Like most cities in Flanders, this one has different names in different languages: Antwerp in English, Antwerpen in Dutch and German, Anvers in French, Amberes in Spanish, Antuérpia in Portuguese, Anversa in Italian, Antwerpia in Polish.
With a population of over 500,000, Antwerp is the largest municipality in Flanders and even, because of a technicality, the largest municipality in Belgium.
The technicality is that the Brussels Capital Region is divided into nineteen municipalities, of which the City of Brussels is only one. The population of the City of Brussels is only about 182,000. The Brussels Capital Region, however, has a population of well over a million people, more than twice as many as in Antwerp.
Antwerp, in any case, is a pleasant and lively place to visit. It has an opera house, a great new Museum by the River, some outstanding art museums and numerous historic buildings. Also the city is rapidly improving its cycling infrastructure and now has three different bike rental systems in addition to the traditional bicycle shops.
The symbol of the city is a big white A on a red background with six orange rays of sunlight shining out in all directions, often accompanied by a slogan such as ‘t stad is van iedereen, meaning “The city belongs to everyone” or “It is everyone’s city”.
My immediate reason for visiting Antwerp in August 2012 was to attend the “tenth anniversary VirtualTourist meeting” organized by longtime member “irisbe” (Dannie) a decade after the first big VT meeting that she organized back in 2002.
The 2012 meeting was a blast from the past for me because I finally met some people who had been very active on VT when I first joined the site. (VirtualTourist was founded in 1998 and ceased to exist in 2017.)
The one downside of this meeting was that we happened to be in Antwerp on the absolutely hottest weekend of the year, with a high temperature of 35°C on August 18th. While this might not sound extreme to those of you who live in the tropics, it was certainly extreme for Antwerp, since the average high for August 18 is only 22°C.
The restaurants, in particular, were not at all equipped to deal with such an unusual level of heat. They have no air conditioning, not even fans, and some have ovens or open grills in the same room as the customers, so it was even hotter inside the restaurants than it was out on the street.
Heat was not at all a problem on my next visit to Antwerp in December 2019, when I saw a beautiful opera/ballet production of Dvořák’s Rusalka in the Antwerp opera house.
My photos in this post are from 2012 and 2019. I revised the text in 2019.