When we think of Belgium three things immediately pop up in our minds: beer, chocolate and Brussels. If the former two are doubtlessly important, Brussels is not the only destination worth visiting in Belgium.
Antwerp is the second biggest city in Belgium. One of the richest cities in Europe, it is the best destination to stay not only because of its attractions, its architecture, and its to-do things but also because of its short distance from other cities such as Bruges and Ghent.
Antwerp has a rich history and you can start exploring it from Grote Markt, which has a statue that will perfectly summarise Antwerp’s history. The statue represents Brabo, a man who challenged and won the giant that, as the legend goes, used to ask for a toll to all the men who sailed the Schelde river. If the toll was not paid, the giant would cut off the sailor’s hand. This happened until Brabo killed the giant and cut his hand off, throwing it in the river. Antwerp is the English version of the Flemish Antwerpen, which means “the throwing of the hand”.
Facing the statue, there is the wonderful and picturesque City Hall, majestic in its architecture and decoration.
At walking distance from Grote Markt is Meir Street, the shopping street of the city. Do not underestimate its historical importance though: if you look the street from a distant perspective, you will note incredible buildings richly decorated and if you take a walking tour you will find out that they were designed that way in order to tell you the story of the city.
If you are keen on a museum, the FoMu (photograph museum) and the MAS (which stands for ‘museum can de Stroom’ that means ‘Museum by the river’) are a must-visit.
Nightlife in Antwerp offers a lot of pubs and discos. If you love jazz, do not miss one of the live concerts organised in the jazz clubs where you can enjoy a good beer and listen to the music. One of the best jazz cafés is De Muse located in the city centre, whereas other cafes are scattered around the Sind Andries district that is famous for its cafes. You will find a disco called Plein Publik, built as a greenhouse.
Antwerp offers also a great range of markets: from the one in the hipster district to the book market and the flea one, you will have a wide choice for alternative shopping.
Moreover, as said in the beginning, Bruges and Ghent can be easily reached by train and are definitely worth visiting, given the fact that they are built by the river and Bruges is even called ‘the Northern Venice’.
To conclude, Antwerp is the capital of the diamonds market. Just behind the train station (which is another attraction itself to see, once again for its beautiful architecture), you can visit the diamond commercial street.
Antwerp offers everything: history, culture, and nightlife. You will definitely enjoy it.
—Chiara Merlino, Correspondent (Travel)