Read about the city

Flemish Antwerp is a metropolis that has become rich after centuries of large-scale trade with the whole world, and it can still be seen today with the city's activity and busy port. With Antwerp's strategically good location, it has developed into one of Europe's largest port citys.

The city center is beautiful and characterized by the wealth that through time made the city's commercial and religious buildings possible to build. Many areas have richly furnished houses with Grote Markt as the central square. When in town, it is just about exploring central Antwerp and enjoy the fine architecture and atmosphere here.

Churches and buildings have been built over time in varying architectural styles in the city. The highlights of Antwerp's many large churches are for many the works of art created by not least Peter Paul Rubens. From the old beautiful architecture to today's modern architecture, the city is visibly evolving. This can be seen in some of the areas down to the river Schelde, and there are also recently developed areas along the old harbor basins closest to the center.

The river has always been Antwerp's economic lifeline with the goods and trade on the seas to the world. Diamonds are just one of the many goods that Antwerp has been associated with over the years and which have helped to create the wealth that has shaped the city till today.

Other attractions

City Hall, Antwerp

  • City Hall/Stadhuis: Antwerp's beautiful town hall was built in Flemish and Italian Renaissance in the years 1561-1565. On the richly ornamented centerpiece of the building you can see a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, and inside there are beautiful halls.
  • The Commodity Exchange/Handelsbeurs: The Antwerp Commodity Exchange is regarded as the mother of all modern stock exchanges. The history dates back to the 16th century, while the current late Gothic-style building dates to 1872.

Carolus Borromeus Church, Antwerp

  • Carolus Borromeus Church/Carolus Borromeuskerk: This church is a former Jesuit church built in the Baroque period in the years 1615-1621. The inspiration came from the Jesuits' main church, the Gesu Church in Rome.
  • Rockox House/Het Rockoxhuis: This is one of Antwerp's fine town houses, which is now decorated as a museum. You can see a fine art collection with works here by, among others, Rubens, Van Dyck and Breughel.

Museum aan de Stroom, Antwerp

  • Museum at the Stream/Museum aan de Stroom: This museum opened in 2011 and is housed in one of Antwerp's characteristic new buildings. The focus of the collection is the city, the energy, the life and Antwerp's long history as a port city.
  • Butcher's Hall/Vleeshuis: Vleeshuis is Antwerp's former slaughterhouse and meat market. The building is in late Gothic style and builtd 1501-1504. Today the house is a museum where the local history is documented.

Antwerp Centraal Station

  • Antwerp-Centraal Station: Antwerp's palace-like main train station was built 1895-1905 and it is considered to be Belgium's most beautiful railway construction. The railway station replaced the first terminus on the Brussels-Mechelen-Antwerp railway.
  • Flemish Opera/Vlaamse Opera: This is Antwerp's opera, which was built in New Baroque in the years 1904-1909. On stage a variety of performances are performed in several languages.
  • Rubens House/Rubenshuis: The world famous artist Peter Paul Rubens is known as one of the great painters of the Baroque era. Of course, when you visit his palace-like home, you can see examples of that.

Grand Café Horta, Antwerp

  • Grand Café Horta: Grand Café Horta is a cafe in a setting, partly made from the architect Victor Horta's creations. Victor Horta designed the world's first house in art nouveau style, and his designs are widely known.
  • Royal Museum of Fine Arts KMSKA/Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten KMSKA: At this royal art museum you can see a series of paintings, sculptures and drawings from the 1400-1900s. The collection is particularly concentrated on artists from Antwerp, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Waterpoort, Antwerp

  • Water Gate/Waterpoort: Waterpoort was one of Antwerp's city gates, and as the name suggests it led to the river Schelde. The gate was built in 1624 as the arch of triumph for King Philip IV.
  • Justice Palace/Justitiepaleis: From several boulevards you can see Antwerp's Justice Palace, which has such a distinctive roof, that makes the building one of the most significant of the city's newer architectural constructions.
History overview

    [expand title="Read about city history" id="historie2" swaptitle="Hide content"]
    The foundation
    The history of the city of Antwerp dates back to the 100-200 figures of the Gallic-Roman era, which shows various finds from excavations. In the beginning there were two settlements, Aanwerp and Caloes, which gradually grew together.

    In the 600s, the city was fortified and around the same time Amand Christianized the area. Normans ravaged the city in the 8th century and the castle was destroyed on that occasion.

    Fortified border town
    Following the Treaties of Verdun (843) and Mersen (870), Antwerp became the border town of the German-Roman Empire, and the city was once again fortified, this time with the precursor of Het Steen, which can be seen by the river Schelde today.

    The river formed the border between Flanders on the western side and Brabant on the eastern side of Antwerp. Churches and monasteries were erected and the city grew. The street network today shows the growth that took place in concentric circles.

    Economic boom
    In the first half of the 1300s, considerable economic growth occurred in Antwerp, which at that time was among Western Europe's leading cities. This was not least due to the large port that made Antwerp the entire financial and commercial center of the region.

    In 1356, Antwerp became part of Flanders, and thus the city lost status to Bruges, the capital. After half a century, growth and the status of the city returned. Now Antwerp's golden age had begun, and the city was one of the world's absolute centers of both commerce and culture. The time was also when the Flemish painters came forward.

    Increase in the 16th century
    In the early 1500s, commercial houses were moved from Bruges to Antwerp and one of the important products was sugar. Raw materials were imported and refined in the city by not least Italians and Germans, who exported the finished sugar to Cologne, for example. Several other commodities were also traded and an actual exchange was established.

    Antwerp accounted for about 40% of world trade, and the city was the richest in Europe. Several economic boom came during this time, marking Antwerp's golden age. The main items were pepper, American silver and textiles, all of which created great wealth.

    Decline of the 16th Century
    At the end of the 16th century, it went the opposite way, not least because of religious, political tensions between the Protestant Netherlands to the north and Catholic Spain that prevailed at this time. After several settlements, Antwerp finally fell in 1585, and then the northern Netherlands closed the traffic on Schelde.

    Financially, it was a setback for the city, and beyond that, many intellectuals moved to other places where they could live with their Protestant faith.

    of the 1600s to the 18th century Despite the harsh economic conditions, there was a continued flourishing cultural life in Antwerp through the 1600s, which brought to light, among others, the painters Rubens and Van Dyck.

    From the end of the 17th century and the following centuries, the city was continually reduced to an actual provincial town. From more than 100,000 inhabitants in the 16th century, the population of about 50,000 declined and stagnated until around 1800.

    It was not least the prolonged closure of the river that undermined the possible economic development. In terms of the treaty, the closure had been manifested with the Peace of Münster in 1648.

    Both during the Austrian Habsburgs (1715-1792) and during France (1792-1815) the river was sought to be opened to traffic, and when the French succeeded in this venture, they were merely met by an English blockade during the Napoleonic wars.

    The river opens, closes and opens
    After the peace settlement in 1815, the Netherlands were reunited and Antwerp could again flourish in an open economy. Some new docks were brought; for example, the central Napoleonic dock that strengthened the city's economy.

    By the Belgian Revolution of 1830 Schelde was again closed, but this time only until 1863, and since then it has been open. The river and river traffic brought an ever-increasing prosperity to Antwerp, whose port today is also one of Europe's largest.

    The young Belgian nation depended on Antwerp's economy, and through the 19th century a defense ring with advanced forts was built about ten kilometers from the city; these can still be seen today.

    The economy was booming and, with it as a focal point, the city's ability to be shown to the world at the Exposition Internationale d'Anvers World Exhibition, conducted with more than three million visitors on 5 May-5. November 1894.

    The 20th century to the present day The
    port of Antwerp has continued to grow, and the freight volumes here have the advantage of being able to move by road or rail from a central location in the heart of Europe.

    Culturally, the city has also come a long way. The first gymnastics world championships took place here in 1903, the Olympic Games were held here in 1920, and in 1993 Antwerp was the European Capital of Culture to name a few examples.

    The two world wars of the 20th century also marked the city, which in both cases was occupied by German troops. During World War II, the city's major port was strategically important, and from May 1940 to September 1944, Germany controlled Antwerp. From there and the rest of the war the port was tried to be bombed by the Germans. V2 bombs dropped in large numbers over the area, where the city itself was partially destroyed.

    A large-scale and modern reconstruction took place and, in recent years, parts of the city have undergone a new revitalization. Among other things, this has happened in the district of Zuid, where modern buildings and urban planning are at the forefront.
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Antwerpen, Belgium

Top attractions

St Paul's Church, Antwerp

  • St. Paul's Church/Sint-Pauluskerk: This church was originally part of a large Dominican convent. The complex was inaugurated in 1571. In the church you can see the decoration of some of Antwerp's famous masters such as Rubens and van Dyck.
  • Great Market Square/Grote Markt: Grote Markt is the heart of the old city of Antwerp, and the name also means the Great Square. Most interesting is the town hall on the western side of the square and the many Flemish Renaissance buildings.

Het Steen, Antwerp

  • Het Steen: The castle of Het Steen is Antwerp's oldest building. It was built 1200-1225 and is located on the river Schelde. With towers and spiers it is a real fairy tale castle, and today it is a museum.
  • Cathedral of Our Lady/Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal: Antwerp's Gothic Our Lady Cathedral was initially built from 1351 to 1521, but it has never been completed. The clearest example of this is that only one of the two planned towers was built.

Havenhuis, Antwerp

  • Port Authority Building/Havenhuis: This exciting building combines new and old within interesting architecture. The building complex lies down to the river and is the headquarters of Antwerp's port authorities.
  • St James' Church/Sint-Jacobskerk: This is the place where Antwerp's world-famous citizen Peter Paul Rubens is buried. His tomb lies behind the main altar of Onze Lieve Vrouwekapel. The painting of Our Lady was painted by Rubens for the occasion.
Trips in the area

Grote Markt, Brussels

  • Brussels: This is Belgium's capital with countless major sights. The city center is the Grote Markt/Grand Place, considered one of the most beautiful squares in the world of its time. And Manneken Pis pees just a few minutes walk from here.
  • Middelheim Museum: A little south of Antwerp's city center, you can find this beautiful sculpture park, which is built around the small castle of Middelheim. More than 300 sculptures have been put up in the large park area.
  • Leuven: The Flemish city of Leuven is the provincial capital of Flemish Brabant. The main sights are the Stadhuis and the Sint-Pieterskerk, both located on the Grote Markt.

Korenlei & Graslei, Ghent

  • Ghent: Ghent is one of the large cities in Flanders with a nice atmosphere in the nice city center. The town's history dates back to the 600's, when St. Amand founded two monasteries on the site. Today there are a lot of nice sights.
  • Bruges: Bruges' rich merchant and maritime history has created a tourist gem in western Flanders. The city's central squares are Markt and Burg, and in the city center you can see architecture from many centuries. The best known is the Het Belfort tower.
  • Rotterdam: Antwerp is close to the Netherlands, and Rotterdam is the country's modern metropolis with Europe's largest port. Unlike many other cities in the region, Rotterdam has many distinguished examples of modern architecture.
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  • Century Center, Keyserlei 58,
  • Empire Shopping Center, Appelmans Straat
  • Grand Bazar Antwerp, Beddenstraat 2,
  • Stadsfeestzaal, Meir 78 / Hopland 31,
  • Shopping streets: De Wilde Zee, Meir and side streets, Keyserlei and side streets, Leopoldstraat, Chinatown, around Centraal Station, Eiermarkt / Melkmarkt / Korte Koepoortstraat, Lange Koepoortstraat, Klapdorp, Paardenmarkt
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