In addition to Paris, London and Milan, Antwerp (in French Anvers) is the uncrowned queen of fashion; not to forget diamonds and culinary delights – especially chocolate and beer.

The diversity of Belgium’s second largest city (523,000 inhabitants) may be passion at the second glance, but without any question a must for all art and design lovers.

The best way to discover the city on the banks of the Schelde river is on foot, by bike or public transport. However, one fact in advance: parking is – similar to the Netherlands – extremely expensive. The hour in the parking garage costs between EURO 3.- and 3.50. The daily price is usually € 20.- to 30.-

Nevertheless a shopping paradise in elegant ambience is guaranteed. Belgium has many talented fashion designers who are internationally  known and praised for their creations. From avant-garde and dark to romantic and playful, each one has its own story. For example, Dries van Noten

Belgian fashion is booming! Since more than 2 decades it  is positioned as avant-garde, individual and confident in the international fashion business.

Belgian designers for international stars: Madonna wears Olivier Theyskens, Jane Birkin wraps herself in Dries van Noten, and Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz show up in Tim Van Steenbergen.

Van Steenbergen (born 1977) graduated from the famous Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in 2000 with Cum Laude. He stands for authenticity and craftsmanship and describes his style as a refined purity with feminine elegance. Stars like Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Dita von Teese, Katy Perry, Kim Catrell and George Michael wear his outfits today. In addition to fashion, Van Steenbergen also designs Swarovski jewelry, handmade Belgian shoes and even some Barbie outfits.

Or Raf Simons, who made it from the self-taught designer of men’s clothing to Artistic Director at Jil Sander   and has just changed to the house of Dior. Also Walter Van Beirendonk is no stranger to us.

At regular prices you can hardly afford these outfits (a suit is about EURO 1.500.-, a shirt EURO 250.-), but sooner or later there is a sale. In case of Dries van Noten (Het Modepaleis, Nationalstraat 16) I unfortunately just missed it (middle of July). But not far away, also in the Nationalstraat, there is a  store called “The Labels”, where remnants and second-hand high fashion of international brands (including Japanese designers like Miyake or Kenzo) are sold around the year at reduced prices. And … hurray, regarding Dries van Noten my persuit was successful. A bit later I even found a pair of royal blue shiny ankle boots, which fit perfectly with my “Mondrian”- dress.

But of course the city has much more to offer and a stroll along the “Meir” should, of course, not be missed. Here it is recommended to enjoy  a coffee break with homemade waffles in the “Paleis op de Meir“, a magnificent building with a green courtyard and a chocolate factory.

Upon recovering you may visit the Rubens House, which is just around the corner (Wrapper 7-9). The famous Flemish painter Peter-Paul Rubens (born in Siegen / GER) lived and worked there from 1608 to 1640. It shows many authentic works and objects and has a beautiful garden. Incidentally, every last Wednesday of the month, admission (EURO 8.50) is for free.

The sightseeing-stroll continues in the direction of the train station, pasing the well-known Diamond Quarter (dominated by simple block constructions). Hoveniersstraat 53 is the home to the world’s most prestigious diamond stock exchange (founded in 1929). Of course, the tradition is much older and dates back about 500 years. Four out of five diamonds mined worldwide are traded/ auctioned off in this building. Various international representatives hurry through the streets from one auction to another. Countless jewelers and diamond cutters have settled in this environment. Their names are mostly of Arab, Jewish and Indian origin. Of course, only registered / admitted persons can bit on the stock exchange. From the outside, the stock office is a none impressive place, but carries all its glamour  inside.

Finally another must: the train station, called Centraal Station of Antwerp (1905) at Queen Astrid Plein. It is of incredible splendor and signals the importance of the city at the beginning of the 20th century.

Why not having a second break in  the elegant “Cafe Royal” located directly on platform-level; time for a “champaign beer” or a Kriek or Blanche de Namur rose. Just sit and watch … travelling/ arriving by train can be so beautiful.

The next morning make your way to the modernized waterfront “Het Eilandje”, where you can enjoy a gratis view of the city from the MAS – Museum aan de Strom (Willem Dok) from the eighth floor (65 meters high). Escalators move you up comfortably.

Even more futuristic is the new port office / New Port House, built in 2012-2016 and designed by star architect Zaha Hadid. Apart from the lobby on the ground floor, the architectural jewel can only be visited by appointment as part of a guided tour. You find this “Harbor Diamond” in the very north of the city at the corner of Mexico- and Sibiriastraat.

The entire port area of ​​Antwerp covers 153 square kilometers. In this sense: Antwerp Ahoi!

The bustling Belgian port city thrills with unique shops, casual-elegant fashion and a stunning architecture. Back to the future, its sweeping flair turns visitors into repeaters. Take a ride! Apart from Bavaria, Antwerp is only 3-4 driving hours away and is therefore suitable even for a day trip.

If you have 48 hours or more, you should also take a trip to the sea; for example the Dutch Cadzand (about 45 km). Here, the dune beach is not yet blocked with skyscrapers as in the nearby Belgian seaside resorts Knokke-Heist or Blankenberge. On the way back you should of course plan a romantic stopover in the historic city of Bruges.

Oh yes, so many things should be done …



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