Brabo Fountain, Antwerp
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Brabo Fountain, Antwerp

© Creative Commons / cortomaltese

Antwerp travel guide

Forget the beer and waffles cliché, Belgium’s second largest city is the latest European hipster hub, with an avant-garde cultural scene that blows all stereotypes out of the water.

The style revolution spearheaded by the Antwerp Six in the 1980s helped establish this modern metropolis as a capital of cool. Though it’s packed with contemporary art galleries and independent fashion houses, Antwerp has never lost touch with its historic roots.

The magnificent Old Town is home to some of the finest architecture in the Low Countries, and the stepped-gable buildings that line the Grote Markt are as impressive as anything you’ll find in Amsterdam.

Antwerp’s architectural achievements are mirrored by its artistic ones. The city has long been a magnet for painters, but not even Van Gough’s stint here could steal the limelight from Antwerp’s most celebrated resident, Sir Peter Paul Rubens. The house and studio of this legendary Baroque painter have been turned into a museum, and his work is proudly on display in a selection of world-class galleries.

If you prefer fashion to fine arts, a stroll through the bustling diamond quarter is a must. This small and fairly shabby district has been the capital of the world’s diamond trade for centuries, giving the city a long-standing reputation for glamour and sophistication.

The sprawling industrial cargo docks once added some grit to the Antwerp oyster but, thanks to a recent intensive programme of rejuvenation, the port has morphed into one of the trendiest parts of town.

With a stellar array of restaurants, Antwerp doesn’t disappoint on the foodie front either. There are Michelin-starred venues scattered across the city, not to mention an array of more eclectic places to dine, plus a few traditional Belgian gems too.

Unfortunately, eating out isn’t particularly cheap. Diners won’t find significant reductions by escaping the touristy Old Town, but you’ll soon forget about the exorbitant restaurant bills with an Antwerp-style shindig. The city’s energetic nightlife caters to everyone from rockers to ravers.


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