Situated on the banks of the River Scheldt, Antwerp, http://visit.antwerpen.be, is a modern center of trade and industry with a beautiful historic core. The medieval heart of the city, centered on the Grote Markt (market square) and around the spectacular gothic Cathedral, reflects the rich heritage of centuries of success. Today, modern meets medieval in the narrow streets around Grote Markt that are lined with ornate Renaissance buildings housing modern shops, museums, restaurants and bars. Belgium is famous for waffles (excellent when eaten fresh from a street-side stand), chocolate and beer and Antwerp offers some of the best these in a compact, easily manageable city.
Led by Peter Paul Rubens and supported by wealthy merchant benefactors, Antwerp became a center of Flemish art in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Royal Museum of Fine Arts proudly displays many works by the Flemish masters in a beautiful setting. In the restored Rubenshuis (Rubens’ house), one can get a glimpse into the life and studio of the famous painter where he spent the last 3 decades of his life. Museums such as the Rockox House and the Museum Mayer Van Den Bergh, display interesting collections assembled by wealthy merchant families.
With more than 25,000 items, the Modemuseum (Fashion Museum), http://www.momu.be/en/index_momu.jsp?layout=momu, has amassed a compilation that features fashion through the years, from the 16th century to examples from the studios of most important contemporary designers. Regular themed exhibitions, such as Living Fashion: Women’s Daily Wear 1750-1950 that is featured in 2012, offer interesting insight into the world of fashion from everyday clothing to haute couture. Antwerp has also been the center of the international diamond industry for centuries and is the site of the world’s largest diamond museum, http://www.docdiamond.com/articles/the-diamond-museum-in-antwerp.php. The Diamond Museum is located next to the central train station and its displays offer a look at the entire range of the diamond industry from mining to cutting, polishing, mounting and display. It also features replicas of some of the most famous diamond jewelry in the world.
In Antwerp, http://www.antwerp-tourist-guide.com/, one can delve into the art and history of this important corner of northern Europe and, at the same time, experience the excitement of a modern city with a vibrant atmosphere. Less than an hour by train from Brussels, a major hub for many international airlines, Antwerp is easy to visit and worth the trip. Antwerp is a great place to spend some time and experience the confluence of a rich historical past with a modern vibrant present.