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I was in Belgium two weekends ago and I visited the beautiful city of Bruges; otherwise known as the Venice of Belgium. However, I spent most of my time in the equally beautiful city of Antwerp; the Paris of Belgium.

We were in Belgium to visit our friend Adam who was having a major milestone 30th birthday party! We had a fantastic time eating lots of good food, drinking good wine and Belgium beer, while having an all round fun time with fun folk.

That was on Saturday night so it was surprising to note the fact that I woke up bright and early(ish) on Sunday morning to explore the city that our friend has now called home. He is also an Aussie who moved to Europe to work and travel, so it was nice to share this experience with him.

What I loved about Antwerp is that there is a real home town feel. We kicked off our day with a hearty beef stew, twice cooked fries and a side of Belgium beer. The cobble stoned roads lead to residential property that looked like it should form part of a movie set in the 1800’s. We walked through the busy plaza to set eyes on one of Europe’s prettiest churches,  the Cathedral of our Lady. Then we walked to the port where, Het Steen, Belgium’s very own fortress stood tall. It isn’t a very large fortress as it is now a cafe, but being a lover of all things Castles/Fortresses/Palaces, I can assure you that this fortress looks exactly like the Castles of my childhood dreams – from the outside anyway!

There is also an interesting story about this fortress. The statue on front of the church is of a giant and two brave warriors. As the story is told, Antwerp was ruled by a mean giant who controlled the river and demanded large tolls. Then one day, a brave warrior saved the city by killing the giant, cut off his hand and threw it into the river, therefore giving the city its name “Antwerpen” – similar to the dutch words that mean hand thrown.

Overall, Antwerp is definitely a must-see if you like quaint, Old Towns, architecture fortresses and community spirit. It’s a little off the beaten track but that’s the beauty of travel. I only visited Antwerp to visit my friend, but ended up seeing a city that was like a slice of Paris set in Belgium. Happy Birthday Adam and may you continue to be blessed with fun times with family and friends and many European adventures!

How do you think Antwerp compares to Bruges?