Antwerp takes its place on the world stage as the center for the diamond trade. There are other draws to this Belgian city, offering visitors a sometimes surprising view of a destination that can be overlooked when planning a trip to Europe. Some of these draws include:
The house of Peter Paul Rubens sits in Antwerp. It is now a museum, where visitors may see works by the famous artist who made his home here. Rubens added many Italian touches to this Antwerp residence, which was built to his design.
In the grand European tradition, this is the main central square. The facades that surround it reflect Renaissance tastes in the tall, slender buildings. The Grote Markt is an excellent central location for the beginning and/or ending of a sightseeing tour.
Antwerp’s impressive and delightful zoo is one of the earliest-established. What began as a private park opened to the public, and became an attraction for visitors. Fanciful designs and installations still appeal to tourists.
Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal)
This Gothic cathedral is the largest public building in Antwerp, and it is famous for its bells. Rubens paintings still decorate the transepts. The soaring tower, without a symmetrical match on the other corner, is 404 feet high.
The history of Antwerp can be traced to the spot where this museum now stands. Much of the city’s existence can be traced through its crucial position on the large harbor here. The mythical side of the city’s establishment can also be learned here: legend says that by cutting of the hand of a toll-collecting giant, traders were able to claim this choice spot for a settlement. “Antwerp” can be translated as “thrown hand”.
Sampling Local Specialties
Be sure not to leave Belgium without enjoying the offerings to the palate. Chief among these are Belgian beer and chocolate.
Christophe Plantin established a printing house in the 16th century, as literacy was on the increase throughout Europe. This house museum contains the rich appointments and possessions of a man of letters and his descendants.
The city of Antwerp has been an important cultural and artistic center since its “golden age” in the 16th and 17th centuries. It remains an important commercial center today, and its cultural treasures still grace this city on the harbor.