Antwerp, Belgium

Grey heavy skies and piercing wind had met us in Antwerp and accompanied through the day that we spent there. But the weather could not take away from the harmony of the impression that the city makes - Antwerp radiates bourgeois affluence and prosperity in the ways only the Old World and old money can. Content dames in mink fur coats and their gentlemen strolling through the city's streets belong to the early 19th century more than to the age of Facebook. Streets of high-end department stores, fashion boutiques, and tea houses added to the dignified air of nobility.
The city's Central train station where we arrived (lavishly decorated with marble and limestone, painted in gold is a work of art and architecture in itself) let us into the city that pulsated with life. We went up Meir - the main shopping street to the House of Rubens - a palace-like residence and studio where Rubens worked and lived from 1616 until his death in 1640.

Inside the train station
Brabo fountain
The most striking area of the city is its historic centre that showers you with architectural masterpieces of the three side-by-side squares:

Grote Markt  (City Square) - with the Town Hall, Guild Houses and Brabo fountain. Brabo - a mythical hero, who according to an Antwerp Legend, fought the giant Antigoon. Antigoon demanded a high toll for each ship that wanted to enter the city. If the ship's crew did not want to pay the toll, their hands were cut off. The hero Brabo fought the giant, cut its hand and head and threw the hand in the river. The fountain's statue depicts Brabo throwing the giant's hand in the river Scheldt and symbolizes the free passage through the river.

Groenplaats (The Green place) - is a square surrounded by cafes which offers a beautiful view of the Cathedral of our Lady. 
Handschoenmarkt in front of the Cathedral gives you a breathtaking close-up on the intricate lace of the Cathedral's architecture.

Groenplaats with a view of the Cathedral

The Brabo legend comes up once again at Steen  - the city's 800 year-old castle. It was built in the 12c and altered numerous times. It mostly served as a jail till 1862 when it became a museum. Currently, it hosts a maritime museum.

Brabo at Steen
Entrance to the Steen Castle

A broad walkway along the Scheldt river gives a great view of the marina that must be very popular in summer. The street that runs alongside the river has quite a few interesting architectural pieces, including MAS museum. 

Historically, the city went through waves of economic booms, mainly thanks to its changing position as a primary port. Today, it is the centre of diamond industry, fashion, and entertainment. The Diamond District stores' windows threatened to become my main attraction for the day, but the rest of the group didn't share my enthusiasm. So the Big Nomad went off on a photographic tour of the city while the Little Nomads and I visited the Diamond Museum.

Antwerp is the last Flandres destination this year. It added a different note to the number of well-preserved Flemish medieval cities we visited. All of them are striking and distinct, but unlike others, Antwerp is also full of life.

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