Antwerp is a pocket-sized city with a very international character. Part of this is due to the fact that people living in Antwerp are often multilingual, or at least bilingual, and multicultural. Still, locals speak the Brabantian-Antwerp dialect of Dutch.
Because the city is situated in Flanders, Antwerp is a quite different city than Belgium. The French culture of the capital is not replicated in Antwerp — although this is not to say that its residents do not speak French. As half of the population speaks at least three foreign languages, you will definitely be able to get by with Dutch or English, and French will also be understood.
Living in Antwerp is like walking through a living history museum. About one-fifth of the historic city center is a pedestrian zone, so you can enjoy the ancient town traffic-free. Take in the Grote Market and Groenplaats, which are popular tourist spots but essential experiences, even if you are living in the city on a long-term basis.
Antwerp has a famous cultural past: two of its most important figures are Christophe Plantin and Peter Paul Rubens. Rubens, especially, is known around the world as a highly distinguished artist, but not many people are aware that he lived in Antwerp. His works can be found in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (Koninklijk Museum Voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen), as well as in the Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal), and many other Antwerp churches.
If you want to enjoy some cultural highlights, the Vlaamse Opera House and the Bourla Theater are both hubs of performing arts in the city. If architecture is more your thing, Antwerp’s edifices range from Gothic to postmodern, making the city a real treat for architecture buffs!
The city’s zoological garden, Antwerp Zoo, is one of Europe’s oldest. Thanks to renovations, it is now also one of the most modern on the continent and ideal for a day out with children. If you prefer something a little more style oriented, check out the city’s fashion scene — after all, a life in Antwerp means living in the Belgian fashion capital. The ModeNatie is the epicenter of the fashion district: it is home to the Flanders Fashion Institute (FFI), the Fashion Museum (MoMu), and the Fashion Department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Shopping, therefore, is one of this city’s favorite hobbies!
The biggest modern indoor shopping center is the Grand Bazar. Antwerp has always had a tradition of open markets. After you’ve settled in, you should get out and experience the range of daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly markets selling everything from food and flowers to exotic birds and North African delicacies.
Last but not least, Antwerp is also the diamond capital of the world: in 2011 the local industry turned over 56 billion USD; it directly and indirectly employs around 34,000 people; and around 80% of the world’s rough diamonds and half the world’s cut diamonds are traded in Antwerp. There is a square mile around the Central Station, the Diamantkwartier, which is packed with about 380 workshops and around 3,500 brokers, merchants, and diamond-cutters. Make sure you take a look at diamonds featuring the renowned “Antwerp Cut”.
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