In a small country with a high standard of living, the city of Antwerp abounds with an affinity for elegance, especially in diamonds, art and fashion. Even its railway station, or Railway Cathedral, exudes architectural elegance throughout its public spaces.

One of Lonely Planet’s 2009 top 10 cities, Antwerp proudly stands beside Chicago, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Zurich as this year’s most interesting cities. For a unique change of pace, travelers will find centuries of history mixed with hip urban offerings.

An art aficionado’s paradise is the reconstructed Peter Paul Rubens home and garden of this baroque master, which houses many of his works including Adam and Eve in Paradise. Rubens designed the Renaissance garden himself.

Four of the world’s twelve diamond exchanges are located in Antwerp. Diamonds represents half of this city’s commerce. Hence the Diamond Museum is most appropriate here. Not only will you learn about the technology and history of diamond production, fashionistas will enjoy spectacular displays of diamond jewelry.

The Fashion Museum, the MoMu, offers an extensive collection of clothing, intricate lace and embroidery, unusual textiles as well as tools used in the industry, presented to deliver both aesthetic enjoyment and sociological perspective.

Antwerp’s 15th century Golden Age brought all manner of food, spices, drinks and herbs into this city’s port, creating a gourmet populace emphasizing French cuisine with Belgian flair. Look for Belgian specialty chocolates, beer, endive and their extraordinary Belgian waffles, dolloped with numerous toppings in locales like Handschoenmarkt and the historic city center

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