Antwerp: From Diamond City to Creative City

In the past decade, many things have been said and written about creative cities and what exactly they must exhibit to be a part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network (UCCN).

Image source: synergy-european

Created in 2004, UCCN was established “to promote cooperation with and amongst cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development”. The ever expanding list of (currently) 116 cities make up a special network that works together towards a common objective: “placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level”.

According to UNESCO, Urban areas are today’s fundamental breeding grounds for the development of new strategies, policies and enterprises aimed at making culture and creativity a driving force for sustainable development and urban regeneration. This is done through the stimulation of growth and modernisation and the promotion of social cohesion, citizen well-being and inter-cultural dialogue. “A city appears as some sort of force of nature, a natural breeding ground for life cycles of economic invention and creativity.” 

Cities today are the home to more than half of the world’s population and three quarters of its economic activity which includes a large share of the creative economy.

That being said, I think Antwerp (Belgium) should apply or be considered/ to become part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network.


Well, Antwerp is a known worldwide hub of creativity, a place where innovative entrepreneurship thrives, as well as being the diamond capital of the world. Its creative talents and start up companies are part of Antwerp’s creative economy that are developing its dynamic sectors and providing exceptional investment opportunities for entrepreneurs. Antwerp’s creative scene is very vibrant and the main creative sectors are heavily presented in the city as they work closely together.

The main sectors include: design, ICT, new media, music, audiovisual, advertising and communication, print media, architecture and the cultural industry – together they employ 18,000 people.

FACT: one in every 6 companies in Antwerp operate in a creative sector.

Creative entrepreneurs feel at home in Antwerp, especially in the city centre! In contrast to other large cities Antwerp does not have a specific creative district, rather the entire cite centre is one large creative district with creative companies.

Creative Hotspots In Antwerp

There may not be any creative districts in Antwerp but there are creative hotspots. The most creative neighbourhood is situated around Leopold de Waelplaats and the Southern Docks. Here you can find advertising agencies, communication agencies, ICT companies and new media.

Video source: ‘Leopold de Waelplaats – Antwerpen’ by Herman Horsten

Antwerp stands out as the Belgian capital of fashion, the area around Nationalestraat is where you can find the fashion and jewellery industries.

Image source:Antwerp Nationalestraat’ by Wouter Hagens

The cultural sector and print media tend to cluster in the Zurenborg district and the design consultancies and architect firms are found around the Academy and Mutsaardstraat.

So why invest in Antwerp as a creative city?

Antwerp has an international reputation and appeal as a creative hotspot due to its attractive and business-friendly city with a world port. Having a large port in such a central location means Antwerp has an international appeal and excellent connections with Paris, London and Amsterdam by train. In fact, the Antwerp Central Station is one of the world’s most remarkable railway stations and one of the main landmarks in Antwerp.

Image source: ‘Antwerpen Centraal station 12-07-2010′ by Paul Hermans

A creative economy is closely interwoven with various sectors and businesses, largely relying on a global market. Antwerp has many crossovers and collaborations with the traditional sectors, such as diamonds, retail and petrochemicals.

Video source: ‘Antwerp, Belgium⎮Prada Handbag⎮Bike Tour ⎮Antwerp Central Station ⎮Diamond District & More!’ by fashionbeautybug

And most importantly, Antwerp’s resources and many start-ups will aid the initial period of growth within the creative sectors, leading to foreign expansion and Belgium’s second city becoming a creative hub for Europe.

Featured image source: MAS