Antwerp equals diamonds, banks and art. Or at least those are the three things this wealthy seaport is known for, and those things equal a reputation for fine living. The reputation for wealth is historic, Antwerp occupied a key position on the prime trade routes during the 16th Century, and that's when many of the city's most grand and glorious buildings were built. The art came after, when, in the 17th Century, Antwerp's beauty inspired Rubens and Van Dyck, among others. Our choices of the best places to stay in Antwerp are all perfectly placed to enjoy these to the max.
Modern Antwerp still has that reputation for good living and low stress life, ideal for a relaxing city break. Its Flemish medieval architecture isn't as well preserved as you'll find in Bruges or Ghent, but the beautiful buildings from other historical periods make its skyline much more unique.
And its beauty still attracts artists and artistic types, so it's also wealthy in museums, galleries and arty restaurants, cafes, bars and boutiques.
And while 70% of the world's diamonds are still traded through Antwerp, this city is now promoting itself as a fashion capital as well.
Antwerp is small enough to easily navigate on foot, but if speed is of the essence this is a great city for cyclists. The old town centre is about 2kms across, and many of the major sights are within the radius of the old walls.
Antwerp is proud of its success stories. Both from the past and present. Rubens is one such famous son, and as well as appearing in many local galleries including the Rockoxhuis and the Koninklijk Museum, Rubens also has his own museum, the Rubenhuis, converted from his home and studio.
Antwerp also has a Diamond Museum, the Diamantmuseum. There's also 'Diamonland' where you can see them being cut and set in the daily 'show'.
Antwerp's weekend markets are a lot of fun and you can find stalls selling the usual foods, clothes and gifts to antiques and bicycles. There's a big market on the Theatreplein Square.
If you fancy a poke round the shops visit the area round the Meir, between the station and the Groenplaats.
Those with an interest in fashion may prefer the Kammerstraat, which is where you'll find the Fashion Museum, and boutiques belonging to some of Antwerp's big name designers, including Dries van Noten.
And if you want to purchase a diamond, skip the sellers near the station and visit the the diamond merchants in the diamond district around Hoveniersstraat and Schapstraat.
Plenty of Antwerp's most beautiful sights are free to see, from the neo-Gothic grandeur of the central train station to the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal, another Gothic wonder, and the charming sights along the Schekdt Riverbank. The MAS museum, which tells the history of Antwerp is free, so well worth popping into, and the view from the rooftops is excellent.
Antwerp has more pubs per capita than anywhere else in the world. And there's no official closing time. There are also plenty of French style cafes where you can get a good coffee and a range of beers. If you're feeling peckish you can pick up some frites anytime from the fritkoten.
Local specialities worth trying include the locally brewed beer, called 'Bolleke', Antwerpse handjes, which are biscuits or chocolates made in the shapes of hands, and Elixir d'Anvers, a plant based liquor.
The city offers plenty of choice when it comes to accommodation. Amongst the best places to stay in Antwerp you'll find everything from apartment rentals and hostels to five star and boutique hotels.
It's partly the lure of diamonds which makes this a romantic destination, but it's also the cafe culture and the way this city feels like it's open all hours.
If your kids get tired, jump on the Horse tram which leaves from the Grote Markt every hour, for a 40 minute ride round the city's highlights. And if they tire of the museums and architecture, Antwerp also has a world famous zoo and an aquarium called 'Aquatopia'.
Still not sure which to book? Browse through our list of all the best places to stay in Antwerp, or call, or email, one of our gurus for advice. Alternatively check out our recommendations in Bruges and Ghent.
Beautifully decorated B&B with classic rooms and apartments. Enormous rooms, some with four poster beds, have creamy furnishings, stand alone bathtubs, fireplaces and parquet floors. A romantic choice for couples, and the apartments serve families or groups well.
Sleek designer loft-style rooms and suites in a 16th century townhouse. All white walls, sloping wooden beams, minimalist lines and sky lights. Cosy sitting room with fireplace, breakfast rooms and meeting area. Urban cool.
A peaceful two-room B&B in the heart of Antwerp's fashion district. Zen contemporary rooms have clean lines, modern furnishings, and lots of natural light. Very well located and very comfortable.
Urban chic in the cobbled streets of Antwerp's fashion district. Smart contemporary rooms have modern furnishings, brightly coloured walls and paintings. Lovely restaurant and terrace, spa and business centre. A sophisticated choice.
Stylish guesthouse in a classic Belgian townhouse. Bedrooms are a clever mix of contemporary and antique, and feature large beds with luxury linens and marble bathrooms. A comfortable lounge and small city garden are perfect for chilling out. A smart choice for a city break, not far from the action.
A gloriously traditional Belgian inn with romantic bedrooms and a gourmet restaurant. Oak beams, four poster beds, stand alone bath tubs and sultry lighting. A gourmet spot with bags of charm.
An urban oasis with bright contemporary rooms, a zen spa, restaurant and wonderful roof top terrace bar. Bedrooms in neutral tones have parquet floors and creamy furnishings. A calming and romantic spot.
A beautiful townhouse hotel with palatial suites decorated in sleek classic style. Huge rooms have wooden beamed ceilings, lots of natural light, earthy furnishings and vast beds. Understated luxury in an urban oasis.
A stunning townhouse with classic interiors and sumptuous bedrooms. Suites and bedrooms blend classic elegance and contemporary elements. Chandeliers, parquet floors and fireplaces contrast sleek modern furnishings and modern art. A very stylish spot.