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Antwerp, Belgium Travel Guide
 
Last Updated: Apr-16-2012, Hits: 7,602, Rating: 4.0, Reviews: 1, Votes: 1 Bookmark and Share
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Antwerp, Belgium Travel Guide Restaurants (73)
Hotels and Lodging (49)
Bars and Nightlife (33)
Attractions (26)
Services (5)
Maps (2)
Links (6)
Additional Articles (2)
Belgium Travel Forum (1)
Croatia Travel Forum (1)
 
Location: Europe
Geography: City
Vacation Type: Cosmopolitan, Culture and History
Popularity: Moderate Tourism
Costs: Moderate
Attractions: Nightlife, Historical Sites, Food Destination, Cultural Attractions, Shopping, Breweries

Facts and Stats:
City population - 488,582
Metropolitan population - 1,752,148
Land Area: 127.08 miles sq.
Government - Federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch
Telephone Area Code: 3
Country dialing code: +00 32
Languages: Flemish, French, and German (rare)
Electricity: 220v
Currency: Euro
Time Zone: Central European Time - GMT +1
Current Time:

Brief History:
There are many theories regarding the origin of the name Antwerp (Antwerpen). One theory suggests that it got its name from the phrase "hand werpen" which means hand throwing and comes from an old legend. The story revolves around a giant name Antigoon that lived near the river Scheldt and collected tolls from those wishing to pass by him on the river. If a person did not pay the toll, the giant would cut off one of their hands and throw it into the river. Antigoon was defeated by a hero named Brabo, who cut off Antigoon's hand and threw it in the river. In the Grote Markt, there is a statue of Brabo and the defeated Antigoon and you will likely see sculptures of hands at various locations through the city.

The age of Antwerp is debatable, however, excavations have shown that there was habitation near the river Scheldt as long ago as the Gallo-Roman period of the 2nd or 3rd century. This village was destroyed in 836 by Normans. The first traces of Antwerp as a fortified settelement date back to 980. This is approximately the time that the Castle Steen was built, although it would be restored many times over the centuries.

By the 15th century, Antwerp had become a world-class city and was considered a leading international economic and trading center, largely due to its seaport. In 1446 the English Merchant Adventurers and other traders motivated port trade by moving their operations from Bruges to Antwerp. By the middle of the 16th cent. Antwerp was Europe's chief commercial and financial center. The diamond industry, established in the 15th century, was flourishing after the arrival of Jewish artisans expelled from Portugal.

The city's prosperity suffered due to the religious revolution known as the Reformation. In 1576, Antwerp was sacked and about 6,000 of its inhabitants killed by Spanish troops in the "Spanish fury", and again in 1584-85, when the city was captured by the Spanish under Alessandro of Farnese after a 14-month siege. Antwerp's famous Cathedral of Our Lady was (built between 1352 and 1518) was damaged during both of these events. After the Fall, the city came under the rule of Philip II and the Northern Netherlands closed off the Scheldt as provided by the Treaty of Munster in 1648. The closing of the river caused Amsterdam to replace Antwerp as a leading place of trade and commerce.

Fortunately, the city continued to flourish culturally until the mid-seventeenth century. Notable painters such as Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens and Teniers hailed from Antwerp as did the sculptor families Quellin and Verbrugghen.

Under Austrian rule from 1715 to 1792, Joseph II tried to free the river by military force. However, the plan failed. In 1795, under French occupation, it succeeded but this time the ships encountered an English blockade.

After the fall of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, there followed a short-lived reunification with the Northern Netherlands and an equally short period of prosperity which ended with the Belgian Revolution in 1830 when the river Scheldt was closed once again. It was reopened permanently in 1863.

During World War II the city was occupied by Germany and was liberated on September 4, 1944 by the British. The Germans then attempted to destroy the port, which was being used by the Allies to bring in supplies. The city was hit by more V-2 rockets than any other target during the entire war, but the port survived. The city itself was severely damaged.

Since WWII, Antwerp has experienced steady growth, its port is again one of the busiest in Europe, and its diamond industry is one of the big 3 in the world (Antwerp, South Africa, and New York City). Antwerp was nominated as the Cultural Capital of Europe in 1993.

Geography:
Antwerp is located in Northern Belgium on the bank of the Scheldt river which is a 217 mile long river that begins in France and flows into the North Sea. Antwerp's port is one of the largest in the world and the 2nd largest in Europe (Rotterdam is the largest). Like many European cities, Antwerp's streets are not layed out in a grid or other method that makes any sense. Fortunately, the city is pretty walkable - it takes about 20 minutes to walk from Central Station to the River Scheldt which will go through city center on Meir street. This walk will take you through the diamond district, past tons of stores, and within blocks of almost every attraction worth seeing.

People/Culture:
Residents are very proud of their rich heritage and history. A testament to this is the fact that you will see Paul Ruben's (famous painter) name everywhere you go. There is a full palate of cultural attractions in Antwerp including museums, theatre, and concerts.

We were only in Antwerp for a couple of days and didn't get a chance to become fully immersed. We did notice that the people seemed very friendly, laid back, and certainly appreciate the finer things in life. Most people that we came across spoke enough English to communicate with us. Occasionally, you might run into someone that does not speak any English at all. In these situations, you will have to try French or Dutch if you know them.

While the city is bustling with shoppers and workers during the day, it was nearly a ghost town at night. We were told that this was because it was the end of the month and people were waiting for their paychecks before they can go out again. This may also be due to the fact that the younger crowd often gets a very late start at their all night rave/dance parties which are popular here.

For other cultural events, Antwerpen is a monthly publication available at the tourist office. For more information about concerts, theater, and other events visit Prospekta which is located at the Grote Markt. You can also purchase tickets there.

Antwerp is a very safe city. One area to avoid is Central Station at night. There are gang members, mafia members, and pickpockets in this area at night.

Food:
The food in Belgium has French and Flemish influences with mussels being a local favorite. There are over 2,000 restaurants and cafes to choose from and there are a ton of restaurants around the Grote Markt and Groenplaats that vary in type and price. Belgian (Continental) cuisine often focuses on fresh local ingredients which makes this a great destination for seafood lovers.

While in Antwerp, you must try their dark chocolate, truffles, beignets, pralines, waffles, coffee, and french fries (frites).

The best beer in the world is made in Belgium, particularly Trappist beer which is brewed in monasteries by monks. For more information about Belgian beer, visit our beer site.

Antwerp also has outdoor markets where you can get fruits, cheeses, and other food in addition to clothing and other non-food items.

Money/Costs:
Belgium is a member of the European Union and uses the Euro as currency. The Euro coins come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 1 Euro, and 2 Euro denominations. Bills are found in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, etc. denominations. Most establishments accept credit cards - MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club, Eurocheque cards, and Visa. ATMs are everywhere.

Tipping is not necessary as a 16% service fee is included in all hotel and restaurant bills, although you will want to tip your hotel porter. Tip is generally included in taxi fares as well.

For the most part, costs in Antwerp were comparable to those in the U.S.

Getting Around:
Antwerp International Airport (ANR) is 3km (2 miles) east of the city. There is a regular bus service (no. 16) to Central Station and Taxis are available as well. Antwerp has a nice train station that is located on the edge of city center.

As was mentioned earlier, Antwerp is an easy city to get around on foot. The most popular attractions are located between Central Station and the River Scheldt which is an easy 20 minute walk away. If you choose to stay in the city center, it is very possible to spend your time in Antwerp getting around on foot. Otherwise, it is very easy to find a cab or take one of the trams. Car rentals are available, but parking spots are very scarce in the city center. For more information on transportation, visit the Services section of this travel guide.

Entry Requirements:
EU citizens can enter on an official identity card. Travellers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, the USA, and many other countries just need a valid passport. Residents of these countries can usually stay for up to three months.

Holidays:
Jan 1 - New Year's Day
Mar 28 - Easter Monday
May 1 - Labour Day
May 5 - Ascension Day
May 15 - Whit Sunday
May 16 - Whit Monday
Jul 11 - Flemish Community Holiday
Jul 21 - Independence Day
Aug 15 - Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Sep 27 - French Community Holiday
Nov 1 - All Saints' Day
Nov 11 - Armistice Day
Dec 25 - Christmas Day

Weather:
The weather in Antwerp is temperate with steady precipiation and cool summers. It is much like the weather you would expect in Great Britain. The current weather conditions in Antwerp are shown below.



Below are the high, low, and rain averages:

Month Avg High Avg Low Average Rainfall
January 41 31 2.6"
February 43 32 2.1"
March 48 35 2.9"
April 54 40 2.3"
May 63 46 2.8"
June 67 51 3.1"
July 71 54 3"
August 71 54 2.5"
September 66 50 2.3"
October 57 45 2.8"
November 48 37 3.1"
December 42 33 3.0"

Tips:
  • Belgians dress conservatively, so keep that in mind when going out to eat. Some nice restaurants may require men to wear a jacket.
  • Apparently, you can drink alcoholic beverages outside. At least that is what I was told and did not have any problems.
  • Be careful when drinking Belgian beers. They are MUCH stronger than cheap American lagers and can be over 10% by volume.
  • Highly recommended attractions: Antwerp Zoo, Cathederal of Our Lady, Castle Steen, Grote Markt, shopping on the Meir, Ruben's House.
  • Watch out for pickpockets and avoid the area around the Central Station at night.





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    User Reviews (1)




    Reviewed by: sloshed
    Review date: Feb-25-2009

    We spent about 2 days in Antwerp. There isn't much to do here, but there are good times to be had. The touristy part of the city is very walkable and if you are a lazyass you can take a tram. Definitely check out the Cathedral - amazing. We sucked at picking out restaurants so I won't talk about that. For a potentially wild night, check out the Celtic Ireland pub. Awesome bar and the night we were there, there were some f'ing insane British tourists there. One of them kept climbing the giant wooden poles and dry-humping them. Then he climbed their huge Celtic cross and was humping that. When the server went to stop him, he tried to headbutt the guy and then they all got thrown out. It was hilarious. As a beer drinker it was tough to drink their awesome beer after trying the coffee. It is so damn good. Also make sure you try a Belgian waffle and some friites (Fries). 

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