The Largest city in Belgium, Antwerp, is Belgium’s most significant city situated near river Scheldt, linked to the North Sea is Belgium’s Metropolitan city with the largest population of about 1,20,000 people. Antwerp City (Antwerpen in Flemish, Anvers in French) is Belgium’s up-and-coming “second city” after Brussels. Where Brussels dominates French-speaking Wallonia, Antwerp is the biggest city and de facto (if not official) capital of Dutch-speaking Flanders.
Antwerp has an illustrious history. Once Europe’s most important trading city, it later was the hometown of accomplished painter Peter Paul Rubens. It was partially destroyed during World War II and then rebuilt. An edgy, creative spirit has supplanted the drab air of heavy industry. Like Barcelona, Liverpool, and Rotterdam, it’s been reborn as a tech and European fashion city.
Antwerpenaars have a love of life, and the city has a funky urbanity. Antwerp’s big-city bustle is the yang to Bruges’ cutesy village yin. And while Brussels has become international, Antwerp has retained more of a local identity–it’s an honest, what-you-see-is-what-you-get place that feels more Flemish.
Antwerp has an especially strong “pop-up” culture: The people here love spontaneity and see everything as temporary. More than in most places, restaurants come and go, and major museums close for multiyear renovations with little notice. When visiting Antwerp, confirm openings and hours and be prepared to pivot.
The sights here are easily on par with the best in Belgium. Antwerp is renowned for the art of Rubens, a soaring cathedral, several other exciting churches packed with great skill, and a red-light district that boxes Puritan ears.
Historians enjoy the Museum Plantin-Moretus, art lovers savour the Snijders-Rockox House, fashionistas love the window shopping (and MoMu, a museum of fashion and design), the Red Star Line Museum moves children of immigrants, and architecture fans drool over the building housing the Museum aan de Stroom.
Antwerp is equally enjoyable without a sightseeing agenda, offering fun-to-explore neighbourhoods, large al fresco café tables, and an inviting main market square with a carillon that jingles the hour.