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Antwerp: an insider guide full of inspiration by Inge Pincket

Updated: May 20, 2022

Most foreigners come to Belgium to visit Bruges and Ghent and maybe Brussels. I would like to add why they must visit Antwerp as well. As I am born in Antwerp, went to school there and lived in the city for about 20 years, I can say that I am an insider.

Why should you add Antwerp to your list when visiting Belgium?

- Antwerp is on top of the world when it comes to: Diamonds, Fashion and Art & Architecture. Any chocolate lovers? Yep, this is the place to be!

- A rainy day? Go to one of our fabulous museums like Rubenshuis, MAS, Red Star Line or Chocolate Nation

- A paradise for Foodies: very high standard restaurants and famous for its sweets like pralines, cookies, waffles, …

Welcome to this fascinating city in the heart of Europe.

Antwerp: Home of Diamonds

Antwerp has been known as the diamond capital of the world since the sixteenth century, the Golden Age. Most diamond and jewelry shops can be found around the Central Station, here you will find ‘Diamond Square Mile’, the Antwerp diamond district. That is where I got both my promise and wedding rings. My personal favorite jewelry shop in Antwerp is @wim_meeussen_atelier, located in the old town.

To learn all about the fascinating world of jewelry and diamonds, visiting the Museum for Diamonds (DIVA ) is a must.

C: Stad Antwerpen:Jonas Roosens
Copyright: Frederik Beyens
Copyright: Frederik Beyens

Antwerp: leading fashion city and a Walhalla for shopping-addicts

The Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine arts has one of the world’s leading programs of fashion design with students coming from all over the world. In 2019 I visited the yearly organized fashion show.

c:Johannes Vande voorde

The iconic ‘Antwerp six’ (all students of this famous academy, one of them is the current principal), made it to the top of the international fashion

Verso: Co: Sepp Van Dun

world from the 80s onwards. Antwerp is now one of the world’s leading fashion cities with graduated designers as Raf Simons (the current director of Prada), Veronique Branquinho & Dirk Bikkembergs.

If you’re more into shopping than fashion, get some inspiration here.

Unfortunately, the museum of Fashion MoMu is currently being renovated but is to reopen in 2021.

Antwerp: Architecture & Monuments

If you arrive by train at the Central station, do not forget to look around. The Antwerp Central Station is fourth on the list of the most beautiful train stations in the world. (Newsweek, 2009) The eclectic style of the stone building and the steel platform are a real eyecatcher. The station was used since 1905 and is situated right next to the Antwerp Zoo. We loved to take our children at the Zoo as this is a beautiful oasis of green and peace in the center of the city.

When you stroll from the station over the famous shopping street ‘Meir’ towards the old city center you will find the ‘Handelsbeurs’ (New Exchange) at the end. This beautiful building, originally built in 1531 was recently completely renovated. There is free access to the ground floor from Tuesday until Sunday between 10am and 6pm. If you want to visit the upper floors too it is only possible during an exhibition. In 2020, this building was also the location for the digital Fashion show of the Antwerp Fashion Academy. More about this monument in the section: my favorite restaurants.

My favorite part of the city is the old city center and the boulevard alongside the Scheldt River. Here you can find the oldest building of the city: Het Steen (first stones date from the 11th century). This old fortress was used as a prison until 1823. Afterwards it became a museum of antiquities but when I visited it as a child it was the National Maritime Museum. This collection is now to be found at the MAS. Soon you will be able to arrive in Antwerp in style as the new cruise terminal they are building here will be opened in 2021.