Antwerp is the diamond capital of the world (It’s definitely a place for you, Kathy.) and one of Europe’s largest ports. The old city is an easy walk from the ship, which we did with a local tour guide. We walked along the river past the Het Steen, an historic medieval fortress sitting on the edge of the river. From here we crossed over into the old center district to the “meat house”. It was built as the gild hall for the butchers. Every day tons of meat switched owners here. The building is famous for the original masonry and is made to resemble stacks of bacon (switching between white stones and red bricks). Near here, Old Market Square is the historical center of town. The market square is surrounded by medieval guild houses. Atop these houses are guilded sculptures of each guild’s icon. The city hall is designed in a combination between Gothic and early Renaissance styles. Our guide told us this style is almost exclusively found in this region of Europe. One street over is The Cathedral of Our Lady, a gothic church. It houses some of Rubens paintings. And, because the museum is closed, there were a number of paintings hanging from the arches and columns on deep red banners. These were paintings done for the guilds’ chapels in the Cathedral. Another small square adjacent to Market Square had a large sculpture of Rubens. It also has a series of beautiful buildings including a Hilton that occupies the former Grand Bazaar, a 19th century department store.
After our guide left us, we had lunch and shopped for chocolates. Then we returned to the Cathedral of Our Lady to rent the head sets and get a closer look.

Reubens with Cathedral of Our Lady


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