Antwerp at a glance
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Avoid regarding Antwerp as some kind of ‘second best’ to Brussels. This Flemish port is quite different to its southern counterpart. And with its fabulous art and architectural heritage and the world’s biggest diamond industry, Antwerp has more than enough to reward the visitor.
The central Grote Markt is a good spot to start your exploration of Antwerp’s city centre. Check out the famous Brabo fountain, a monument to the city’s mythical hero, Silvius Brabo. Brabo’s great service to the town was to drive off a giant that was demanding tolls from all ships that passed the port. Anyone who refused to pay up had their hand chopped off by the giant, so Brabo took revenge by cleaving off the ogre’s hand and throwing it into the Scheldt river. Thereafter, the town was known as Antwerp - ‘hand’s throw’ in Flemish. Look north from the Grote Markt’s centre and you will see a quaint row of guildhouses, all restored in fine style. Looming behind them is the 1566 Stadhuis, one of the Northern Renaissance’s most important buildings. The city is proud of its artistic heritage - particularly its strong links with Rubens, who was born there and spend most of his life painting in and around the port. Visit his old house, the Rubenshuis, which has been well renovated and serves as a good introduction to the painter’s work. Follow Antwerp’s art and architecture trail on to the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe Katedraal, Belgium’s biggest Gothic structure. Its amazing nave and breathtaking arches are a must-see for any visitor to Antwerp. The church also has three fabulous Rubens canvases hanging inside, the most beautiful of which is the Descent from the Cross.
Antwerp has many other fine museums and galleries which you will doubtless stumble on during your strolls around the town. But the Flemish capital also has a great spirit that is separate from its artistic heritage. In a country with one of the finest beer-producing traditions in the world, Antwerp still manages to stand out as an excellent place to try some new brews. Try the Kulminator, an atmospheric city centre bar, where you can sample a mind-boggling range of over 500 Belgian beers. Whatever your tastes, Antwerp won’t leave you disappointed.
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