Antwerp, the city

Foto Pascal Vyncke SeniorenNet.be

With roughly half a million of inhabitants, Antwerp is the second-largest city of Belgium (after Brussels, the capital). It is also the largest town in Flanders, the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium. The name Antwerpen actually comes from the old word for "harbour", but not according to a well-known myth. The story goes that Antwerp was terrorized by a giant called Antigoon, who made the passing ships pay toll - until one day a brave little guy named Brabo fought and killed him, chopping of his hand and throwing it into the Scheldt. Throwing hands in Dutch is "hand werpen", hence "Antwerpen".

Today, the “metropolis” has grown into the economic capital of Flanders and Belgium. Antwerp is Europe's second-largest port and has much of the zest often associated with a harbour town. The city has so many different faces that it takes a while before one gets to know it thoroughly.

Antwerp harbour is the artery of the Belgian economy and top tourist attraction. Follow the signposted Harbour Route ('Havenroute') or arrange for a city guide to show you around. A Flandria boat trip up the Scheldt or round the harbour will leave a lasting impression of a silver river, sparkling city, huge ocean liners and gracile cranes on the horizon. An unforgettable experience!

Justifiably symbolised by the eternal diamond the Antwerp metropolis is the world's diamond processing centre. 'Antwerp Quality' and 'Antwerp Cut' stand for finish and for beauty at its most perfect. And while you are here be sure to visit the Provincial Diamond Museum or Diamondland.

The Antwerp Zoo is one of the oldest and most fascinating zoos in the world. This splendid and tranquil 10-hectare natural setting right in the heart of the city is home to some 7,000 animals from every corner of the globe. If you visit with a group during the winter months you will even get a chance to take a look behind the scenes.

The cathedral is without a doubt the city's majestic landmark. A museum in itself, both inside and outside, the cathedral houses three of Rubens' most renowned works of art.

In the 'City of Rubens' one obviously can't but take a few moments to admire the artistic world of THE master himself in the Rubens' House. In addition to this you also can visit his tomb in the sumptuously decorated St-James’ church (Sint Jacobs Kerk – St.-Jacobsstraat 7-9). The parish could certainly afford such opulence when the church was built and the area inhabited by the upper middle classes, merchants and members of the aristocrary. The walls are hung with works by all the great artists of the city. The Church has twenty-three altars. Rubens’ tomb lies behind the main altar in the Chapel of Our Lady.

Foto Pascal Vyncke SeniorenNet.be

Rubens’ earliest work can be admired in St-Paul’s church (Sint-Paulus Kerk - Sint-Paulusstraat 20A). This church has been restored and the magnificent interior is again on view to the public: more than 50 paintings, more than 200 sculptures, splendid baroque altars and carved church furnishings which are some of the most beautiful in the world. Scores of Antwerp masters are represented here : Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens, Francken, De Vos, Quellin, Kerrick, Verbruggen, Van Baurscheit, Van Mildert, etc. Beside the church, there is a unique 18th century MountCalvary with 63 statues depicting the Passion of Christ.

Flanked by exquisite step-gabled guildhalls the imposing city hall still exudes the atmosphere of yesteryear ... but it is the hand-throwing ('h-andwerpen-de') giant Brabo who dominates this square. The “Grote Markt” is still a lively centre of the city with numerous pubs, restaurants and cosy terraces. During the summer, as the carillon ofthe Cathedral plays on Monday evening, you can tast here a “De Koninck Bolleke”, Antwerp’s favorite beer. The people of Antwerp cherish their "Bolleke", which is now exported to every corner of the world. The De Koninck Brewery has been inextricably bound up with the metropolis since 1833. Other delicious belgian beers such as Duvel, Stella Artois, Rodenbach, Chimey and Orval can be tasted here in Antwerp.