People Think Antwerp,Belgium Is All Diamonds & Fashion.Except That It Isn’t-North Sea 1

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Port of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

Situated along the banks of River Scheldt, an estuary that flows directly to the North Sea, Port of Antwerp is the second largest and busiest harbor of Europe, the 17th in the world. It is used for a lot of purposes such as storing, lading and unlading, re-packing and re-labelling of cargo. More than that, the Port of Antwerp has five oil refineries. It is a leading port for the distribution of chemicals in Europe. Two of the refineries are connected to Rotterdam Port in The Netherlands through a separate pipeline. A 330-km network of underground pipelines ensure the safe, efficient and cost effective movement of crude oil in the Port of Antwerp through Rotterdam. These two world-class refineries are owned by Exxon Mobil and Total. The other “players” are 3 smaller Petroplus specialist facilities. Port of Antwerp has also a RoRo as well as cruise terminals. On top of these, it has the largest lock (device used for raising boats and ships) in the world- the Kieldrecht Lock, opened in 2016 by King Philippe of Belgium. It took over the title from Berendrecht Lock which was the largest when it was built in 1989.

About the North Sea:

This is a young sea along the Atlantic Ocean that flows across the shores of eight countries in Europe: UK, Denmark, Norway, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, France and Sweden. This is the coldest sea in the world. In summer its average temperature is 17 degrees C and 6 degrees C in winter. Along its north shores, deep fjords and cliffs characterizes the Norwegian and Scottish coastlines. On its south coast (Belgian, Dutch, German and Danish shores) consist of sandy beaches and wide mudflats. It is Europe‘s main fishing hub. About 5% of international commercial fishes are caught in the North Sea. But the most important feature of this sea is its large areas of oil and natural gas on its bed. Discovered in the 1960s by geologists, most of its oilfields are owned by Norway. Some belong to Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom. The North Sea is also and important marine transport. Its shipping lanes are the busiest in the world. With strong prevailing winds blowing over, countries along its shores especially Germany and Denmark use its shallow water for wind power since the 1990s. It becomes very rough during winter but calmer in summertime.

A Little Fact On Antwerp:

The second largest city of Belgium after Brussels, Antwerp is also the capital of the province with the same name (Antwerp) in the Flemish region. This is one of the regions in the Kingdom of Belgium which is called Flanders. It lies along the River Scheldt. Antwerp is about 40 km. north of Brussels (capital of Belgium) and near the Dutch border, which is about 15 km. south of Rotterdam, The Netherlands. It has always been an important economic and cultural city in the Low Countries (term used for coastal countries in Northwestern Europe).

Antwerp is defined by River Scheldt, this is the heart and soul of the city. It was inhabited first by the Romans and later the Germanic Franks settled in the 4th century. From the 12th-14th centuries, it experienced economic boom. It was annexed to the County of Flanders about 50 years later as the Golden Age in Europe unfolded. Antwerp then became the “loveliest city in the world.” But in the 2nd half of the 16th century, a conflict arose between the Protestant North and the Catholic South (Spain). River Scheldt was closed for trading. This city declined economically, but culturally it flourished. It saw the rise of Peter Paul Rubens, most celebrated artist in the Renaissance. It fell into serious decline between the 16th-19th centuries. The Scheldt was still closed but re-opened for good in 1863 after Napoleon’s fall. Antwerp was back into its former glory though it suffered considerably from the Germans during the two previous world wars. Then the city was on its steady growth. It is now the home of the 2nd largest port in Europe and the Diamond Capital of the world. Although Antwerp is multi-lingual, Dutch is the official language. It is called Antwerpen in Dutch.


We sailed into Antwerp with Knock An in October 2001 for oil discharging at the Exxon pipeline that connects to Rotterdam. (Netherlands). Antwerp, one of the most visited cities in Belgium has everything any traveler could ask for – world class landmarks, great food and drink, shopping and a medieval charm. While this city is famous for being the “diamond capital” in the world and the heartbeat of ’80s fashion, this city shines in more ways than one. People think Antwerp, Belgium is all diamonds and fashion. Except that it isn’t. Let me tell you why….

Diamonds Are Forever At Diamantkwartier

People think Antwerp, Belgium is all diamonds and fashion. Except that it isn’t. In a quarter called Hoveniersstraat, it seems like a dull corner of Antwerp. But in fact, this is one of the most dazzling mile in the city. The presence of a maximum security at the area like CCTV cameras, some armed commandos and a police station nearby tells so. Hoveniersstraat is Antwerp‘s diamond center and of course the world. A trade since the 15th century, about 84% of all rough diamonds and 50% of the cut ones are marketed in the area. Sometimes known as the Square Mile, Antwerp‘s diamond district is dominated by Jewish, Jain Indians, Maronite Christian Lebanese and Armenian dealers. They are known as “diamantaires”. Yiddish (high-German derived language) may be the main language used in the diamond exchange but English is also widely spoken. This quarter is adjacent to the Centraal Station and a few minutes walk to Antwerp’s main shopping street of Meir.

Object of desire at Antwerp’s Diamantkwartier.

Antwerpen-Centraal, Prettiest Train Station In The World

Train stations around the world are just areas for comings and goings. But when you are in Antwerp, you want to stay at its station a little longer. People think Antwerp, Belgium is all diamonds and fashion. Except that it isn’t. Antwerp-Centraal is a unique railway station. Because it is already considered a tourist destination itself. Built in 1895 and opened in 1905, a grand iron and glass dome arches over the waiting area. Certainly the most beautiful train station in the world, be sure not to miss this out in your itinerary. Because Antwerpen-Centraal is so grand, you don’t even have to leave the station at all to feel its splendor.

Home To Peter Paul Rubens

Rubens’ Rising of the Cross displayed at the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp.

The ultimate Renaissance man, Peter Paul Rubens known in the art world for his religious and mythological paintings was from Antwerp. People think Antwerp, Belgium is all diamonds and fashion.Except that it isn’t. During his lifetime, he has produced vast number of astounding masterpieces. The Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp contains some of his paintings including the iconic “The Rising Of The Cross”. In the last few years of his life he stayed at Rubenshuis. It was his home and studio located at Wapper Street, now turned into a museum wherein you can explore his house and gardens. Don’t forget to visit his tomb at St. James’ Church, also in Antwerp where he was buried underneath another of his paintings, “Virgin And The Child”.

Rubens’ mansion, the Rubenshuis and its gardens.

Sint Jacobskerk (St. James’ Church) where Rubens was buried.

Modenatie, The Pulse Of Belgian Fashion

The Modenatie neighborhood where fashion meets art and Dries Van Noten’s store in Antwerp.

People think Antwerp, Belgium is all diamonds and fashion. Except that it isn’t. Indeed when it comes to fashion, Antwerp has its different side of the story. You know it takes pride of having one of the world’s oldest and most fashion school, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. From here came renowned talents such as the Antwerp 6 of the ’80s. They are now shaping the design scenes of U2, Max Mara, Givenchy and the Chinese brand, Canudia. Dries Van Noten, one of the Antwerp 6 has a store at the neighborhood of Modenatie. This is the heartbeat of Belgian fashion. The place to be if you are looking for the latest trends. Yes, Antwerp is an excellent shopping city with a very good reason. It was in this area where I purchased my one and only pair of Clarks, 19 years ago.

The Antwerp 6, from left to right Marina Yee, Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk Bikkembergs, Dirk Van Saene.

Ghent, And That Cool “Dutch” Feel

When in Antwerp, don’t miss out Ghent. arriving there is also a delight. It has, not only the most “Amsterdamy” feel of Belgium but an awesome urban Disneyland look as well. People think Antwerp, Belgium is all diamonds and fashion. Except that it isn’t. Just walking along the squares, castles, and other key spots of this town is like seeing a medieval painting comes alive. Definitely a great travel surprise for you. Ghent can be reach by bus or catch the train at Antwerp-Centraal and get there in 47 minutes.

Waffles, Pralines, Fries & Beer

People think that Antwerp, Belgium is all diamonds and fashion. Except that it isn’t. Antwerp is also famous for its waffles, pralines (the Belgian chocolates), fries and De Konnick beer. The Belgian waffle, we all love it. So it should not come as a surprise if you visit Antwerp without trying one. But make sure not to call it Belgian waffle. It is called Liege waffle here and it comes with loads of fruits and whipping cream. And did you know that the French fries actually came from Belgium? You can try some savory “gourmet” fries when you’re in Antwerp. They come in 6 different sauces and toppings. You really have to forget about extra calories here. The pralines (or chocolates) come a bit expensive here because making them is done live right in front of you. So the price you pay is for the “skill” that you had watch plus of course the taste which is soooo delicious. Now, in the world of beers, De Konnick is absolutely the king. This amber-colored beer is iconic in Antwerp since 1952. It is a bit malty with a hint of caramel. Experience Antwerp’s food porn at De Wilde Zee, a neighborhood of cafes and chocolate shops.

De Wilde Zee quarter in Antwerp.

The Historic Square of Grote Markt

In the medieval times, this area was a forum where English merchants exchanged business with South German traders. People think Antwerp, Belgium is all diamonds and fashion. Except that it isn’t. Grote Markt is a historic town square in Antwerp. It is encircled with stunning Flemish buildings. In December, Grote Markt is turned into a fantastic Christmas market.

Rare, Wooden Escalators Lead You To Sint Annatunnel

Underneath River Scheldt and the Port of Antwerp is Sint Annatunnel (St. Anna’s Tunnel). People think Antwerp, Belgium is all diamonds and fashion. Except that it isn’t. Staggering at 1, 876 feet below the estuary, St. Anna’s Tunnel connects pedestrians and cyclists from the old quarter to the new town without having to rely on ferries. But the highlight of it is the pair of wooden escalators that take people down into the tunnel. Made in the 1930s, this amazing woodwork has been preserved. It indeed is a rare treat for everyone as it is a unique way of going across the other side of Antwerp. Try it when you visit the city. It’s absolutely an unforgettable experience.

Sometimes Brussels is the first city that comes to mind when we think of Belgium. But Antwerp needs your attention as well. I absolutely recommend this city for you to explore it one day. The drumbeat of Belgium, this city deserves a good portion of your travels.Veel plezier!

Reference: Wikipedia