The 2015 Tour de France is underway and will start in Antwerp on 6th July
The 2015 Tour de France is underway. The riders face a gruelling three weeks of cycling through the Netherlands, Belgium and France on a route which will include some of the notorious cobbled roads (or pavé) of Northern France, a finish line “in the sea” on the Zeeland Delta in the Netherlands and the famous climb of Alpe d’Huez in the Alps.
On 6th July the Tour will head into Belgium, with a stage starting in Antwerp, Belgium’s second city and largest port. The race will follow an undulating route, heading out of Flanders into the French speaking province of Liège, finishing with a climb of the Mur de Huy, a climb set to test the legs and lungs of every cyclist who attempts it.
The ‘Village du Départ’ will be located on Steenplein, close to the River Scheldt in the historic heart of Antwerp and the race will start just a short distance away. The city of diamonds has hosted the Tour de France before and is well worth a visit at any time of year, not just when the Tour is in town.
Antwerp is often upstaged by Bruges as a tourist destination but it has plenty to offer the tourist including a picturesque and historic central area. This year Antwerp’s town hall celebrates its 450th anniversary and a free exhibition on the ground floor of this impressive building sets out many aspects of its fascinating past.
For anyone interested in knowing more about diamonds, the Diamond Pavilion illustrates why Antwerp is known as the world centre for diamonds and illustrates its rich history and economic importance to the city.
Steen Castle on the River Scheldt is Antwerp’s oldest building. The Steen was used as a prison until 1823 and was then a residence, a saw mill and a fish warehouse before it reopened in 1862 as a museum.
Antwerp has a rich culinary tradition and any visit to the city must include some of its specialities. Antwerpse Handjes have been a local culinary speciality since 1934. These chocolates or biscuits are made in the shape of a hand. Belgium is of course famous for its chocolate and many of Belgium’s best chocolatiers have set up shop in Antwerp. The city is also home to the De Koninck Brewery, which has just opened a visitor centre. . The brewing process, Belgian beer culture and beer tasting are central to this innovative beer experience centre.
The Tour de France will head off out of Antwerp, but there are plenty of reasons to stay awhile and get to know this fascinating city.