|Antwerp or the city on the river Scheldt, is
the second largest city in Belgium and the major city of the Flemish
region. The approximate 500,000 inhabitants call it the Metropolis. This
city has so many different facets that it takes a while before one gets to
know it thoroughly. There is a variety of unique neighbourhoods -- each
with its own personality.
The Old City
Many of the splendid architectural highlights can be found in the old city
which is the area around the Cathedral of Our Lady and the Grote Markt.
The destruction of the two world wars has unfortunately left scars on the
old city which dates from the 16th and 17th centuries but recent
renovation projects have restored part of the glory. The Vlaeykensgang is
a typical example of the picturesque medieval streets. The golden age of
Antwerp can also be found in the numerous paintings of Peter Paul Rubens
who lived in Antwerp in the early 17th century.
Quartier Latin and Avant-Garde Fashion
Antwerp has also earned a place among the fashion cities of the world
thanks to the efforts of numerous young Flemish fashion designers who have
received international acclaim. Some of them include Nadine Wynants, the
extravagant Walter van Beirendonck and the popular Ann De Meulemeester.
You can find the new fashion district of Antwerp around Nationalestraat
and the more mainstream boutiques in the back streets of
Huidervetterstraat. Some great window-shopping guaranteed. This part of
town is also known as the Quartier Latin.
The Port of Antwerp
Antwerp is the second largest seaport in Europe, following Rotterdam. The
harbour was originally situated in the district which nowadays is called
't Eilandje or the Island and which has preserved some of the authentic
harbour life. Expansion pushed it north where you can now find extremely
large docks and to the left bank area where Europe's largest petrochemical
installations can be found. You can tour the docks with the Flandria
The main red light district of Antwerp is situated in what is called
Schipperskwartier or Rosse Buurt which is the area between Sint
Paulusstraat and Brouwersvliet., not so far from the main tourist draw
around the Grote Markt square. The mood is not so playful as in Amsterdam
but normally fairly safe.
The south of Antwerp's main attraction is the Royal Museum of Fine Arts
which is housed in a monumental neo-classical building. However, 't Zuid
or the South really started to buzz a few years ago after numerous
redevelopment projects revitalised what used to be a run-down area. Now
you'll find many fine brasseries and bistros that serve great food at
reasonable prices. The annual amusement fair called Sinksenfoor is held
here in June.
Meir and de Keyserlei
These are Antwerp's main shopping streets and among the prettiest in
Europe. Most of the Meir is reserved for pedestrians only and the stylish
buildings with international department stores are quite a sight. You'll
find a wide range of trendy boutiques here and in the side-streets.
At the end of your shopping spree as you walk down de Keyserlei you'll
catch a glimpse of a magnificent building: the Central Station. The area
around the station is a strange mixture of nouveau riche as reflected by
some of the shops on de Keyserlei and the fabulous post-modern Astrid Park
Plaza Hotel, and various poorer looking establishments and loud bars in
Statiestraat. If you walk from Koningin Astrid square towards De Coninck
square you'll wander into Antwerp's small China town and the more discrete
red light and rendezvous district.
Jewish Antwerp and the Diamond Centre
Antwerp is also the diamond centre of the world and near the Central
Station you will find the diamond district. The streets between the
station and the city park, called Stadspark, is also the Jewish part of
the city and the area where many Hassidic Jewish people live and work. The
people add a unique and distinct atmosphere to the city that cannot be
found anywhere else in Belgium. Estimations about the number of Jewish
citizens in Antwerp vary from 15,000 to 20,000. However, before the Second
World War, the Jewish community of Antwerp consisted of more than 55,000