The beautiful city of Antwerp is the second largest in Belgium and one which you will encounter on our Dutch and Belgian waterways cruises. The port itself is one of the biggest in the world and sees a large volume of river ship traffic ever year.
The story of how Antwerp got its name is one that involves a giant, a hero, and a number of severed hands. According to folklore, a giant used to stand on the banks of the river Scheldt and charge a toll from anyone entering the city. Those who refused would have their hand cut off and thrown in the river. However, along came a noble hero called Brabo who gave the giant a taste of his own medicine. He cut off the giant’s hand and threw it downstream. Therefore the name Antwerp is derived from the Dutch words for ‘hand’ and ‘throw’.
Organised excursions in this city could include a visit to the cathedral, a look around the castle, and a walking tour of the historic town centre. But we’ve put together a few activities that you can enjoy during your free time in Antwerp.
Take A Walk On The Wild Side
Antwerp has two great opportunities to see wildlife up close and personal. Firstly, the zoo, located close to the impressive Antwerpen Centraal station, has a host of different species from all over the world on display. Not only has the park been around for over 150 years, it has also been awarded the ‘Green Card’ for the last two years running for operating in a responsible and sustainable manner. The zoo features animals such as gorillas, elephants, lions, tigers, bears and has a reasonable entry price of €22.50 per adult.
The other chance to catch a glimpse of some animal antics is at the Aquatopia aquarium. Here, creatures of the deep are separated by habitat into seven different areas and there’s even room for a few species that live around the water but not in it. Tickets are €12.95 when booked online.
Treat Yourself To Some Frites
If you ask a Belgian who invented fries the answer will most certainly not be France. Here they celebrate ‘frites’ in their own way as they profess Belgian to be the original birthplace of the humble chip. All over Antwerp, you will be invited to taste these golden-brown delights, especially in the form of one of the country’s favourite dishes; Moules-Frites. Take a seat at one of the many outdoor restaurants and refuel.
But what to wash all those fries down with? Luckily enough Belgium is just as famous for its many varieties of beer and so there will plenty of choices. For example, Paters Vaetje, which can be found close to the cathedral, has over 50 different bottled Belgian beers for you to sample. From blond to amber and wheat; the selection will leave you open mouthed. And if your step into the world of Belgium beer leaves you wondering how it all comes about; visit the De Koninck brewery to be walked through the process.
Discover A Girl’s Best Friend
Until 2012 Antwerp was the world’s largest diamond centre, with over 80% of the planet’s rough diamonds passing through here in their lifetime. Whilst a lot of the production has been moved elsewhere and the historic Diamond Museum closed its doors a few years ago, there is still a clear presence held by the precious stone in this part of the world. The infamous Diamond District, located near the zoo and station, provides plenty of opportunity to purchase your own souvenir. But linger too long and you could find yourself falling in love with more glistening gems than you can afford.
Head to the MAS Museum aan de Stroom and nearby you will find the Diamond Pavilion. This structure, built when the Diamond Museum closed down, will give you an intriguing insight into Antwerp’s role in diamond production and where else in the world you will find the major players. Incidentally, the Museum aan de Stroom is well worth a visit as it peers deep into the history of the people of Antwerp and the city itself.
If you would like to plan your trip to Antwerp along the Dutch and Belgian waterways, Fred.\ River Cruises can offer many excellent itineraries. Call today to speak to our team and you could soon be enjoying the beer, frites and diamonds of this wonderful city.