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Antwerpen, located in the central northern part of the country, is one of Belgium's ten provinces. Stretching across a territory of 2,876 square kilometers, the province of Antwerpen neighbors the North Brabant province of the Netherlands to the north and the Belgian provinces of Limburg, Flemish Brabant, and East Flanders. The largest city—along with the province's namesake, Antwerp—is found in the western part of the region. The city has been inhabited since Roman times and is, in today's times, known as one of the world's major seaports. Historical and cultural landmarks found in the city aren't the only draw to Antwerp, as the city also features a zoo which is among the oldest animal parks in the world. Additionally, since the 15th century, the city has been the world's center for diamond trade. In terms of local nature and landscape, rivers and canals are notable parts of the region, as waterways contributed to the significance of Antwerp's port. In the northern part of Antwerpen province is located the Kalmthoutse Heide reserve, featuring a considerable number of hiking, cycling, and horseback riding routes through various landscapes, including heathlands, fens, dunes, forests, and meadows. The climate in Antwerp province is reported to be mild and warm, with a significant amount of rainfall throughout the year.
In the western part of the Antwerpen province is the city of Antwerp, the largest city in Belgium and the province's capital. The city is known as being one of the world's major seaports. The history of Antwerp dates back to ancient Roman times. Thus, Antwerp features a considerable amount of historical and cultural heritage. In Antwerp, preserved homes and workshops of two notable cultural figures can be found, which are as follows: 16th-century humanist printer Christophe Plantin (Plantin-Moretus Museum) and 17th-century painter Peter Paul Rubens (Rubens House). Rubens' works are also displayed in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, the Cathedral of Our Lady, and other Antwerp churches. Other museums in the city include the Steen, Butchers' Hall, and Brewers' Hall. Performing arts are represented by the Royal Flemish Opera House and Royal Dutch Theatre. In general, Antwerp's architecture ranges from Gothic to Postmodernism. Antwerp's old city, located within the 16th-century fortifications, features many narrow, winding streets and historical buildings, including the Cathedral of Our Lady, dating back to the 14th century. The 19th-century city, with broader and right-angled streets, extends beyond the old town. Nevertheless, another significant part of Antwerp is the seaport, found in the northern part of the city.
Concerning the nature-oriented attractions in the province of Antwerpen, the Kalmthoutse Heide offers over 25 hiking trails, ranging in length and difficulty. Beyond hiking, other outdoor recreational activities are available in the area, such as mountain biking, cycling, and horseback riding. Wildlife enthusiasts can also visit Antwerp Zoo, located in the center of Antwerp. The zoo, established in 1843, is the oldest animal park in Belgium and one of the oldest in the world. In terms of local business, the region, and the city of Antwerp, in particular, are known for diamond production. The city of Antwerp became the center of the world's diamond trade in the 15th century, and to this day, the town features a "Diamond Quarter," filled with diamond brokers, merchants, and cutters.
The province of Antwerpen covers an area of 2,867 km², with its northernmost point located in Meersel-Dreef. The highest natural point in the province is the Beerzelberg in the Putse district of Beerzel at 51.60 meters, followed by the "Heistse Berg" in Heist-op-den-Berg at 48 meters. However, the highest elevated point in the province is a man-made hill called the "Hooge Maey" landfill located in the port of Antwerp, which is 55 meters high. The lowest point of the province is in the valley of the Grote Nete near Lier at 4 meters. The province is home to several rivers and canals, including the Grote Nete, Kleine Nete, Dijle, Mark, Scheldt-Rhine Canal, Albert Canal, and Brussels-Scheldt Sea Canal, to name a few. These waterways play an essential role in the region's hydrography and have contributed to the development of Antwerp's port as one of the largest in the world.
There are several nature areas scattered across the region. One of them is the Border Park Kalmthoutse Heide, found in the northern part of the province. Kalmthoutse Heide is a nature reserve located on both sides of the Belgian-Dutch border, covering approximately 60 km² of diverse landscape that includes heathlands, fens, dunes, forests, meadows, and polder. The reserve is considered by some to be of ecological value, in view of the rare plants and animals inhabiting the area. The reserve is part of the Natura 2000 network that protects a variety of natural regions across Europe. Visitors can enjoy diverse landscapes on foot, by bicycle, or on horseback.
The province of Antwerp is found in the northern hemisphere. Thus, the area experiences summer from June to September. The local climate is mild and generally warm, with significant rainfall throughout the year. The average temperature is 11.0 °C, and the annual rainfall is around 816 mm. Regarding the average temperatures in Antwerp, the warmest month is August, with an average daily temperature of 24°C. Reportedly, January is the coldest month, as temperatures typically rest around 6°C on average. April tends to be the driest month in Antwerp on account of it generally receiving 45 mm of rainfall on average. The most precipitation falls during December, as it receives an average of about 82 mm.
Antwerp's site was likely inhabited during Gallo-Roman times, as indications of excavations on the right bank of the Schelde have been discovered. The area was later occupied and Germanized by Franks and possibly Frisians after the great Eurasian migrations of the 4th and 5th centuries. The city's name derives from the Germanic prefix anda, meaning "against," and a noun derived from the verb werpen, meaning "to throw," possibly indicating a structure erected against something or someone. Antwerp's fortified castle, the Steen, may have been a predecessor to this structure.
During the early Middle Ages, the region now known as Antwerp was part of the Frankish Empire and was divided into several "pagi," standing for territorial subdivision. The territory belonged to several "pagi," including the Pagus Renesium, which surrounded what would become the city of Antwerp, and the Pagus Toxandria, which stretched from North Brabant into the Campine region. The region became part of the Duchy of Brabant in the 12th century and later fell under the rule of the House of Habsburg in the 15th century. In the 18th century, the region became part of the Austrian Netherlands until 1794, with a brief period of independence in 1790. The former Austrian Netherlands was annexed by France in 1795 under the French Directory.
Following the French invasion in 1795, the former Duchy of Brabant was divided into the French departments of Twee Neten and Dyle. However, after the area was liberated in 1815, the departments were renamed after the Dutch provinces of Antwerp and South Brabant. In 2006, the Brabant Year was celebrated to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the title being bestowed on the region. The occasion was marked by numerous activities organized under the theme of "Brabant 1106-2006," which drew many visitors from both within and outside the region. The festivities were designed to celebrate the rich cultural and historical heritage of Brabant over the centuries.
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