Welcome to fashionable Antwerp
Fashion, diamonds and one of Europe’s largest ports are what Antwerp stands for. But this city was also a flourishing centre of trade in the sixteenth century, whose rich architectural and artistic heritage now covers past masters such as Rubens and the modern, world famous ‘Antwerp Six’ fashion designers. Arriving at the impressive Antwerp Central station with its vast dome and four levels of modern facilities for high-speed train travel, the visitor immediately gets a feel for how Antwerp now successfully combines the old and avant-garde.
Architecture fans will be drawn to the Grote Markt with its Town Hall, fine Renaissance-style guild houses and statue to Brabo. This was the legendary Roman who defeated the giant who extracted tolls from travellers crossing Antwerp's River Scheldt, cut off his hand and threw it into the water. Hence the name Antwerp from the Dutch words ‘hand’ and ‘werpen’ (to throw). Just off the square, Our Lady’s Cathedral, the biggest Gothic church in Belgium, attracts visitors eager to see its collection of sculptures and works by Rubens.
Scattered across the city are a wide variety of museums, including the ‘Rubenhuis’, (home of the artist Peter Paul Rubens) and the Plantin-Moretus Museum, housing the two oldest printing presses in the world. MoMu is where fashion followers can see contemporary (Belgian) design and admire lace, clothing and embroidery dating back to the sixteenth century.
Of course, no visit to Antwerp would be complete without a stroll along its main shopping street, the Meir, with its magnificent nineteenth century buildings. Even non-fashionistas will want to tarry at the impressively restored ‘Stadsfeestzaal’, now the perfect place to enjoy a glass of champagne, as well just a little more shopping…..