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Antwerp is a beautiful city in Belgium, located around 35 to 45 minutes by train from Brussels, the nation's capital. Compared to giant cities like New York, Paris, Sydney or Mumbai, Antwerp is very small in size but it is the second largest city in Belgium. Most buildings are old but a treat to eyes – total architectural wonders.
The original name of Antwerp is Antwerpen in Dutch (Antwerpen = Ant (hand) + werpen (to throw), the local language. Antwerp is its adapted English name. In French it is called Anvers.
Legend has it that there lived a giant called Antigoon near the river Scheldt who did not allow people to cross it without paying a toll to him. Those who refused, had to lose their right hands. He used to throw the right hands into the river after chopping them off. Then one fine day, there came a hero named Brabo who chopped off this giant’s right hand and threw it far away. It fell at a place where today there is a gigantic statue of a man’s right hand, sitting pretty. It is surely an eye catcher in one of the city’s busiest shopping streets – Meir.
Antwerp is called diamond city as some of the world's finest diamonds are produced here and more than 70% of all diamonds in the world are traded here as well. One can find many Indians settled in Antwerp mostly from business community.
Antwerp also has one of Europe's busiest container ports, ranking third behind Rotterdam and Hamburg in 2007. Of all the ports on the North Sea, Antwerp is the most central vis-à-vis the largest European production and consumption centres.
The Sterckshof Silver Museum is located about 20-25 minutes from the central train station by bus. The museum is in a picturesque castle called Sterckshof. The museum is full of antique silver artifacts. One floor has beautifully crafted cutlery, knifes, spoons, plates, bowls, tea/coffee set etc, all of different sizes. The lower floor has different theme based rooms like the bedroom theme will have clocks, mirror frames, photo frames, clothes hanger etc. The study room would contain different shaped pen stands, cigars, lamps etc. You name it, they have it. For security reasons, the photography is strictly prohibited.
Diamond Museum - The museum is adjacent to the station. This multi-storied museum is the largest diamond museum in the world. A minimum of one full day is required to do justice to it.
It is also called ‘interactive museum’ as there is an audio-visual guide which enables you to ‘interact’ with the museum in the selected languages of our choice and at our own pace. It is an ‘image and sound’ system which takes visitors through the entire procedure of diamond processing – from mines to end product including training, teaching etc. at various levels. They have diamond jewelries from the sixteenth century till the present day including a replica of the British Crown Jewels containing two of the world’s largest diamonds- the Koh-I-Noor and the Cullinan I. The museum also has a section which shows us the qualities of diamonds, such as color, hardness, refraction of light etc. On some days we can see diamond cutters at work too.
Antwerp has Europe’s second largest and world’s fourth largest harbour. Of all the ports on the North Sea, Antwerp is the most central vis-à-vis the largest European production and consumption centers. Although the open North Sea is about 60 kilometres away from Antwerp, the river is so large that sea-going vessels and large oil tankers can sail to deliver their products in the vast port area of the city.
The most popular time to visit Brussels is between May and September when weather is at its' best. Temperatures are generally around 22 °C during the day from June to August and nights around 15 °C. Like most of the European capitals, this is also the busiest time of the year so booking in advance is recommended, especially during July and August. The winter months are a much quieter time to visit Brussels, but you will have to come prepared for colder conditions with temperatures just around zero. Snow is possible but not really common. Most of Brussels' rain falls during these months as well, though summers can see heavy rainshowers after hot conditions during the day.
Antwerp airport (IATA: ANR) is a small airport catering mostly to business travellers, as due to the length its runway it can only be served by small aircraft. There are regular flights to business destinations such as London or Geneva, some holiday flights, as well as sizeable unscheduled traffic (mainly private and chartered business jets). The flip side of the small size of the airport is that both arrival and departure procedures are very quick compared to large hubs. There is a regular bus from the airport to the center and a taxi costs around €10.
Antwerp-Central is a major stop on the Paris-Amsterdam high-speed line. Since 2009, international trains from France and the Netherlands stop in Antwerp-Central station only, and not anymore in Antwerp-Berchem. Through Brussels-South railway station, there are also high-speed connections to other destinations in France with TGV, or destinations in Germany with ICE.
The river Schelde, an important waterway, connects the Port of Antwerp with the North Sea. The Albert Canal connects the Scheldt in Antwerp with the Meuse and Liège. Other canals are the Canal Dessel – Kwaadmechelen, Schoten – Turnhout – Dessel, and Herentals – Bocholt which flows into the Nete canal.
Taxis are available, but they can be quite expensive. They await customers at specific locations around town (waving your hand will seldom work) like the Groenplaats or the railway station. You can recognize these places by an orange TAXI sign. The prices are fixed in the taximeter.
Driving in Antwerp is not as difficult as many big cities in the world, but crossroads can seem very chaotic for foreigners. There are few free parking spaces, but many spaces where you have to pay (on the street or in underground car parks). The underground car parks are well-signposted. The prices are typically €2 per hour.
There are many one-way roads, that can make it difficult to get to a specific place. Try to park your car as close as possible and go on foot.
The public transportation company De Lijn has a dense network of buses, trams, and pre-metro (underground tram) connections in the city and wide area around it. You can buy cards of €14 (10 fares) at fixed points in town or buy them inside buses. If you don't have a card you pay more inside the bus (€3.00 per fare). For one fare, you can ride up to an hour within the entire city center limits. If you want to travel out of the city center you have to pay more for the extra zones travelled.
The central bus station is the Franklin Roosevelt plaats, near the central train station. Most buses leave from there or from the train station.
Most things to see are near or within the Boulevards, the half-moon of avenues where there were once 16th century city-walls. This old town center, with a diameter of about 1.5 km, can be walked, and there is also excellent public transport. The centre is densely signposted to aid those discovering it on foot.
The city has many special areas for cyclists, and cycling is easy and comfortable in Antwerp. Most one-way roads can be accessed both ways. Make sure to lock your bike to a fixed object, however, or it will be stolen! Around town there are a few places that are specially prepared for hosting bicycles for free, like at the Groenplaats.
Antwerp's bike-sharing scheme is called Velo. You can get a day pass for these bikes in the Central Station and pick up your bike at more than 80 places in Antwerp. The first 15 minutes are free, then the price gradually increases. Bicycles can also be rented at several places in town like Ligfiets, Windroos, Fietsdokter (verschransingsstraat), or Fietshaven (government initiative, under the central station).
Apart from regular Dutch-French cuisine, there are plenty of Indian restaurants to cater to Indian population.
Try some world's finest beer, the Belgian beer. There are hundreds of examples.
Wherever you are in Antwerp, you will always be near a pub or another drinking facility. Not surprising in the city that has the most pubs per capita in the world. The pubs do not have a closing hour.
Drinks originating here are De Koninck (commonly called "Bolleke") beer, and Elixir d'Anvers – a liquor based on plants.
|Hotel National||Nationalestraat 38-40||HOTEL||79|
|Diamonds and Pearls||Pelgrimsstraat 26||Guesthouse||-|
|Hotel Postiljon||Blauwmoezelstraat 6||Hotel||-|
|Hotel Rubenshof||Amerikalei 115-117||hotel||85|
|Mabuhay Antwerp Bed and Breakfast||Draakstraat 32 B2018||Guesthouse||-|
|Alias Youthhostel||Provinciestraat 256 B 2018||HOSTEL||79|
|Antwerp Central Youth Hostel||Bogaardeplein 1||HOSTEL||83|
|Atelier20||St.Paulusstraat 20 Antwerp||Guesthouse||-|
|Coco-Mat Residence||De Keyserlei 11||APARTMENT||-|
|Pure Sauna Hotel||Mechelsesteenweg 380/5 Lier||HOTEL||-|
|Via Stefania Apartment||Stefaniestraat 52||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Middelheim Guesthouse||Prins Boudewijnlaan 139 Wilrijk||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Hannus Ship Antwerpen||Sint Aldegondiskaai B C||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Edge House||Rijke Beukelaarstraat||HOSTEL||-|
Internet is widely available in Belgium, but internet cafés are not common, because most people have internet access at home or through wifi. There are multiple internet access points in all cities and it is free in most libraries. Also in multiple gas stations, train stations and diners on the highways there is Wi-Fi available. Many cafés offer free Wi-Fi nowadays and if you can't find any you can always fall back on Quick or McDonalds which both offer free Wi-Fi.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to Belgium is: + 32. To make an international call from Belgium, the code is 00.
Belgium has a modern telephone system with nationwide cellular telephone coverage. Belgium uses the GSM standard of cellular phones (900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands) used in most of the world outside of the U.S. There are three main companies (Proximus, Mobistar and Base, and a large number of MVNOs) offering wireless service. The country is almost totally covered. If you stay for some time, it may be advisable to buy a pre-paid cell phone card that you can use in any phone that supports the GSM standard on the 900/1800 MHz bands. Then incoming calls and SMSes are free. You can get sim cards for the three main companies in dedicated phone shops. Sim cards from the MVNOs are readily available at supermarkets (Carrefour, Aldi, Colruyt to name a few all have their own brand). All networks provide UMTS and HSDPA (3G) mobile internet coverage, and are rolling out a 4G network, mainly in the big cities and eventually in the whole country.
De Post is the national postal service of Belgium, with Dutch, French and German versions. They offer generally fast, reliable services. It's a relatively expensive service though, with normal domestic post (cards, letters etc) up to 50 grams costing €0.61. To other European countries it costs €1.03 and outside Europe it's €1.34. At the post offices, you can buy stamps and they have other services as well, including international money transfers. The opening times of post offices are 9:00am or 10:00am until 4:00pm or 5:00pm, depending on whether it's the main central one or a smaller branch or in towns. Some of them might be open on Saturday mornings, and remember that quite a few still close for lunch break! De Post also offers the sending of parcels, but you could also use private international companies like UPS, TNT or DHL, as they offer roughly the same services and prices, but are generally faster.
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