Antwerpen, known as Antwerp to English speakers, and by the nickname "Metropolis" to natives, boasts the second largest harbor in Europe, after Rotterdam. It is located at the inner point of the Scheldt Estuary, where the Scheldt River begins to broaden into a wide open body of water, joining the North Sea after approximately 80 kilometers.
The golden era of Antwerp was the 16th century, from which many of its monuments and architectural highlights date. The city's rise coincided with the decline of Brugge, whose river had silted up, diverting seaborne trade to Antwerpen. The decline of Antwerp followed after a century of prosperity, its fate sealed by the closing of the Scheldt Estuary in 1648 by the Dutch. It has stayed open continuously since reopening in 1863, and now the quays stretch out along the waterfront all the way to the Dutch border.