerp with descriptions, travel guides and maps.
City of Antwerp (Belgium).
Antwerp – a city in northeast Belgium and one of the largest ports in the world (second in Europe after Rotterdam). It is both a bustling industrial port city and an outstanding historic center of Belgian craftsmanship and art. Centuries of prosperity have left Antwerp a magnificent architectural ensemble that includes a stunning cathedral, city hall, many other sacred monuments and simply beautiful old buildings.
In the 16th century Antwerp was one of the largest and richest cities in Europe. It was visited by merchants from almost all over the world. Numerous artists, sculptors and other creative people also settled here. Thanks to its long and rich cultural history this city has many interesting buildings from different historical periods, as well as a huge number of magnificent museums. Recently, Antwerp has become a trendy place, attracting many bohemians and young people. It is a city with many faces and offers a perfect combination of history and modern living.
Things to do (Antwerp):
€120 per excursion
Breakfast in Antwerp
Taste Belgian cuisine, explore the character of the city and discover the city from the inside
€150 per tour
Historical walk around Antwerp
The stunning heritage of a powerful and beautiful city from the Age of Discovery
Geography and climate
Antwerp is located in the northeastern part of Belgium in the historic region of Flanders. The city lies on the banks of the Scheldt, near where the river flows into the North Sea. Antwerp has a temperate maritime climate, similar to that of southern England. Summers are cool and rainy, and winters are relatively mild with moderate sub-zero temperatures.
Antwerp at night
- The population is 523 thousand people. Antwerp is the largest city in Flanders and the second most populous in all of Belgium.
- Area – 204.51 km².
- The language is Dutch.
- The currency is the euro.
- Visa – Schengen.
- Time is Central European (UTC +1, +2 in summer).
- The main shopping area is Meir, which stretches from Keyserlei (near the central station) to Groenplaats. Between Meir and Hopland is a shopping center – Stadsfeestzaal. Brand stores are concentrated around Hopland and Schuttershofstraat.
- Antwerp is one of the world’s diamond trading centers. Yes, in the city you can buy diamonds cheaper than elsewhere in Europe, but there are also a huge number of tourist traps.
- A lot of fashionable things can be found in the Kammenstraat area.
- In the area of Kloosterstraat there are many antique and souvenir stores.
- Den Engel is the most famous traditional café in Antwerp, located on Grote Markt.
- Antwerp is generally a safe city. Although it is best to avoid walking alone at night in the areas of De Coninckplein, Borgerhout, Seefhoek and Schipperskwartier.
The exact date of Antwerp’s founding is unknown. The first written mention of the city dates back to the 7th century. Although there is reason to believe that the city was inhabited already in the Roman period. In the 4th century, the Germanic Franks settled there. In the 7th century (Merovingian period) an abbey was founded here. In the 10th century the river Scheldt became the border of the Holy Roman Empire, and Antwerp became a border town within it.
There’s an interesting local legend that explains the etymology of the city’s name (“hand werpen” translates from Dutch as “to throw a hand”). Once upon a time, there lived near the Scheldt a giant, Antigun, who charged boaters for crossing it. Whoever refused to pay, the giant tore off his limbs and threw them into the river. The Anti-Goon was defeated by a young hero who cut off his arm and threw it into the Scheldt.
The heyday of Antwerp began in the 15th century and lasted until the second half of the 16th century. This was largely due to the loss of Bruges (as a seaport) because of the siltation of the canal. Antwerp was then part of the Duchy of Brabant and was one of Europe’s largest ports. During this period the city gained fame as a sugar capital, importing raw materials from the Spanish and Portuguese colonies.
Antwerp’s prosperity was halted by the Reformation in 1566, when a wave of violent riots swept through the city. In 1568, the Eighty Years’ War broke out, making trade with Spain impossible. In 1576 Spanish soldiers sacked the city, killing 7,000 residents and burning 800 houses. Antwerp later joined the Union of Utrecht in 1579 and became the capital of the Dutch rebellion. The city was eventually captured by Alessandro Farnese. Most of the Protestants and simply enterprising people went to the United Provinces (the future Netherlands). And the status of the main trading city of Northwestern Europe passed to Amsterdam.
Antwerp City Hall and the Brabo Fountain
In 17th – 18th century, Antwerp fell into decline. The revival of the city as a major commercial center began after the Belgian Revolution. In the 20th century, Antwerp managed to regain lost ground and took on a leading role in the sea trade, fashion and culture.
How to get there
Antwerp has an airport operated by CityJet that connects it to London, Edinburgh, Manchester and several other cities. Also relatively close is the air port of Brussels. In addition, Antwerp has a regular rail connection to Amsterdam Schiphol.
Antwerp is connected by regular bus services to many major cities in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain. Low-cost Flixbus services take you to Paris, The Hague, Amsterdam, Groningen, Brussels, Delft, London and Nijmegen.
Grote Markt is the most beautiful square in Antwerp, which is the heart of the old city. It is a magnificent architectural ensemble, consisting of the City Hall of the 16th century (a masterpiece of the Dutch Renaissance and one of the first Renaissance buildings in northern Europe), the old merchant houses and richly decorated fountain of the 19th century, depicting Sylvia Brabo – the hero who defeated the giant Antigone. Originally Grote Markt was a square near the medieval residential quarter. In 1220 the land under the square was donated to the city. This period is considered the beginning of the history of the Grote Markt.
Notre Dame Cathedral
The Notre Dame Cathedral is a great masterpiece of medieval architecture and the largest Gothic church in Belgium. The cathedral is the architectural dominant feature of Antwerp thanks to its huge late Gothic bell tower (123 meters high), which was built in the first half of the 16th century. Work on the church began in 1352 and continued until 1521. Many famous masters of Western Europe had their hands in the construction of the cathedral.
Over the centuries, the church has been seriously damaged several times, depriving it of the most valuable works of art. First there was a fire in 1533, then in 1566 the cathedral was devastated by the Protestants, in 1581 – by the Calvinists, and in 1794 and 1800 the church was damaged by the French army. Restoration of the cathedral began in the 19th century and continued until 1983. The best, of the remaining works of art are on display in the nave and aisles.
Church of St. Paul
St. Paul’s Church is a beautiful late Gothic church located on the historic Veemarkt square, which once functioned as a former cattle market. Construction of this religious structure began in 1517 and was completed in 1639. The baroque clock tower dates from 1680. Unfortunately, a fire in 1968 badly damaged the church. Nevertheless, excellent paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck have been preserved here.
The butcher’s hall (Vleeshuis)
The Vleeshuis is an impressive brick building from the first half of the 16th century in late Gothic style. It was, as its name suggests, the seat of the butchers’ guild. Nowadays there is a museum of arts and crafts and archaeology within the walls of this historic building.
A popular tourist attraction is the port of Antwerp. The port facilities alone cover more than 10,000 hectares, confirming the status of the port of Antwerp as one of the largest in Europe and the world. In its vicinity, you can see the old docks, slipways, and a 17th-century windmill.
Church of St. James
The Church of St. James is a former cathedral church and one of Antwerp’s main sacral monuments. Construction of this religious building began in 1431 and lasted until the 17th century. The church has a magnificent Baroque interior and an austere Brabant Gothic façade. The eastern chapel contains Rubens’ tomb.
The Steen is Antwerp’s oldest building, founded in the 11th century. Steen acquired its present form between the 12th and 13th centuries, when a stone fortress wall and several gates were built. Until 1823, the castle was used as a prison.
Church of St. Charles Borromeo
The Church of St. Charles Borromeo is a beautiful baroque church built by the Jesuits between 1615 and 1621. The building has a magnificent façade and interior, including paintings by Rubens, as well as numerous sculptures and elaborate carved wooden figures. A unique feature of this church is the original and still functioning mechanism above the main altar used to switch the paintings.
Church of St. Andrew
The Church of St. Andrew is an Augustinian church built in the early 16th century. Inside you can see stunning Baroque altars and 17th century artwork. The church has late Gothic architecture, except for the upper tiers and spires, which are characteristic of the late Baroque period.
“Handelsbeurs” (New Exchange)
“Handelsbeurs” (New Exchange) is a historic public building built in 1531. After the last fire, the bourse was rebuilt in a rather luxurious neo-Gothic style.
Headquarters of the Port of Antwerp
The Antwerp Port Headquarters is a modern architectural gem that is an old former fire station building with a diamond-shaped glass and steel superstructure.
Interesting museums of Antwerp
Antwerp is famous for its magnificent museums. Here are the most interesting of them:
- Museum of Applied Arts and Archaeology in Vleeshuis – collections of prehistoric, Egyptian, Roman and Merovingian artifacts (weapons and armor, ceramics, antique furniture, sculptures and woodwork, old coins).
- The Plantin-Moretus Museum demonstrates the history of printing and the atmosphere of the home of an old Flemish merchant. The museum is located in a beautiful historical building, which is considered a masterpiece of Flemish Renaissance architecture.
- Diamond Museum – Various aspects of the diamond trade, including diamond mining, processing and industrial use. The museum also has a collection of cut and uncut diamonds.
- Rubens House – a museum dedicated to the famous painter. The interior of the house is in the style of the period and contains many of his paintings.
- Royal Museum of Fine Arts – over 1000 works of old masters, mostly from Flemish and Dutch schools, and more than 1500 pieces of modern art.
- MAS Museum – a cultural site in the old docks area with a phenomenally large collection devoted to the maritime history of the city. Today, the collections of this museum number about 500,000 items, including artwork and tableware.
€140 for a guided tour
Antwerp – City of Arts
The beauties of the Belle Epoque, the heritage of Rubens and the life of the citizens on a guided city tour
€150 per tour
Antwerp – History and modernity
Landmarks and stunning panoramas on a guided city tour