Antwerp: The City of Giants and Diamonds
Antwerp (Antwerpen in Flemish) is a multi-cultural city in Flanders that boasts the second largest port in Europe. Local legend credits the city’s rise to a Roman soldier who killed the Giant Antigoon. This particularly nasty giant terrorized the local population by cutting off the hands of sailors and tradesmen who didn’t pay his steep river-crossing toll.
The Roman soldier, Brabo, challenged the giant to a duel and after defeating him, cut off his hand and threw the hand into the Scheldt River. The city’s name, Antwerpen, is derived from “hand werpen,” which means “hand throwing.” Brabo is commemorated in a giant fountain facing the City Hall in the middle of Antwerp’s Great Market Square (Grote Markt).
Learn More: How to Spend a Weekend in Antwerp
This Flemish city has a special relationship with giants. Throughout the city, you’ll see images and statues of the Virgin Mary, because her image was said to ward off giants.
Antwerp is also the city of diamonds, as it’s the most important diamond trade center in the world. Diamonds have been traded here since the 15th century. It’s really interesting to walk through the diamond district and watch diamond traders negotiate deals in the streets outside world-renowned diamond institutions.
You’ll also see many Jewish Orthodox-owned businesses (diamond retailers, bakeries, Kosher grocery stores) next to African textile shops. Interestingly, Yiddish continues to be the primary language of the Jewish community in Antwerp, which is one of the largest in Europe. And, 30 of Belgium’s 45 active synagogues are in Antwerp.
Where to Stay in Antwerp: