Although there are many fascinating sites in Antwerp to visit, I've selected ten enjoyable things to do on a leisurely one-day visit to the city.
The Flemish master built this mansion in 1610. Unlike many artists, Rubens managed to amass a fortune from his artwork. He was a masterful businessman and artist! Most half-day tours include a tour of the home, which has a wonderful studio and garden.
Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, and most women who love diamonds will know that Antwerp is one of the major diamond centers of the world, with over 12,000 diamond cutters and polishers at work in the Diamond Quarter. Because of the threat of terrorism, access to much of the diamond district is restricted, and the outside of the bland buildings certainly does not match the wonders within. However, Diamondland loves tourists and vice versa. Watch your credit cards--the wares are tempting!
The Onze Lieve Vrouwkathedraal, as it is known in Flemish, looms over the city and is an easy walk from the cruise ship pier. The cathedral took over 200 years to construct (1352-1584) and is filled with beautiful stained glass windows and some marvelous Rubens altarpieces.
The Town Hall (Stadhuis) overlooks this large market square. The Grote Markt is the heart of the old town Antwerp and has a wonderful fountain in its center that depicts the legend of Antwerp's founding. The square and surrounding market and streets are full of fascinating shops and outdoor cafes. Old town Antwerp is a great place to spend a summer afternoon.
Need I say more? Belgian cuisine is much like French, and you will find over 400 kinds of beer, Belgian fries (don't call them French fries), and steamed mussels in the late summer season. Antwerp is definitely a city for food lovers, and cafes of all shapes, sizes and prices abound. I love eating outdoors, and we enjoyed sitting in the cafes, snacking and drinking beer while the world strolled by.
If you know what the words Neuhaus, Godiva, Leonidas, Wittamer, and Nihoul have in common, you are probably a chocoholic. If you are a chocoholic, you will love Antwerp. If you have trouble making a decision, just wait until you enter a chocolate shop and have to select among the wide variety of pralines (filled chocolates).
About a hundred years ago, the rich and famous of Antwerp went wild and began trying to "out-do" each other in this residential neighborhood. The result is an eclectic blend of Art Nouveau, baroque, neo-classical, and neo-Renaissance architecture. No zoning here!
The Middelheim Open Air Sculpture Museum (Openluchtmuseum voor Beeldhouwkunst Middelheim) is just south of Antwerp but is an interesting respite if you want to escape the crowds. Over 300 sculptures by famous artists such as Rodin and Henry Moore are scattered throughout the attractive park.
This medieval castle is over 1000 years old and sits on the river bank near the cruise ship pier. The Scheldt River is over 500 yards wide near the Steen, and there is a popular walking path along the river that starts at the Steen.