There is something about train stations and time. The most beautiful train station I ever saw with magnificent details was in Antwerp. The classic central station was first used in 1905 (yes, really). The city, known as Anvers by French speakers, is one I feel connected by many memories, and must be the third most visited Belgian city in the years I lived in this country, after Brussels and Bruges.
The Station district & Diamonds
As the second largest city in Belgium, Antwerp is famous and known for two things – trading Diamonds and as the Fashion Capital of Belgium. Let’s take them one at the time and start with the diamonds industry.
Shining bright. Antwerp is the second largest port of Europe, and the Station District is actually the home of “Diamond Square mile” or center of over 1000 diamond companies, buyers or diamond merchants and exchange diamond houses.
Shopping in Antwerp
I loved mornings when I had to wake up early to catch the train and then explore a new city. In Antwerp especially, is so easy to discover the city by foot, since almost everything is in walking distance.
And even though I reached Antwerp by train 30 minutes from downtown Brussels, I used to joke that I feel in another country since is true, another language is spokem (Flemish/ Dutch). Plus was always an event in itself when I went to Antwerp – for work, Fashion days, museum visits, a chocolate walk or a 5miles run in the city.
From the train station, I would start walking along shopping street Meir, or going to the Fashion district, the trendy Latin quarter and the elegant streets Kammenstraat or Huidenvettersstraat, to find the stores Essential Antwerp or of Antwerp six.
The Antwerp Six are a group of graduates of Antwerp design schools who became famous avant-garde designers, including Marina Yee or Dries Van Noten and Honorary Member Martin Margiela. And one of my favorite Belgian designer is Diane von Fürstenberg.
I never missed walking in the cobblestoned medieval Old Town, until reaching the Gothic main square Grote Markt with 16th century houses, statues, Cathedral of Our Lady and the Town hall.
Since Antwerp is a port, and as every city that is blessed to be surrounded by water, a day in Antwerp always included exploring the harbor area or taking a walk along the River Scheldt to the Port House by Zaza Hadid or MAS Museum aan de Stroom.
To honor the name of the travel journal, I need to mention the best place to grab a coffee. During a Chocolate walk and after Museum visits at Baroque painter Rubens House and MoMu, we stopped for specialty coffee at Caffènation at Mechelsesteenweg 16.
Talking about beautiful train stations, another Belgian station on my mind is Liège-Guillemins Station, second station I see designed by Santiago Calatrava, after the modernist Gare do Oriente in Lisbon. Or last, but not least – São Bento Station Porto, with 20,000 colorful azulejos.