The settlement established in 726 AD joined Brabant at the end of the 11th century, and in 1291 had the freedom of the city. In 1315 Antwerp became a member of the Hanseatic league. The port, the sea voyages and its position at the crossroads of the trade routes between West Europe and the Eastern countries and from England to Central Europe made Antwerp the richest city in Europe in the 16th century. The buildings of the Golden Century count today as some of the most important sights. However, a decline was to follow brought on by Spanish repression, fire damage and blockades. The Schelde was closed until the 19th century. The modern development of Antwerp began with the lifting of customs dues in 1863.
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