I grew up in the Belgian province of Antwerp and the city of Antwerp—the province’s namesake capital—was always the place we went to on day trips with the family, whether it was for shopping or going to a show or visiting the zoo. This is why Antwerp holds a special place in my heart and always will. I love the city.
Belgium’s second-largest city, after Brussels, this city of more than 500,000 people is the heart of fashion, art and shopping in the country. The home base of the so-called Antwerp Six and the legendary Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp has firmly established itself as one of the world’s top fashion capitals.
Because of this status, Antwerp has become one of the most expensive places to live and to do business in Belgium, the huge shopping street Meir actually being the most expensive street in the entire country (according to Monopoly).
Additionally, Antwerp also happens to be the world’s diamond capital. You can take that very literally, for no less than 85% of all the world’s rough diamonds pass through the city each year. The Diamond Quarter is a neighborhood next to the totally impressive train station that’s home to dozens upon dozens of diamond cutters, traders and sellers.
It doesn’t stop there, though. There’s much more to Antwerp than just fashion, shopping and diamonds, even though that’s a big part of its attractiveness for many people.
Antwerp also has an immensely rich history. In the 16th century, it was one of the world’s most important cities, a powerful nearly independent city where people from all over Europe came to sell, trade and buy goods and services. In the same period, Antwerp was also the home of Pieter Paul Rubens, the world-renowned and incredibly wealthy Baroque artist. Antwerp is quite proud of this, as it should be, and reminders of the fact this gifted painter was an Antwerp resident can be seen all over the city.
Although it isn’t as well-preserved as Bruges or Ghent for example, it does have a charming medieval core—an area with cobbled streets, spectacular guild houses, squares, restaurants and “brown cafés.” This is where you will want to spend most of your time when visiting Antwerp for the first time.
Throw some historic landmarks—Het Steen (a riverside castle) and the striking Cathedral of Our Lady (a UNESCO World Heritage Site)—into that mix of fashion, art and history and you have a great city with everything you could possibly wish for.
I would like to refer to the Antwerp Tourist Board website for a plethora of information on the city’s attractions, museums, events, dining venues and watering holes.
This post is meant to showcase several of Antwerp’s highlights in photographic form—photos that, as you will see below, where taken on a rather cloudy day. Didn’t make the city less impressive, though!
20 Photos of Antwerp
This post is part of the “city series“, a series of photo essays that feature twenty photos of the world’s greatest cities.