Antwerp

For other places with the same name, see Antwerp (disambiguation).

Antwerp (Dutch: Antwerpen, French: Anvers) is a large city and the capital of the eponymous province in the region of Flanders in Belgium. At a population of just over half a million people, it is the second largest city in Belgium (after Brussels), and it has a major European port. Due to its long and culturally rich history, the city of Antwerp houses many interesting historical buildings from different historical periods, as well as a lot of interesting museums. Antwerp is also known as the global diamond trade hub - more than 70% of all diamonds are traded in Antwerp.

Antwerp has grown to become a trendy city, attracting many Flemish and foreign artists, writers, intellectuals, and actors. This is reflected in the city's many trendy bars and shops. Antwerp is a city with many faces. While it may not be as historically preserved as Bruges or Ghent, it is a very dynamic city, offering a perfect mix of history and present-day modern life. The overwhelming friendliness of the people of Antwerp and their innate penchant for good food and good living, combined with their low stress lifestyle, makes it a desirable and relaxing place to visit.

Antwerp was historically a fortified city. Today, broad boulevards run along the former moats.

Understand

The origins of the name of Antwerp comes from "aan de werpe", which is Dutch for "at the throw", referring to where the river throws its sand. The name also has a funny anecdote saying it comes from "Hand werpen", which translated is "throwing hands". In the official flag, the castle "het Steen" and the hand of Antwerp are shown.

In the 16th century, Antwerp was one of the most important financial centers of the world, where traders from all over Europe and Asia sold and bought their goods. After the siege of Antwerp in 1585 by the Spanish, this role as a financial center was taken over by Amsterdam. Nevertheless, since the 19th century and especially the 20th century, Antwerp has made a serious economic comeback.

Get in

By plane

Thalys and regular train tickets are not interchangeable.

Please keep in mind that the regular intercity and the Thalys are run by different companies, but their trains tend to leave from the same platform. Do not jump on a Thalys train with a regular intercity ticket or vice versa. Your wallet won't like the fine

The magnificent Antwerpen Centraal is both a key railway hub and a destination in itself

By train

Belgium has an extensive rail network, and for intercity travel within Belgium, trains are always the best option. Tickets can be bought on the website of the Belgian railways and at the ticket counters in most stations. There are good train connections to and from Brussels Airport and Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. To plan your trip, you can consult the website of NMBS for national and international travels. If you cross multiple borders, it is often possible to book your entire trip at once through Deutsche Bahn.

Antwerp-Central is a major stop on the Paris-Amsterdam high-speed line. Since 2009, international trains from France and the Netherlands stop in Antwerp-Central station only, and not anymore in Antwerp-Berchem. Through Brussels-South railway station, there are also high-speed connections to other destinations in France with TGV, or destinations in Germany with ICE. Real-time information on rail traffic, delays, disruptions, arrivals and departures at every Belgian station can be easily found on RailTime. If you have a mobile internet connection available, the BeTrains app can also be of use.

By bus

Antwerp has Eurolines (at Van Stralenstraat 8) and Ecolines (at Berchem station square) offices with buses coming from all over Europe.

Get around

Public transportation

A De Lijn tram in Antwerp

The public transportation company De Lijn has a dense network of buses, trams, and pre-metro (underground tram) connections in the city and wide area around it. You can buy cards of €14 (10 fares) at fixed points in town or buy them inside buses. If you don't have a card you pay more inside the bus (€3.00 per fare). For one fare, you can ride up to an hour within the entire city center limits. If you want to travel out of the city center you have to pay more for the extra zones travelled.

The central bus station is the Franklin Roosevelt plaats, near the central train station. Most buses leave from there or from the train station. Maps of the bus/tram network in the entire region can be found in PDF format here .

Taxi and cars

Taxis are available, but they can be quite expensive. They await customers at specific locations around town (waving your hand will seldom work) like the Groenplaats or the railway station. You can recognize these places by an orange TAXI sign. The prices are fixed in the taximeter.

Driving in Antwerp is not as difficult as many big cities in the world, but crossroads can seem very chaotic for foreigners. There are few free parking spaces, but many spaces where you have to pay (on the street or in underground car parks). The underground car parks are well-signposted. The prices are typically €2 per hour.

There are many one-way roads, that can make it difficult to get to a specific place. Try to park your car as close as possible and go on foot.

By bicycle

Velo bicycles at a bikesharing station

The city has many special areas for cyclists, and cycling is easy and comfortable in Antwerp. Most one-way roads can be accessed both ways. Make sure to lock your bike to a fixed object, however, or it will be stolen! Around town there are a few places that are specially prepared for hosting bicycles for free, like at the Groenplaats.

Antwerp's bike-sharing scheme is called Velo. You can get a day pass for these bikes in the Central Station and pick up your bike at more than 80 places in Antwerp. The first 15 minutes are free, then the price gradually increases. Bicycles can also be rented at several places in town like Ligfiets, Windroos, Fietsdokter (verschransingsstraat), or Fietshaven (government initiative, under the central station).

On foot

Most things to see are near or within the Boulevards, the half-moon of avenues where there were once 16th century city-walls. This old town center, with a diameter of about 1.5 km, can be walked, and there is also excellent public transport. The centre is densely signposted to aid those discovering it on foot .

By horse tram

Horse tram (paardentram) leaves from the Grote Markt every hour. It is an approximately 40 minutes / 1.5 mile ride through the city.

See

Centre

The Grote Markt with the Stadhuis
De Groenplaats

Museums and galleries

Plantin Moretus Library

Churches

Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedraal towering over the Grote Markt

Animal interest

Other buildings of note

Rubens House, Garden view

South of Antwerp

Since the restoration a couple of years ago, the south of the city is known as the trendy part. The centre of this piece of the city is a huge square called de gedempte zuiderdokken which simply means, 'the filled-up southern docks'. In the sixties, this was an abandoned trade dock. They filled up the dock in an attempt to expand the city. The high crime rate in the region made it a very cheap place to live. This was a blessing for the local art world, which started to flourish, making the region trendy and safe over the years. Today, it is known as a "yuppie stronghold".

The MUHKA

Do

Take the Sint-Annatunnel under the Schelde...
...for vistas of Antwerp from the left bank

Guided tours and cruises

Festivals

Buy

The magnificent Stadtsfeestzaal
Diamonds are charming, but the diamond shopping area in Antwerp is less so

Learn

The Hogere Zeevaartschool (Maritime Academy)

Antwerp has several colleges and a university.

Due to very strict language requirements imposed by the Flemish government, all Bachelor courses are offered in Dutch only (except for the Maritime Academy which enjoys a special international status). However, the University of Antwerp currently offers 9 fully English-taught Master programmes, 7 advanced Master programmes, and 7 postgraduate degrees, in topics ranging from Linguistics and Computer Science to Marine Transport .

Antwerp hosts over 30000 students, and therefore boasts a vibrant student life that also has many traditional aspects. Well-connected in the center of Europe, offering a varied city day- and nightlife, and having a very reasonable cost of living compared to the surrounding capitals, it's a popular destination for Erasmus students. Current and prospective Erasmus students should get in touch with ESN Antwerp , part of the global Erasmus Student Network and very active in organizing activities to help international students find their way around.

Eat

Interior of Antwerp's Cathedral

Any time

Lunch

Dinner

Drink

Wherever you are in Antwerp, you will always be near a pub or another drinking facility. Not surprising in the city that has the most pubs per capita in the world. The pubs do not have a closing hour.

Drinks originating here are De Koninck (commonly called "Bolleke") beer, and Elixir d'Anvers – a liquor based on plants.

Clubs

Sleep

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget under €65
Mid-range €65-120
Splurge over €120

Budget

Hotels

Other accommodation options

Mid-range

The Park Inn is just one of the many hotels in Konigin Astridplein, next to the Antwerpen Centraal station

Chain hotels

Independent and boutique hotels

Splurge

The art nouveau Hilton is a historic landmark

Connect

Some cafés have free wireless internet, but don't write it on the door for whatever reason. Others will charge for Internet access.

Many hotels, including the Radisson, have free/included internet. If you come in from the street with a laptop, they may let you use it for the price of a few drinks at their bar. The Fon initiative has also some members living in and around Antwerp providing often free connectivity.

If you're a student or member of a university, college or research institute elsewhere in the world, you can probably connect for free to the eduroam Wi-Fi network for higher education , in and near most buildings of the University of Antwerp or any of the Colleges. Ask IT services at your home institution whether it's part of eduroam, and if so, ask them for a manual to setup your machine for connections elsewhere.

Stay safe

Most parts of Antwerp are safe, but some neighborhoods are to be avoided in the evening, especially the area around De Coninckplein and the neighborhoods of Borgerhout, Seefhoek and the Schipperskwartier. Still, these neighbourhoods have a very lively atmosphere and so are definitely worth a visit during the day.

Moreover, it is of utmost importance to lock your bike properly if left outside on the street throughout the city. If you need police assistance, the direct police number is 101. If you need a nonurgent police inquiry or the most nearby police station you can dial 0800/12312 for free. Most police officers in Antwerp are friendly and professional.

Like most of the rest of Europe, the number for emergencies (ambulance, police and fire) is 112.

Go next

Antwerp is a key railway hub on the high-speed line from the Netherlands to France, so you can get relatively quickly and easily not only around Belgium, but also to its two neighbours.

Belgium

Getting around Belgium is relatively easy from Antwerp, as the country is small and featuring one of the densest railway networks in the world. Some of the more popular destinations that can be visited on a day trip from Antwerp are:

Netherlands

France

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, March 26, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.