Welcome to Antwerp, Belgium, the second to last stop on my travel review before catching up to speed. It seems like so long ago that we were sashaying throughout this city made famous for its diamond trade and fashion scene. Here's a bird's eye view of trendy Antwerp, Belgium's second largest city with a population of half a million.
Antwerp is connected by an estuary to the North Sea, thus, it has become over hundreds of years a port city, bringing in a vast amount of imports. You can spot its location on the Map of Belgium below.
Although the day prior in Belgium was picture perfect with blue skies, we woke up the next morning to a gray, cloudy and rainy day. Despite the weather, the forecast predicted sunny skies in the afternoon so off we went to Antwerp to explore Belgium's capital of fashion, diamonds and jewelry. We arrived at Antwerp's grandiose Train Station after a quick 2-hour train ride from our friend's place.
The train station leaves you in a large square (not the main square) in Antwerp where you will find the famous Antwerp Zoo. We didn't go inside but I found it interesting to have a zoo so close to the city center.
And here's a shot of the Train Station Square where the central train station leaves you, home to the Diamond Museum and the Radisson Blu, Antwerp's 5-star hotel.
You quickly see the Diamond District as you notice all the stores around you have "diamond" and "jewelry" or "gold" in their name and title.
We began making our way down Antwerp's Main Shopping Street, don't ask me the name because I'll never remember. But ask anyone in town where the main street is and they will point you down this way which leads directly to the waterfront if you keep walking about 15-20 minutes or so. The first block or two didn't look like anything special, but then suddenly we saw that we had arrived in the right place.
It was around here that we noticed the architecture beginning to change and the store names coming into focus. Antwerp's Fashion District would be just ahead with stores galore, fashionable streetgoers and plenty of cafes and shops to dazzle your senses.
We had heard that we needed to see Antwerp's Main Square, Grote Markt, so off we went to find it. It wasn't too hard to find. Just a hop, skip and a jump away from the main shopping street we found ourselves in a beautiful, typically European central square.
We did choose to take a streetcar tour in an enclosed, warm electric car that made its way around town for just 5 Euros. Of course, the sun decided to come out just as we started the tour. Still, it was a great way to see many parts of the sprawling city without killing your feet.
There were the Chocolate Shops....
And another major square called Groenplaats known for its famous cathedral and recognizable architecture.
We even passed a Castle along the waterfront, still intact from Antwerp's ancient days when it served as a fortress.
And then we made it to Antwerp's Museum Row alongside Antwerp's endless canal front.
From the castle, you can approach the Bridge that crosses the canal from one side of Antwerp over into the other part of town.
After all that touring, it was time for some Belgian Lunch, including the option of some of their most-famous dishes such as meat stew or fresh mussels. My husband had to try a Belgian beer, which he declared was "the best beer [he's] ever had". And I have to say that the dessert, another Belgian waffle, was indeed "the best waffle I've ever had". You've got to get over there and try one someday.
Antwerp seemed like a very livable city and we just didn't have time to explore it all. I had really wanted to visit the home of Rubens, a famous former resident of this Flander's capital. Additionally, we didn't get a chance to see Antwerp's botanical gardens, which really looked like a spectacular place for our short tour. Also a surprise was the large amount of Haredi Jews in Antwerp, it almost seemed like we were back in Israel. Like fools, we attempted to speak to some of them in Hebrew, but unfortunately these Israeli-looking people only matched their kin back in Israel in their garb and traditions, not in their language. In the next few days, I'll be showing you our final stop in Brussels, the capital of Belgium. And then we're back to all things Israel.