Antwerp – The hidden gem of lights

Antwerp light festival

It’s fairly obvious that London isn’t the only city in the world boasting those romantic-looking-light-festivals during the Christmas period. We’ve all seen the German, Austrian and Swiss Christmas markets – whether in real life or in a travel feature of some kind. Some weeks ago however, I went on the search for other destinations featuring light decorations to die for. And oh yes, I found one! Today, we’ll shed a light on the hidden gem that is Antwerp, Belgium.


Obviously we can’t dwell too long on the utter joy of Christmas markets and Christmas lights (it’s almost February for goodness sake!), but there is one city that deserves it to be in the spotlight. A bit of a loner, surpassed by tourist favorites like Brussels or Bruges. But Antwerp ladies and gentlemen, deserves a spot in the ‘Best Cities to Visit During the Holidays’ list, and hopefully the pictures below will show exactly why.




Grote Markt

Starting at Grote Markt – Antwerp’s main square – there is so much to see already in a perfect 360 degree angle. The Guild Houses on the one end, the City Hall on another, the Brabo fountain in the middle and the Cathedral of Our Lady towering above it all.


Antwerp = hand throwing

The myth of the statue of Brabo is that he killed a giant called Druon Antigoon, who asked money from people who wanted to pass the bridge over the River Schelde. Who couldn’t, or didn’t want to pay, lost their hand. Druon would cut it off and throw it in the river. As a punishment for doing this, Brabo symbolically also cut off the hand of Druon and threw it into the river. Loosely translated, Antwerp means hand throwing – explaining how the city got its name. Another thing learned today!

The Brabo statue with the cathedral in the background

Christmas market and fireworks display

Walking further down towards the river, a brightly colored ferris wheel looms up against the dark sky. This was the location that boasted the Christmas market, and a huge fireworks display on New Year’s Eve.



Ice skating on Groenplaats

The last stop of that night was Groenplaats, another central square. This houses the ice skate rink and some more stalls selling food, Christmas ornaments and other interesting – and often handmade – trinkets.


The January cold at that point really got to me and we quickly made our way to a local Italian restaurant for a delicious meal. Even though I already was quite familiar with the city, Antwerp has definitely exceeded my expectations when it comes to cities to visit during the Holidays.

Over to you: what are your favorite places to visit during December and January?

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