Antwerp is the second largest city in Belgium with around 520,000 inhabitants. In the Middle Ages Antwerp was one of the largest cities in Europe and the most important port in Central Europe. Following Rotterdam and Hamburg, the port of Antwerp is the third largest in Europe. Antwerp is still the world's largest diamond trading center. Around 25,000 people work in the diamond trade in the city.
This is a list of the most famous sights of Antwerp with the Brabo Fountain, the Grote Markt, the Cathedral of Antwerp, the Vleeshuis, the diamond district and other places of interest.
The "Brabo Fountain" is the landmark of Antwerp. After the legend, the Roman soldier "Silvio Brabo" defeated the giant "Druon Antigoon". The giant demanded a toll from all travelers to pass the bridge over the river. Whoever dared not to pay, the giant cut his hand off and threw it into the river. Brabo defeated the giant and threw his hand into the river. The name "Antwerp" is not derived from hand throwing, as the legend claims.
The Brabobrunnen is a work by the sculptor Jef Lambeaux and was placed on the Grote Markt in 1887.
The "Grote Markt" is the main square of Antwerp. Here stands the "Brabo fountain" and the town hall of Antwerp. The central market square was built in 1220 when the duke donated the property to the city. Artisans and merchants built magnificent buildings in the Middle Ages and made the Great Market the most beautiful square in Antwerp. On the northern edge of the square stand the magnificent guild houses. On the house of the Crossbow-Guild you can see "Saint George" killing a dragon.
The widely visible cathedral is called "Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal" (Church of Our loved Lady). The tower of the Late Gothic building is 123 m high and is listed as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. The construction of the cathedral was begun in 1352 and completed in 1521, as the largest church in the Netherlands. However, the southern tower has never been completed. The 7-aisle cathedral is 118 m long and 67 m wide at the transept.
The "Vleeshuis" (Meat House) was built by the Butchers Guild, which had the monopoly on meat products in Antwerp by then. The house of the builder Herman de Waghemakere was completed in 1504. The bricks of bright and red stones were stacked in layers. This creates a flesh-colored appearance reminiscent of ham. The late-Gothic building houses nowadays a collection of musical instruments.
The central station of Antwerp is one of the most beautiful stations in the world. The ecclesiastical railway cathedral of Louis de la Censerie, with its 75-meter-high dome, refers to the Pantheon in Rome. The arriving passengers are welcomed by a remarkable marble facade (photo), which is covered by a glass metal structure. Antwerp Centraal is a 4-rail terminal station that opened in 1905. The station was given a tunnel in 2007 with additional tracks for express trains. The Antwerp central station is a terminus at the top and a through station below.
The "Het Steen" castle on the right bank of the Scheldt is the oldest building in Antwerp. It was part of the 12th century fortification. In the 16th century, the castle was expanded into a residence. In front of the castle stands the statue of the "Lange Wapper". A legendary giant who, thanks to an old woman, was given the gift to enlarge his body. Later he became a water spirit.
The KBC Tower was built in 1932 for the Kredietbank, which mainly financed farmers, so the official name of "Torengebouw van Antwerpen" quickly became "Boerentoren" (Farmers Tower). With a hight of 87.5 m, the KBC Tower was the tallest office building in continental Europe at that time. The number 1 in Europe was the Royal Liver Building with 98 meters in Liverpool. The "Torengebouw van Antwerpen" was built for the 1930 colonial exhibition, which does not count as a World's Fair. The architects of the Art Deco Tower were Jan Van Hoenacker, Emiel van Averbeke and Jos Smolderen. In 1976, the building was raised by about 8 m and grew to 95.8 m. With antenna the Boerentoren is 112.5 m tall. The skyscraper has 29 floors and is surpassed in Antwerp only by the 123 m high cathedral.
Antwerp was for a long time the most important trading place for diamonds. Antwerp was already established in the Middle Ages as a place where diamonds were cut and sold. Today rough diamonds from Russia, Canada and Africa come to Antwerp to be processed into sparkling stones. There are several diamond exchanges, a Diamond Museum and a jewish diamond district. In Antwerp, around 25,000 people work in the diamond trade. The streets Vestingstraat and Pelikaanstraat have the most jewelers. At Visit Antwerp you can book guided tours of the Diamond Quarter.
The main shopping street of Antwerp is called Meir. On the wide pedestrian street are the big department stores and a Royal Palace called Paleis op de Meir. You should definitely take a look in the interesting shopping center "Stadfeestzaal", here you will see fine products under a magnificent, gold-decorated hall. The Meir shopping street connects the central station with the old town of Antwerp.