1 Sep 2014

Antwerp: Diamonds, Rubens and Fashion

This September we are celebrating all things Dutch and all things about Antwerp as our new destination of the month.

Source: malloryontravel.com

Antwerp, or Antwerpen in Dutch, is the second most populous city in Belgium, after the capital Brussels, with a population of 502, 604. It is the capital of Belgium's Antwerp Province, the northernmost province of Flanders and Belgium. It is located on the River Scheldt which is connected to the North Sea. This little city is undoubtedly best known for three things: Rubens, Diamonds and Fashion.

A Brief History

Source: studiofluit.tumblr.com

By the end of the 15th century, Antwerp had reached a pinnacle in importance, thanks to international trading and it soon became the sugar capital of Europe. During the first half of the 16th century, Antwerp was the richest city in Europe and consequently became the second largest city in Europe north of the Alps with a population of 200,000 people. At this time Antwerp accounted for 40% of world trade.

It was not until the 19th century that the city was taken by Belgian insurgents, while they met resistance from the Dutch stronghold, the Belgians successfully captured the city in 1832. They subsequently built fortresses around the city as it was vital for the survival of the Belgian state. It was obviously a very important factor in world war II due to the port which enabled allies to bring supplies. Since the 1990's the city has been re-branded as a world class fashion centre


Antwerp has had a strong artistic reputation since the 17th century, thanks to the School of Painting with members such as Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens and the Two Twniers amongst others. More recently, it is known as a rising city of fashion, producing designers such as the Antwerp Six. The city has a cult status in the fashion world thanks to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Since the 1980's, several graduates of the Belgian Royal Academy of Fine Arts have gone on to become internationally successful.

The Antwerp Six. Source: www.vingle.net

Antwerp's local produce is also rather well known. Every year, during the month of August, the Bollekesfeest takes place which is a show case for Antwerp's best local produce. Products include Bolleke (an amber beer brewed locally), Mokatine sweets, Elixir D'Anvers (a liquor) and Poolster pickled herring. 

Monuments and Places to visit

Antwerp Zoo. Source: www.zooantwerpen.be
  • Antwerp Zoo - Founded in 1843, this zoo is home to over 6,000 animals (more than 700 different species). It is one of the oldest zoos in the world and carries out some very important conservation work.
  • 'Cathedral of our Lady' - Building on this site started in the 14th century and was not complete until 1518 and it is still the tallest building in the city. It is home to four works by Rubens: 'The descent from the cross', 'The elevation of the cross', 'The resurrection of Christ' and 'The assumption'.
  • Zuremborg - This is a late 19th century Belle Epoque neighbourhood. It is one of the most original belle époque urban expansion areas in Europe and all of the houses are listed as national heritage

If you have any questions, or would like more information about our Dutch courses in Antwerp or elsewhere, do not hesitate to contact us!

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