1.4 Antwerp: Art, Fashion and Diamond Luxury

Antwerp cathedral and Rubens

Antwerp, founded and developed on the banks of the river Scheldt, is Belgium’s second largest city, Europe’s second largest harbour and has kept many memories of its rich past. 

The city is linked with the world-famous painter Pierre-Paul Rubens who lived here in the 17th century as well as for the diamond trade and fashion design.

Near the sweeping Scheldt river you can see the printing house and the residence of the Plantin Moretus family. This unique museum (building and collections) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The oldest printing presses in the world are there as if ready to roll (visit optional).

The main construction of the Market Square is the mighty Renaissance Town hall surrounded by numerous guilds’ houses.

You can also visit (optional) the Cathedral of Our Lady, crowned with a unique Gothic steeple, where renowned paintings are on display, among them two of Rubens’ masterworks: “The Elevation of the Cross” and” The Descent from the Cross”.

A little further on you will stroll through the Meir, a pedestrian shopping area with some hidden treasures like the Rubens House.

The diamond district is located near the Central Station, one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world. This area is also the Jewish quarter of Antwerp. The presence of many ‘Hassidic’ Jewish people living beside the Indian Jain Community and trading together gives the city a flair that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

If you decide to eat in Antwerp, you will find lots of good restaurants offering Belgian cuisine.

Your guide will tell you that Antwerp’s name derives from an old legend about a giant’s hand (Ant) being cut off and thrown (werpen) into a river.  That is why you can see cookies or chocolates in the shape of a hand all over the city.

Time: 9 hours departing from and returning to Brussels.

Or the city sightseeing can start from the centre on the basis of a two-hour city tour, which can be extended on the day. 

Potential museums or visits to be added to the tour:

  • Cathedral of Our Lady

With the highest gothic steeple in the country, the Cathedral is a real treasure. It holds an impressive collection of major art works with a series of paintings by Rubens including  two of his masterpieces “The Elevation of the Cross” and “The Descent from the Cross”.


  • Rubenshuis

The house of Rubens where he and his family lived for over 25 years. It is here that he created his best works. Alongside the impressive art collection, a charming garden and, of course, the artist’s studio.


  • Plantin Moretus Museum – UNESCO Heritage

This first museum listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site is known globally for its collections of typographic material, library, objets d’art and an impressive graphic collection from the 15th until the 18th century. It contains the world’s oldest printing press from around 1600.


  • DIVA

DIVA | Antwerp Home of Diamonds is a unique public experience focusing on the magical world of diamonds, jewelers and goldsmithing. 

Hundreds of precious artefacts from DIVA’s collection will astonish and perhaps seduce you.