Antwerp port is adjacent to the Steen and connected by metro to the city, which is an important centre of the diamond trade. Cobbled lanes criss-cross the city leading to art galleries, antique and chocolate shops, and the magnificent cathedral of Notre Dame, which holds paintings by Rubens, the tall Flemish buildings of the Grote Markt and the City Hall. Antwerp is also a fashion capital, and the forthcoming Port Authority HQ was designed by groundbreaking architect, Zaha Hadid.
Bruges is one of the oldest towns in Flanders, and one of the prettiest. Tranquil canals wind through the city, and the Church of Our Lady houses the sculpture by Michelangelo of the Madonna and Child. In the busy square overlooked by the Town Hall belfry perhaps try local 'moules et frites', buy fine chocolate, take coffee or sample one of the many Belgian beers.
The Drommedaris Tower in Enkhuizen is a reminder of the towns role as a trading centre for the Dutch East India Company, and the Zuiderzee Museum traces its history. The traditional wooden boats of the brown fleet pass through Enkhuizens busy lock and can be seen sailing on the Ijselmeer.
Charming Ghent escaped World War II bombing, and has over 900 listed buildings commissioned by wealthy merchants in medieval times. Along the canals, there are many small shops selling unusual items, and the Design Museum shows Art Nouveau items and Philippe Starck designs.
The delightful small town of Hoorn has lovely gabled buildings, constructed during its time as a trading port for the Dutch East India Company. It is well-known for its quaint shops, selling curiosities, antiques and art, and for its famous son who rounded the Southern Cape in 1618 and named it Cape Horn after his birthplace.
The quaint lakeside town of Volendam is a maze of fishermen's houses, small gabled buildings and wooden shops, and was a popular subject for 19th-century artists. Some of its inhabitants still wear traditional Dutch dress, and there is a museum dedicated to Dutch costume and its history. Volendam is close to the historic cheese-producing town of Edam.