By Lauren Jade Hill
Belgium is celebrated for its beer and chocolate but Antwerp is also known for its unique heritage. Built around the River Scheldt, this port city has a rich history dating back to the Middle Ages. Also known as the City of Diamonds, Antwerp is home to the world’s largest diamond district, amid streets that exhibit Flemish Renaissance architecture. Here’s our selection of the best things to do in Antwerp for an insight into this heritage-rich port city.
As the diamond industry has such significance here, this is a side to the city that’s worth delving into. People travel from far and wide to buy diamonds in this city but you can also see behind the scenes of the fascinating industry. Beginning at the historic Central Station, the diamond walk tells visitors the story of the fall and resurrection this coveted industry, taking in the workshops and showrooms of the Diamond Square Mile with the chance to meet some of the merchants. DiamondLand, the showroom and museum, then teaches visitors more about this precious gemstone, with free guided tours of the exhibits.
Antwerp takes great pride in its history, with historic figures such as the Flemish Baroque painter Rubens hailing from here. The valuable artworks created by this artist are now on display at the 17th century Rubens House. As the artist’s former home, this museum displays a permanent collection of masterpieces, alongside temporary exhibitions of work by artists related to Ruben’s art and persona.
Of course, the architecture of this city tells the story of its past too. Stroll through the city’s streets and along the waterside to see landmarks such as the Cathedral of Our Lady, which also exhibits paintings by Rubens, the 16th-century City Hall, Grote Markt central square and Antwerp’s promenade and port.
Where to Stay
This family-run hotel of 19th-century origin is one of Antwerp’s most popular and luxurious places to stay, with just two apartments and three bedrooms. Encompassing an array of antiques and curios, the interiors here are undeniably stylish, exuding the hotel’s character. The breakfast spread provided is a definite highlight.
Hilton Antwerp Old Town
The grand façade and location overlooking the market square give this hotel its edge. Rooms and suites are spacious and elegantly furnished, with an extensive dining offering including Brasseries Flo Antwerp restaurant and bar, an Executive Lounge and an inviting outdoor terrace.
Hotel De Witte Lelie
This boutique hotel combines a 17th-century structure with contemporary interior design, housing just 10 guestrooms and suites, along with two cozy sitting rooms featuring an open fire, and the hotel’s stylish Bronze Bar. A floral courtyard then provides guests with outdoor space.