Antwerp is a bustling port town and the second-largest city in Belgium, with a population of around 500,000. It is located on a large harbour (the biggest in Europe after Rotterdam) on the River Scheldt. Antwerp is known for its stunning historic architecture, much of which dates from the city’s “golden era” in the 16th and 17th centuries, or even earlier. The city centre is full of old houses with intricate and beautiful façades, old churches, historic monuments such as statues and old wells, and charming cobblestoned squares. Antwerp is also known as the diamond centre of the world, and is full of jewellers specialising in top-class diamonds, particularly in the Jewish neighbourhood near to the main train station. The city is also full of excellent and renowned musuems, as well as concert halls, theatres, and galleries, and is an up-and-coming centre for fashion. Another specialty is Antwerp’s excellent Belgian beers, available in cozy pubs, some of which serve hundreds of varieties of beer.
Antwerp has a mild, maritime climate, with temperatures typically ranging from 0°C (32°F) - 24°C (75°F) over the course of the year. The city has a fairly wet climate, and rain can be expected at any time of year, though most rain falls in December, July and August. Summers tend to be pleasant and warm, yet never overly hot. Throughout the year, it is usually never sunny for very many days in a row. Winters are usually fairly mild, with the temperature rarely dropping below freezing. Occasionally, however, the winter weather can be quite harsh, with snow, ice and high winds.
The primary language spoken in Antwerp is Flemish, the Belgian version of Dutch. The people of Antwerp also generally speak some English and French, and many also speak German.
The main religion in Belgium is Roman-Catholicism, though it is generally a very secular country. About 47% of the country identifies as Catholic, and Islam is the second most common religion, making up about 4% of the population. Antwerp has many Jews however, and is home to one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe. There are also people in the city from other faiths, including Protestants, Greek Orthodox Christians, and Hindus.
The currency used in Belgium is the Euro. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, € 0.50, € 0.20, € 0.10, € 0.05, € 0.02 and € 0.01.
Service charges are included in the prices in pubs and restaurants, as well as in taxi prices. It is not required to tip in a restaurant, but it is common practice to round up the bill. Even for very good service, a tip of € 1 or 2 is generally sufficient. Porters and taxi drivers do not require a tip unless you receive particularly outstanding service, or one of them goes out of his eay to help you. If you do tip a taxi, only give a euro or two, or round up the bill. A tip that is a percentage of the bill is never necessary. Restroom attendants do often expect a small tip (20 or 50 cents), and doormen in clubs may try to get you to give them a small tip on the way out.
Sales tax is always included in the store prices in Belgium, and usually also in the prices of services and accomodation. Tourists from outside of the EU can get the VAT they spend refunded in some cases, when they spend € 125 or more in the same store on the same day. In order to receive this refund, the goods must be shown to a customs official when departing the country, along with some paperwork that you receive from the store and then fill out. The items that you’ve purchased must leave the country within three months to qualify for the refund.
The public telephones in Antwerp accept both coins and phone cards. If a phone has stickers on it of different flags, it can also be used to make international calls by using operator assistance. Phone cards can be bought from post office, phone shops, train stations, book stores, newspaper stands, and most supermarkets. The Belgacom Phone Pass can be used from all types of phones: pay phones, landlines, and mobile phones.
The country code forBelgium is +32 and the area code for Antwerp is 03. To call Antwerp from abroad, dial any country exit codes, then 0032 3, followed by the local number.
Antwerp has many internet cafes that are easy to find within the city centre. Many regular cafes and other public places also offer free wifi to customers.
Fire Brigade: 100
In case of poisoning: 0032 - (0)2 - 345 45 45
Pharmacy emergency number: 0900 - 10 - 500 (from Belgium)
The business hours of banks and other financial services are usually weekdays from 9 am - 1 pm and 2 pm - 5 pm. The post offices are usually open Mon - Fri 9 am - 4 pm, though some close for the lunch hour. In general, shops in the centre of town are open Mon - Fri from 9 am - 7 pm, and Sat 10 am - 6 pm. Some stay open late on Fridays, usually until 9 pm. Supermarkets, departments stores, and other big stores usually have longer hours, such as Mon - Sat 9 am - 8 pm, and are often open on Sundays as well.
January 1, New Years Day
Easter Sunday and Monday
May 1, Labour Day
Whit Sunday and Monday
July 21, Independence Day
August 15, Assumption Day
November 1, All Saints’ Day
November 11, Armistice Day
December 25, Christmas Day
Antwerp is generally a safe city, and tourists should not be overly worried about crime, but should simply take common-sense precautions. Keep your valuables in a secure place where pickpockets cannot get at them, and do not carry more cash with you than you need. Also, make sure to keep your bag and coat where you can keep and eye on them in restaurants and clubs, etc. Areas of the city to avoid at night, if possible, include the area around the main train station and around Statiestraat, Coninckplein, the parks.
One of the grandest buildings in Antwerp is the ''Central Station''. It welcomes visitors who arrive by train in Antwerp like a modern day cathedral.
Not as big as the ''Grand Place'' of Brussels, but certainly as beautiful is the ''Grote Markt'' (= Town Square) of Antwerp. Here is still the heart of the old city. The Grote Markt is beautifully surrounded by the Town Hall and the so-called houses of the Guilds or corporations. In the background the tower of Our Lady''s Cathedral completes the magnificent view. The eye-catcher of the ''Grote Markt'' (town square) is, of course, the Town Hall of Antwerp. It is one of the oldest Renaissance buildings in the Low Countries. It was finished in 1564.
A unique feature of the city is the presence of a large Jewish ''Hassidic'' community. It is mainly located in the Diamond district near the Central Station.
Also churches like St. Paul''s Church, Our Lady’s Cathedral and Carolous Borromeus Church belong to the rich heritage of the city.