Antwerp has been an important cultural hub since the beginning of the seventeenth century and has always been one of the most relevant commercial cities in northern Europe. It's currently the second-most populated city in Belgium, after Brussels.
Antwerp also has one of the largest ports in the world thanks to the Scheldt river which is so deep that it allows merchant ships to navigate down it.
The city is also known as the Diamond Capital of the World and is especially famous for its uncut diamond industry, which makes up approximately 85% of the total world production. Approximately 35.000 people work in the diamond trade and the city has four diamond bourses.
Things to see and do in Antwerp
These are some of the top attractions to see in Antwerp:
- Grote Markt (Great Market Square): The Grote Markt is a pretty square in the heart of Antwerp surrounded by Renaissance buildings. The square houses the Town Hall and the Brabo fountain, which depicts the foundations of the city.
- Rubenhuis (Rubens House): The former house and studio of the world-famous Baroque painter, Peter Paul Rubens. The townhouse was constructed in the seventeenth century and is definitely a worthwhile visit.
- Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwe Kathedral): It was established during the fourteenth century and it took two centuries to complete. It's the largest temple in Belgium.
- Diamond Museum: It features items and videos explaining the diamond industry from its mining and extraction methods until sale.
- Steen Castle: Charles V changed the name of the Castle from Antwerp Castle to Het Steen (stone in Dutch), and it remains one of the most interesting sights in Antwerp.
- Royal Museum of Fine Art Antwerp: If you enjoyed the Fine Art museum in Brussels and would like to discover more, the Royal Museum of Fine Art Antwerp is similar, located in a neo-classical building from the nineteenth century.
- Groenplaats (Green Place): Despite it not being as impressive as Grote Markt, this square is always bustling with life and is worth exploring. It's located close to the Cathedral.
How to get to Antwerp?
- Guided tour: We highly recommend this option, especially for those who don’t speak Flemish or Dutch. For just € 50 (US$ 54.40) you'll be taken to Antwerp by minibus, you'll tour the city with an English-speaking guide and you'll have four hours to visit the city by yourself. If you would like to book an organized day trip to Antwerp, click here.
- Train: Fastest and easiest option for those who prefer to see Antwerp by themselves. The price of a ticket from any of the train stations in Brussels to Antwerp costs approximately € 7.40 (US$ 8.10) and it takes approximately 50 minutes to get to the city.
Is it worthwhile?
Antwerp is a beautiful city, especially famous in the country for its boutiques and original stores. If you're in Belgium for a short stay we would recommend visiting Bruges and Ghent first before traveling to Antwerp.