Antwerp

Antwerp

Antwerp, capital of diamonds, glimmers in the north of Belgium. As Belgium's second largest town, Antwerp, (Antwerpen in Dutch, Anvers is French) boasts the second biggest port in Europe, which operates on a spectacular scale. However, the city has conserved its own special brand of authentic charm.

In the Grote Markt (main square), the elegant Kathedraal - Cathedral of Our Lady presides over everything. Inside the cathedral, you'll find two spendid paintings by Rubens, the town's most famous artist. More on this 17th century Dutch master can be found at the Rockoxhuis, the Museum of Fine Arts - which has a fabulous collection, as well as at the church of St-Jakobs where the painter is buried, and of course at Rubenshuis, the painter's own house.

You can't miss the Hôtel de Ville standing proudly in the Grote Markt, with its ornate centre section which features statues of female figures: Justice, Prudence and the Virgin Mary. In the centre of the square you'll see the statue of Brabo, which tells the story of the legend that gave the city its name: a giant charging a toll to cross the bridge eventually got his comeuppance. He was killed by the young Brabo, who cut his hand off and tossed it into the river. This is why Antwerp is full of hand shaped biscuits and chocolates, which are surely in danger of losing a finger or two. You must try the moules-frites of course, accompanied by some Belgian beer. Try a bolleke of De Koninck, the local beer.

Ever hip and creative, Antwerp regularly features in the glossy magazines. At the MoMu, or Fashion Museum, you can see how fashion has strutted through the years in Antwerp. Equally, the fashion section at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts is one of the best in the world, and holds an annual Academy Fashion Show. As we all know, fashion equals shopping, and Antwerp has plenty to offer the die-hard shopper. The best shops in Antwerp can be found in the Meir street. You can't possibly visit Antwerp without admiring its diamonds: around 1,500 diamond businesses and four exchanges are active in the diamond district. Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and many other great jewellers source their diamonds in Antwerp. Diamondland is the biggest diamond merchant in the city: the ideal place to choose an engagement ring.

Antwerp's most spectacular event has to be the Tall Ships' Races during which the port comes under seige from an armada of antique ships.

Get into the rhythm of Antwerp, the beautiful city which is always a step ahead. City of fashion and diamonds, Antwerp is a girl's best friend.

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