If you’re looking to visit a modern, medieval, walkable and friendly city, Antwerp would be a good bet.
Last week I spent two days in Antwerp, Belgium’s second city. I’ve been there countless times before; my parents used to take me to the Zoo a couple of times a year, it’s also an awesome city for shopping (if you like that) and there are a few world-class museums. I definitely recommend visiting the Rubens House, the former home and workshop of Peter Paul Rubens.
The train station – dubbed the ‘Railway Cathedral’ – is a monument on its own, the town square is gorgeous and there are several churches and a cathedral. Even though the Cathedral of Our Lady has one unfinished tower, it’s a magnificent building on the outside and on the inside, where you can see lots of paintings by the old Flemish Masters.
There’s an abundance of bars, brown cafés and restaurants, the medieval fortress Het Steen and the river Scheldt which is the reason Antwerp has one of the largest ports in Europe.
Oh, and the diamonds! When you exit the train station, there are dozens of diamonds shops. Millions of diamonds. Antwerp is known as the diamond capital of the world, as 80% of rough diamonds in the world pass through Antwerp. It’s impressive.
Did I mention the Zoo? The Antwerp Zoo is conveniently located next to the train station. It’s big and established in 1843, it’s also one of the oldest animal parks in the world.
What I love most about the city are the buildings. I just love the architectural style. Even though my two days there didn’t have the best weather (think clouds and rain), I didn’t prevent me from taking a bunch of photos. Normally I don’t take that many vertical pictures, but this was a good time and place to make an exception.
Let’s start with the monumentally grand Central Station, which must be one of the greatest railway stations in the world.
I just realized that this post turned out to be one big advertisement for Antwerp, but I just truly love this city. There’s so much to see and do, and the atmosphere is brilliant. Just wander around those cobblestone alleyways at dusk, with their high narrow houses and the lights of the cafés and shops and you’ll fall in love with it as well.
Here are a bunch of links to the attractions mentioned in this post, as well as some fascinating local legends:
Attractions and landmarks
Legends and folklore
Brabo and Antigone