Antwerp has a special status. Over the course of centuries, well before the foundation of Belgium in 1831, it has played a leading role on the world stage. Its geographic location, on the banks of the river Scheldt, just before its estuary, has shaped its development and its character. In the sixteenth century, during the reign of Charles the Fifth, Antwerp was the world’s largest port with a population twice that of Brussels; it put Venice in the shade and attracted wealth of every kind. Subsequently, despite the setbacks of History, the city which gave birth to Rubens emerged triumphant, withstanding every onslaught, every economic threat, while establishing its baroque style and its creative daring.
Today, it remains the largest commercial port of Europe after Rotterdam, and it shines in many domains: trade, industry, art, fashion, etc. Its unique atmosphere has no equivalent in Belgium. Living in Antwerp means choosing a city on a human scale, with a uniquely eclectic character. Its dynamism expresses itself everywhere, whether in its port activity, its historic diamond merchants’ stock exchange, the gilding of its train station, the inventiveness of its designers (who has not heard of ‘the Antwerp Six’, who took the entire world by storm in the 1980s?), the most beautiful interior decoration and fashion shops in the country, trendy and gourmet restaurants, the lofts which flank the Scheldt or the magnificent town houses dispersed along tree-lined avenues and squares.
In terms of the family, Antwerp is also much sought after for the quality of its Belgian and international schools, its open-mindedness with regard to the various communities which live there and its international and multicultural spirit. Every language is spoken in Antwerp, and that is a source of pride for the city’s inhabitants.
Much smaller than Brussels, Antwerp has neighbourhoods with contrasting features. The south of the city is the most sought after in terms of real estate because of its art galleries, museums and cafés as well as its houses and apartments in a range of architectural styles. Nonetheless, Museum aan de Stroom has completed the task of revitalizing the area of the islet, the Docks and the Old Port. It is also beyond the walls of the port city that extraordinary estates are to be found, whether in the countryside or by the river. Wilrijk, Brasschaat and Schilde are particularly elegant suburbs, which should be considered if there is no obligation to drive into Antwerp city centre at rush hour.
The incredible diamond inaugurated in 2017, signed by Zaha Hadid, is like a torch cast before the world: Antwerp has been shining with a special radiance for centuries, and fully intends to continue doing so! But to get to grips with this multifaceted jewel, it is best to be accompanied by a genuine expert.