Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Antwerp - The City Of Diamonds - Part 1

There are a lot of diamonds in Antwerp. In fact, I could probably say it’s the diamond capital of the world. So when I was invited to visit Antwerp to celebrate the city as being part of the diamond trade worldwide for more than 500 years, I could hardly say no could I?

This year there are a number of initiatives to celebrate the history of diamonds in Antwerp since 1447. So I flew over to Antwerp as part of a press trip with the tourist board Visit Antwerp to find out more.  Those of you that have been readers for a while may know that I used to own a third generation family jewellers and that is how The Diary Of A Jewellery Lover blog came about. So with my love of diamonds and also travel I was in the lucky position to be chosen for this trip. 

So a quick 55-minute flight to Amsterdam from Cardiff and then a two-hour journey on the train to Antwerp meant it was almost quicker to get to Antwerp than to go to London by car for me from South Wales. There are flights direct to Antwerp from London City Airport so if you live in this part of the world it is even easier to get there, and of course, you can also get there from London on Eurostar.

Did you know Lonely Planet's Best In Travel 2018 named Antwerp as one of northern Europe's best-kept secrets? So I was excited when I arrived for my two-night stay.

I got to Antwerp late on a Saturday night and walked the short 15-minute journey to my hotel. I felt totally safe walking to the hotel, but I obviously kept my wits about me in an unfamiliar place.

My stay for the trip would be at Hotel Franq. This boutique luxury hotel really has the wow factor when you enter. A gorgeous lobby with beautiful flowers, comfortable sofas and chic decor greets you. Check in was quick and efficient and before long I was in my room.

The room at Hotel Franq are well appointed and exceptionally comfortable. A large king sized bed graced the room, which also had a desk and chair, as well as a comfortable armchair. The bathroom had double sinks, a rainfall shower and luxury toiletries as well as a large flat screen TV. Little touches in the room such as complimentary water, an espresso coffee machine and a Marshall Bluetooth enabled radio set the room apart from other boutique hotels I have stayed in recently. 

The decor was simple but very well done, and the quality of the furnishings appeared to be exceptional. A dash of colour added some vibrancy to the room which was in muted shades of cream and beige.

That night I slept well and in the morning went down to breakfast.

Hotel Franq prides itself on using high quality and local ingredients in its restaurant. Continental breakfast was included and involved a variety of bread, homemade jam and homemade granola, whole yoghurt, meat and cheese, boiled eggs, and fresh orange juice with tea or coffee. If you wanted something more substantial then you could choose from avocado on toast, smoked salmon and other delights at an additional charge. If you want to read more about my review of Hotel Franq be sure to check it out.

The morning was at leisure so I decided to just wander the city and to take in some of the sights. When people in the UK think of Belgium we often think of Bruges with its magnificent architecture or Brussels being the centre of the EU, well I know I do, but Antwerp appears to have some great sights too and gorgeous architecture. One of my first stops was at the Grote Markt in the heart of the old city. This large public square is lined with picturesque traditional buildings including the City Hall. The City Hall is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site. In front of the City Hall is a statue of Silvias Brabo. 

Legend has it that Silvius Brabo put an end to a giant that was terrorising Antwerp by vanquishing the giant and casting his hand into the river by way of revenge. According to the legend, this is where Antwerp got his name ‘hand werpen’ literally meaning “to throw a hand”. A fountain and statue in front of the City hallmark the importance of this story in the founding of the city of Antwerp.

As I strolled around Antwerp, I came to the main shopping street called Meir. As it was early on a Sunday most shops were closed. However, the shopping area looked great and contained a number of household names such as Zara, and H & M.

Just behind the main shopping street, I came across a large open-air market selling all manner of items, from fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables to stalls selling delicious smelling waffles and distinctive smelly cheese, as well as clothes, bags and other items.

Belgium is known for its waffles so I was keen to try these out later in my trip. 

Close to this area was the world-renowned Rubens House, a museum of the artwork of Peter Paul Rubens, known for his Baroque style of art. Admission costs 8 euros to get in for adults 25-65, concessions 6 Euros and free for certain groups. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to visit but I thought the cost was reasonable.

Time to return to the hotel before meeting everyone for lunch, but on my way back I saw the most wonderful chocolate shop called The Chocolate LineIt certainly looked THE place to go for artisan chocolates. I mean look at the cake above and the chocolate frog below!

A leisurely stroll back to the hotel and before I knew it I was back. Sylvia and Anja from Visit Antwerp had arranged to meet the press here and had arranged lunch for us all. 
Lunch was seafood bisque that was full of flavour followed by poached salmon in a light hollandaise sauce, that was utterly delicious and beautifully presented.

All finished with a selection of petit fours, all utterly delectable in their own way.

After our lunch, we took a short 15-minute walk to the MAS Museum

The MAS Museum otherwise known as the Museum aan de Stroom is a museum located along the river Scheldt in the Eilandje district of Antwerp, Belgium. It opened in May 2011 and is the largest museum in Antwerp. We were here to visit the newly open Dazzling Desire exhibition, which looks at how diamonds are linked to our emotions. 

 Diamond boots believed to be the worlds most expensive valued at 3.2 million dollars in 2014
Designed by Belgian fashion label AF Vandevorst

Themes of status, power, love, eternal life and wealth are woven throughout the exhibition. Stand out pieces include Mary of Burgundy’s engagement ring, the impressive Our Lady’s Jubilee crown, and the Cartier tiara worn by Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. 
Some beautiful original pieces also included these diamond boots above believed to be the most expensive in the world.

C.B. II by Subodh Gupta, 2009. Materials: Stainless steel, stainless steel utensils, neon, lightbox, fibreglass
Private Collection Switzerland

With a mix of original precious diamonds as well as models of diamond jewellery, showing incredible detail, make this exhibition well worth visiting if you have an interest in fashion, jewellery or diamonds. The admission price of between 8 and 10 euros is affordable too. Catch it when you can until 14th January 2018.

Crown of the Infant Jesus, Antwerp, 1899 Gold, Emerald, pearls, Ruby and diamond
Cathedral-Chapel of our Lady of Praise Antwerp

While you are here you can also see the other permanent exhibitions, and don't forget to go to the top floor and take a panoramic photo if the weather is good, which unfortunately it wasn't when I visited. 

A quick stop next to the Brilliant Foodies festival with stalls of street food, then back to Hotel Franq.

That evening we ate at restaurant RAS. This modern chic restaurant is perfectly positioned overlooking the water and designed by leading architect Bon Van Reeth. 

My starter was croquettes which are a speciality of the restaurant, made with tiny brown shrimps, onto a prawn linguine in a tomato sauce and then Creme Brulee.

The food was delicious, tasty and well presented and I have to say I really enjoyed my meal. The ambience of the restaurant was lovely too. Upscale but relaxed. It was busy but service was efficient and staff were welcoming, helpful, and explained any queries we had with smiled all around.

As I was in Belgium I had to try the local beer too! Considering I am not a beer drinker it went down well and was a great end to the meal.

pin for later

So it was with full stomachs, our party returned to our hotel to rest before day two tomorrow, where we would visit a high-end jeweller and the Antwerp Diamond Centre as well as hear about the new Diva diamond exhibition. 

There was so much to see in Antwerp in one day, so be sure to catch my day two very soon on my blog.

*I was a guest of Visit Antwerp. Silvius Brabo statue CC Wikimedia 




  1. I cannot believe how quick the flight was. Makes it ideal for a weekend break. Looks like a great trip

  2. It really looks like a fab place to visit. Your guide is awesome and deffo has provided some inspiration x

  3. That looks like an incredible place to explore. I really want to visit the chocolate shop and the buildings just look perfect

  4. What a gorgeous looking hotel it looks like such a lovely place to visit.

  5. Wow this sounds like such an awesome trip, I'd never thought about Antwerp as a destination but now I will x

  6. I love travelling around Europe as I think it is so full of beautiful architecture and culture. I have never been to Antwerp but it looks amazing, can't wait to read part 2!

  7. I wouldn't have thought of visiting Antwerp but now I'll add it to my 'to visit' list!

  8. I've been to other places in Belgium but somehow not to Antwerp and I'm loving the look of the city. I love the combination of history, architecture and great food. They can keep the diamonds though, they do nothing for me! Your hotel looks really nice too.

  9. Antwerp looks like the perfect destination, given your blog name! I haven't yet visited but the MAS Museum sounds fascinating and I'd love to visit that chocolate shop!

  10. They have a chocolate line in Brugge as well and it is amazing for chocolate. Antwerp looks incredibly beautiful, what a great time it sounds like you had!

  11. What a fab place for a short break - and that hotel looks gorgeous. Art, history and food together are always a winning combination especially with a sprinkling of diamond dust and chocolate! That frog is fab 😁 Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  12. What a fantastic trip, the city looks beautiful and the short flight is such a bonus!

  13. Woah I can't take my eyes off those diamond boots! Can't believe how much they cost!

  14. Oh those diamond boots! Imagine how amazing they’d look on a night out. I didn’t know much about Antwerp but after reading this it’s somewhere I’d love to see for myself.

  15. This sounds like a great place for a city break! I've got to admit it wasn't somewhere we had thought of visiting before reading this

  16. Oh what a beautiful city. We only ever drove through here on a bus. Now I'm regretting that! One day I'll be sure to return and explore more.

  17. I don't know what I was loving more, the jewels or the food! Probably the food! LOL! This looks like a gorgeous city. Thanks for sharing so I can save it for future reference!

  18. The food looks so good *-* and is that beer from "De Koninck" cherry bear?? I hate beer but I love cherry beer haha.
    I must say that, as a Belgian, I don't like Antwerp that much... BUT you took very beautiful pictures and provide a great explanation. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it. :)

  19. I have been to Bruge, Ghent and Bruxelles in Belgium but I have never thought that Antwerp is such an amazing destination! Thanks for sharing!

  20. Antwerp is near the city I live in, and I really love Antwerp. It really is a nice place to visit (:

  21. You pulled me in with the stunning architecture, but literally sucked me in with that creme brule. That looks so good! This is not somewhere that has ever appeared on my radar, thanks for introducing me.

  22. I had limited time during our visit to Belgium, and we missed Antwerp, but I hope to get back someday, and when I do I'll be making it a priority! #citytripping

  23. I've been to the Netherlands and yet I never knew that Antwerp was the world capital for diamonds! I see there's so much more to this city and yet I recognize the typical architecture I've come to love in that country, how beautiful!

  24. Wow- I've never been to Antwerp but you were really able to jam pack a lot into one day! Hotel Franq looks lovely and your breakfast more than satisfying- yum! I'd definitely have to give that waffle stand a try as well as the Belgium beer! Oh and that chocolate frog was just the cutest!

  25. I know Antwerp is thought of as the diamond capital of the world, but the architecture looks gorgeous and the food options had my mouth watering! I'd definitely consider adding Antwerp to my next European itinerary especially given how quick and easy it is to get to from London.

  26. I had no idea there was so much to see and do in Antwerp, or that it was the city of diamonds. I definitely want to plan a visit now!

  27. I love the Dutch part of Belgium (it's not in the Netherlands..Dany lol..he he) and Antwerp is a great place to explore. Never really got involved in the diamonds area but do prefer to take walks along the massive river/canal in the centre of the city. Cycling there is awesome also. Great post and loving the photos.

  28. I really need to get to Antwerp! And I agree that diamonds evoke such emotion! (I couldn't care less 'bout those boots, but I love diamonds in a tiara and jewellery!)

  29. "Death by chocolate." That's so apt! LOL Antwerp is so beautiful, I didn't know it was called the diamond capital of the world, but I can definitely understand why. Their architecture is also amazing. I love the old gabled houses and the sculpture. I should visit someday!

  30. An excellent round up of Antwerp. I was there on a windy day yet enjoyed walking around. Not sure you had a chance to drop by the railway station in Antwerp. It is beautiful with its architecture and tall windows.

  31. I've been reading a lot about Antwerp being the city of Diamonds a lot lately! Who knew?! The Brilliant Foodies festival sounds amazing. I love street food, so this sounds like the perfect thing for me to try out! I love the look of Chocolate Line. That 'death by chocolate' is amazingly cheeky!

  32. Wow! The architecture in Antwerp in definitely astonishing, Mellissa. When would be the best time of the year to explore it?


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