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Belgium’s second biggest city, Antwerp is really a cultural melting pot, having a port that's Europe’s second biggest. Located on the River Scheldt, more than 50 miles from the open sea, Antwerp is the fifth largest port in the world, serving thousands of ocean-going vessels. As many as 45,000 barges and 17,000 ships tie up to the 60 miles of docks every year. Travelers however are more likely to appreciate Antwerp for its art treasures, unique ambiance and as a center for the diamond trade. The forest Scheldt links the town towards the North Sea some 60 miles (97km) away. Situated around the River Scheldt, greater than 50 miles in the open ocean, Antwerp may be the fifth biggest port on the planet, serving thousands of sea-going ships. As much as 45,000 barges and 17,000 ships tie to the 60 miles of docks each year. Vacationers however may appreciate Antwerp because of its art treasures, unique ambiance so that as a middle for that gemstone trade. Antwerp is known for its cosmopolitan vibe, great food and drink culture, amazing infrstucture, and gemstone indstury producing the planet’s finest gems.
During the Renaissance, Antwerp flourished as a cultural center. Rubens, Jordaens, Van Dyck and other famous painters lived and worked here. Today their masterpieces are displayed in such outstanding museums as the Royal Art Gallery and the Mayer van den Bergh Museum. Antwerp's main attractions are located around Grote Markt, including the stunning 16th-century City Hall, one of the most important buildings of the Northern Renaissance, Our Lady's Cathedral, one of Belgium's finest Gothic churches, and on the north side of the square, the beautifully restored 16th-century guildhouses. As a world center for the diamond trade, Antwerp offers various workshops where visitors can experience the entire process from mining exhibits to cutting and selling the glittering product.
Antwerpians have always had the reputation of being in love with good food and drink. The city boasts hundreds of restaurants and eateries where first-class gastronomy, exotic dishes and simple everyday cuisine can be enjoyed, along with a selection of hundreds of different kinds of local beer. The compact city center offers traffic-free streets lined with countless shops, boutiques and cafés. This bustling cosmopolitan city never fails to attract visitors with its special atmosphere, making everyone feel very welcome.
Throughout the Renaissance, Antwerp prospered like a cultural center. Rubens, Jordaens, Van Dyck along with other famous artists resided and labored here. Today their works of art are displayed such outstanding museums because the Royal Memorial and also the Mayer van living room Bergh Museum.
Antwerp's primary points of interest are situated around Grote Markt, such as the stunning 16th-century City Hall, probably the most important structures from the Northern Renaissance, Our Lady's Cathedral, certainly one of Belgium's finest Medieval places of worship, as well as on its northern border side from the square, the superbly restored 16th-century guildhouses. Like a world center for that gemstone trade, Antwerp provides several training courses where site visitors may feel the whole process from mining exhibits to cutting and selling the glittering product.
Antwerpians usually have had the status to be deeply in love with good drink and food. The town boasts 100s of restaurants and eateries where first-class gastronomy, exotic dishes and straightforward everyday cuisine could be loved, together with an array of 100s of different types of local beer. The compact city center offers traffic-free roads lined with numerous shops, boutiques and cafés. This busy cosmopolitan city never does not attract site visitors using its special atmosphere, making everybody feel totally welcome.
The town of Antwerp can rightfully pride itself on its wealthy, historic past. With the centuries the town has handled to build up a wealthy and different cultural heritage. Antwerp happens to be in the crossroads of culture and also the arts, to be the home town of effective artists for example Rubens, Jordaens and Van Dyck, in addition to designers and authors.
Pier Information
Larger cruise ships dock along the Wandelteras Zuid, which is only a 10-minute walk along Hoogstraat to Grote Markt, the city center. Cabs line up outside the terminal. Smaller ships dock at Kattendijkdok or Willemdok, both about a 15- to 20-minute walk (through the Red Light District) from the city center. Your ship's reception staff can call a taxi if you don't wish that pleasure
Costs are rather high. Today’s cruise passengers can admire that old medieval and modern skyline from the Antwerp waterfront, while sailing to the mooring in the actual city center. Ships moor only 110 yards (100m) in the wonderful Marketplace (Groote Markt), 16th century City Hall, amazing Medieval Cathedral in our Lady and enchanting ancient city center using its places of worship and museums. New facilities, like the computer controlled gangway and cruise terminal, welcome people effectively. Before coming, people may have passed a 12-mile (20km) panorama of port activity and character reserve.
Antwerp can also be the world’s gemstone capital. Because the 15th century the town has performed a huge role within the gemstone trade and industry. Antwerp has turned into a major fashion leader within the European fashion world. Belgian designers that obtained worldwide have artistic roots in Antwerp. The majority of the up-and-coming designers get their atelier, showroom and shop within the city center. The amount of fashion shops in Antwerp keeps growing, and the plethora of boutiques within the pedestrian friendly center makes walking and window-shopping particularly easy. The significance of the forest Scheldt can't be overemphasized. Antwerp wouldn't be what it's today without its river, which has been - and remains - of major proper importance towards the city. Many river cruise ships visit Antwerp.
Wandelteras Zuid is downtown, giving you easy access to Grote Markt (the main square), the Cathedral and other attractions in the historic center. Kattendijkdok and Willemdok are close to MAS, the iconic new city museum rising up high and clad in red Indian tiles. It's located between the Willemdok and Bonapartedok. (Hanzestedenplaats 1; 32-3-338-4434; open from 10 a.m. Tuesday to Sunday) This area also has some of the best fashion houses and a few interesting restaurants. A Red Star Museum, commemorating the European emigrants who boarded ship in Antwerp for the United States, will open in September 2013. From these Napoleonic docks, it's a 20-minute walk to the tourist attractions around Grote Markt, but it's best to take a taxi.

Getting Around
On Foot: The city center is easily walkable, from the main cruise dock on the western edge of town to Central Station and the Diamond District in the east.
By Taxi: Taxis line up at the cruise terminal and other marked locations around the city, particularly near busy squares and train stations. Look for the orange "taxi" signs. You can also call Antwerp-Tax at 32-3-238-3838.
By Public Transportation: Antwerp has both buses and trams. Buy single rides direct from the driver, or purchase a 24-hour card in advance or onboard. Advance tickets (a lijnkaart of ten) are available from the tourist office on Grote Markt. By Car: Auto Europe (888-223-5555), Avis (800-331-1212) and Europcar (877-940-6900) have rental locations
Do not miss
The Cathedral of Our Lady is impressive. Construction started in 1352 and was finished 169 years later.
Groote Markt. The Market Place, with the Town Hall. Situated in the old part of Antwerp, only a short walk from the cruise terminal, the Groote Markt is surrounded by historic guild houses.
The breweries. Belgium’s beer-brewing traditions go back to the Middle Ages. The country boasts the most varied collection of high-quality beers in the world, and there are some 125 smaller breweries. Many of them are open for visitors, for example the De Koninck Brewery (situated in Antwerp).
Chocolate tasting. Each year, Belgium produces 172,000 tons of high-quality chocolate. Many cruise lines visiting Antwerp have chocolate tasting or a visit to a chocolate factory on the list of available shore excursions. Ghent (62 miles from Antwerp) is a center for chocolate manufacturing.
The Rockox House is less well known than Rubens' house but deserves a visit. There, you will see how one of Rubens' wealthy patrons lived. Nicolaas Rockox (1560 - 1640) was an Antwerp merchant and sometime city mayor. He was also an avid art and coin collector. The house contains works by Brueghels, Rubens and Van Dyck, as well as enough 16th- and 17th-century furniture to make it still feel like a home. The courtyard garden has recently been reconstructed. (Keizerstraat 12; 32-3-201-9250; open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m., closed some holidays.)
The 163-year-old Antwerp Zoo, located just behind the glorious Central Station, is home to 5,000 animals from around the world -- including giraffes, elephants, hippos and several species of penguins. (Koningin Astridplein 26, +2 3 202 4540, daily from 10 a.m., various closing times throughout the year)
For big-name fashion, try the boutiques on and around Nationalestraat (where you'll also find the MoMu Fashion Museum at number 28). European department stores sit behind the historic facades on elegant, pedestrian-only Meir, where the rent is supposedly so high -- between $40,000 and $66,000 per month -- that most actually lose money.
Zurenborg, an elegant residential neighborhood just north of the Berchem train station, is a showcase of Art Nouveau architecture. Like many newly emerged countries at the end of the 19th-century, Belgium celebrated its newfound sense of identity in Art Nouveau. It was a very costly style. Look for wrought-iron individual balconies, vividly colored mosaics, stained-glass windows and curving facades. The largest, most opulent mansions can be found along Cogels-Osylei, but the smaller houses along the nearby side streets also have interesting and intricate architectural details.
Take a day trip to Ghent, about a 45-minute train ride from Antwerp Centraal. In the Middle Ages, Ghent was one of Europe's most powerful mercantile cities thanks to its thriving textile trade. Today, you can still visit the 15th-century Cloth Hall and a magnificent cathedral, St. Bavo's, that contains "The Mystic Lamb" by Hubrecht and Jan van Eyck, recognized as the principal work of the Flemish school in the 15th century.
Several museums are located in Antwerp and its surroundings. Some of them are within walking distance from the cruise terminal. Examples include:
Diamond Museum. To many, Antwerp is synonymous with diamonds. The Diamond Museum tells the story of what diamonds have meant to the city over the centuries. Street address: Koningin Astridplein 19-23
Fashion Museum (MoMu). With its collection of 25,000 fashion related items the, MoMu is a must to anyone who has an interest in clothing. Street address: Nationalestraat 28
MAS (Museum aan de Stroom). Set to open in 2011, MAS will focus on the city and the river – and the interplay between the two throughout history. Street address: Hanzestedenplaats 1
Red Star Line Museum. The story about Belgium’s own transatlantic line will be told in a suitable setting: the departure halls used by Red Star Line. The museum is developed by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners – the same US-based architect firm that is behind the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, Grand Central Station and the South Street Seaport museum in New York. It is not scheduled to open until 2012, but it is possible to have a look at the old departure halls from the outside. Street address: Rijnkaai 15
Rubens House. Experience the house in which the famed Baroque artist lived with his family for more than a quarter of a century. Rubens is an Antwerp icon who attracts visitors from around the world. Street address: Wapper 9-11
Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp. Situated in the trendy Zuid district, the Museum of Contemporary art offers a varied program of performances, lectures, concerts, debates and guided tours. Street address: Leuvenstraat 32
Shore excursions
Guided tours of the city hall and the impressive Cathedral of Our Lady
Breendonk SS transit camp – a tour of a concentration camp used by the Nazis during the Second World War
Brussels tours can be available in a numer of forms, ranging from guided coach tours to individual excursions by private car.
Excursions to Ghent. The medieval city southwest of Antwerp is famous for the fine chocolate being produced there
Getting further
Brussels, the capital of the European Union, is only 28 miles or 45km away. Distances from Antwerp to other marvelous Flemish art cities are barely 31 miles (50km) to Ghent and 62 miles (100km) to Bruges. Even Paris can be reached within three hours.
Best for First-Timers: A walking tour of Antwerp's Old Town gives a good introduction to the city. Tours include a visit to the Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp's main square and City Hall. (River cruisers will find a similar half-day walking tour -- sometimes including visits to the Steen or the Rubenshuis -- included in their itineraries.)
Best for History Buffs: During World War II, Belgian resistance fighters were imprisoned by the Germans in the Breendock SS Transit Camp, once a Belgian army base. Today, you can visit the Breendonk Fort National Memorial and tour the well-preserved barracks, which were home to more than 3,500 prisoners. The tour concludes with a half-hour walking tour of Antwerp.
Best for Chocoholics: Travel by bus to explore the medieval city of Ghent, and get a taste of Belgian chocolate. The excursion begins with a walking tour to see three medieval steeples, followed by a canal boat cruise through the city. The walking tour then continues to a chocolate factory where you'll learn how Belgian chocolate is made. There is free time for shopping before returning to the ship.
Eating Out
Using the locals' penchant permanently food, 100s of restaurants plus some 2,500 cafés, bars and pubs focus on a multitude of tastes. Local dishes for example paling in't groen (eel in eco-friendly sauce), other ways of serving mussels, rabbit, sausage comes, Antwerpse handjes (pastry) and also the world-famous Belgian chocolates can provide your go to a culinary touch. Enjoy a few of the many brands from the excellent local beer or, if you like something more powerful, possess a jenever.
With the locals' penchant for good food, hundreds of restaurants and some 2,500 cafés, pubs and bars cater to a wide variety of tastes. Local dishes such as paling in't groen (eel in green sauce), various ways of serving mussels, rabbit, sausage rolls, Antwerpse handjes (pastry) and the world-famous Belgian chocolates may give your visit a culinary touch. Enjoy some of the many brands of the excellent local beer or, if you prefer something stronger, have a jenever (Antwerp gin)
Meir and P Keyserlei would be the primary shopping roads. Additionally to diamonds and lace, typically the most popular products would be the world-famous Belgian chocolates (pralines).
The main shopping area is the Meir, a street that stretches out from the Keyserlei (close to the central station) to the Groenplaats. It is one of the most famous shopping streets in Belgium. Don't forget to visit the mall Stadsfeestzaal (between Meir and Hopland, which was beautifully restored and reopened in 2007 after it was partially destroyed by a fire ten years earlier. You will see a lot of gold on the ceiling, and all sorts of stores. The streets Hopland and Schuttershofstraat are the shopping terrain of the rich and famous with exclusive fashion shops like Cartier, Hermes, Scapa, Armani, etc. The Huidevettersstraat, Nationalestraat, and Kammenstraat (all located close to the Meir) are also very interesting shopping streets to visit.

Purchasing a diamond at one of the many tourist jewelry shops around the Central station can be an unpleasant experience. Like any big diamond city in world, there are many tourist trap diamond shops around the actual diamond district centre, though it is fair to say that if you are prepared to barter you can purchase jewellery here for significantly less than in countries such as the UK. Wealthy diamond buyers should do their investigative shopping online prior to visiting Antwerp. If you're less wealthy and someone asks you to bring back some diamonds from Antwerp, buy diamond-shaped chocolate pralines at e.g. Burie (Korte Gasthuisstraat 3), Château Blanc [56] (Torfbrug 1) or Del Rey (Appelmansstraat 5).
Trendy shopping can be done in the Kammenstraat and surroundings. In this area, you will also find the Fashion Museum [57] and many shops of famous Antwerp fashion designers, such as Walter van Beirendonck and Dries van Noten.
The Kloosterstraat has many antique shops, with often bizarre items for sale.

Chinatown can be found about 300m north of the Central Station (see also Eat). A lot of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese products can be found here.
Weekend Markets take place on the Theaterplein Square (follow Wapper or Meistraat south from the Meir) in front of the Stadsschouwburg theatre. The markets are very popular with stalls offering everything from food (fruit and veg, meat, fish, nuts, cheese ethnic specialities) to household goods to bicycles to antiques to clothes. Sunday tends to see a lot more stalls compared to Saturday. Take a break from browsing at the stall at the centre of the square, where you can buy a cheese roll with a glass of chilled cava to wash it down, most convivial!
At Ploegstraat 25 you can find a "give-away shop", where you can bring and take stuff as you please without any monetary interaction. Open M-F 2pm-6pm.

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