Diamonds are girls best friends, they say. So how could we miss Antwerp, the world hub for diamonds. Exactly an year ago, (28th July 2019) or should I say in the ‘pre-pandemic era’, I had a ‘Girls Day Out in Antwerp’ in Belgium with 2 of my girlfriends. I had not blogged about it yet, so there can never be a better time while I am doing a series on Armchair travel. Lets fly to Antwerp today.
One of my friend lives in Brussels and using her place as my base location, I did a 50 days Euro trip last year. I traveled to 7 countries and covered 15 cities. It was a trip of a lifetime. Antwerp was my first city immediately after reaching Brussels in Belgium and I was super excited to discover Belgian ways of life. It was a Saturday. We had booked an early morning Flix Bus and within two hours, we were in Antwerp, also called the Diamond Quarter (Diamantkwartier). We were so excited to start this trip that we forgot to check the weather.
Our Girls Day Out in Antwerp was spoiled by rains for sometime!!
Well, the rains did take us by surprise and acted as a spoiler for an hour, but today I would call it as an added experience. We entered a diamond shop to save ourselves from the rains and learned so much more about the diamonds of the city. Antwerp port, unique museums and the lovely street art of the city have lots to offer.
I would suggest to plan more than a day. In case, you are not keen on a night stay, a one-day trip is definitely worth it. Its not necessary to see everything as I believe that one must always have strong reasons to return back to any particular place. So its okay to leave something for next time, for the next girls day out trip to Antwerp. I will love to go back to Antwerp again and see the things that I missed. But for now let me reminisce the high points of my trip. Or as my friend says…. lets do a revision of the past and celebrate the beautiful memories till the future becomes safe for travel.
7 Things that I Learned About Antwerp
Antwerp Central Station
Antwerp Central Station, also known as Middenstatie (Middle station) or Spoorwegkathedraal (Railroad Cathedral) cannot be missed. Our bus dropped us right in front of it and one cannot move further without exploring the station. It is charming and appeals with its architectural marvels. It is one of the 10 most beautiful railway stations in the world. In addition to this, the city of Antwerp offers many architectural marvels and one can enjoy learning about the craftsmanship of the medieval times. It is a treasured landmark of the city and functions efficiently with state-of-the art facilities.
Antwerp World Diamond Center
If you love stats, I would like to share that 84% of the world’s rough diamonds and 50% of cut diamonds pass through Antwerp. When you say dimond center, it means, it is the place where diamonds are traded, polished and sometimes set in jewelry. The city is basically a business center and has seen the business change in last five centuries. The city has really come a long way in evolving as the major hub of diamonds after London and Amsterdam, but even today there are some highly skilled group of diamond cutters who specialize in the processing of the most remarkable diamonds that are available there. A lot of Jewish and Indian community make for diamond traders. I did explore some shops around Diamond market – just on the left side of Antwerp Central station.
Cathedral of Our Lady in a beauty
Cathedrals in European cities never fail to impress. Each one has its own beauty, just like our temples or Gurudwaras in India. This cathedral was never completed but they say the construction ended in 1521. It dint look incomplete to me. The facade is gorgeous. It has remarkable art works inside, especially the tainted glass art work is amazing. The belfry of the church is listed in UNESCO Heritage sites. We prayed and stayed inside for more than an hour. It was interesting to look around and read tidbits of history.
Museum Plantin-Moretus is a UNESCO Heritage Museum
The museum is highly regarded because it houses the world’s oldest printing press. The building is old and remarkable, with a 17th Century library and a collection of valuable artwork. Not many museums have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this one has been. Check the timings of the entry because if you are on a day visit, you might want to explore this before anything else.
St Anna’s Tunnel has old world charm
It is a rare wooden escalator and its a must see in Antwerp. You need not look around for it, just ask anyone. Its very close to the port area. Instead of foot-over bridges or skywalks, this one is a 572 metres of walkway beneath the Scheldt river and takes you on the other side of the city. The wooden look and the rustic charm of it got me really excited. It was a thrilling adventure of 5 minutes to use those escalators. If you have time do walk to the other side for a beautiful sunset view. Pedestrians and bicyclists love to use the tunnel. But even if you don’t walk to the other end, do go down below to have a look. Its very interesting.
Street Art of Antwerp is a must-see
All those who know me are aware of my love for street art and Antwerp is really amazing for it. This needs half a day for it. If you love to explore on foot, this is the best place to be. I love walking friendly cities and Antwerp is one of them. As far as street art is concerned, there are some amazing works to see and appreciate. Honestly, I really dint have time to see them all but I did stumble on some around the Grote Markt, the old market square in the old city area. If you love street art, there is lots around the other parts of the city. I would suggest to book an street art tour or use the Street Art cities app. Its fun to find street art like pieces of a puzzle.
Belgian Fries with Garlic Dip
Okay so this is the place where I tasted my first Belgian fries and garlic dip and will always remember it for that. Trust me it was amazing and I totally fell in love with it. Later, when I stayed in Brussels and visited other parts of Belgium like Ostend and Ghent, I did indulge in them many times. You really can’t make the most of Belgium without indulging in the fries and gelatoes and chocolates and beer!!!
Well I did miss on a couple of things but I am really happy with what I did. The best part was having my friends for company. Antwerp is fun to chill, walk around and learn about it. Just make the most of it. And don’t forget to stroll around the port area. We did as much as we could do till we boarded our return bus at 7 p.m.