In the second century A.D. Gallo Romans settled at a bend in the river Scheldt. This was the birth of the present city of Antwerp. Later, Teutons and Normans invaded the city and ultimately a stone rampart - still partly visible - was built to hold off further invaders.
The city grew with its port, which is now the 4th largest harbor in the world. Petrochemical companies using Antwerp's port make it the 2nd-largest such complex after Houston, Texas.
The middle ages are still thought of as Antwerp's "Golden Age". For a time it was the Manhattan of the 16th century, with 150,000 inhabitants. Art flourished and Breughel, Quentin Matsys and Mercator where well known citizens. After religious conflicts, more than 100,000 people fled the city. After the turmoil artists like Rubens, Van Dyck, Teniers, and Jordaens, and printer Plantin Moretus, moved in. Now their houses are well known museums.
In 1920 Antwerp gained further distinction as the host city of the Olympic Games.
Antwerp is the ultimate city for diamond connoisseurs: seventy percent of all diamonds in the world are traded here. This attraction, combined with historical museums, world class fashion shopping, and a thriving nightlife where visitors can hang out in more than 1500 pubs and 700 restaurants around the clock, makes Antwerp a worthwhile destination.
Recently the city has begun an impressive facelift, with major projects in progress or near approval: a futuristic courthouse designed by British architect Richard Rogers; development of the old docks, known as "Het Eilandje", similar to the London Docklands; the new district "Het Nieuw Zuid" with a new park; and development of the majestic Central Station into an international high speed rail station with platforms on 3 levels and tunnels under the city center. A completely redesigned road plan is also being implemented.