Antwerp in Belgium: A Spellbinding City Where Medieval Meets Tomorrow

  • 01 of 19

    Antwerp Is Amazing and Easy to Get To

    Grand Place in Antwerp, Belgium
    ••• Antwerp's main square, Grand Place or Grote Markt, during a flower festival. ©Mike Smith/Flickr

    What's the Deal With Antwerp in Belgium?

    Antwerp is a favorite destination of luxury travelers who know Europe well. It is an amazing city -- and one where English is widely spoken. This slideshow still will give you 16 reasons (and photos) that show you why Antwerp, Belgium is an incredible place to visit.

    Why Visit Antwerp?

    Antwerp is a beautiful city where old meets new. It was one of Europe's richest and most progressive cities in the 1600s and 1700s, the Golden Age of the Low Countries (Holland and Belgium).

    Antwerp is in its second Golden Age. It absolutely sparkles, and not just because it is the world's biggest diamond hub.

    Antwerp's tradition of social tolerance and cultural progress creates a unique and exciting place. There are so many fascinating and unforgettable things to see and do in Antwerp. Keep reading!

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  • 02 of 19

    Antwerp Is in the Middle of Everything

    Antwerp Belgium is a river cruise port
    ••• Antwerp is a popular port for river cruise ships. ©Nancy Van de Laarschot/VISITFLANDERS

    Antwerp Is Very Easy to Get To

    Antwerp is a city in Belgium that is less than a one-hour ride by car or train from the capital, Brussels the seat of the European Union. Brussels is reachable by nonstop flights from numerous U.S. airports.

    A Medium-Sized City With a Global Soul

    Antwerp has a unique personality: artistic and progressive yet heritage-proud and dignified. Antwerp feels very international, which is no surprise: it has been ruled by monarchs from the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy.

    Today, Antwerp's population is very diverse. You will see Orthodox Jewish residents who work in Antwerp's tremendous diamond trade. And you will see locals whose forebears came from the Belgian Congo (today's Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    Antwerp is now the biggest city in Flanders, the Flemish-speaking part of the Kingdom of Belgium. The official language is Flemish, which is a local variation on the Dutch language. But most Antwerpers also speak French and English.

    Antwe...MORErp Is a River-Cruise Port

    Antwerp grew by leaps and bounds in the Middle Ages partly due to its location. It is set on the Scheldt River a few hours south of the English Channel. And rivers were the superhighways of the time, carrying people, goods, and ideas from place to place.

    Nowadays you can take a leisurely river cruise that features Antwerp as a port.
    • See how river cruises are different from ocean cruises

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  • 03 of 19

    Get to Antwerp on Brussels Airlines

    Brussels Airlines Tintin jet
    ••• Fly with Belgium's beloved Tintin aboard Brussels Airlines. ©Rudi Boigelot

    Across the Atlantic to Belgium Aboard Brussels Airlines 

    Quite a few airlines fly nonstop from U.S. gateway cities to Brussels, Belgium's capital, a one-hour ride from Antwerp. 

    But if you're the kind of traveler who likes to get into the spirit of the destination by flying on its national airline -- on a comfy and well-priced flight to boot -- your choice is Brussels Airlines. Your discovery visit to Antwerp begins the moment you check into your flight

    Brussels Airlines flies nonstop between New York, Washington  D.C., and Toronto. Here, Americans can connect to a Brussels-bound flight through Brussels Airlines' partner, United,
    • Brussels Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance mileage group (besides United, other prominent members include Air Canada, Lufthansa, TAP Portugal, and Turkish Airlines)

    What Brussels Airlines Excels At

    Frequent travelers, and those who love flying, tend to be very impressed by Brussels Airlines. This is the kind of airline whose personnel never...MORE fail to smile and make you feel cared for, whose jets are spotless and well-appointed, and whose landings are right on time.

    Coach seating on Brussels Airlines is a relatively quite comfortable. And business class is a lovely experience. Your pod-style seat will be like a cozy cocoon. And the personal attention never ends. You're welcomed with a glass of Champagne and then, for the rest of your flight, royally fed and pampered. This is a flight you won't want to sleep through!

    What Are You Passionate About? You Might Find It on Brussels Airlines

    Brussels Airlines is a lot like Antwerp -- a place with a lot of history that caters to contemporary tastes and trends. If you're...

    • An aviation nut: Brussels Airlines was established in 2001 on the fleet and routes of Belgium's original airline, Sabena, which began flying in 1923, and is one of the 10 oldest national airlines in the world (older than Delta, founded in 1924). Sabena was known for its design, inflight service, and arts magazine.

    • A culture vulture: Brussels Airlines continues Belgium's artistic culture by painting planes that honor Belgium's cultural heroes. These gaily designed jet exteriors feature Belgian cult characters such as the comic-book hero Tintin (in the photo above) and Surrealist painter René Magritte (you know his depictions of black umbrellas in the sky).

    • A beer fancier: Brussels Airlines is the only one that offers a menu of Belgian beers inflight.

    •.A chocoholic: even in coach, you'll get a taste of Belgium's superior chocolate. And if you're in business class, before landing you'll be handed a gift box of Neuhaus bonbons (yes, a goody bag from your flight!)

    Where to Find Out More About Brussels Airlines

    • Brussels Airlines U.S. site and international site
    • Check out Brussels Airlines' b inspired magazine

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  • 04 of 19

    Take Your Pick of Refined Hotels in Antwerp

    View of Antwerp at Hilton Old Town Hotel
    ••• The club floor terrace at Hilton Old Town Ahtwerp. ©Hilton Hotels & Resorts

    Your Choice of Tempting Hotels in Antwerp

    Antwerp takes its tourism trade seriously, and treats its visitors well. You'd expect a range of hotels in a city this stylish and this enterprising. And you'll get just that.

    Accommodations include from elegant B&Bs, inexpensive Airbnb apartments, super-stylish boutique hotels, and well-known major hotel names.

    Some deserved visiting favorites:
    Hotel Rubens-Grote Markt: a boutique hotel just off the Grand Place, with stylish rooms that offer stirring views or garden-facing serenity
    Hotel Les Nuits: a seductive design hotel whose 22 rooms have a black-dominant palette

    An Easy Decision: Hilton Old Town Antwerp

    The U.S.-based Hilton brand offers Antwerp visitors a refined full-service hotel with one of the city's best locations, right on the central square. Hilton Old Town Antwerp's draws:
    • Spacious, quiet rooms with comforts like super-quality beds and pillows, coffeemakers, American-style showers with Peter Thomas...MORE Roth toiletries
    • A 24-hour gym
    • A VIP Club Floor with a snack-filled lounge and a scenic deck (shown above)
    • A hotel restaurant, Brasserie Flo that overlooks the square and serves sparkling-fresh seafood and Belgian specialties
    Hilton Old Town Antwerp website

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  • 05 of 19

    Antwerp's Cathedral of Our Lady Is a Must-Visit

    Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp has four Rubens paintings
    ••• Antwerp's Cathedral of Our Lady is filed with masterpieces of Flemish art. ©VISITFLANDERS/www.milo-profi.be

    Antwerp Has One of Europe's Great Cathedrals

    Even if you're used to checking out the big church in every European city you visit, Antwerp's Cathedral of Our Lady will impress you. The biggest Gothic church in Europe's Low Countries, it was begun in the early 1100s and is still being refined with new artworks.

    The cathedral is a source of pride and joy to the Flemish people, and welcomes over 300,000 visitors annually.

    The Cathedral's Paintings Are By Rubens, Antwerp's Hometown Genius

    While magnificent to behold, Gothic cathedrals are not all that uncommon in Europe. But Gothic cathedrals flaunting the work of legendary painter Peter Paul Rubens are rare. The Cathedral of Our Lady flaunts four masterpieces by this master of the Flemish Baroque style, ​painted ​over a period of 15 years. There's more: Our Lady contains many other masterworks in paint, marble, and sculpted wood.
    • Find out more about Antwerp's Cathedral of Our Lady

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  • 06 of 19

    Antwerp Is a Brilliant Place to Shop for Diamonds (or Just Look and Dream)

    Antwerp's Diamond District
    ••• Antwerp is the world's biggest diamond seller--wholesale and retail. ©VISITFLANDERS/Kris Jacobs

    Antwerp Sparkles with Diamonds

    Antwerp is the global diamond trade's busiest center -- busier than Johannesburg or New York. Antwerp's diamond trade is on both the wholesale and retail levels.

    It is estimated that two-thirds of the world's gem-quality diamonds pass through Antwerp. This is where diamonds are brought to be traded, cut, polished, graded, set, and sold. 

    Diamonds, Diamonds Everywhere

    With the dollar rising against the Euro, Antwerp is a brilliant place to buy diamond jewelry...or just window-shop and dream in the city's many diamond stores. Many are in the Diamond District near Central Station, and other diamond shops are scattered about. in Antwerp, you are never far from a dazzling diamond window display.

    More Than Browsing for Diamonds in Antwerp? Tips for Serious Shoppers

    • Antwerp's highest-echelon diamond retailers have a sticker on their door or window announcing "Antwerp's Most Brilliant - officially certified jeweller"
    • You can pay up to...MORE 3,000 Euros in cash, and non-EU residents will get the VAT tax refunded
    • The "diamond exchange" marketplaces are for the trade only, but you can book a behind-the-scenes tour
    • For fun and info, download the Antwerp Loves Diamonds app, free from iTunes

    Into Sparkly Rocks? Visit Diamondland

    The business called Diamondland invites Antwerp visitors to immerse themselves in diamonds. You can take a free guided tour of the diamond trading floor and watch the world's most skilled cutters and polishers at work. And you can buy stones or jewelry from dozens of certified diamond dealers, with a discount and 14-day return policy.
    • Find out about Diamondland and its free tours

    Visit the Antwerp Diamond Pavilion

    The Diamond Pavilion is within the MAS, an eye-catching modern museum on the riverfront. The pavilion is a tribute to Antwerp's leadership in the world's diamond trade and a celebration of these most precious stones.

    In the pavilion, you can follow the story of the world's diamond trade, which is in many ways the story of Antwerp. You will see some of history's most celebrated stones and learn their secrets. And you will see diamonds you never thought possible, naturally colored in shocking hues. 

    You'll whet your thirst for diamonds at the pavilion, And you'll tantalize your taste for cuisine, too: a Michelin-honored restaurant occupies the top floor.
    • Find out more about the Antwerp Diamond Pavilion at the MAS

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  • 07 of 19

    Antwerp Shopping and the Stadsfeestzaal Designer Mall

    Stadsfeestzaal designer shopping mall in Antwerp Belgium
    ••• Meir Street is Antwerp's pedestiran shopping street, containing the elegant Stadsfeestzaal designer enclave. ©Antwerpen Toerisme & Congres

    Antwerp Was Born to Shop

    Antwerp is a world center of edgy modern fashion, and shopping is an avid pursuit here, Antwerp also honors a cultural streak of practicality and frugality. The upshot: you'll find lots of high-end fashion but also many bargains. 

    Where to Start? That's Easy. Head to Meir Street

    The city's main shopping street, Meir, is a pedestrian promenade that runs over a mile. Get on and start looking. You'll see many of Europe's popular retail brands. Some, like Zara, H&M, and Mexx, you can find in the States. But others, like C&A, will be fresh pickings. Price ranges go from super-cheap to high-ticket.

    High-End Shopping on Antwerp's Meir Street

    Though Stadsfeetzaal shelters around 40 stores, it's a shame to call a mall. This elegant late- 1800s arcade is so upscale, its refreshment stand is a refined Champagne bar.
    • More about Stadsfeestzaal

    You're Never Far from a Designer Boutique

    European and Flemish designer shops are scattered around...MORE the neighborhoods surrounding the Old Town. Have fun.
    • Don't miss this: where to find the shops by name
    • Tip: some retailers accept only cash for items on sale

    Antwerp Fashion Festival

    Fashionistas plan their Antwerp visit around the citywide Fashion Festival, held annually in early fall. You can expect late-night shopping, runway shows, juicy discounts, pop-up "fashion villages," style meetups, and other insider events.
    • More about the Antwerp Fashion Festival
    Antwerp Fashion weekends occur throughout the year

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  • 08 of 19

    Belgian Food in Antwerp: Some of the Best Snacks on Earth

    Eating Belgian waffles on the street
    ••• Belgian waffles are Antwerp's best-loved street food. ©Maria Doreuli/Flickr

    Antwerp Cuisine Thinks Global But Cooks Local

    Antwerp's delicious cuisine evolved on its own path. As a port city, Antwerp absorbed influences and seasonings from far and wide. The basis of the cuisine is Flanders' hearty fresh food -- meat and produce -- with unique flavors thanks to Antwerpers' way with spices.

    Antwerp is a sophisticated multicultural town where you can find a myriad of global cuisines. French restaurants abound (including around a dozen with Michelin stars). And if you seek an Indian, Lebanese, Turkish, African, Asian, or Kosher restaurant, you can find it.
    • Find out more about restaurants in Antwerp

    Eat These in Antwerp

    But if you want to eat like an Antwerper, consider these local specialties:
    • Mussels and fries (mosselen-friet)
    • Waterzooi: a saucy chicken or fish casserole
    • Carbonnade Flamande: beef stew made with beer instead of red wine
    • Waffles: a sweet treat you cannot deny yourself. Choose a topping, or several
    • Loco for cocoa? Antwerp's divine...MORE Belgian chocolate awaits...

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  • 09 of 19

    Calling All Chocoholics to Antwerp

    Chocolate shop in Antwerp Belgium
    ••• If you're cuckoo for cacao, Antwerp will be your chocolate heaven. ©VISITFLANDERS/www.milo-profi.be

    In a World of Standout Chocolate Countries, Belgium Could Be the Best

    Belgium is not the only great producer of chocolate. What chocoholic would turn down Swiss, French, or Dutch chocolate?

    But if you're a certified chocoholic, you may fall hard for Belgian chocolate. It's creamier and silkier, with an intriguing variety of flavors (fruit, nut, spice, liqueur) worked into a velvety-smooth ganache texture.

    In Antwerp, chocolate is a passion. The local chocolate is made by hand and gorgeously packaged with ribbons. Then it's sold in dainty shops that resemble lingerie boutiques. After all, fine chocolate is a sensuous pleasure.

    Hand Me Some of that Antwerp Chocolate

    Antwerp's signature chocolate treat is small chocolates shaped like hands. This tradition is part of Antwerp's mythology. It's a gory story about a mean giant who lived on the river. The hands symbolize what happened to him. And the statue in the Grand Place, showing a Roman soldier hoisting a severed hand,...MORE tells you the end of the story. Forget the story but remember the chocolate!

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  • 10 of 19

    Antwerp Is a City of Parks

    Antwerp's beautiful Prinsenpak, or Prince's Park
    ••• Bucolic Prinsenpark, or Prince's Park, brings the country into the city of Antwerp. ©VISITFLANDERS/Misjel Decleer

    Antwerp Has a Park You'll Fall in Love With

    Antwerpers work hard and play hard. They planned their city with green space everywhere, and you'll encounter huge parks where yo can lose yourself for a half-day. And as you explore Antwerp's medieval street plan, you'll stumble upon its public gardens and secret glades.

    Undecided? This Park Makes Everyone's Day

    One favorite is Stadspark, a large triangular patch a few minutes' walk from Old Town and the Meir Street shopping district. Everyone comes here, and you should, too. Stadspark is the place for a walk, run, or spin on a citybike. Or you can take it easy. Read on a bench, sunbathe on the thick grass, or feed ducks by the pond.

    All the while, you'll do some inspired people-watching. And you'll come away refreshed by nature and armed with an inside take on Antwerp. 
    • More about Antwerp's lovely parks

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  • 11 of 19

    Antwerp's Tomorrowland Festival

    Tomorrowland Festival in Belgium
    ••• Tomorrowland, one of Belgium's biggest and best festivals, held in Antwerp every summer. ©Tomorrowland

    Tomorrowland, a Revel of a Festival

    Tomorrowland is up there with the world's best festivals. This annual summer sensation is a celebration of electronic music  and the way it sets you free,

    Tomorrowland was founded in 2004 and is held in Boom, 10 miles from Antwerp. It has grown to encompass an entire lifestyle (and has a spinoff, Tomorrowland Brasil).
    Tomorrowland's site 

    Tomorrowland 2016 lasted three days and attracted 180,000 revelers. Here's the 2016 festival's aftermovie, and video experience archive

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  • 12 of 19

    Antwerp's Glorious Central Station

    Central Station, Antwerp architectural treasure
    ••• Central Station is one of Europe's most magnificent places to catch a train. ©Neimon/Flickr

    The Railroad Station Is One of Antwerp's Greatest & Most Famous Buildings

    Central Station is an Antwerp landmark, and one of the great railroad stations of the world. This glorious, church-like building, completed in 1905, brings the romance back to train travel. It resembles a palace, with a soaring glass dome and a monumental marble staircase. One of the station's local nicknames is "railroad cathedral" (Spoorwegkathedraal).

    At Central Station, you will see as many admirers with cameras as travelers with luggage. This magnificent structure is one of Antwerp's treasures and definitely worth a visit.
    • Find out more about Central Station

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  • 13 of 19

    Fall in Love with Belgian Beer in Antwerp

    Duvel beer tasting in Antwerp belgium
    ••• If you like Belgian beer, a tasting of Duvel and more at De Koninck brewery is a must. ©Karen Tina Harrison

    Why Is Belgian Beer Such a Cult Thing? Find Out in Antwerp

    You know how passionate beer-lovers are. And no beer fan is more ardent than the partisan of Belgian beer. These brews are a breed apart. They are thick, creamy, and golden, more like a kiss than a pucker. 

    Belgian beer was developed by monks in the Middle Ages. And medieval monks had fantastic taste. At a time when hardly anyone could read, let alone create a recipe, monks were their eras' intellectuals, chemists, inventors, and taste-makers. 

    Today, Belgian beer is exported all over the world. But there's a definite thrill to drinking it on home soil. A tour-and-tasting at a Belgian brewery qualifies as a bucket-list experience for anyone who appreciates a good brew.

    The place to indulge is the De Koninck brewery right in Antwerp. 

    De Koninck Brewery Is the Home of the Legendary Duvel Beer

    Duvel is an icon of Belgium. Its Antwerp brewery offers an absorbing tour that spotlights the history of the brand and the...MORE uncompromising Antwerp family behind it. The tour ends with an ample tasting of several De Koninck beers. You can decide which one is your favorite.  (FOr many, it is Duvel.)And don't be surprised if it becomes the beer you always look for.
    • Find out about visiting De Koninck Brewery and tasting its beers
    • Order it right: the name Duvel is Flemish, not French, and pronounced DO-v'l

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  • 14 of 19

    Cutting-Edge Fashion in Antwerp

    Men's fashion show in Antwerp Belium
    ••• Antwerp Fashion Academy mens runway show. ©Modeafdeling Antwerpen

    Multiple Generations of Disruptive Design in Antwerp

    Antwerpers have always cherished their creative side. In the 1980s, the city burst upon the international fashion scene with the attention-getting Antwerp Six, a half-dozen designers who changed everything.

    The Antwerp Six's approach -- architectural, dark, hand-made -- continues to influence fashion design. Whenever you see the word "minimalist" in fashion copy, that's a tribute to Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, and the other fashion radicals of the Antwerp Six.

    A School for Ambitious Antwerp Designers

    Antwerp has long been a sanctuary for artist,s, and the Fashion Department of the Antwerp Academy trains designers. It attracts style-mad, innovative young people from all over the world (but especially the E.U.).
    • Keep on the lookout for fashion shows staged by the Academy
    • Find out more about contemporary fashion in Antwerp
    • Visit MoMu, Antwerp's Fashion Museum

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  • 15 of 19

    The Rubens House: Now, This Was Livin'

    Rubens House in Antwerp
    ••• The Old Master painter Peter Paul Rubens lived at what is now called Rubenshuis, or Rubens' House. ©VISITFLANDERS

    Let's Just Imagine...

    Time to dream: imagine an extravagantly talented creative type whose ground-breaking work creates a sensation. People talk about him and are eager to see his latest. He becomes the top guy in his field and extremely wealthy. He buys a fabulous home and fills it with precious objects, and showers his first and second wives with diamonds. His renown is such that he's a kind of diplomat, hobnobbing with world leaders.

    We are not talking about an entertainment superstar or a Silicon Valley visionary. We are talking about Antwerp's artistic genius, Peter Paul Rubens. He was the painter of his day, and kings, cardinals, and moguls all wanted him to paint them or decorate their palaces and cathedrals.
    • Rubens' incredible bio and complete painting gallery

    Visit Rubens' House in Antwerp

    Rubens owned one of the grandest private houses in Antwerp, with galleries galore and a sculpture garden. Today's visitors can tour the home. It adds up to more than a...MORE museum studded with timeless paintings by Rubens. It's a place that makes you think about just how much one person can achieve. Rubens was an artist, and a personality, for the ages.
    Rubens' House (Rubenshuis)

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  • 16 of 19

    The Cycling Life in Antwerp

    St Anna Tunnel underpass in Antwerp Belgium
    ••• Mood lighting in Antwerp's St. Anna's Tunnel in Antwerp, for cyclists and walkers only. ©Wikimedia Commons/François

    Antwerp Is a Two-Wheeled Town

    Belgium is a progressive country that long ago recognized the bicycle as a form of transportation as well as relaxation. And Antwerpers are passionate about the two-wheeled lifestyle. You'll see locals of all ages getting around on their bikes: going to work, doing their shopping, taking in the splendid sights of their city.

    Rent a Bike and Take Off

    • How to rent a bike in Antwerp
    • And where to ride
    • See Antwerp and meet people on small-group Antwerp bike tours

    A Bike Ride You Can't Take Anywhere Else: Through St. Anna Tunnel 

    One of the many mesmerizing rides you can take in Antwerp traverses the Scheldt River. Unlike in other cities, this bike path doesn't go over the river on a bridge. It goes under the river in a tunnel. St. Anna Tunnel is a feat of engineering that has made Antwerpers proud since it opened in 1933. (They call it simply "the underpass.") The tunnel is for walkers and cyclists only.

    St. Anna tunnel's rare wooden...MORE escalator still take you (and your bike) up and down. What's new and delightful: mood lighting in the tunnel. If you find yourself on a bike during your Antwerp visit, a colorful spin through St. Anna Tunnel will be a thrill you don't soon forget.

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  • 17 of 19

    Zip Around Free with the Antwerp City Card

    Antwerp City Card for travel discounts
    ••• The Antwerp City Card is the key to this sensation city. ©Karen Tina Harrison

    The Best Bargain in a City of Bargain-Hunters

    Antwerpers are practical folks who love a bargain -- and they know that visitors do, too. One of Antwerp's best travel deals is the Antwerp City Card, a discount program for visitors. It gives you a lot for a little (or for free). And the card allows you to do it all without constantly dipping into your wallet or backpack.

    Freebies with the Antwerp City Card

    The benefits of the Antwerp City Card are exceptional. For starters, you get:ard are exceptional. For starters, you get:
    • Free entry to most tourism attractions, such as museums and the cathedral
    • Free passage on city transportation and the HopNStop downtown shuttle
    • Discounts on things like bike rentals and waffle shops

    24, 48, or 72 Hours?

    The Antwerp City Card is sold for one, two, or three days. The best deal is the 72-hour card, only 40 Euros as of 2016. (The discount coupon book that comes with the card is good for the whole year.)
    • Find out what you get from and how to get an...MORE Antwerp City Card

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    Antwerp's Thriving Jewish Community

    Jewish man on a bicyce in Antwerp
    ••• Antwerp is a unique place where some bike-riding residents speak Yiddish. ©Karen Tina Harrison

    Yiddish Culture Lives On in Antwerp

    A vibrant Jewish community exists in Antwerp. Many of its residents are involved with Antwerp's diamond trade, the world's most significant. 

    Historically, Antwerp welcomed Jews, or forcibly converted Jews, who fled or were expelled from Spain following the anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim Spanish Inquisition of 1492, and for successive generations.

    Today's Jewish citizens of Antwerp are Orthodox Jews whose forebears came from Eastern Europe. Their neighborhood is the only Yiddish-speaking district that remains in Europe,  a fact that thrills Jewish visitors to Antwerp.
    • Find out more about the dramatic history of Antwerp's Jewish residents

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    How to Start Planning a Visit to Antwerp

    Antwerp has amazing archtecture
    ••• Antwerp inspires the photographer in everyone. ©LudoVicM/Flickr

    Inspired to Visit? Start with These Antwerp Connections

    Visit Antwerp online and Visit Flanders
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