About 84 percent of the world’s uncut diamonds pass through Antwerp’s Diamond Quarter, an enclave of side streets just west of Central Station. Every year more than £32 billion in polished, cut diamonds pass through the four trading exchanges, regulated by the Antwerp World Diamond Centre and bringing massive wealth into the city. Although today the Diamond Quarter is also home to Indian, Lebanese, Russian and Chinese gem dealers, creating a vividly multicultural atmosphere, most of the city’s diamond trading is still run by the Hassidic Jewish community; more than 8,000 people are involved in the industry and there are even kosher banks exclusively dedicated to financing diamond deals. The nondescript shop fronts on the little tangle of streets centered on Hoveniersstraat hide diamond dealers, cutters – world-renowned for their skill – and polishers as well as kosher butchers, bakeries and synagogues. Some of the biggest, glossiest salesrooms offer tours of their workshops and expert advice on buying; the free ‘Antwerp Loves Diamonds’ map is available from the tourist information offices in Grote Markt and in Central Station, while the Antwerp Diamond Bus runs hop-on, hop-off services around all the areas of the city associated with the trade.
The diamond exchanges and dealers all close on Saturday, along with most jewelry stores. Opening hours are Mon–Fri 9am–5.45pm; Sun 9am–4.45pm. The Diamond Quarter is easily accessible on foot from the city center. The Antwerp Diamond Bus runs daily between 10.30am–5.25pm in summer; Mon & Wed, Sat–Sun in winter; weekends only in April.