Shopping in Antwerp is paradise on earth if you're after
designer garb, with all the big names, as well as numerous smaller
local designers who've set up shop in Belgium's fashion capital.
For the even-better-heeled, Antwerp is, needless to say, one of the
best places in the world to buy diamonds - and you'll find no
shortage of places where you can part with large amounts of money
if you so desire.
The city also has its fair share of international chain stores
as well as some quirky antiques/collectables shop, making it a
great place for shoppers of all tastes and budgets.
Before you travel, it's worth bearing in mind public holidays,
which may affect shop opening times.
Antwerp is literally jam-packed with restaurants serving Belgian
and international cuisine, though the majority of fare on offer is
what would best be described as European fusion. Many menus are
fairly meat/fish-heavy and though there are vegetarian options
available in some restaurants, veggies might struggle in some
establishments. Almost without exception, though, cuisine is of a
high standard, and service friendly and polite.
Peter Paul Rubens's home and studio for a large part of his
life, this palazzo-style house is a far cry from the bare garret
you might expect of an artist's abode. The painter himself oversaw
the design of the grandiose building, which consists of 16th and
17th-century sections and is adorned with statues and beautifully
decorated interiors as well as a collection of Rubens's own
paintings and drawings.
The rooms are meticulously furnished with antiques
of the period (though few of the actual items belonging to Rubens
remain, with the notable exception of the chair that he used as
dean of his guild), including a tiny four-poster bed, designed to
conform to the fashion of the period, which was to sleep
semi-reclined. The room where Rubens died in 1640 is now furnished
as a dining room, affording beautiful views over the formal
garden below. Without doubt the most ostentatious room in
the house is the painter's personal art gallery with a
semi-circular adjunct topped by a cupola based on the Roman
Pantheon and adorned with a series of statues.
Overlooked by the cathedral and home to the 16th-century
town hall, the Grote Markt is surrounded by pretty
Flemish houses and is at the heart of the old town - both
physically and spiritually. In summer, the square is packed with
people sitting at café tables; in winter, an ice-rink is erected
here under an enormous Christmas tree, with festive stalls spilling
out from neighbouring Groenplaats selling mulled wine and Christmas
The streets emanating from Grote Markt are lined with
restaurants and bars, which, though touristy, are nonetheless
popular with locals too and on the whole very cosy and atmospheric.
In the centre of the square is a statue of traditional local hero
Brabo holding a severed hand, illustrating the alleged
origin of the name Antwerp, meaning "hand throw". According to
legend, boatmen entering Antwerp via the river used to have their
hands cut off if they didn't pay the port tax. Disgusted at this
practice, Brabo cut off the hand of the perpetrator of this misdeed
and threw it into the river, hence the name - and his status as