Diamonds are a girl's best friend. This phrase is true, particularly in Antwerp for the metropolis is truly a shop-a-holic's paradise as over 70% of all diamonds are traded in the city. Not surprisingly, the diamond market is the centre of the economic section in the country as the megalopolis from Belgium is famous for being the 'world's leading diamond city'. Apart from diamonds, Antwerp is blessed with a powerful cultural legacy, glorious heritage and is very much in touch with its historical roots.
Since Antwerp is known for its shimmering diamonds, one can catch a glimpse of the Diamond Pavilion by visiting its temporary home at the Museum Aan de Stroom (MAS). Ever since it was being launched in 2011, the MAS has turned this once abandoned dockside into a bustling arts hub. It houses some of the city's most incredible exhibitions as well as a Michelin-starred restaurant. Built of red stone and curved glass, this mammoth building is a prominent landmark and showcases Antwerp's illustrious history in an interactive format.
At the centre of Antwerp's Old Town is the beautiful Grote Markt. It is renowned to be one of the city's top attractions. During summer, the cobbled squares are laden with tourists, who visit to view the majestic Renaissance-style Town Hall, flanked on both sides by a row of 16th-century guild homes. When it comes to religious shrines, be sure to visit the Cathedral of our Lady - Europe's tallest Gothic church. It was finished in 1521 and is decorated with Rubens masterpieces of which the Raising of the Cross and the Descent from the Cross are well-known.
Some of the museums worth visiting are: Plantin Moretus Museum (home to the world's first industrial printing works), Middelheim Museum (collection of 400 sculptures; museum meshes contemporary art with traditional works from accomplished artists like Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore and Rik Wouters), Fashion Museum (permanent collection of clothing, lace, embroidery, fabrics and artisans' tools) and Museum of Contemporary Art of Antwerp (extensive collection of art from 1970 to present day).
One of the must-see attractions in Antwerp is the former residence of celebrated artist Sir Peter Paul Rubens. It is now a museum devoted to the iconic baroque painter which exhibits some of Ruben's personal possessions as well as his art work. If you're travelling with children, then one of the must-see exhibits is the Antwerp Zoo. It is considered to be one of the best zoos in Europe and the animals are kept in its natural environment. Over 6000 animals are housed in the zoo, including rare breeds like white rhino, okapi and mountain gorilla.
When it comes to shopping, apart from looking out for sparkling diamonds in the city's bustling diamond district, there is abundant designer boutiques and fashionable high street outlets. One can see why Antwerp is often referred to as 'Belgium's shopping city'.
As for cuisine, be sure to sample crunchy Philips Biscuits: the historic Antwerp Hand Cookie. Chocoholics would enjoy digging into delicious and mouth-watering Belgian chocolates. Don't forget to gorge on lip-smackingly tasty waffles for breakfast.
The stay options in Antwerp are abundant with the best luxury hotels, swanky rental apartments and cheap accommodations available. The tourists can decide which kind they prefer based on their taste and accommodations.
Antwerp experiences temperate Maritime climate. The best time to visit would be during late spring and early autumn when the temperatures are pleasant and crowds are less.