As the capital city of the Provincie Antwerpen [Antwerp province] and Capital of Cool, let’s be honest here, Antwerp is the most populous city in Belgium, with a metropolitan area of 1,2M people, coming in second to Brussels, the nation’s capital. Located on the river Scheldt, it is home to one of the largest ports in Europe, ranking second after Rotterdam (The Netherlands). It is a world center for diamond trading, and the petrochemical industry has led it to become a major economic player.
According to folklore, the city got its name “Antwerpen” from the giant Antigoon who, living near de Scheldt, extracted a toll from the passing boatmen. Those who refused had one of their hands severed and thrown into the river. Brabo ended up freeing the town from the giant by cutting off its hand and throwing it in the Scheldt. Hand werpen, which means “to throw” in English, although some etymologists would argue that it would come from a Germanic compound instead. The city is old. Pottery shards and glass fragments from around mid to late 3rd century have been excavated near the oldest part of the Scheldt.
St. Michaels Abbey (1124), Cathedral of Our Lady (1559), Steen Castle (11th century), Old stock exchange, the “Meat House” and so many more are a salute to history. The streets have the ambiance of yore. The Grand Place with its City Hall, the different Guild Houses, and the Brabo Fountain are a must see. Don’t forget to walk to Godiva Chocolatier. They are only a couple blocks away.
Plenty of museums for the history buffs: House of Rubens and the Plantijn Moretus museum [one of three printers in European cities involved with invention and spread of typography] are some of the better-known ones. There are plenty more.
The food is great. Find great restaurants in the heart of the city, get a drink and go dancing. Nightlife is outstanding. And for the sun lovers, on the left bank, there’s always the “beach.”
It is my kind of town, and Oh, did I mention it, also my hometown. See you there!