Except for the sound of 1990's hits being broadcast across the Grote Markt, it was a fairytale. A large ice-skating rink filled the square, surrounded by Glühwein stands and some of Antwerp's finest, wedding-cake-ornate architecture. So magical and so romantic, despite the grumpy 2-year old (that just so happened to belong to us).
Yes, gone are the days when we sat quietly at a table overlooking the square, sipping on our wine by candle light. And although we have fond memories of those evenings, travel has taken on a has a whole new meaning with our "little man", dashing through the squares of these ancient European cities - laughing, and stopping mid-step when he hears church bells, to shout, "Oh, Glocken!" It's another kind of joy.
Children, or no children, Antwerp is the place to visit at Christmas time. Christmas lights abound, church bells seem to ring every 5 minutes, and the Grote Markt ice skating rink lures couples onto it's slick surface between mugs of Glühwein. On weekends, there's a Christmas market on the Groenplaats, a market square dominated by the large, impressive Hilton Hotel, and the beginning of Antwerp's main shopping district (known as "Meir").
Some other things I loved...
-The spectacular Gothic "Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedral" (or "Cathedral of Our Lady"), with its sweet little nativity scene (and the four Baroque paintings by Pieter Paul Reubens, which I have yet to see.)
-Het Elfde Gebod (or "The 11th Commandment"): A Strange bar on "Torfbrug" with hundreds of religious relics on the walls
-And across the street on Lijnwaad, The Vermoeide Model, a restaurant and art gallery, combined.
Antwerp is a spectacular city, with something to see at every corner, and the little bit that we saw in our evening there was enough to know that we'll be going back again... soon!