Belgium’s second city and biggest port, Antwerp (Antwerpen/Anvers in Dutch/French) is the country’s capital of cool, a powerful magnet for mode moguls, club queens, art lovers and diamond dealers. In the mid-16th century it had been one of Europe’s most important cities and home to baroque superstar artist Pieter Paul Rubens, as you’ll be so constantly reminded. Despite many historical disasters thereafter and severe WWII bombings, the city retains an intriguing medieval heart with café-filled cobbled lanes, a riverside fortress and a truly impressive cathedral. Today Antwerp’s top drawcards are its vibrant fashion, entertainment scene and startling architectural and cultural contrasts.
Best places to stay in Antwerp
Pocket Bruges & Brussels
Romantic, canal-woven Bruges and buzzing multinational Brussels are both, in their different ways, unmissable. While Brussels dwarfs Bruges in size, both feature boats plying the waterways, serene parks, a web of cycling trails, jumbled market stalls, forward-looking fashions, and museums and galleries packed with home-grown art, from Brueghel masterpieces to Hergé’s Tintin. All this plus the finest beer and chocolate in the world.
Europe's greatest train stations
In Europe's great cities, a station can be a destination in itself. Take a later train and discover these 'railway cathedrals'.
Belgium & Luxembourg - Antwerp & Eastern Flanders (Chapter)
This region’s undisputed centre of gravity is dynamic Antwerp, a historic port and diamond-trading city. Historic cities on a more manageable scale include Mechelen, Lier and Leuven. And as always, there are scattered castles to be found lurking in forgotten villages.
Antwerp destination guides
Globetrotting for chocoholics
Love chocolate? Discover how to feel full of beans on this non-stop choc-focused tour of the planet. Flanders, Belgium Belgians love chocolate almost as much as they love beer – which is to say, a lot.
Brussels to Amsterdam Cycle
Experience the delights of barging and cycling through Belgium and Holland
Belgium and Luxembourg: travel books to read before you go
Few foreigners have taken up the challenge of penning travel tales about Belgium…and only one man has tackled Luxembourg. Still, what’s on offer is well worth reading. This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Belgium & Luxembourg guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.