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Antwerp lies in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium. The second largest city and the biggest port in the country, it has always played a significant strategic role of a financial center. During the Middle Ages it was the richest European city which attracted merchants from all over the world to exchange and trade their goods. This reputation was damaged when the Spanish conquered Antwerp in 1585. The siege that lasted for two centuries prevented the city from recovering. Nevertheless, in the 19th century Antwerp managed to redeem its status and became the largest diamond market in the world and the second after Rotterdam port in Europe.
Thanks to its long and eventful background, the city of Antwerp has preserved the rich cultural heritage. The medieval gable stoned houses, the great Cathedral of Our Lady, the City Hall and other historical landmarks form the architectural heart of the city. Antwerp houses a lot of museums with old and contemporary masterpieces. Among the most renowned is Rubenshuis, the former home and now a museum of Peter Paul Rubens, a well-known Flemish Baroque painter.
Antwerp is regarded as a cultural talent foundry. The Royal Academy of Fine Arts established in the 17th century is a prestigious European institution for fine arts, architecture and design. Since the 1980s the Academy has produced some world-famous fashion names such as Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, Dirk Bikkembergs, Raf Simons.
The city has been recognized by numerous talented artists, writers and other creative personalities. These days Antwerp is not only a ‘diamond city’, but a trendy cultural center.