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Belgium, they say, is boring. Whoever ‘they’ are, they obviously haven’t been to Antwerp. Belgium’s second city is fashionable, fast-paced, art loving, and more fun at night than most cities have ever been. Put aside your stereotypes, and instead grab your mayo-coated oysters, dress up to the nines, and discover what Antwerp is really all about.
It’s a small city, but packed to the rim with picturesque cobbled backstreets, and based around a delicate 16th century cathedral that’s so painfully picturesque you can’t help doing the tourist thing and snapping away from every angle. Around those backstreets, countless shops serve up sumptuous and relatively affordable cuisines out on the streets, while you’ll find yourself licking your lips around every corner, as the smell of the numerous high-class chocolate shops gets you salivating.
Make you way down to the waterfront, where striking modern architecture runs rampant, before taking a tour of the artistic side of the city. You’ll discover gothic, baroque and renaissance influences left, right and center, and you can dive into the galleries and even the home of Pieter Paul Rebens, the legendary baroque artist, whose studio is open for all to see.
Another Antwerp trademark is Diamonds; tucked away in the Jewish Quarter is the world’s largest diamond cutting industry, while elsewhere you’ll find old section of the city dedicated to African, Chinese and Turkish minorities, a fascinating relic of the city’s time as a major trading port. There are still the seedy remnants of this scene to be found in the North of Antwerp, where unsubtle red light districts are the order of the day. If you prefer your culture a little more delicate, Antwerp is also home to an impressive designer buzz, with fashionable boutique stores up to its ears.
A surprising, classy highlight that belongs at the core of any Belgian trip, then Antwerp is just too scenic to ignore, yet still manages to hide a hectic nightlife behind the pretty façade. Be assured, it’ll take all of ten minutes to dispel that ‘boring, boring Belgium’ stereotype.
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As the artistic heart of the EU, Brussels is necessarily multicultural, a vibe that’s only accentuated a feeling that the city’s always been divided – half French, half Flemish - though both halves seem to enjoy their mussels and take their ‘pomme frites’ with an unusual and hefty side of mayonnaise.
The Belgian capital even has an African quarter where you can snack on dried caterpillars, though the more obvious features are in the winding medieval alleyways of the lower city and the stately buildings and boulevards of the upper half. The famous Manneken Pis (a statue of a little boy engaged in endless urination) is the lower half’s primary attraction, while you’ll also find the ornate columns of the Grand Palace highly picture-worthy, and the multiple artistic museums (incorporating anything from cartoons to renaissance portraits) are world class. The new Magritte-museum is worth visiting. Don't miss the unique statue a few kilometres out of town centre: The Atomium. A futuristic monument what was built for the World Exposition in 1958.
The upper half, on the other hand, hides numerous parks, the glorious Royal district (which hides the Palace of Justice) and eventually leads to the bustling ambience of the ‘European District’, home to all things EU and a businesslike ambience to suit. The whole thing was polished to a glimmering shine as part of Brussels successful bid to become the European capital of culture in 2000, and to date the city’s aging buildings manage to look as shiny and new as they have in years.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Belgium without a huge array of succulent smelling chocolate shops, each home to its own long-practiced specialties and selling what invariable amounts to the richest and most addictive chocolate you’re ever likely to try. The chocolates play their role in Brussels addictive café culture, too, appearing next to your coffee on the riverside, while Brussels beer customs – another of Belgium’s alluring exports – are strong and vibrant, too.
Belgium’s Europe-wide reputation is that the country’s boring, and somehow less worthy of visiting than nearby Holland or romantic France. While Brussels certainly has a slower pace to it, there’s no denying that it’s now at the heart of European progress, and the city center and its highly personalized products are as alluring as anywhere.
Brussels is the capital of Belgium with a population of about 1 million while the population of Brussels cosmopolitan district is about 2 million. The official languages of the city are French and Dutch but those who speak French are in the majority. As a result of this, there are two names for every street and they may not sound the same.
English is also commonly spoken due to the presence of some international institutions like the European Parliament, NATO and European Commission. However, it is important for you to note that tourist or general information is not written in English. Majority of train stations make use of French and Dutch for public announcements but larger stations like Zuidstation/Gare Du Midi will include English and at times German. On trams, buses and metros, English is used at the last resort for passing across information like terminal stops and line transfers. If you think you don't understand what is being said, you should ask from those close you.
Exchange rate fluctuations can have a considerable impact on your trip budget. If your home currency has appreciated in value in the recent term over the currency of your destination you are likely to find the place inexpensive.
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When is the best time of year to go to Antwerp ? Check our average weather graph and table. If know about Antwerp then why not join our community and tell us about the climate, or use the drop box at the bottom of the page to tell us about it?
Graphic showing average weather in Antwerp in Celcius and Centimeters (Change to Farenheit and Inches)
|Month||Temp °C||Rainfall Cm||Temp °F||Rainfall Inches|
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