Mechelen or Mechelen was in its capital day of the Netherlands when the Dukes of Burgundy dominated these lands and still breathes history in each of its corners
How to get to Mechelen? By train from Brussels or Leuven
You plan to arrive in Mechelen from Brussels, from the Airport, combined with overnight in Leuven like us or from other cities in Belgium, the best option to do so is the train sinceIt is an economical and convenient way to get to the Central Station of the city which is about 15 minutes walk from the nerve center.
You can check schedules and prices on the official website ofBelgian Rail, but around 8 EUR from the Airport or Brussels. Remember that train tickets are valid for the journey throughout the day without rigid schedules.
The time from the Airport or Brussels, take the train you take, will not be longer than 30 minutes in no case.
What to see in Mechelen or Mechelen in 1 day (with map)
The main attractions to see in Mechelen, unlike Leuven, may be possible to visit in half a day (morning or afternoon) although if you want to enjoy its atmosphere beyond any historical route, it is worth staying a sunset on the banks of the Tell him and enjoy his great atmosphere. The route we propose is the following (the map is inspired by that of the tourist office itself)
We will arrive at the Train Station and in 15 minutes we planted in Dijlepad (1) for, on foot or by bike, start parallel to the river to the facades of Haverwerf (2) and go visiting Great Beaterio or Beguinaje de Mechelen (3), the Het Anker brewery (4), the Church of San Juan (5), the Little Beaterio or beguinaje of Mechelen (6), Groen Waterke (7), the Margarita Palace of Austria (8), the Margarita Palace of York and Church of St. Peter and St. Paul (9), Grote Markt, Stadhuis and Schepenhuis (10) and the Cathedral of San Romualdo (11)
Mechelen is a small population, with less than 85,000 inhabitants, and whose historical area is covered in a very quiet way. Those who wish to spend the night or complete the day can also choose to include Kazerne Dossin (Museum and Documentation Center on the Holocaust), the Royal Factory of Upholsterers De Wit or the Church of Our Lady of Dijle
A morning on foot (or by bike) through the sights to see in Mechelen
TO the inhabitants of Mechelen call them "blackout". Legend has it that on a January night of 1687, a neighbor under the influence of alcohol and confused by weather conditions gave the fire alarm in the tower of San Rumoldo by bringing up the neighbors loaded with cubes upstairs ...
With this introduction of a story whose end we reveal below, we begin our visit to the main attractions to visit in Mechelen starting on the banks of the Dijle river
Mechelen is not understood without the Dijle river that crosses its historical center and where, at present, a floating gateway is installed (Dijlepad) in the same channels that used to link ships with Bruges and that over the years it would lose relevance in favor of Antwerp.
The reality is that these channels could never have evolved as the ships did, now real floating "monsters" and only Antwerp had the capacity for that port transformation. However, there are still small spaces reserved for recreational boats
This area is also ideal for a walk along the shore with a different perspective of the city of Mechelen
Haverwerf facades (2)
Of the commercial importance of the old port and before leaving the riverbank, the three most important facades of the city on Haverwerf street are preserved
They date from the 16th century and from left to right they represent Saint Joseph, the devils (wood carvings in its columns that give it its name) andthe Paradise (On the windows is represented "The Garden of Eden")
And why were they important? The ships stopped in Mechelen and put up their entire load of oats for sale (the equivalent in that society to the current wheat) for three days and left the city paying the surpluses in the enabled river controls of which elements are still conserved.
Great Beguinage or Beguineage of Mechelen (3)
Walking through Mechelen at this time of the morning is comforting. The youth atmosphere and university bustle of Leuven, very grateful too, here it is replaced by a relaxed and quiet environment where it seems that time does not pass as we approach another Great Beguinage like the one we saw there
Enter the The great Beguinaje of Mechelen is to return to that quiet neighborhood where the Beguinas, single women, orphans or widows of the wars congregated since the Middle Ages they lived protected in a community
It is also recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and of course its streets, with names like Krankenstraat (the street of the sick) manage to transfer those moments of history
Perhaps the fact that it is the "wealthiest" who have bought many of the properties today and that is not isolated and walled as in Leuven, removes a bit of that charm, but it certainly seems a mandatory visit
The Het Anker brewery (4)
It is located just behind the Great Beguinage and is one of the oldest in Belgium. Do you sound the Gouden Carolus beer? King Charles V commissioned barrels marked with a seal of the official gold coin in which his head appeared (hence the name of Gouden Carolus or Carolus of gold) and since the 13th century is in operation in Het Anker (The Anchor)
To those who fancy a guided visit… !it's possible! including one Small tasting of its two most famous beers, for less than 10 EUR. If you want to know more about Belgian beer you have in our story "The 12 best Belgian beers (and another 1,200 to try)"much more information.
The Church of San Juan (5)
Built on an old hermitage on which there are conflicting data of its origin, the Church of San Juan is currently a Gothic reform of the 15th century but whose wealth comes from the baroque decoration of sculptures, paintings, tapestries, pulpits ... offered
I did not have the opportunity to enjoy it but they say that inside there is one of the most important treasures of Mechelen, the work "Adoration of the Magi" by Rubens
Small Beguinage or Beguineage of Mechelen (6)
The charm of this small corner of Mechelen is magical partly because of the good state of restoration which was the first convent of Mechelen in full S.XIII.
Subsequently, the community of beguines moved out of the wall to the neighborhood we saw before, in this little one the poorest and elderly nuns would stay.
Groen Waterke (7)
Groen Waterke literally means green water and that is precisely what we will see, one of the most curious places in the city consisting of a small creek covered with a greenish color
The reality is that this place represents an idyllic vision of the tranquility of the past being the last uncovered remnant of what were once canals in Mechelen.
Margarita Palace of Austria (8)
We are in the first Renaissance building in the Netherlands, originally the residence of the bishop of Kamerrijken, and where Margarita de Autria lived who receives it in inheritance. Although the building acts as a courthouse today it is perfectly accessible, especially the beautiful gardens.
On the facade you can see "the arms" of Margaret, the imperial shield of Carlos and a statue of Justice
Margarita Palace of York and Church of St. Peter and St. Paul (9)
Both next to the Margarita Palace of Austria. He Margarita Palace of York It is now a theater, also called imperial because Carlos V stayed here from 1500 to 1515.
Of the Jesuit Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, rather than commenting on its characteristics, you have to stand in front of her to observe her baroque facade. When the Jesuit order was persecuted in 1773, Empress Maria Teresa allowed her to remain, which has made her heritage in a great state of conservation
Grote Markt, Stadhuis and Schepenhuis (10)
Walking the streets that separate the previous area of the Grote Mark is to discover the other atmosphere of Mechelen, that of its inhabitants making life with their bikes or that of the terraces that wait for those who want to stop along the way to taste a beer
He Stadhuis or City Hall is one of the most prominent buildings Without a doubt. Of medieval origin, it really should have had a great bell tower but it never became complete, although it was not an impediment to being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The square or Grote Markt It is wide, rectangular in geometry and surrounded by those typical flamenco buildings that we like so much
Here we will see closer than ever that great tower that observes the entire city of Mechelen, from each alley or from the distance.
However, it took Mechelen Cathedral 300 years to be built, from the twelfth and sixteenth centuries, which is said soon
San Romualdo Cathedral (11)
Do you remember the legend that we told you at the beginning of the story? The warning given by that man under the influence of alcohol caused all the neighbors to climb the tower of San Romualdo with buckets of water.
This one, among the reddish fog, seemed to burn in flames but the reality is that a reddish moon next to the weather conditions caused an optical illusion which ended with the well-known name of the "blackjack" neighbors. Are we going up? (EUR 7 entry but last climb at 4.30 pm! EYE!)
It seems that the tower, also a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, should have been 160 meters high but ended with "only" 97 that become 538 steps with breaks to admire the organ, the bell clock or its two 40 ton chimes. The last part of the road is really authentic with its wooden spiral stairs.
How could it be otherwise, do you guess where the best views of the city of Mechelen are located?
The so-called 360º skywalk, although it is an elevated platform, it allows us to see better in the distance than the nearby monuments or historical buildings that we have just observed
They say that on the clearest and clearest days, you can even see the Port of Antwerp or the Brussels Atomium! Amazing!
In addition to the tower, the cathedral of the city is visited It seems incredible that it is still standing because it was destroyed in the 16th century, in World War II it is bombed and in a fire of 1972.
Even so, the Christ on the cross of Van Dyck or the high altar of 1665, remains true treasures.
Winter Garden, a jewel in the surroundings of Mechelen
Though reservation is required inemail protected (get information on Flanders Tourism or Mechelen Tourism for more data) and only allows guided tours for 10 EUR at 2.30pm on Sundays from the end of March to the end of October, I was very interested in traveling that acclaimed jewel of modernism of an era in which it is not known or its architect and there we went by bicycle (you can also go by public transport but from Leuven I love the bike, haha)
The first thing that catches my attention is to find an old female boarding school of the Ursuline sisters of Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Waver full of buildings, rooms, galleries and fountains, many of them included in the visit. But my attention was focused behind those doors ...
As soon as you enter that room you realize the importance of the Winter Garden or Winter Garden but you don't understand what led the boarding school to commission that treasure without obvious religious symbols and that since 1900 has survived two wars.
Light and color play on a deck is a polychrome stained glass window creating the appearance of an eternal spring where the hours of the day, (theme of modernism), fauna or flora focus all the efforts of the author. !Awesome!
While Winter Garden is the main claim, theprotected monumental complex it shows us in a fabulous guided tour a mixture of entrances, doors, rooms, stairs and galleries that mix that modernist art fused with the neo-Gothic or the art deco of the Winter Garden
The Entrance of the Empire, the Hall of the Alps, the Refectory of the Fountains or the Staircase of Honor are some of them
But if I have to stay with one beyond the Winter Garden, that's thePiano Gallery that still retains that air of yesteryear.
We leave the Ursuline Institute behind, since we must return to Mechelen before nightfall.
Where to eat in Mechelen? Some highly recommended restaurants
While in Leuven I took the opportunity to get to know some of its restaurants, in Mechelen the vision of the afternoon changes and more than talking about outstanding restaurants, we should recommend a specific area. It is at this time when locals and tourists congregate in the area of the banks of the Dijle that opens its terraces until late (unlike other areas of the city)
Those who want a more concrete option have in Kraanbrug's a charming restaurant whose terrace is located in an old renovated ship that floats on the old port canals.
Another highly recommended option is in the Grote Markt, more lively at noon, in the new Honoloelo restaurantand where to enjoy your salads along with a Carolus
However, we are convinced that any place that serves local cuisine can be a success in Mechelen
Where to sleep in Mechelen? The best hotel options
We have no doubt ... ours! For price and location, theMercure Mechelen Vé It is one of the best possible options, halfway between the Train Station and the Grote Markt
The hotel is located in an old industrial factory of 1923 and in addition to a restaurant overlooking the Dijle River in the area that we mentioned before, the Mercure Vé includes a wellness center with a jet pool, sauna, hot tub and Turkish bath. Who gives more?
Undoubtedly, Mechelen has made us fall in love. You should never compare cities because each one has its own peculiarities and charms but perhaps that familiarity and that relaxed walk makes Mechelen a place where we would stay to disconnect from the world for a few days. Do you sign up for A tour of the main places to visit in Mechelen? We hope this story serves you 😉
Isaac, from Mechelen (Belgium)