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Belgium is a pretty cool destination these days and the second city of Antwerp is its shining star – de facto head of the Flemish half of the country, and with a fine set of cultural credentials: it’s the home of the country’s buzziest clubs, its fashion industry, not to mention some its best restaurants and an array of fantastic museums. But it's Antwerp’s diversity that is so surprising. As one of Europe’s largest ports, it has a rough-and-ready past, and some seedy districts down towards its old docks, parts of which are being restored. But it’s always been a wealthy place too: the 17th-century painter Rubens lived and worked here, and ...

Belgium is a pretty cool destination these days and the second city of Antwerp is its shining star – de facto head of the Flemish half of the country, and with a fine set of cultural credentials: it’s the home of the country’s buzziest clubs, its fashion industry, not to mention some its best restaurants and an array of fantastic museums. But it's Antwerp’s diversity that is so surprising. As one of Europe’s largest ports, it has a rough-and-ready past, and some seedy districts down towards its old docks, parts of which are being restored. But it’s always been a wealthy place too: the 17th-century painter Rubens lived and worked here, and was courted by royalty in his magnificent studio, which you can visit, while the largest diamond trading center is still active in the Jewish-dominated streets out beyond the grandiose Centraal Station. But really the joy of Antwerp is in wandering the streets of its central core, which fans out from the dignified central square of Grote Markt, fringed by the guildhouses and the city’s elegant town hall, happily getting lost and pausing for a glass of the local brew, De Koninck, at one of the many sidewalk cafés on one of the town’s many peaceful squares.

Martin Dunford
About the Expert

Martin Dunford is the author or coauthor of eight Rough Guides: Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Brussels, Belgium & Luxembourg, Italy, Rome, Naples & the Amalfi Coast, and New York City.

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Martin Dunford for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Located in northern Belgium, approximately 30 miles from the capitol city of Brussels.
  • Language: Flemish and French
  • Currency: Euro
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Spring, summer, early fall