A guide looking at serviced offices and office space to rent in Antwerp as well as providing general information that may be useful if you are thinking of renting office space in the city.
History & Geography
Located on the right bank of the River Scheldt, Antwerp is the largest city in the north-eastern Belgian province of Flanders. Almost since its founding Antwerp has been one of the most culturally and economically important cities in the Low Countries, the lands around the Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt rivers. The city was founded in the fourth century by the Germanic Franks, a federation of tribes originating in the Rhine area. As the city grew it was fortified and eventually became an important centre of administration in the Holy Roman Empire. During the 16th century the city of Bruges declined, causing Antwerp to profit greatly, with many of the major trading houses transferring their headquarters to the city. In time Antwerp became one of the richest cities in Europe, a centre of banking and of the sugar trade. With the advent of the Reformation Antwerp’s fortunes changed. In 1572 the 80 Years War broke out, destroying the city’s trade with Spain, and in 1576 the Spanish captured the city and massacred thousands of its inhabitants. In the late 17th century the Scheldt River was closed to navigation by the Treaty of Munster which dealt a death blow to Antwerp’s trading power. In the early 19th century however Napoleon enlarged the harbor of the city, hoping to make it into a rival to London. Antwerp was also further fortified and eventually became one of the most important cities in the newly created state of Belgium. During WWI Antwerp was the scene of major fighting and was eventually seized and held by the Germans for the rest of the war. During WWII Antwerp was severely damaged by a barrage of V2 rockets in a failed attempt to destroy the port. After the war the city was extensively rebuilt and expanded and modernized. Today Antwerp is a centre of international fashion as well as being a major tourist city and host of cultural events.
Antwerp’s economy has traditionally revolved around its port, which is currently the seventeenth largest in the world, and one of the three largest in Europe after Rotterdam and Hamburg. Antwerp handles predominantly bulk cargo as well as general and project cargo. The city’s docklands are also home to five oil refineries and a large concentration of petrochemical industries, rivalled only by Houston, Texas. Antwerp is also a major destination for cruise ships, which dock at the city’s old bluestone quays. Another bulwark of Antwerp’s economy is the diamond trade, which mostly takes place within the city’s famed diamond district and is dominated by Antwerp’s Hasidic Jewish community. There are four diamond bourses in the city, one for bort, and three for gem quality stones. The Antwerp World Diamond Centre is a respected authority in setting standards and regulating professional ethics in the industry. Due to its excellent transportation links and other facilities Antwerp has also become a leading city in hosting trade fairs and other cultural events. And while Antwerp is by no means among Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, it’s history and culture, as well as its rising prominence in the fashion world are attracting an ever-increasing amount of visitors.
Tourism & Culture
Increasingly Antwerp is being regarded as one of Europe’s fashion meccas. This is partly due to the so-called Antwerp Six, a group of designers that graduated from the city’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts between 1980 and 1981. The group made their breakthrough at the London fashion fair of 1988. Since then the city has become the centre of the Belgian fashion scene and there have been a number of new designers produced by the city. Antwerp is also famous for its Bolleke beer, a distinctive amber coloured beverage produced by the famous De Koninck Brewery that is showcased every year in August during the Bollekesfeest. Another product that the city has made famous are its biscuits, the Antwerpse Handjes, or ‘Antwerp Hands’, made out of sanddough with almonds and milk chocolate. Among the notable buildings in Antwerp is the Cathedral of Our Lady, which dates from the 15th century. The Church of St Paul is also much visited for its distinctive baroque interior. The city’s Royal Museum of Fine Arts is another popular attraction and features many pieces by old masters such as Rubens, Van Dyck and Titian.
Antwerp is served by Antwerp Central Station which runs trains north to the Netherlands and east to Brussels. It also serves trains to Amsterdam, Paris, Bruges and several other Belgian cities. The station itself is an architectural attraction, with a beautiful arched glass roof and intricate stonework. The city itself is served by an efficient network of bus and tram lines operated by De Lijn. The tram network has 12 lines including a tunnel under the river. For air travel the city is served by Antwerp International Airport in the suburb of Deurne. Brussels airport, approximately 45 kilometres from Antwerp is the main international hub in the region.
Currently the amount of overall office stock in Antwerp stands at approximately 1.96 million square metres. The city has a vacancy rate of ten percent however this is expected to drop significantly in the future due to lack of development and an expected increase in demand. The most important zones in the city for office space are the city centre and Singel. These two areas account for over 70 percent of stock and are the most centrally located.