Antwerpen – The Diamond of Belgium

By Mike Kerr

Arriving in Antwerp by train is nothing short of a magical experience. My favourite part about Antwerpen-Centraal rail station is how it can seem like a trip through time from the bottom to the top level. When you arrive on the platform the sharp lines of the steel and concrete features might deceive you into thinking you have just arrived in a modern metropolis, much like a North American city with skyscrapers and the like; the LED signs, and internally lit pillars give the space a very hip vibe. Soon after you start heading up, the next level starts to feel a little older with more brick and tile work; glass railings surround an opening allowing you to look back down or further up through the station.

Ascending to the top level, the modernity of the bottom is lost in the stunning beauty of the ornate concrete walls and iron and glass domed structure. A beautiful clock is the center of attention, and will lead you towards the main exit of the station and out to the streets of Antwerp. Of every subway, airport, and central train station I have been in, I have never been as captivated by any as much as this. Passing through from Brussels on our way to Amsterdam my first time in Europe, the modern bottom floor almost got me off of the train, would I not have needed another ticket just to see it. One will be challenged to find as eclectically designed, or as impossibly beautiful a transit station in the world (and this is just the beginning of the city!)

Right outside of Antwerp’s train station, you will find two of the cities main tourist attractions, both the Antwerp Zoo and the Diamond Museum are ideal for families and those interested in natural sciences. The Antwerp Zoo is the largest zoo in Belgium, and one of the oldest zoos in the world. As far as world zoos go, this one is worth seeing as it boasts a massive 6,000 animals on 26 acres of land. The Diamond Museum is right around the corner where you can explore the world of diamonds from the macroscopic and historical, right down to the microscopic features like the molecular structure. If the museum inspires you to buy some gems for yourself or a loved one, be sure to head over to the diamond district with your new knowledge of the precious stones in mind.

Antwerp has some incredible and jaw dropping old architecture, the age of the city has lent to incredible sights for tourists; many buildings in the Historical District are topped with gold statues, some depict the service or good which would have been provided there when the building was erected. For those buildings without, the design and ornate coverings are still there to draw you in.

A number of beautiful fountains which are still working today line the streets, together with the statues you will see, they tell a bit of the history of this great city, and the giant Antigoon whose hand was thrown into the river by the hero Brabo.The end of the historical district will bring you to the town hall, and a massive open fountain which shows the victory of the hero Brabo. The whole square is filled with cafes that are make a great atmosphere for a break, and you can get some pictures of the surrounding Guild houses with their own unique gold adornments. Just behind the square is the Cathedral of Our Lady; be sure to take a look inside for the amazing vaulted ceilings, stained glass, and religious art pieces. Only one of the five planned spires was completed, but its height dominates the city, and stands taller than any building around.

Steven and I finished of the day at the port, where we were lucky enough to find a plaque explaining how Canadian troops had managed to help secure and resist attacks on the port alongside Belgian troops before advancing onward with their offensive.

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