Antwerp is the most populous city in Belgium and second largest city after Brussels. Laying on both banks of the River Scheldt, that connects it to the North Sea, the Port of Antwerp is one of the biggest in the world, takes the second place in Europe, after Rotterdam in Holland and globally, its place belongs among the top 20.
Few versions are known and passed down through generations about the name of this big city. One of them is about Ando Verpia from Roman coins found in the past in the center of the city; the other one is Germanic, which might contain prefix anda-“against” and a noun that came from the verb werpen-“ to throw”, meaning: land thrown up at the riverbank; another version is if Androverpis is Celtic in origin, the possible meaning would be “those who live on both banks”; and finally, the folklore is passing the legend about the giant called Antigoon, who lived by the river Scheldt, charging the boatmen a toll for entering the city, and those who didn’t, were thrown in the river. So, a brave man Silvius Brabo killed the giant and cut the giant’s hand, which has thrown in the river. He has a statue now on the market square.
Many have left a mark on the city’s history, conquering or controlling it, such as Celtic tribes, Roman legions, Frank tribes, Viking raiders, Spanish monarchs, Austrian empires, French dynasties and German invaders. The Germans did erase the biggest part of the significant cultures built and made during the centuries, especially the destructions when the V-bombs targeted Antwerp after its liberation by the British army. Unfortunately, many lives and property are gone in those terrifying battles.
Many of the important historic buildings were rebuild in the new and modern Antwerp, to remind the people of their roots and the beautiful city it used to be.
Today, Antwerp is a world leader in the diamond industry, which was established five centuries ago by the Jewish community, expelled from Catholic Portugal and Spain. The fashion and the food are things that Antwerp people can brag about as well.
Places to visit:
Rubenshuis (The Rubens House) today is a museum dedicated to the life and career of the famous artist Pieter Paul Rubens and his contemporaries, but used to be his home and workshop, where he moved in 1611 with his wife and children. The master renovated and extended the place himself, after which it had the look of an Italian palazzo. Many of the famous works, he and his students executed inside these walls. It became a museum after many owners after his death, when finally, the city bought the house in 1937 and restored it to be opened to the public in 1946 with many famous paintings, as well as period furniture.
St. Jacobskerk (The Church of Saint Jacob) is close to the Rubens House and the final resting place of the famous painter and many members of his and his wife’s family. Its exterior is built in a gothic style, but the interior is decorated in Baroque style. The church is built on the site of a hostel for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela. Rubens’ most famous artwork “Our Lady Surrounded by Saints” is right in this beautiful religious temple.
Onze Lieve Vrouwe Kathedraal (Our Lady’s Cathedral) is situated in a village not far from the main highway between Antwerp and Brussels. It is the largest church in Belgium and a prominent symbol of the city. This church also keeps two Rubens’ master works on display: “Elevation of the Cross” (1610) and “Descent od the Cross” (1612). The Cathedral is in a classic gothic style.
De Steen Castle is a medieval fortress in the old city center and is the oldest building in Antwerp. The words “Het Steen”, are dutch for The Rock. Now is a National Maritime Museum, witnessing the long maritime history of the city. King Charles V rebuild the fortress and at first the name was The King’s Stone Castle, but later people shortened it in The Stone Castle.
The Plantin Museum is Christophe Plantin’s home. He was a famous printer and publisher in the late 1500s and his descendants continued his work for generations. Some of the books that were published in this house are now real treasure. The visitors can enjoy their family residence, where Rubens’ portraits of the members insure us how important for the society they were.
Diva Museum is a replacement for both the previous Diamond Museum in Antwerp and the Sterckshof Silver Museum od Deurne. It is a place where the tourists can gain knowledge about the city’s rich diamond history lasting for more than 500 years. The Museum’s amazing collection holds over 600 items on display. Also, the opportunity to see how the process of making the diamonds has evolved is priceless. It is the biggest diamond museum in the world, located in the center of Antwerp.