On April 17, a friend and I ventured down to Antwerp for a day of light exploration. Only a little over an hour drive from Rotterdam, it was very accessible. The city was mostly closed as it was a Sunday, but we just enjoyed a wander and had the pleasure of witnessing the Antwerp Marathon.
Antwerp, the mostly populous city in Flanders is situated on the Scheldt River. It was named after a folk story of a giant who would cut a hand off sailors who refused or could not pay the toll he demanded. Eventually, a man cut off one of the giants hands and threw it into the river, liberating the city.
Still the second largest port in Europe, Antwerp has held an important place economically and historically has played a significant role in the Eighty Years war and the Dutch Revolution. After it was sacked by the Spanish, it remained quite small until bolstered by funds from Napoleon who saw the value of it's port. These days it plays a large part in diamond trade.
This gorgeous city was hit heavily in WWII but maintained some of its oldest buildings. The City Hall dates to 1565 and is surrounded by buildings that once housed the guilds of the city. Antwerp maintains many religious traditions and since it was a Sunday, very little was open, so we just enjoyed a stroll, some beer, fries, and pastries.
Antwerp is a cool city with an awesome reputation, it is beautiful and accessible. I hear the nightlife is great and the shopping was quite nice, but I didn't get to experience much of it.