Antwerp is the second largest city and municipality in Belgium as well as the capital of the province of Flanders and is renowned as being the diamond capital of the world. This cosmopolitan, down to earth city is full of fascinating architecture and historical institutions, complemented by a lively nightlife.There is evidence of occupation in Antwerp on the banks of the river ‘Scheldt’, as long ago as the 2nd and 3rd century A.D during the Roman era. Further excavations show that the site was inhabited again during 650 when Christianity arrived in Europe. Later on, the Vikings attacked the city in 836 resulting city inhabitants to migrate to ‘aanwerp’, an alluvial mound, where later the Steen castle was built. Today’s Antwerp has developed around this original location.
In the Golden era of 16th century, the city started maturing as the most economic and cultural hub in the world. After the decline of the Burgs in the 15th and 16th centuries, Antwerp became a major trading port. Ornate decorations, paintings, sculptures and silverware found in castles, churches and museums remind us of the glory of Antwerp’s rich heritage.
The city has always held an important
The people of Antwerp have always been known for their happy go lucky way of life. This could be because of their easy-going lifestyles and their liking of good food. Among all the European countries, Antwerpens are known to be the happiest people on earth. For this very reason many tourists are attracted to Antwerp, so that their trip turns out to be relaxing and enjoyable.
- The Cathedral of Our Lady. (Dutch: Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal) is a Roman Catholic cathedral started in 1352 and, although the first stage of construction was ended in 1521, has never been 'completed'. In Gothic style, its architects were Jan and Pieter Appelmans. It contains a number of significant works by the Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens, as well as paintings by artists such as Otto van Veen, Jacob de Backer and Marten de Vos. Where the cathedral now stands, there was a small chapel of Our Lady from the 9th to the 12th century, which acquired the status of parish church in 1124. The cathedral is on the list of World Heritage Sites.
- Het Steen. A medieval fortress built after the Viking incursions in the early Middle Ages as the first stone fortress of Antwerp, Het Steen is Antwerp's oldest building and used to be its oldest urban centre. Previously known as Antwerpen Burcht (fortress), Het Steen gained its current name in around 1520, after significant rebuilding under Charles V. The rebuilding led to its being known first as "'s Heeren Steen" (the King's stone castle), and later simply as "Het Steen" (the stone castle). The fortress made it possible to control the access to the Scheldt, the river on whose bank it stands. It was used as a prison between 1303 and 1827. The largest part of the fortress, including dozens of historic houses and the oldest church of the city, was demolished in the 19th century when the quays were straightened to stop the silting up of the Scheldt. The remaining building, heavily changed, contains a shipping museum, with some old canal barges displayed on the quay outside.
- St. James' Church. Built on the site of a hostel for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela. The present building is the work of the Waghemakere family and Rombout Keldermans, in Brabantine Gothic style. The church contains the grave of Rubens in the eastern chapel. In 1476 the chapel became a parish church so plans were made to replace the modest building with a large church. Fifteen years later, in 1491, construction of the late Gothic church started. It was not completed until 1656, when Baroque architecture was in vogue. Fortunately throughout all those years the architects closely followed the original Gothic design, hence the consistent Gothic exterior. The interior however is decorated in Baroque style.
- Antwerpen Central Station. is a major monument in Antwerp as it was the terminal for the oldest railway track in Belgium between Brussels and Antwerp via Mechelen. The architecture was designed by Louis Delacenserie in neo barque style with the help of marble, glass and stone. The platforms are sheltered by huge iron and glass domes. Its interiors can be compared to any European palace.
- The Brabo Statue. at the Grote Market is dedicated to Brabo who once saved the city from a giant named Antigoon, who used to chop off hands if travellers refused to pay toll for crossing the Scheldt River. It was Brabo who fought with giant and chopped off his hand and threw it in the river. The words ‘hand throwing’ when translated in dutch mean ‘Hantwerpen’, hence the city’s name ‘Antwerpen’. The statue holds a lot of symbolic value for Antwerp’s residents.