Just north of Brussels on the Scheldt River lies the Flemish city of Antwerp. An important trading center in Europe for hundreds of years, this vibrant cultural capital is a must-visit in the Flanders region of Belgium. Read on for our take on the top things to see and do in this stylish, historic city.
Due to its strategic location, Antwerp has been a financial center and significant port throughout history. This means travelers can find a diverse mix of architecture across different eras—from medieval to modern—in the city’s districts. One-stop you’ll want to make is at the impressive Cathedral of Our Lady, the largest Gothic church in the Low Countries. You can’t miss the singular, soaring bell tower that reaches just over 400 feet high. In the centrally-located Great Market Square, be sure to visit the Renaissance-era City Hall. The recently renovated Central Station is considered one of the most beautiful train stations in the world.
In the 17th century, Antwerp was home to the celebrated Baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens. His work can be found at museums around the world as well as throughout the city of Antwerp. You can even visit the Rubens House to see his former studio and admire the architecture of the building and its elegant courtyard. Rubens had a profound impact on Antwerp’s culture and his style inspired many other artists, including the Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck and later, the French Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix.
Fashion and style
As a trading center, Antwerp has long been a place of exchange for textiles and diamonds. Today, it is recognized as a capital in the fashion industry thanks in large part to Antwerp Six. This collective of world-famous designers who studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts broke into the fashion scene in 1988. The creative vibe, schools and trendy stores throughout the city draw many talented designers—and also offer many shopping options for visitors.
Antwerp is an up-and-coming culinary hot spot in Belgium. Beyond the country’s typical, delicious specialties of chocolate, beer and frites (which you’ll have no trouble finding in the many shops lining the streets), there is a wonderful mix of open-air markets and restaurants here. While you’ll discover interesting places to eat in every neighborhood, the Het Zuid district in particular offers a wide range of bustling cafes and eateries to try. On Saturdays, one exotic market in the Theaterplein has stalls filled with local specialties alongside fare from countries like Morocco, Vietnam, and Greece.