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Antwerp

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Antwerp (province) : Antwerp
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Antwerp (Dutch: Antwerpen) [1] is a major destination of Belgium in the region of Flanders. The overwhelming friendliness of the people of Antwerp and their innate penchant for good food and good living, combined with their low stress lifestyle, makes it a desirable and relaxing place to visit. Renowned for being the "world's leading diamond city", more than 70% of all diamonds are traded in Antwerp. The Diamond Market is the hub of the economic section in Belgium. More than 85% of the world’s rough diamonds, 50% of cut diamonds, and 40% of industrial diamonds are traded in the city.

Antwerp Market Square

Understand

The origins of Antwerp comes from "aan de werpe", which is Dutch for "at the throw", referring to where the river throws its sand. The name also has a funny anecdote saying it comes from "Hand werpen", which translated is "throwing (a) hand(s)". In the official flag, the castle "het Steen" and the hand of Antwerp are shown.

In the 16th century, Antwerp was one of the most important financial centres of the world, where traders from all over Europe and Asia sold and bought their goods. After the siege of Antwerp in 1585 by the Spanish, this role as a financial centre was taken over by Amsterdam. Nevertheless, since the 19th century and especially the 20th century, Antwerp has made a serious economic comeback. It is the second largest city in Belgium, after Brussels, and it has a major European port.

Due to its long and culturally rich history, the city of Antwerp houses many interesting historical buildings from different historical periods, as well as a lot of interesting museums. Recently it has become a trendy city, attracting a lot of Flemish and foreign artists, writers, intellectuals, and actors. This is reflected in the city's many trendy bars and shops. Antwerp is a city with many faces. While it may not be as historically preserved as other Flemish medieval cities, like Bruges or Ghent, it is a very dynamic city, offering a perfect mix of history and present-day modern life.

Get in

By plane

  • Antwerp airport, ANR — There are a few airlines serving this airport. Most flights are with VLM Airlines, catering to business travelers. Flights go to London, Liverpool, Jersey, and Manchester in the United Kingdom. There is a regular bus to the centre and a taxi costs around €10.
  • National Airport Zaventem (Brussels) — Every hour there is a direct bus to and from this airport which costs €10 and has two stops in Antwerp at Hotel Crowne Plaza and in the city centre, in front of Central Station. Taking the train from Zaventem is also an option to arrive in Antwerp (tickets at around €7, change trains in Brussels-North).

It takes 45 min to 1 hr to reach Zaventem airport from Antwerp. On weekends, this could extend to an extra 30 minutes.

By train

There are good train connections to and from the National Airport Zaventem (Brussels). International trains from France and the Netherlands stop in Antwerp—central and Antwerpen—Berchem. To plan your trip, you can consult the website of the NMBS [2] for national and international travels.

By bus

Antwerp has Eurolines (at Rooseveltplaats) [3] and Ecolines (at Berchem station square) [4] offices with buses coming from all over Europe.

Get around

Districts

  • Amandus Atheneum.
  • Brederode
  • Dam Eilandje.
  • Diamant Stadspark.
  • Haringrode Zurenborg.
  • Justitie Harmonie.
  • Kiel.
  • Linkeroever.
  • Schoonbroek Luchtbal.
  • Stadhuis St. Jacob Hessenhuis.
  • St. Andries Bourla.
  • Stuivenberg.
  • Tentoonstelling Den Brandt.
  • Zuid Museum.

Public transportation

The public transportation company De Lijn [5] has a dense network of buses, trams, and pre-metro connections in the city and wide area around it. You can buy cards of €8 (10 fares) at fixed points in town or buy them inside buses. If you don't have a card you pay more inside the bus (€1.50 per fare). For one fare, you can ride up to an hour within the entire city centre limits. If you want to travel out of the city centre you have to pay more for the extra zones travelled. The central public transportation point is the Franklin Roosevelt plaats, near the central train station. Most buses leave from there or from the train station.

The trams and pre-metro (underground tram) also cross through the whole town.

Taxi and cars

Taxis are available, but they can be quite expensive. They await customers at specific locations around town (waving your hand will seldom work) like the Groenplaats or the railway station. You can recognize these places by an orange TAXI sign. The prices are fixed in the taximeter.

Driving in Antwerp is not as difficult as many big cities in the world, but crossroads can seem very chaotic for foreigners. There are few free parking spaces, but many spaces where you have to pay (on the street or in underground car parks). The underground car parks are well-signposted. The prices are typically €2 per hour.

There are many one-way roads, that can make it difficult to get to a specific place. Try to park your car as close as possible and go on foot.

Bicycle

The city has many special areas for bicyclers. Most one-way roads can be accessed both ways. It's very easy and comfortable. Make sure to lock your bike to a fixed object, however, or it will be stolen! Around town there are a few places that are specially prepared for hosting bicycles for free, like at the Groenplaats.

Bicycles can be rented at several places in town like Ligfiets, Windroos, or Fietsdokter (verschransingsstraat).

On foot

Most things to see are near or within the Boulevards, the half-moon of avenues where there were once 16th Century city-walls. This old town centre, with a diameter of about 1.5 km can be walked, but there is excellent public transport.

See

Centre

Plantin Moretus Library
File:Antwerp.JPG
Cathedral of Our Lady
  • Rubenshuis, +32 (0)3 201 1555. Rubens' house is now a museum of his life and artwork. Entrance fee: €7. Free audio guide (recommended). Bring light earphones to plug in to the audio guide.
  • Plantin Moretus Museum, +32 (0)3 221 1450 or +32 (0)3 221 1451. The home of 16th century bookbinder and printer Christoffel Plantin. Regarded as one of the finest museums dedicated to printing in the world. Its extensive collections of important books and printing presses along with its role in spearheading the technology of printing have seen it added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
  • Antwerp Zoo [6] — One of the oldest zoos in the world, with over 4000 animals and lots of 19th century design and architecture.
  • Cathedral of Our Lady, (Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedraal). One of the most impressive and largest Gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe, built in 1351 it stands over 400 ft tall. It also houses some of Rubens' most famous paintings.
  • Carolus Borromeus Church — Unlike the cathedral, this is a Baroque church. With a safe and minimal exterior, you would not know the beautiful decorations (done by Rubens' studio) are inside. Located on the picturesque square Conscienceplein.
  • City Hall/Old Market Square, (Stadhuis/Grote Markt). This is the historical centre of town. The market square is surrounded by the typical medieval guild houses you can find in most Flemish historical towns. The city hall is designed in special architectural style with a combination between Gothic and early Renaissance. This style is almost exclusively found in this region of Europe.
  • Vleeshuis — Literally, this is the "Meat house". It was built as the guild hall for the butchers. Every day tonnes of meat switched owners here. The building is famous for the original masonry and is made to resemble stacks of bacon (switching between white stones and red bricks).
  • Het Steen (The Stone) — This is a rather small medieval castle on the banks of the river Schelde. It used to function as a city fortification and now houses a naval museum. It is the starting point of the Wandelterrassen, a scenic boardwalk with a cafe/restaurant at either end.
  • Boerentoren (Farmers' tower) — Now called "KBC-tower" after the company that owns it, this skyscraper (97m) in the historical centre of town is said to be the oldest one on the European continent. It was built at the beginning of the 1930s. It is located at the end of the Meir shopping street. There is an observation deck on the 25th floor (6E entry including an exhibition downstairs), from which you get fantastic views of the city, including the nearby Cathedral. The tower is renowned for its typical art-deco sculptures. The term skyscraper is a little bit irrelevant if you compare it to other buildings that were erected on the American Continent, for example the Empire State Building in New York, built in the same period, has 381m.
  • Bourla theatre — 19th century neo-classicist theatre building. Charming from the outside and even nicer if you manage to get in for a theater show or a concert. It houses a spectacular pastry salon inside the large cupola above the theater itself. Great place to have tea with cake or waffles, of course.
  • Red Light District — Like other cities such as Amsterdam and Hamburg, Antwerp also has its own red light district. It's pretty small and right in the centre of town (near Falconplein). If you want to visit, consider going during the day. Although it's not as bad as it sounds, the district might be a little less safe at night. If you intend to be a patron of the Red Light District, be wary of women who beckon you towards their kamers and invite you in without discussing a price. In many cases, these women will charge a greatly inflated rate once they have you inside their kamer. It is also worth being wary of beggars in the Red Light District. While few of these are particularly hostile, they can be bothersome and should be ignored.
  • Diamond District — This is the district south and southwest of the central station. As the name already indicates, this is an area where you will find countless jewelry shops, as well as the Antwerp Diamond Exchange, arguably the most important financial centre of the world's diamond industry. The district is also interesting from an ethnic and cultural perspective, since the diamond industry is for at least 50% in the hands of the city's Jews. Antwerp has a rather large population of Jews (about 50,000 people), a lot of them Orthodox.
  • Aquatopia [7] — Reasonable aquarium in the basement of the Astrid Park Plaza hotel, tickets also available from the Zoo.
  • The hidden street Vlaeykensgang, which connects Hoogstraat, Oude Koornmarkt and Pelgrimsstraat. It is a real street, but only accessible through unassuming medieval front doors in the streets. The medieval equivalent of a gated community. It now houses nice, but informal restaurants and chic, discrete houses. A must see!
  • The Antwerp Ruien, you can now take a guided tour of the underground city of Antwerp [8]
  • The Begijnhof (beguinage)[9] — A sort of medieval monastery for women. The well-kept gardens are great photo opportunities.

South of Antwerp

Since the restoration a couple of years ago, the south of the city is known as the trendy part. The centre of this piece of the city is a huge square called 'de gedempte zuiderdokken' which simply means, 'the filled-up southern docks'. In the sixties, this was an abandoned trade dock. They filled up the dock in an attempt to expand the city. The high crime rate in the region made it a very cheap place to live. This was a blessing for the local art world, which started to flourish, making the region trendy and safe over the years. Today, it is known as a "yuppie stronghold".

  • MUHKA, +32 (0)3 260 99 99 (), [10]. Museum of contemporary art.
  • Fotography Museum, +32 03 242 93 00 (fax: +32 03 242 93 10), [11]. Renovated in 2004.
  • Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Fine Arts Museum), +32'' (0)3 238 7809, [12]. Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten boasts of an excellent collection of paintings from the 15th century right up to the 20th century. The museum's permanent collection has masters such as Peter Paul Rubens, Brueghel, Van Eyck, Anthony Van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens, and James Ensor to name a few.
  • Zuiderpershuis, +32 (0)3 248 7077, [13]. It is located on the "kaaien" and is a center for intercultural art.
  • Het Muntplein. A place where graffiti artists can make artwork without being chased by police. There are often very nice creations. Graffiti contests occur on a regular basis.
  • Palace of Justice (Justitiepaleis). There are actually two of these. The old one is a 19th century red brick building on the Frankrijklei. The new one is a dominant, modern, white building in the south of Antwerp (Bolivarplaats). You can hardly miss it once you're there. The architect of this building was Richard Rogers, who also built the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Millennium Dome in London. * Zurenborg neighbourhood is a little off the beaten track. This neighbourhood in the south east of Antwerp (near the railway station Antwerpen-Berchem, look for 'Cogels-Osylei' on the map) is known for its eclectic, sometimes rather bizarre 19th century architecture. Consider taking a tram or bicycle to get there.
  • Middelheim Park — The center of Antwerp is not very big, and once you cross the ring road, you will mainly see suburbs. There are some nice parks outside the ring road The Middelheim Park is one of them. It houses a permanent open-air exhibition of modern sculpture, including work by famous artists such as Rodin, Hans Arp, Henry Moore, and many others.

Do

  • Port of Antwerp — Take a tour of one of the largest ports in the world. Second largest port in Europe and 5th largest in the world. 2.5 hours long. €12 for adults, €10 for students.
  • Ghostly Nighttime Tour, (Antwerp Ghostwalk) [14] — Take the ghost tour and learn about the dark history of Antwerp.
  • Zomer van Antwerpen (Summer of Antwerp,), +32 (0)3 224 8528 [15]. A great festival that takes places during the whole summer in the whole city. Cheap or free activities such as dancing, theater, performances, circus, movies in open air, and much more are organized. Reserving is often a must (especially on free activities).
  • Pelgrom, +32 (0)3 234 0809 [16]. This building combines both an impressive bar in the basement, plus the 'poortershuis', which is a replica of the house of businessmen in Antwerp during the 17th century.
  • pedestrian tunnel
    Take the pedestrian tunnel (St.Jansvliet) to the left bank of the river Schelde. On the left bank, you have a beautiful view on the city centre, so make sure you bring your camera!

Buy

  • At Ploegstraat 25 you can find a "give-away shop", where you can bring and take stuff as you please without any monetary interaction. Open M-F 2PM-6PM.
  • The main shopping area is the Meir, a street that stretches out from the Keyserlei (close to the central station) to the Groenplaats. It is one of the most famous shopping streets in Belgium. The streets Hopland and Schuttershofstraat are the shopping terrain of the rich and famous with exclusive fashion shops like Cartier, Hermes, Scapa, Armani, etc. The Huidevettersstraat, Nationalestraat, and Kammenstraat (all located close to the Meir) are also very interesting shopping streets to visit.
  • Purchasing a diamond at one of the many tourist jewelry shops around the Central station can be an unpleasant experience. Like any big diamond city in world, there are many tourist trap diamond shops around the actual diamond district centre. Wealthy diamond buyers should do their investigative shopping online prior to visiting Antwerp. If you're less wealthy and someone asks you to bring back some diamonds from Antwerp, buy diamond-shaped chocolate pralines at e.g. Burie (Korte Gasthuisstraat 3) or Del Rey (Appelmansstraat 5).
  • Trendy shopping can be done in the Kammenstraat and surroundings. In this area, you will also find the Fashion Museum [17] and many shops of famous Antwerp fashion designers, such as Walter van Beirendonck and Dries van Noten.
  • The Kloosterstraat has many antique shops, with often bizarre items for sale.
  • When you get out of the central station you enter the Chinese district after about 300m. A lot of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese products can be found here.

Learn

Antwerp has several colleges and a university.

  • University of Antwerp [18].
  • Hogeschool Antwerpen [19].
  • Lessius Hogeschool.
  • Plantijn Hogeschool [20].
  • Karel de Grote Hogeschool [21].
  • Antwerp Maritime Academy.

Eat

Any time

  • As with most Flemish towns, you can find many "fritkotten" in the city. These are places where you can buy French fries and other fried food for a reasonable price. They usually have no place to sit so you must eat standing.
  • Pitta/Shoarma — These shops are often open through the day and are the last ones to close.

Lunch

  • People often go eat a "smos", a bread with several layers of garniture in it. The name refers to the mess you make when trying to eat it. You can find them in several stores like Panos or Foodmaker. The most famous "smoskes" according to students are found at "Jean-Pierre". You can find it opposite to the university (Grote Kauwenberg 41).

Dinner

  • Thai Thai Simple +32 3 293 66 42 [22]. Amerikalei 2. Fresh and simple is the key concept.
  • Sombat +32 3 226 21 90 [23]. Vleeshuisstraat 1. Thai haute cuisine
  • De Keyserlei is a street with a varied choice of restaurants. Also check out the side streets, they offer even more choices. This is the perfect opportunity to try out South-African or Lebanese cuisine.
  • Da Giovani (Jan Blomstraat 3-5-7-8), +32 (0)3 226 7450 [24]. A cheap Italian restaurant. It is popular among students, because of their 20% discount. A second "Da Giovanni" is located on the Keyserlei, near the central station.
  • Tropicos (at Tabakvest and Hopland), +32 (0)3 231 9964 [25]. Known for its lively South American atmosphere, caipirinha cocktails, and tasteful Brazilian Mexican kitchen.
  • Wok & Tandoor, +32 (0)3 248 9595 [26]. A show-restaurant serving wok and tandoori food. It is prepared in front of you by cooks in a spectacular way. It's an all-you-can-eat buffet with very reasonable prices. It is located in the south of Antwerp close to the new Courthouse.
  • Govinda's Garden (Amerikalei 184) — The restaurant of the Krishnas. They serve healthy macrobiotic food for a small price. Only open in the evenings.
  • The Hilton Hotel has a restaurant overlooking the Groenplaats.

Drink

Where ever you are in Antwerp, you will always be near a pub or another drinking facility. Not surprising for a city that has the most pubs per capita in the world. In Antwerp pubs do not have a closing hour.

  • Den Engel — Most famous traditional cafe in Antwerp. Situated at Grote Markt.
  • De Vagant — A famous Belgian cafe serving about 300 kinds of Jenever.
  • De Muze — A jazz café located in Melkmarkt. Relaxed atmosphere and live (jazz) music played on a regular basis. Beyond typical Belgian beers, coffee lovers can enjoy a true Italian Espresso or, if willing to drink something bigger, a "Koffie Verkeerd".
  • Caffénation — Most friendly bar in Antwerp. They have very nice specialized coffee creations and a cozy outdoor with lots of green. Good music. Say hi from "TheKitt" for a special, double shot cappuccino.
  • Paeters Vaetje, (in the Cathedral Square). Here you can order more than one hundred different kinds of beer. In summertime, you can also sit outside.
  • De Pelgrom, (Pelgrimsstraat). A cafe that is located in an old underground storage place with medieval finishes.
  • Kassa4, located in the student neighbourhood, on the Ossenmarkt. Very popular student pub with a good choice of alternative music. Can be very crowded at times.
  • Den Hovenier — Typical Antwerp pub near the Sint-Jacob Church.
  • Café Beveren, near the river. Enjoy the automatic Decap Organ.

Clubs

  • Petrol [27] — The most trendy club and concert venue at the moment. Located on a deserted industrial terrain south of the city, somewhat away from the city center. You might need a bicycle or a taxi ride to get there, unless you don't mind a long walk.
  • Noxx [28] — The most famous and exclusive club of Antwerp with the biggest names in the DJ world performing. You can find it close to the Kinepolis Antwerp ('Metropolis'), just outside the center of Antwerp.

Specialties

  • De Koninck (commonly called "Bolleke") — Beer that is brewed in Antwerp.
  • Antwerpse handjes — Little biscuits or chocolates in the shape of a hand. Invented by a Jewish baker in 1932.
  • Elixir d'Anvers — A liquor based on plants.
  • The Antwerp Six — Clothes designed by Ann Demeulemeester, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk Bikkembergs, Dries Van Noten, Marina Yee en Dirk Van Saene.

Sleep

Budget

  • Scoutel [29]. A scouting youth hostel that is open to everyone and offers affordable accommodations in the center of the city, just around the corner of the central train station.
  • Camping Vogelzang, Vogelzanglaan 7-9. Located at 10 minutes by tram from the heart of the city and perfect for low-budget travelers.
  • Heksenketel[30], +32 (0)3 226.71.64. A hostel close to the city center with very welcoming and homely atmosphere. Dorm beds available only (no single or double, etc) in rooms between four to eight beds.
  • Ibis Hotel Antwerpen Centrum[31], (+32)3/2318830. In the city centre, near the Stadschouwburg theatre and the Vogeltjesmarkt.
  • Elzenveld, Lange Gasthuisstraat 45, [32]. A former hospital that advertises itself as a conference centre, but also offers accommodation.
  • Antwerp Mabuhay Lodgings, Zurenborg, Draakstraat 32 [33]. Bed and Breakfast, guesthouse in the cozy neighbourhood of Antwerp. Rooms available for two. Apartments and studios available for longer staying visitors.

Contact

Some cafés have wireless internet too with prices around €5 per hour.

  • 2Zones [34] — Has a very good service and charge €5 an hour.
  • Poolplanet [35] — Six computers, €1 for half an hour. Printing is possible.

Get out

Since Flanders (and Belgium) is not big, it's very easy to take the train and go visit another city.

Belgium

  • Bruges (Brugge) — Very nice medieval town. Often called "Venice of the North", because of the many canals that flow through and under it. Well worth an overnight stay, since it is most romantic at night and very safe.
  • Brussels — The capital of Belgium and some say, the capital of Europe. Multicultural and multilingual. Unfortunately, some of the city's historic (medieval) center was destroyed at the end of the 19th century when Belgium seceded from the Netherlands and Brussels was made capital of the new country. Nonetheless, Brussels is known as a city of "hidden gems," where you can turn a street corner in a less-than-breathtaking area and come face-to-face with an opulent and unexpected Art Deco or Art Nouveau building. Its popularity with tourists in recent years has been steadily increasing.
  • Ghent — A medieval town a bit like Bruges, with more emphasis on cathedrals and other big buildings. Great center of medieval paintings exhibited in and around the cathedral of Sint-Baafs.
  • Namur — The regional capital of Wallonia.
  • Leuven — One of the only cities in Belgium that is nearly as lively as Antwerp or Brussels is obviously this college town (except for the summer months). One of the world's oldest universities is here. Many hotels also cater to businessmen who find Brussels too dangerous or too expensive.

Getting to other places in Flanders or Wallonia is relatively easy from the bigger Belgian cities, especially from Antwerp, Ghent, and Brugge.

The Netherlands

  • Amsterdam — You can take a direct train to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. There is about one train an hour and it will take you about two hours to get there. Amsterdam is well-known for its grachten, many bicycles, and coffee-shops.
  • Rotterdam — You can take a direct train to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. There is about one train an hour and it will take you about one hour to get there. Rotterdam is well-known for its harbour.
  • Den Bosch — You can go by train to this medieval city (change trains in Roosendaal).
  • Zeeland — Where the Schelde reaches the ocean. It's about one hour by train and you will have to change in Roosendaal.

France

  • Lille — This is very famous among others for having the largest bookstore in Europe ("Le furet du Nord"). Lille is in the North of France just off the Belgian border. The train ride is pretty long (sometimes over two hours) making it less easy for a day trip. The Dutch (Flemish) name is Rijsel and the town is not to be confused with another Flemish town called, Lille in Dutch!
  • Paris — With the Thalys, you can be there in about two hours.

Stay safe

Most parts of Antwerp are pretty safe. Some neighbourhoods are to be avoided in the evening, especially the area around De Coninckplein. If you need police assistance the emergency number is 101. If you need a non-urgent police inquiry or the most nearby police station you can dial 0800/12312 for free. Most police officers in Antwerp are friendly and professional in approach.

Like in the rest of Europe, the number centralized for emergencies (ambulance, police, and firemen) is 112.




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