Voluptuous, Fashionable and Sparkling
Antwerp is multi-faceted, with sparkling architecture and flawless art. A perfect metaphor for the city that trades nearly 70% of the world's diamonds. Antwerp has a long history of trading nearly…everything. Its well-located port allowed the city to become a strategic marketplace. During the 15th and 16th centuries, also known as the Age of Exploration, Antwerp was a world economic power and a center of sophistication. And although politics have played a part in this downfall of their global status, the port is still the largest in Europe, and the 5 th largest in the world.
Antwerp's financial riches may have dwindled, but culturally, the city has a wealth to offer. In the 16th century, the city was known for the "Antwerp School" – a term for the artists living in this part of the Low Countries. The 17 th century is when Antwerp became an artistic stronghold of the Flemish Masters, including Jordaens, Van Dyck and most notably, Rubens. The artists developed a style that combined northern detail and atmosphere with Italian style and flair. Rubens remains Antwerp's most illustrious citizen and his life and work is central to the city.
At Rubenshuis, you can view where the artist lived and worked. The home itself is from 1610, and he and his wife purchased the house two years after he returned from Italy. This stay inspired not only his painting oeuvre, but his view of architecture as well. Inside the home, find famous works depicting Rubens fleshy brushstrokes. Today, when one hears the word “Rubenesque,” everyone knows it's to describe the voluptuous.
The Rubens Market is a colorful event where traders dress in the clothes that would have been worn during the 16th-century painter's lifetime. The event takes place usually in August, on Assumption Day, and recreates the scene of one of Rubens' famous works. Come soak up the atmosphere and browse for local goods.
Completing the Rubens triumvirate, the Cathedral of Our Lady is a UNESCO Heritage Site and holds three glorious canvases: The Raising of the Cross, Assumption of the Virgin Mary and The Descent from the Cross. You can visit Rubens' tomb at the St James's Church.
Antwerp is famous from canvas to cloth. The city has achieved a cult status in the fashion world, due to its Royal Academy of Fine Arts, one of the Europe's most important fashion schools. A group of designers (including Ann Demeulemeester and Dries van Noten) who graduated from here between 1980-81 have come to be called the Antwerp Six. This collective of influential avant garde designers presented a distinct, radical vision for fashion during the 1980s that established Antwerp as a center for design.
Shop for showstopping couture in Antwerp after breakfast, and hit chic Parisian shops by dinner. Thanks to the high-speed Thalys, you can be there in just over two hours. Or have waffles and mussels in Brussels' Grand Place in just 42 minutes. And compare the Flemish masters to Dutch Masters in Amsterdam in just over an hour.
Before leaving, try pear-shaped chocolate pralines at Chateau Blanc, a fine Belgian chocolatier. They're so good, you'll want to bring some back to everyone at home!
Contributed by: Melanie, Marketing Project Manager, French American with Swedish and Italian origins, who comes from the Entertainment business and truly believes that traveling by train is the best entertainment experience ever!