Belgium, they say, is boring. Whoever ‘they’ are, they obviously haven’t been to Antwerp. Belgium’s second city is fashionable, fast-paced, art loving, and more fun at night than most cities have ever been. Put aside your stereotypes, and instead grab your mayo-coated oysters, dress up to the nines, and discover what Antwerp is really all about.
It’s a small city, but packed to the rim with picturesque cobbled backstreets, and based around a delicate 16th century cathedral that’s so painfully picturesque you can’t help doing the tourist thing and snapping away from every angle. Around those backstreets, countless shops serve up sumptuous and relatively affordable cuisines out on the streets, while you’ll find yourself licking your lips around every corner, as the smell of the numerous high-class chocolate shops gets you salivating.
Make you way down to the waterfront, where striking modern architecture runs rampant, before taking a tour of the artistic side of the city. You’ll discover gothic, baroque and renaissance influences left, right and center, and you can dive into the galleries and even the home of Pieter Paul Reubens, the legendary baroque artist, whose studio is open for all to see.
Another Antwerp trademark is Diamonds; tucked away in the Jewish Quarter is the world’s largest diamond cutting industry, while elsewhere you’ll find old section of the city dedicated to African, Chinese and Turkish minorities, a fascinating relic of the city’s time as a major trading port. There are still the seedy remnants of this scene to be found in the North of Antwerp, where unsubtle red light districts are the order of the day. If you prefer your culture a little more delicate, Antwerp’s also home to an impressive designer buzz, with fashionable boutique stores up to its ears.
A surprising, classy highlight that belongs at the core of any Belgian trip, then. Antwerp is just too scenic to ignore, yet still manages to hide a hectic nightlife behind the pretty façade. Be assured, it’ll take all of ten minutes to dispel that ‘boring, boring Belgium’ stereotype.
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