Antwerp offers the best of both worlds, combining an enchanting and historic city center with a thriving modern economy. Historically, Antwerp was a powerful economic hub, and it continues to take a leading role in the region. Culturally, Antwerp is home to impressive museums, a successful contemporary arts and fashion scene and entertainment options for every taste.
There are many ways to explore the enchanting remnants of the city's centuries old history, including the Begijnhof, a medieval abbey with charming gardens, the Rubenshuis, where famous painter Rubens once lived, and baroque Carlus Borromeus Church.
As the world's leading trading center for diamonds - more than 70% of the global market is located right here - Antwerp is the place to be if you are looking for diamonds, including dazzling finished pieces of jewelry and shimmering loose stones.
Antwerp is a hip, trendy city that has attracted some of Europe's finest talent in art, writing, acting and more, with a vibrant cultural scene that offers something to do virtually every day of the week.
From traditional Flemish dishes and craft beers to classic Franco-Belgian fusion, Mediterranean food and other culinary influences from around the world, Antwerp's dining scene is world class and ever changing.
Antwerp is one of the nation's fashion centers, with a successful local scene that has spawned national designer brands like Margiela and Raf Simons, with an emphasis on ultramodern and avant garde designs.
Showcasing Christophe Plantin and Jan Moretus' collection of manuscripts, the Plantin-Moretus Museum, an integral site in the history of typography, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. The former 16th-century printing company, once the largest in the world, provides insight into the Plantin-Moretus bookbinding empire. Among the treasures found in the striking medieval building are two of the world's oldest surviving printing presses, a library dating back to 1640 that holds an early Gutenberg Bible, and rooms featuring priceless art, including numerous paintings by Rubens.
Antwerp's Groenplaats or "Green Place" is one of the city's most renowned squares, featuring an 1843 statue of the city's most revered painter, Pieter Paul Rubens, designed by Willem Geefs. The square is lined with cafés where visitors come to soak in the local color. Anchored by its majestic Gothic cathedral with the highest church tower in the region, the Groenplaats - which used to house a legendary cemetery that was outlawed during the Austrian occupation by Emperor Joseph II - is now the place to sample local beers and grab a bite to eat.
The Middelheim, one of the oldest open-air sculpture museums in the world, rests on 30 acres within the Middelheim Nachtegalen Park in Antwerp. Many of the sculptures are the legacy of the Biennale Middelheim, held from 1951 to 1989. The museum, with works ranging from 19th-century statues to large modern designs, features the work of legendary artists such as Auguste Rodin, Rik Wouters, Max Bill, and Alexander Calder, among others.
The Vogeltjesmarkt or the Bird Market, which dates back to the Middle Ages, is Antwerp's biggest open-air market. The bazaar, centrally located in the theater district, opens daily from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. It was historically where songbirds, post pigeons, and exotic birds were traded. Nowadays, the market is popular with tourists looking for unique finds, such as antiques and second-hand items, as well as local delicacies and craft beers.
The Grote Markt or Great Market Square of Antwerp, near the banks of the the Scheldt River, is located in the heart of the city's historic downtown. The square houses the Flemish Renaissance Stadhuis or City Hall which was built in 1565; several 19th-century guild halls, rebuilt after a 1576 fire; the Brabo fountain, designed by Jef Lambeaux, and the Antwerp Jazz Club, as well as a variety of cafés and restaurants. In winter, visitors can enjoy the Christmas market and a bit of ice skating.
With a seasonal climate, most tourists opt to visit during the spring and summer months between May and September, when average temperatures hover around 60°F to 65°F.
Antwerp airport (ANR) is a smaller regional airport located about 3.5 miles from the city center that serves London and other locations in the UK. Regular bus service to the Berchem train station costs around EU10. Brussels Airport (BRU) is where most international flights will land. Located about 28 miles from Antwerp, a train links the airport to the central station in Antwerp, with fares at about EU12.
Antwerp is a major hub on the Belgian Rail system, with connections to major centers throughout Belgium and the rest of Europe.
Antwerp is serviced by a well-maintained network of highways that link it to all major towns and cities in Flanders and throughout Belgium.
Several bus companies offer intercity service that connects Antwerp to major centers across Europe, including Eurolines, Flixbus, ECOLINES and Megabus.
At Hotel Elzenveld, you'll stay in classic contemporary luxury, with lovely courtyard gardens in a building that once housed a hospital in the Middle Ages. At the Hotel Rubenshof, you can stay in a late 19th century mansion with an ornate rococo design.
City Centre - this historic district is where to find attractions like the Antwerp Zoo and impressive Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady, along with the central train station and much more.
Antwerp South (Het Zuid) - this is where you'll find a hip, trendy scene of restaurants and bars along with many cultural attractions like the MUHKA Museum of Contemporary Art and the graffiti art of Het Munplein.
Zurenborg - this district will take you off the beaten track and into a neighborhood of intriguing 19th century architecture, including Art Nouveau and other styles, along with a collection of trendy restaurants.
Public transportation in the city includes a network of buses, trams and underground trains operated by De Lijn company. Single fares start at EU3, with a 10-ride ticket available at EU14.
Taxis are plentiful in the city and are often a preferable option to rush hour traffic in the downtown area. An average fare within the city center should cost around EU10-20.
Be forewarned that many sources have rated the city's traffic jams as among the worst in Europe and parking spaces often come at a premium, starting at EU2 per hour. A compact rental should cost around EU35 a day.
The Meir shopping street runs between the City Hall and central train station. The Fashion District is located along the river to the south of the historic City Centre.
Carrefour and Delhaize are two of the many supermarket chains you'll find sprinkled throughout the city, offering a good selection of items at reasonable prices. A gallon of milk is about EU3.25 and a dozen eggs about EU2.40.
Enjoy the atmosphere along with the fine dining cuisine at The Jane, designed by architect Piet Boon. A multi-course dinner menu starts at EU85. Elfde Gebod serves classic Belgian dishes in a gorgeous medieval building, with mains that start at EU14.