Mechelen is a historic Belgian city of around 86,304 residents, located in Antwerp province approximately halfway between the major cities of Antwerp and Brussels. It has a rich history, having served as the 16th century seat of the Archbishopric of Mechelen and temporary capital of the Netherlands under Margaret of Austria.
Many well-preserved buildings stand from Mechelen's days as an important center of government and religion. Landmarks include the 13th century St. Rumbold's Cathedral, 15th century Hof van Busleyden palace, and the UNESCO-listed Belfry tower on its main square. The city is also home to the renowned Royal Carillon School.
Mechelen now thrives as one of Flanders' prominent art cities. It offers trendy cafes, shops and a vibrant cultural scene. Popular attractions include the St. Rumbold's Tower, the Grote Markt Mechelen, the Mechelen Muurt, the Toy Museum Mechelen, the Planckendael Zoo and scenic canal cruises at Dijle River. Mechelen makes an excellent base for exploring Belgium's sights.
- 1. Climb the St. Rumbold's Tower
- 2. Stroll through Grote Markt Mechelen
- 3. Photograph the Mechelen Muurt
- 4. Explore the Toy Museum Mechelen
- 5. Wander through the Great and Small Beguinages of Mechelen
- 6. Take a boat tour at Dijle River
- 7. Taste beers at the Het Anker Brewery
- 8. Walk along Dijle Path
- 9. Admire architecture in Haverwerf
- 10. Visit St. Jans Church
- 11. Shop at Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe street
- 12. Try the chocolates at Maneblussers
- 13. Taste the food at De Vleeshalle
- 14. Savor tapas and drinks at SAVA
- 15. Enjoy brunch at Foom
- 16. Sleep at Martin's Patershof
- 17. Stay at the Het Anker Brewery Hotel
- 18. View the exhibits at the Hof van Busleyden
- 19. Remember the Holocaust victims at the Kazerne
- 20. Relax in Vrijbroekpark
- 21. Planckendael Zoo
- 22. Technopolis Science Museum
- What are the best museums to visit in Mechelen?
- What are the best activities in Mechelen with kids and toddlers?
- Where is Mechelen?
- What is the history of Mechelen?
- What are the most interesting facts of Mechelen for a traveler?
- What are the best restaurants in Mechelen?
- Which are the best areas to stay in Mechelen?
- What are the best hotels in Mechelen?
- Is Mechelen worth visiting?
Listed below are the best things to do in Mechelen.
- Climb the St. Rumbold's Tower. The 97-meter Gothic St. Rumbold's Tower was built 1452-1520. It dominates Mechelen's skyline with its iconic flat-topped silhouette. Visitors can climb 538 steps to the top viewing platform for panoramic city views. Its carillon has 49 bells and the unfinished tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Belfries of Belgium and France.
- Stroll through Grote Markt Mechelen. Grote Markt has been Mechelen's central market square since the 13th century. It features the St. Rumbold’s Cathedral and 15th century City Hall. On Saturdays it is bustling with market stalls, cafes and restaurants, offering a lively atmosphere amid historic architecture.
- Photograph the Mechelen Muurt. The Mechelen Muurt street art project, since 2015, has brought large-scale murals throughout Mechelen. The walking route showcases creative urban artwork and revitalizes forgotten corners of the city.
- Explore the Toy Museum Mechelen. The Toy Museum Mechelen has over 20,000 toys spanning centuries and continents, one of Europe's largest toy collections. Interactive exhibits and play zones entertain all ages.
- Wander through the Great and Small Beguinages of Mechelen. The Great and Small Beguinages date to the 13th century. These two beguinage complexes offer a peaceful glimpse into medieval history. The residential streets and historic architecture create a tranquil oasis in the city.
- Take a boat tour at Dijle River. The scenic Dijle River flows through central Mechelen. It is dotted with historic landmarks. Riverside paths allow relaxing strolls and bike rides with cafes, boat tours and a lively fish market.
1. Climb the St. Rumbold's Tower
St. Rumbold's Tower Mechelen is a Gothic-style bell tower located in the city center of Mechelen, Belgium. The tower is part of the St. Rumbold's Cathedral complex and stands at 97.28 meters (319 feet) tall. It was built between 1452 and 1520, with foundations laid in 1449. St. Rumbold's Tower is one of the most iconic landmarks in Mechelen and dominates the city's skyline.
The tower has been a focal point of Mechelen for over 500 years. It was originally designed to have a spire that would reach 167 meters (548 feet), which would have made it the tallest tower in the world at that time. However, the spire was never completed due to lack of funds. The tower's flat-topped silhouette has become a recognizable symbol of the city. St. Rumbold's Tower is also notable for its carillon which consists of 49 bells. The tower was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 as part of the Belfries of Belgium and France.
St. Rumbold's Tower is located in central Mechelen, Belgium at Onder-Den-Toren 12, 2800. Mechelen is situated between Brussels and Antwerp, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Brussels and 80 km (50 miles) south of Antwerp. The city is well-connected by public transportation, located along the main railway line between Brussels and Antwerp. There are regular train services to Mechelen from both cities. By car, the tower can be easily accessed via the A1/E19 motorway.
The tower can be visited by people of all ages and is a popular attraction for families. Admission to enter St. Rumbold's Tower costs €8 for adults, €6 for groups of 10 or more and €3 for children/youth ages 4-27. Tickets can be purchased at the site. The tower is open daily and the ascent involves climbing 538 steps to reach the top viewing platform known as the Skywalk. The climb up the narrow, winding staircase can be strenuous so it may not be ideal for people with limited mobility. Visitors can take rests at intermittent floors on the way up the tower. The panoramic views of Mechelen from the Skywalk make the climb worthwhile for most visitors.
2. Stroll through Grote Markt Mechelen
Grote Markt Mechelen is the central square located in the historic center of Mechelen, Belgium. Grote Markt Mechelen dates back to the 13th century and has served as the city's main market square and central gathering place for centuries. Grote Markt is located in the heart of Mechelen's pedestrian zone and is surrounded by many historic buildings and landmarks.
The square is dominated by the imposing St. Rumbold's Cathedral, whose 97-meter high unfinished tower looms large over the square. On the north side of the square is the Mechelen City Hall, a Gothic building dating to the 15th century. The surrounding buildings showcase a variety of architectural styles, including Renaissance and Baroque, that reflect the square's evolution over the centuries. Grote Markt is still home to a bustling weekly market held on Saturdays, continuing a tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages when it served as Mechelen's central marketplace.
Grote Markt Mechelen is located in the center of Mechelen, Belgium approximately 25 kilometers (16 miles) north of Brussels and 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Antwerp. The full address is Grote Markt, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium.
The square is easily accessible by public transportation, located just a 5-10 minute walk from Mechelen Railway Station. Frequent trains connect Mechelen to Brussels and Antwerp. Grote Markt Mechelen can be reached from Brussels by taking the E19 motorway and exiting at Mechelen, if driving is the preferred means of transportation. Limited parking is available in the underground garage below Grote Markt, with additional parking located on the outskirts of the pedestrian zone.
Grote Markt Mechelen is suitable for visitors of all ages and interests. Families will enjoy exploring the historic buildings surrounding the square and visiting cafes on the pedestrian-only square. The weekly Saturday market offers fresh local produce, flowers, wares and food stalls that appeal to all ages. Adults can appreciate the architecture and history while enjoying the lively atmosphere and abundant cafes and restaurants lining the square. There is no admission fee to visit Grote Markt.
3. Photograph the Mechelen Muurt
Mechelen Muurt is a street art project in the Belgian city of Mechelen. The project was initiated in 2015 by the city's artist in residence Gijs Vanhee, who invited 10 national and international artists to help brighten up and revitalize Mechelen by painting large scale murals on buildings around the city center. The murals were intended to bring color and vibrancy to forgotten corners of the city and each artwork was created with a unique story and meaning behind it.
The 10 murals created for the first edition of Mechelen Muurt can be seen by following a special walking route through the city. The artworks are spread out across the inner city area within around a 45 minute walking distance. The walking route takes visitors past impressive large scale paintings in back alleys and quiet neighborhoods that they otherwise may not explore. Two of the murals are located in more prominent locations near the center, while the other eight are hidden away waiting to be discovered down small side streets. The walking route is designed to showcase the unknown sides of Mechelen beyond the main tourist sights.
Some of the highlights along the Mechelen Muurt walking route include ‘The Pelican' by Belgian graphic artist Dzia, which depicts a colorful large pelican against a bright backdrop, located in the Lekkernijstraatje. Another standout is ‘Underwater Dog' by Bart ‘Smates' Smeets, which almost looks like a photograph in its lifelike detail. This is located opposite ‘Alicia Duerme' by Argentinian artist Milu Correch, which shows a dreaming Alice in Wonderland. These two murals can both be found along De Langhestraat.
The Mechelen Muurt murals are spread throughout the inner city area of Mechelen, which is located around 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of Brussels in Belgium and has a population of around 86,000. The murals are within walking distance of Mechelen's main station and the city is easy to reach by train from Brussels in under 30 minutes. Mechelen can also be reached from Brussels by car or bus in around 30 minutes as well.
The Mechelen Muurt walking route is suitable for all audiences and is a unique way to explore Mechelen from a different perspective. The murals showcase a variety of artistic styles, so there is something to enjoy for all tastes. The activity can be enjoyed equally by individuals, couples, families and groups. There is no admission fee to view the murals, as they are located on public buildings and streets around the city. The route map can be picked up for free from the tourist information office in the center of Mechelen.
In 2021, Mechelen Muurt was expanded with several new large scale murals added around the city, taking the total number of artworks up to 19. Around 7 of the new murals are located in residential areas outside of the city center, with the aim of bringing art to the wider community. The new murals can be combined with the original route to create an even longer street art walking tour of Mechelen. With colorful murals continuing to pop up across the city, Mechelen Muurt helps highlight both well-known and forgotten areas of this historic Belgian town.
4. Explore the Toy Museum Mechelen
The Toy Museum Mechelen is a museum located in the Nekkerspoel district of Mechelen, Belgium. With a collection of over 20,000 toys from across the globe and spanning centuries of toy history, the Toy Museum Mechelen has one of the largest and most diverse toy collections in Europe.
The museum first opened its doors in April 1982 after being founded by a group of 17 toy enthusiasts two years prior. It started off with just 2,400 square meters of exhibition space but has since expanded across 10,000 square meters spread over four floors. In 1998, the Toy Museum Mechelen gained official recognition as an accredited museum.
The highlights of the Toy Museum's vast collection include ancient Greek terracotta dolls, traditional puppets and marionettes, intricate model train sets, vintage board games, imaginative toy theaters, teddy bears through the ages, building blocks, miniature circuses, dolls houses, rocking horses, tin toys like robots and automobiles and much more. There are also special sections devoted to the history and artistry of the toy typewriter, as well as one that brings a famous 1560 painting called Children's Games by Pieter Bruegel the Elder to life in an interactive 3D exhibit.
The Toy Museum of Mechelen, located at Nekkerspoelstraat 21 in the Nekkerspoel neighborhood of Mechelen, regularly rotates in temporary and travelling exhibitions that dive deeper into particular topics or celebrate milestones like anniversaries. Workshops, special events and play zones catered towards children are also offered periodically. Guided tours can be booked for groups.
It is located 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Brussels and can be reached in under 30 minutes by train from Brussels Central Station. The Toy Museum itself is a short walk of around 300 meters southwest from Mechelen Nekkerspoel Station. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 17:00 and closed on Mondays. Tickets are priced at €12.50 for adults, €8.50 for children ages 3-12 and €9 for seniors ages 65 and up. Children under 3 get free admission. Family packages and discounted rates for students, groups and combination tickets with other Mechelen attractions are also available.
The Toy Museum Mechelen offers an engaging and educational experience for visitors of all ages. Adults may enjoy reminiscing about beloved childhood playthings of bygone eras, while kids can discover unfamiliar toys from other places and times. For any visitor, the museum provides a glimpse into childhoods throughout history and around the world.
5. Wander through the Great and Small Beguinages of Mechelen
The Great and Small Beguinages of Mechelen are two historic beguinage complexes located in the city of Mechelen, Belgium. Beguinages were enclosed communities built to house beguines, lay religious women who dedicated themselves to God without taking monastic vows. The Great Beguinage (Groot Begijnhof) and Small Beguinage (Klein Begijnhof) date back to the 13th century and provide a fascinating glimpse into medieval history.
The Small Beguinage is the oldest, established in 1207 within Mechelen's city walls. It was originally Mechelen's only beguinage, but as more beguines arrived, the younger ones moved to the new Great Beguinage built outside the city in the late 13th century. The old and infirm beguines remained in the Small Beguinage. Today, the Small Beguinage contains picturesque cobblestone streets lined with quaint historic houses. Its former chapel, dedicated to Mary Magdalene, now serves as a gymnasium.
The Great Beguinage, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has a more unique history and architecture compared to other beguinages. Around 1560, Mechelen's original Large Beguinage outside the city walls was destroyed. The beguines rebuilt inside the walls, buying existing buildings and constructing new ones. This gives the Great Beguinage its distinct hodgepodge character. At its peak in the 16th century, it housed over 2,000 beguines. Though no original medieval buildings survive, the site still exudes tranquility with its charming alleys, picturesque gabled houses and baroque Beguinage Church.
Both beguinages are located in central Mechelen, around 1 kilometer north of the Grote Markt (Grand Place) main square. The Small Beguinage sits between the streets of Nonnenstraat, Voochtstraat and Klein Begijnhof. The Great Beguinage spans a larger area bounded by streets like Hoviusstraat, Nonnenstraat and Begijnenstraat.
The beguinages can be reached on foot, by bike or via Mechelen's bus and tram network. The nearest stops are Nonnenstraat and Sint-Katelijnekerk for the Small and Great Beguinages respectively. As peaceful residential areas, both sites are open to visitors year-round for free self-guided wandering and photography. However, be respectful of residents' privacy.
The beguinages appeal to those interested in medieval history, architecture, religion and women's stories. The atmosphere also makes them an oasis for travelers or locals seeking a relaxing place for a stroll or to snap photos away from the tourist crowds.
6. Take a boat tour at Dijle River
Dijle River Mechelen is a river that flows through the center of Mechelen, Belgium. The Dijle River has played an important role in the development of Mechelen over the centuries. The river gets its name from the city, as Mechelen was once known as Malines in French, which became Dijle in Dutch. The Dijle originates about 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Mechelen and flows north through the city before joining the Nete River. Together they form the Rupel River, which flows into the Scheldt River and eventually the North Sea.
In Mechelen's historic center, the Dijle River splits into two branches as it flows through the city. The main northern branch is now called the Binnen-Dijle or Inner Dijle, while a smaller southern branch is called the Buiten-Dijle or Outer Dijle. The Inner Dijle is the focus of river activities in central Mechelen.
The Dijle has played a key role in Mechelen's development since the Middle Ages. It provided a source of water and power, allowed transport of goods by boat and industries developed along its banks. Mechelen became an important inland port and center of trade because of its location on the Dijle.
Today, the Dijle still flows through the heart of Mechelen but is no longer used commercially. Instead, it provides a picturesque setting in the historic center and offers recreational opportunities. A scenic riverside path called the Dijlepad allows visitors to walk or cycle along the water through central Mechelen while admiring historic houses and bridges. The Inner Dijle is also used for boat tours that start from the Haverwerf and share stories of Mechelen's history.
The riverbanks come alive in the summer, when outdoor cafés set up terraces along the Dijle. Locals and tourists enjoy sitting canalside for a drink or meal while watching the ducks and swans float by. The fish market, on the left bank of the Inner Dijle, is a particularly popular spot.
Major historic landmarks located along the Dijle in central Mechelen include the 13th century cathedral of St. Rumbold, the 16th century former palace of Margaret of Austria and the 17th century Large Beguinage. The beguinage was home to a community of women living together for spiritual purposes and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visitors to Mechelen can easily explore the river and sights on foot. The Dijle flows right through the pedestrianized historic center. For a different perspective, 45-minute boat tours along the Inner Dijle depart hourly from the Haverwerf jetty from 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm daily during spring and summer. Tickets cost around €7 ($8, £6) for adults and €5 ($6, £5) for children.
7. Taste beers at the Het Anker Brewery
Het Anker Brewery is one of Belgium's oldest breweries, founded in 1471 in Mechelen. The brewery started when Charles the Bold gave permission for the Beguine sisters of Mechelen to brew beer tax-free for their hospital. In 1872, the Van Breedam family purchased Het Anker and modernized it with innovations like a steam boiler. Today, Het Anker Brewery is run by the 5th generation of Van Breedams and is known for beers like the Gouden Carolus range, named after Emperor Charles V who was raised in Mechelen and enjoyed the local beer.
The brewery combines old equipment like the 1940s copper brewing kettles with modern technology to produce its range of beers. Het Anker also makes its own Gouden Carolus Single Malt whiskey, started in 2010 at their De Molenberg distillery, which exemplifies the family's long spirit-making tradition.
Het Anker Brewery is located at Guido Gezellelaan 49, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium, which is on the edge of Mechelen's old town center and beguinage quarter, a protected heritage site that housed lay Catholic women known as beguines in the Middle Ages.
To get to Het Anker Brewery, the easiest way is to take the train from Brussels or Antwerp to Mechelen's main station. The journey takes about 25-30 minutes from either city, with trains departing several times per hour. From Mechelen station, the brewery is a 15-20 minute walk or a short taxi/bus ride. Het Anker is well-signposted once in central Mechelen. There is limited parking at the brewery but ample parking in the city center. Mechelen is also conveniently located near the E19 motorway connecting Brussels and Antwerp.
Visiting Het Anker Brewery is suitable for adults interested in beer, history and Belgian culture. Guided tours are available in Dutch, French and English for €8 per person. The tour explores the brewing process and old equipment before finishing with a tasting of two beers like the Gouden Carolus Classic and Tripel. Those under 18 cannot participate in the tasting but can still enjoy the tour. The brasserie at the Het Anker Brewery serves authentic Belgian cuisine and the full range of Het Anker beers, making it a good spot for lunch or dinner. Visitors can also sample Het Anker's single malt whiskey and shop for beers and souvenirs in the brewery store.
8. Walk along Dijle Path
The Dijle Path (Dijlepad in Dutch) is a scenic pedestrian walkway that follows along the River Dijle as it flows through the heart of Mechelen, Belgium. It is located in the historic city center of Mechelen, where the path starts at the Haverwerf and continues for over 1 kilometer until the Fontein Bridge (Lamotbrug). The wooden boardwalk is cantilevered over the water in some parts, offering unique views and perspectives of Mechelen as it passes by the rear of old canal houses, underneath stone bridges and through lush greenery.
Instead of standard views of building fronts and squares, you get to enjoy in the charm of Mechelen from below its bridges and next to its flowing river. It's a peaceful, almost secret slice of the city. The riverbanks are dotted with tall trees, willows and colorful flowers. And since the path avoids busy streets, it makes for a quiet, crowd-free wander through the historic center.
The Dijle Path is located right in central Mechelen, with the city's tourist information center at its starting point on Haverwerf. The pedestrian path follows the Dijle river for just over 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) through the middle of town.
The easiest way to reach Dijle Path from Mechelen is by walking. Once in Mechelen, the path is an enjoyable 10 to 15 minute walk from the central train station. Head east from the station along the inner ring road until you reach Haverwerf, just before the Dijle River. The entrance to Dijle Path is well marked with signs at this point.
The scenic Dijle Path is suitable for visitors of all ages and makes for a nice leisurely stroll or bike ride. It's especially pleasant on sunny days when you can fully take in the greenery and flowers along the way. There is no admission fee to access the path, which is open year-round. The boardwalk section may be closed during icy winter weather for safety reasons.
9. Admire architecture in Haverwerf
Haverwerf is a picturesque street located in the heart of Mechelen, Belgium. Originally functioning as an oat wharf where grain boats would unload their cargo to be sold, the Haverwerf retains its historic charm and is now a top attraction in Mechelen.
Situated along the River Dyle, Haverwerf features beautifully preserved 16th and 17th century townhouses that exemplify traditional Flemish architecture. The three most renowned houses are Het Paradijske (The Little Paradise), De Duiveltjes (The Little Devils) and Sint-Jozef (Saint Joseph). Het Paradijske flaunts Late Gothic design accented by early Renaissance elements. Its name comes from the carvings above the windows depicting Biblical scenes of the Garden of Eden. De Duiveltjes is distinguished by its rare wooden facade and pillars carved as devil figures, hence the name. Sint-Jozef stands out with its Baroque facade and relief of Saint Joseph and Baby Jesus. These well-preserved historic homes provide a glimpse into Mechelen's past prominence as a center for river trade.
Haverwerf is located in central Mechelen, Belgium at Haverwerf 20-22, 2800 Mechelen. Situated along the Dyle River, it connects the streets of Van Beethovenstraat and Kraanstraat. Visitors can easily access Haverwerf on foot from Mechelen's main square, Grote Markt, by walking down Melaan street. It is also a short walk from the Mechelen-Nekkerspoel train station.
With its pedestrian-friendly cobblestone streets, Mechelen is best explored on foot. From the Grote Markt, it takes about 10 minutes to walk to Haverwerf. The street can also be reached via buses that stop at the nearby Korenmarkt bus station. Lines 1, 500, 900 and 902 run frequently between the city center and the Haverwerf area. Cyclists can find parking racks available along the Dyle river banks.
Haverwerf appeals to visitors of all ages interested in local architecture, history and Belgian culture. Families will appreciate the riverfront allure and close proximity to kid-friendly attractions like the Margaret of York Playground. Photography enthusiasts are drawn to capture the photogenic row of historic homes. In addition, Haverwerf offers a jumping point for riverfront strolls and boat tours that meander through central Mechelen.
There is no cost to access Haverwerf, as it is a public road open for pedestrian exploration. Guided walking tours of the city may charge a fee, but independent travelers can freely stroll the street and river walkway. Nearby attractions like the Boat Tours on the Inner Dyle require paid tickets, costing around 10 euros for adults. Visitors should check schedules and rates for specific sightseeing activities in Mechelen.
10. Visit St. Jans Church
St. John's Church is a historic 15th century Gothic church located in Mechelen, Belgium. The church is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist and is known locally as Sint-Janskerk. What makes St. John's Church special is its impressive interior decor and artworks despite its rather plain exterior facade. The interior contains many treasures including the famous triptych “Adoration of the Magi” by Peter Paul Rubens which sits above the main altar. Behind this are mechanisms to rotate the altarpiece to allow viewing of all its scenes. Other highlights are the exquisite woodcarvings on the churchwarden's benches where wealthy parish members sat, the ornately carved pulpit by Michiel Vervoort and two large 14th century wall paintings of St. Christopher and St. George found in 2008.
St. John's Church is located at Sint-Janskerkhof 1, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium. Mechelen is a historic city situated between Belgium's two largest cities, Brussels and Antwerp, around 22 kilometers (14 miles) north of Brussels and 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of Antwerp. The church can easily be reached by train, with regular direct connections from both Brussels and Antwerp. By car, it is located just off the R6 ring road around Mechelen city center. Limited parking is available at the church, otherwise public parking is available at the nearby Veemarkt.
St. John's Church is suitable for visitors of all ages interested in religious buildings, art history and Belgian culture. There is no admission fee to enter the church. Opening hours are Tuesday to Friday 1pm – 4pm and Saturday to Sunday 1pm – 4pm, closed on Mondays. Guided tours can be booked via the tourist office for those wanting more details on the history and artwork.
St. John's Church is one of the top attractions in Mechelen. Along with touring the interior and its artwork, the church is renowned for its carillon which chimes throughout the day. The church surroundings are also pleasant to explore, situated on the historic market square and along the picturesque Dyle River. Nearby recommended sights include the UNESCO-listed Great Beguinage, the stunning St. Rumbold's Cathedral which has a famous 500 step climb to the top of its tower and landmarks like the Town Hall on Grote Markt square. Mechelen has many cafes, bars and restaurants to stop for Belgian beers, waffles and other local specialties after visiting St. John's Church and discovering the treasures of this medieval city.
11. Shop at Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe street
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe street is located in the heart of Mechelen, Belgium. The full address is Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat, 2800 Mechelen. Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe street has a rich history dating back to the 12th century, when the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwegasthuis (Our Lady's Hospital) was established around 1180-1200 at the site of the current Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-over-de-Dijlekerk church. The hospital gave the street its name. In the 13th century, the street was extended through the hospital's domain. The hospital buildings that stood at the corner of ‘t Plein and Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe street were demolished in 1857. Today, remnants can still be seen at ‘t Plein along the Dijle river.
In addition to the hospital, Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe street was also home to the Refugium van Grimbergen, belonging to Grimbergen Abbey and the now disappeared Convent of the Apostolines, founded in 1691. The streetscape was also characterized by the guild house of the blacksmiths, several breweries, inns and taverns.
Presently, Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe street features a diverse mix of buildings from the 16th to the 20th century. The majestic Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-over-de-Dijle church and picturesque Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerkhof square flank the middle of the street. Several historic façades with ornate stonework line the street, housing a trendy mix of shops, cafés, restaurants and bars.
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe street connects the Vijfhoek and Korenmarkt squares, making it a lively pedestrian shopping street in the heart of Mechelen's historic center. It is located approximately 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) north of the Grote Markt central square.
The street can be easily accessed on foot from the train station or any of the central squares. It is served by bus line 1, which has a stop at Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk in the middle of the street. Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe street is open to pedestrians year-round. There is no admission fee to access the street.
With its central location, interesting history and vibrant atmosphere, Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe street appeals to tourists, shoppers, history buffs and nightlife seekers. It offers a lively urban experience and a taste of historic Mechelen for visitors of all ages and interests. Strolling from one end to the other reveals a microcosm of Mechelen's past and present-day vitality.
12. Try the chocolates at Maneblussers
Maneblussers chocolates are a speciality of Mechelen, Belgium. The name refers to a funny legend about the residents of Mechelen. In 1687, a drunk man coming out of a pub looked up at the tower of St. Rumbold's Cathedral on a foggy night. He thought the glow of the moonlight shining through the mist was a fire burning in the tower. He yelled for help and soon the whole town was trying to form a bucket brigade to extinguish the “fire”. But when they got to the top, they realized it had just been the moon's light, so the people of Mechelen had tried to “extinguish the moon”. From then on they were mockingly called “Maneblussers” which means “moon extinguishers” in their Flemish dialect.
To commemorate this legend, many shops in Mechelen sell moon-shaped chocolates known as Maneblussers. One of the best places is Bakery Vanderbeek & Godiva located at Steenweg 36-38 in Mechelen, Belgium 2800 (around 25 miles or 40 km north of Brussels). The bakery is open daily and sells artisan chocolates in all shapes and flavors. Their popular Maneblussers come in milk, dark or white chocolate and are filled with things like marzipan, caramel, hazelnut praline or chocolate mousse. A box of 9 Maneblussers chocolates costs around €7.5 ($8, £6).
To reach Bakery Vanderbeek & Godiva in central Mechelen, take a train from Brussels, which takes just under 30 minutes. From Antwerp, the direct train takes around 20 minutes. The bakery is an easy 5-minute walk from Mechelen's main station. Limited street parking is available but public transportation or walking is recommended.
The legend of the Maneblussers is very popular with kids and families visiting Mechelen, especially because the chocolates are shaped like cute little half-moon faces. It's a fun way for them to learn about local history and taste delicious Belgian chocolates at the same time. Adults will also appreciate the high-quality artisan chocolates. The Maneblussers with different fillings make great edible souvenirs or gifts to bring home from your trip to Belgium.
13. Taste the food at De Vleeshalle
De Vleeshalle is a food hall located in the heart of Mechelen, Belgium at Huidevettersstraat 7, 2800 Mechelen. It is housed in a historic market hall building constructed in 1881, originally used by butchers to sell meat. Today, De Vleeshalle offers a variety of cuisines from 13 different vendors on the main floor. The upper levels feature shops, co-working spaces and event venues.
The ornate architecture of the 19th century market hall remains intact. Travelers can dine under iron beams and arched windows that have overlooked transactions in the bustling space for over 130 years. At the same time, colorful lighting, communal tables and global cuisine create an eclectic, contemporary ambience.
The diversity of the food vendors is a major draw. Options range from Vietnamese street food to burgers, Mexican cuisine, homemade pasta, Spanish tapas and more. The stalls showcase local ingredients and international flavors, encouraging diners to sample small plates from multiple regions. Sweet specialties like drool-worthy French crepes and artisanal gelato round out the selections.
Another unique aspect of De Vleeshalle is its cashless payment system, optimized for quick service. Visitors scan QR codes at vendor counters or vending machines to place orders, then receive a text when their food is ready. Meals can be enjoyed in the communal dining area or taken to-go. The grab-and-go setup makes De Vleeshalle an ideal spot for tourists passing through as well as busy professionals on lunch breaks.
Getting to De Vleeshalle is convenient, whether visitors are traveling by foot, public transportation or car. The food hall is centrally located within a 10-15 minute walk from Mechelen's train stations. For those driving, there are several paid public parking garages nearby on Veemarkt, Grote Markt and Kathedraalplein. De Vleeshalle is also easily accessible by local bus lines stopping at the Veemarkt stop just 5 minutes away.
De Vleeshalle appeals to a wide audience, though its laidback ambience and variety of quick-bite options make it a great choice for younger diners. Communal tables foster a social vibe, while free WiFi and ample power outlets accommodate remote workers. Kids can enjoy special menus and play areas tucked into corners of the hall. When live music takes the stage on weekends, the scene becomes more lively.
Entry to De Vleeshalle is free and visitors only pay for the food and drinks they order. Main dishes average 10-15€ ($11-17, £9-13), with smaller tapas-style plates starting around 6€ ($7, £5). Beverages including Belgian beer, cocktails and wine are available.
14. Savor tapas and drinks at SAVA
SAVA is a hip and innovative tapas bar located in the historic ‘De Kat' building on the Grote Markt in the heart of Mechelen, Belgium. What makes SAVA special is its focus on local products from family producers, fair trade and sustainable sources. The tapas bar offers a selection of cavas and Mechelen beers on tap to enjoy while savoring homemade tapas. With its wooden interior featuring colorful accents, SAVA aims to provide a cozy atmosphere reminiscent of Spain.
The full address of SAVA is Grote Markt 13, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium. Mechelen is a beautiful city located around 25 kilometers (16 miles) north of Brussels and 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Antwerp. Visitors can get to SAVA by taking the train to Mechelen Railway Station, which is just an 8 minute walk of 650 meters from the tapas bar. Alternatively, buses stop at the Mechelen Bus Station, a 9 minute walk of 750 meters away. Those driving can find parking at the Grote Markt parking garage right across from SAVA.
SAVA is open daily from 9:00 to midnight, with the kitchen open from 11:30 to 14:00 and 17:00 to 21:30. This makes it a great spot for breakfast, lunch, dinner or just drinks late into the evening. The casual tapas style dining in a relaxed atmosphere appeals to all types of people looking to enjoy good food and drinks. Groups of friends will appreciate the opportunity to share several small plates. Couples can enjoy a romantic date night sipping cava while watching the bustle of the town square. Solo travelers are also welcomed to take a seat at the bar and strike up conversations with locals or fellow wanderers.
While there is no admission fee to enter SAVA, the tapas range from €6 to €13.50. The cavas by the glass cost €6.50 to €7.50, with bottles between €31 and €40. Beers on tap are priced around €3 to €4 depending on the type. Dining at SAVA offers an affordable way to soak in the culture of Mechelen while savoring excellent tapas and Spanish wines. Visitors looking for a cozy atmosphere paired with tasty food and drink in the heart of this charming Belgian city need look no further than SAVA.
15. Enjoy brunch at Foom
Foom is a breakfast and lunch bar located in the heart of Mechelen, Belgium. Situated under the watchful eye of the St. Rumbold's Cathedral, Foom opened in 2015 as an eatery where guests can enjoy a unique breakfast (including their famous American Pancakes!), a hearty lunch or freshly made pastries. Nearly everything that lands on your plate at Foom is made in-house. In addition to serving homemade food, Foom also offers coffee from the local micro-roastery MOK and fresh tea from CRUSIO.
What makes Foom special is its focus on using high-quality and fresh ingredients to create homemade dishes like pancakes, eggs, yogurt parfaits, sandwiches and more. Their pancakes in particular, topped with Greek yogurt, red fruit, maple syrup and a bacon crunch, are a customer favorite. Foom also offers a decadent High Tea experience on weekends, with sweet and savory treats artfully presented on a tower, paired with choice of hot or cold beverages. The cozy interior, friendly staff and central location under Mechelen's famed cathedral tower add to the appeal.
Foom is located at Sint-Katelijnestraat 2, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium. Mechelen is a small city situated between Brussels and Antwerp, making it an easy day trip destination from either city. Foom can be reached by public transportation, as the Wollemarkt bus stop is just 350 meters away. Otherwise, Foom is an easy 10 minute walk from Mechelen's main train station.
The restaurant is best suited for adults and families looking for a hearty breakfast or brunch. Given the homemade baked goods and sweets, it's a nice choice for those with a sweet tooth. The menu offers options for varying diets and restrictions including gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan. No admission fee is required to dine at Foom.
16. Sleep at Martin's Patershof
Martin's Patershof is a four-star hotel located in the heart of the historic city of Mechelen, Belgium. The full address is Karmelietenstraat 4, 2800 Mechelen. What makes Martin's Patershof unique is that it is housed in a former 19th century neo-Gothic church that belonged to a Franciscan monastery. The church was built in 1867 for the Friar Minors order, but was sold and deconsecrated in 1999. In 2006, plans were made to convert the church into a hotel and after renovations, Martin's Patershof opened in 2009.
The hotel has preserved many of the original architectural elements of the church, including the stained glass windows, columns, arched ceilings and religious ornamentation. These historic aspects have been integrated with a modern, stylish hotel interior. Martin's Patershof has 77 guest rooms spread over 6 floors, with room types including Cosy, Charming, Great, Exceptional and Best of Home. The rooms feature luxurious touches like canopy beds, clawfoot tubs, rainfall showers, Nespresso machines and marble bathrooms. Rates start around €100 per night.
Guests can enjoy breakfast each morning in the old chancel of the church, which still has the original altarpiece. The impressive space is filled with golden chandeliers hanging from arched ceilings. The on-site bar offers a selection of beers, cocktails and whiskeys for guests to relax with. Though there is no full restaurant, the hotel is surrounded by restaurants and cafés in the heart of Mechelen's old town.
The location provides easy access to many of Mechelen's top attractions. Popular sites like the St. Rumbold's Cathedral, the grand Beguinage and the medieval town hall on the Grote Markt are all within a 10 minute walk. The Dijle River and scenic walking paths along its banks are also close by. With Brussels just a 25 minute train ride away, Martin's Patershof makes a convenient and historic base for exploring the area.
Martin's Patershof welcomes all types of travelers, though its romantic ambiance and luxurious rooms make it a popular choice for couples. The historic building and unique experience also draw architecture and history enthusiasts. Solo travelers are accommodated in the Cosy rooms, while families can book adjoining rooms.
There is no admission fee to enter Martin's Patershof, as it is a functioning hotel. Guests pay nightly rates to stay in the rooms, which start around €100 per night for a Cosy room in the low season. Public parking nearby costs around €16 per day. The hotel also has private parking available for €30 per day.
17. Stay at the Het Anker Brewery Hotel
Het Anker Brewery Hotel is located in the historic city of Mechelen, Belgium. Situated at Guido Gezellelaan 49, 2800 Mechelen, the hotel is housed within the buildings of the Het Anker brewery, one of Belgium's oldest operating breweries dating back to 1471.
What makes Het Anker Brewery Hotel special is its unique location within a working brewery. Guests can take a tour of the facilities to learn about the history of beer production in Mechelen and Belgium. The on-site brasserie and cafe allow visitors to sample Het Anker's range of beers, including the popular Gouden Carolus line named after Emperor Charles V. Guests can also indulge in meals paired with Het Anker's beers.
The hotel's 22 rooms are decorated with subtle beer themes and feature modern amenities. Staying at the Het Anker Brewery Hotel provides a one-of-a-kind experience to sleep steps away from an active brewery and wake up to the smells of beer production. It is the only hotel in Belgium situated within a functioning brewery.
Getting to the Het Anker Brewery Hotel is easy, as it is located right in central Mechelen. The hotel is about 900 meters from the Grote Markt central square. It is a 10 minute walk from Mechelen Train Station, which has frequent train connections to Brussels (30 minutes) and Antwerp (30 minutes). For those driving, Het Anker is close to the E19 motorway and is about 20 kilometers from Brussels Airport. There is onsite parking available for hotel guests.
The Het Anker Brewery Hotel offers a unique lodging experience suited for adults interested in beer, history and sampling Belgium's brewing tradition. The location within a historic brewery distinguishes it from standard hotels. Guided brewery tours take place regularly, so visitors can easily incorporate a tour into their stay. Tour prices are typically €9 per adult. Children under 12 can take the tour for a reduced price.
The hotel's on-site brasserie and cafe provide opportunities to taste Het Anker's beers, including the Gouden Carolus range. Beers can be purchased individually, with prices starting around €5-6 per glass depending on the variety. Guests can also book meal packages that pair multi-course dining experiences with selected beers. Room rates at the hotel start around €100 per night for standard double rooms.
18. View the exhibits at the Hof van Busleyden
Hof van Busleyden is a majestic and magnificent Renaissance palace located in Mechelen, the capital of the former Burgundian Netherlands. This 16th century city palace was built for Hieronymus van Busleyden, a prominent judge and diplomat who served under Charles V, Duke of Burgundy. Van Busleyden hosted many prominent guests at Hof van Busleyden, including Renaissance humanists like Erasmus and Sir Thomas More, where they engaged in thoughtful discussions about religion, philosophy and politics.
The palace is architecturally significant as one of the earliest examples of Renaissance architecture in northern Europe. It was designed by architect Rombout Keldermans II and completed in 1508. Hof van Busleyden has a symmetrical layout with two main wings surrounding a rectangular courtyard. Other features include a gatehouse, an octagonal tower, open galleries and ornate stone carvings. Although most of the original interior decoration was destroyed by a fire in 1914, some rare 16th century wall paintings survived in a small reception room.
After the fire, Hof van Busleyden was almost entirely rebuilt in the 1930s based on its pre-war romanticized appearance. Since 1938, the palace has housed the municipal Museum Hof van Busleyden. Located at Frederik de Merodestraat 65-67 in Mechelen, Belgium, the museum exhibits art, artifacts and stories related to the city's history and its Burgundian heyday.
Visitors can see exhibits ranging from 15th century devotional art cabinets called “Besloten Hofjes” to paintings by Baroque master Peter Paul Rubens. The museum also displays curiosities like the world's oldest playable recorder, made in Mechelen in the early 16th century. Through these collections, the museum provides insight into Mechelen's role as the leading cultural city of the Burgundian Netherlands under ruler Margaret of Austria.
The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 to 17:00, closed Mondays. Regular admission is €12 ($13, £11) for adults, with discounted rates available. The museum can be reached by car, bus or train. There is street parking nearby and the Mechelen-Nekkerspoel train station is just over 1 kilometer away.
Hof van Busleyden is suitable for visitors of all ages interested in art, history and architecture. Families with children can explore using a kid-focused museum trail. For adult visitors, the unique setting makes the museum worthwhile for history buffs, art aficionados or anyone looking to learn about Mechelen and Burgundian Belgium. Guided tours are available for groups.
19. Remember the Holocaust victims at the Kazerne
Kazerne Dossin is a memorial, museum and documentation center located in Mechelen, Belgium. It is dedicated to remembering the Holocaust in Belgium during World War II. Specifically, it commemorates the Dossin barracks, which operated as a transit camp under Nazi occupation from 1942 to 1944. Over 25,000 Jews and several hundred Roma and Sinti were gathered at Kazerne Dossin before being deported to concentration camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau. Less than 5% of deportees survived.
The original Dossin barracks building dates back to 1756 when it was constructed under Austrian rule to house infantry troops. It remained a military site until the Nazi occupation in 1940. The location between Antwerp and Brussels made it an ideal transit camp for arresting Jews in Belgium. Victims were held in poor conditions before being loaded onto trains bound for extermination camps in Poland and Eastern Europe.
After the war, part of the complex was turned into apartments. But in the 1990s, Jewish groups lobbied for a museum space to remember the tragic events. The Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance opened in 1995. As visitation grew, a larger purpose-built museum and memorial was constructed across from the barracks in 2012.
Kazerne Dossin is located at Goswin de Stassartstraat 153, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium. Mechelen is situated between Brussels and Antwerp. The memorial is open daily except Wednesdays and certain holidays. The museum is open Thursday to Tuesday from 10:00 to 17:00.
Visitors can take the train to Mechelen and then walk or take local buses 1 or 2 to the Van Hoeystraat stop near Kazerne Dossin. Drivers can find paid street parking near the site. Major highways like the E19 connect Mechelen to Brussels and Antwerp by car.
The memorial and museum cover sensitive subject matter, so it is best suited for adults and mature teenagers able to handle graphic Holocaust history. School groups frequently visit for educational purposes. Tickets cost €12 for the main exhibit, with discounts available. The memorial is free to enter. Visitors should allow 2-3 hours to see the full museum.
Kazerne Dossin provides an immersive and emotionally impactful experience focused on the personal stories of Holocaust victims. Its exhibits, collections and audio guides put faces to the names and statistics. The memorialization of this dark chapter in Belgium's history makes it a meaningful site to understand the tragedies of World War II and the Holocaust.
20. Relax in Vrijbroekpark
Vrijbroekpark is a large public park located on the outskirts of the city of Mechelen in Belgium. With over 65 hectares (160 acres) of green space, Vrijbroekpark offers visitors ample opportunities for recreation and relaxation.
The history of Vrijbroekpark dates back to 1260 when the meadows in this area were used for grazing animals. In the 19th century, the city of Mechelen took over management of the land and it continued to be used mainly for agriculture. In 1929, the province of Antwerp purchased a large portion of the area and opened it to the public as a park.
Today, Vrijbroekpark is known for its beautiful gardens, in particular the rose garden which contains over 1,000 varieties of roses. In 2003, Vrijbroekpark was awarded the prestigious Award of Garden Excellence in recognition of this exceptional rose collection. There are also gardens devoted to dahlias, herbs and other flowers and plants.
In addition to the gardens, Vrijbroekpark has ponds, wooded areas and open green spaces perfect for picnicking, walking or just relaxing. Families with children will enjoy the large playground as well as the traffic garden where kids can safely learn about road signs and crossing streets.
Vrijbroekpark offers facilities for various sports including tennis, petanque, football, basketball and cricket. There is a 3.3 kilometer (2 mile) jogging path that starts from the visitor's center. Fishing is allowed in the ponds with a permit.
Dog owners will appreciate the dedicated dog park where pets can run freely off-leash. There are also marked walking trails through scenic parts of the park such as the willow arboretum.
Vrijbroekpark has two cafes with outdoor seating: Vrijbroekhof and ‘t Park. Visitors can enjoy a snack or meal while taking in views of the lovely surroundings.
The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset and admission is free. Vrijbroekpark is located at Ridder Dessainlaan 65, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium. It can be easily reached by car, public transportation or bicycle.
There is parking available inside the park, with extra parking at nearby Kellogg's on weekends and holidays. The park is also accessible by bus lines 2, 28, 288 and 289 with a stop right at Vrijbroekpark. From Mechelen train station, it's about a 15-20 minute walk or a short bus ride to the park entrance.
Vrijbroekpark appeals to visitors of all ages and interests. Families, couples, individuals and groups can all find ways to enjoy this large green oasis. With varied gardens, recreational facilities and scenic nature, Vrijbroekpark makes for an excellent outing when visiting Mechelen or for locals wanting to experience some greenery without leaving the city. Its free access and proximity to town center make Vrijbroekpark a convenient choice for a relaxing day out.
21. Planckendael Zoo
Planckendael Zoo is an animal park located in Muizen, Belgium, 3.8 kilometers away the city of Mechelen. The zoo opened in 1956 and is operated by the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp, which also manages the Antwerp Zoo. Planckendael Zoo occupies 42 hectares and houses over 200 animal species from around the world, including rare and endangered animals like bonobos, Indian rhinos and koalas.
Planckendael Zoo is divided into five continents, like Asia, Oceania, Africa, America and Europe, with each area themed around the native habitat of the animals housed there. For example, the Asia section features an Indian village recreation with a Buddhist temple housing the zoo's elephants. The Africa area centers around a replica African village and savannah with giraffes, zebras and antelopes roaming freely. This immersive approach to exhibiting animals in naturalistic environments sets Planckendael apart from more traditional zoo layouts. Planckendael Zoo is located at Leuvensesteenweg 582, 2812 Muizen, Belgium. Muizen is a village that is part of the municipality of Mechelen, situated between the major cities of Antwerp and Brussels. Visitors can reach the zoo by car via the E19 highway, with exits at Mechelen-Zuid and Mechelen-Noord, then follow signs for the N26 towards Leuven. The zoo is also accessible by public transportation – buses 284, 285 and 686 stop right at the zoo entrance, while the Planckendael Express shuttle runs frequently from Mechelen train station to the zoo gate.
Planckendael Zoo emphasizes on immersive animal habitats, adventure play areas and hands-on learning, It is best suited for families with children. Multiple playgrounds dot each continental section, featuring climbable elephant and giraffe structures along with boat rides and treetop trails. Daily keeper talks and feedings provide interactive learning opportunities. The zoo's extensive walking paths and exhibits engage visitors of all ages. Admission to Planckendael Zoo is 34.5 euros ($36, £30) for adults, with discounted rates available for seniors, students, children ages 3-11 and people with disabilities. Children under 3 enter for free. Parking costs an additional 8 euros ($8.50, £7) per vehicle. Annual membership and family packages offer savings for repeat visitors.
22. Technopolis Science Museum
Technopolis Science Museum is an interactive science and technology museum located in Mechelen, Belgium. Technopolis Science Museum hosts over 350 hands-on exhibits, shows, demonstrations and workshops, which brings science and technology to life in an engaging and fun way for visitors of all ages.
Technopolis focuses on interactivity and experiential learning. Unlike traditional museums where you just look at displays behind glass, at Technopolis you are encouraged to touch, experiment and play with the exhibits. For example, visitors can try landing an airplane simulator, take a nap on a bed of nails, ride a bike suspended on a high wire 5 meters above the ground and even stand inside a giant soap bubble. The museum's motto is “experimenting is fun!”
Technopolis has exhibits tailored for different age groups. The Children's Science Center is filled with activities like a pretend supermarket, pizzeria and bank for young kids to role play adult jobs. The Xplora section lets 8-14 year olds try out different professions related to science and technology through interactive exhibits. Inspirience focuses on creativity for teens and adults. There are also special workshops, shows and demonstrations throughout the day on various science topics, from chemistry experiments to electricity.
Technopolis Science Museum is located at Technologielaan 1, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium. Mechelen is a city 20 km or 12 miles north of Brussels and just over an hour's drive from Brussels. The museum is right off the E19 Brussels-Antwerp motorway at junction 10 Mechelen-Zuid, making it easily accessible by car. If coming by train, take the train to Mechelen station and then bus number 282, 283 or 682 to the Technopolis bus stop just outside the museum.
Families with kids, as well as school groups are the most common visitors of Technopolis Science Museum. The Meseum is an ideal place for curious young minds to learn while having fun, because of the many hands-on exhibits. However, there are interactive displays suitable for all ages, so adults without kids can also enjoy exploring the science behind everyday technologies. The wide variety of exhibits covering physics, engineering, chemistry, biology and more mean there's something to spark every visitor's interest. Entry tickets to Technopolis Science Museum cost 23€ ($26, £20) for adults and visitors over age 12, while kids ages 4-11 pay 18€. Children under 4 years old enter for free. There are reduced rates for seniors over age 65 and people with disabilities. Annual passes are also available.
What are the best museums to visit in Mechelen?
Listed below are the best museums to visit in Mechelen.
- Kazerne Dossin. Kazerne Dossin is a memorial, museum and documentation center located in Mechelen. Over 25,000 people passed through Kazerne Dossin between 1942-1944 on their way to Auschwitz-Birkenau and other camps, with most perishing. Today, Kazerne Dossin serves to commemorate this dark history while also exploring broader themes of human rights. Highlights of a visit include the Wall of Faces spanning multiple floors and displaying photos of deported victims, multimedia installations and the contemplative memorial space in the basement of the old barracks. While some content may be too heavy for very young children, Kazerne Dossin can be appreciated by most ages 12 and up.
- Technopolis. Technopolis is an interactive science museum located in Mechelen, Belgium. With over 350 hands-on exhibits, shows, demonstrations and workshops, Technopolis allows visitors of all ages to discover how science and technology are part of everyday life. The museum is focused on experimentation and doing things yourself, rather than just passively observing. Some highlights include cycling five meters above the ground on a cable, landing an airplane simulator, sleeping on a bed of nails and getting shocked by static electricity during a live demonstration.
- Toy Museum (Speelgoedmuseum). The Toy Museum (Speelgoedmuseum) in Mechelen, Belgium is a museum dedicated to toys and games. It is located at Nekkerspoelstraat 21, 2800 Mechelen and houses a collection of over 10,000 toys on a space of 7,000 m2. Visitors can reach the Toy Museum by taking the train to Mechelen-Nekkerspoel station, which is an 8 minute walk away. Buses 1, 510, 511, 520 and many more also stop at the nearby ‘Mechelen Nekkerspoel station' bus stop. The Toy Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm, closed on Mondays. Tickets are €12.50 for adults, €8.50 for kids aged 3-12 years old and free for children under 3 years old. Guided tours are available in Dutch, French, German and English. Tour highlights include antique dolls, dollhouses, model trains, mechanical toys, board games and an outdoor playground. There are also special programs for school groups. Activities provided for kids to play with old and new toys, plus nostalgic exhibits for adults, help the Toy Museum give an entertaining experience for all ages. It aims to showcase the history and evolution of toys and play culture. The museum aims to showcase the history and evolution of toys and play culture.
- Museum Hof van Busleyden. Museum Hof van Busleyden offers visitors a glimpse into the Burgundian Netherlands and highlights the prosperous period when Mechelen served as the capital under the rule of Margaret of Austria. Highlighted attractions at the Museum Hof van Busleyden include the seven 16th century Enclosed Gardens, which are intricately detailed altarpieces. Other highlights are the Choir Book of Margaret of Austria from 1515 and the large collection of paintings, sculptures and artifacts related to the Burgundian Netherlands. The Museum Hof van Busleyden provides visitors with an impecable experience into the history, art and culture of the Burgundian era in Mechelen. The combination of a beautifully preserved Renaissance palace and world-class museum makes it a must-see attraction for any visitor to Mechelen, Belgium.
- Saint Rumbold's Cathedral. Saint Rumbold's Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church and exhibit museums located in the heart of Mechelen, Belgium. Saint Rumbold's Cathedral is an architectural landmark in Belgium. The unfinished Gothic tower dominates the Mechelen skyline and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Saint Rumbold's Cathedral is a highlight museum for tourists visiting the city of Mechelen.
- Museum The Mad Art Collection. The museum has a unique permanent collection of 16th century paintings that contain satirical and moralizing references to ‘madness'. Painters like Hieronymus Bosch, Bruegel and Brouwer are represented, illustrating human folly and punishment. Visitors can try to decipher the symbolism and meaning behind each painting. A highlight for tourists is deciphering the unusual symbolism and trying to uncover the moralizing message in each painting. The small museum can be visited in under an hour, making it a convenient stop between Antwerp and Brussels. Families with older children interested in art history would appreciate a visit. Guided tours allow kids to better understand the stories behind each painting.
- Royal Manufacturers De Wit. The Royal Manufacturers De Wit factory and museum are located at Zandpoortvest 70, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium. Visitors can reach the factory by taking a train to Mechelen Station, which is a 10-minute walk away. Highlights of a visit include watching artisans demonstrate porcelain decoration techniques, seeing the historic kilns used to fire the porcelain and viewing the museum's collection of porcelain pieces spanning over 250 years. The gift shop sells porcelain made on-site. Royal Manufacturers De Wit's delicate porcelain tableware and figurines reflect its centuries-old Belgian craftsmanship. Visitors get a behind-the-scenes look at porcelain production at this historic factory.
What are the best activities in Mechelen with kids and toddlers?
Find below the best activities in Mechelen with kids and toddlers.
- Visit the Toy Museum (Speelgoedmuseum). The Toy Museum (Speelgoedmuseum) allows children to immerse themselves in the history and variety of toys from around the world. Over 7,000 square meters of toys, games and dolls are on display for kids to compare what children played with hundreds of years ago to modern toys of today. Exhibits like model train sets and interactive discovery zones engage young visitors by providing hands-on learning. Special themed exhibits and toy-based events add extra excitement. From nostalgic, vintage toys like spinning tops and rocking horses to learning how LEGOs and video games were invented, the Toy Museum brings history to life. Kids can also play traditional Belgian games and reenact key moments in the country’s history.
- See the “play incentives” statues. Mechelen has several playful “play incentives” statues installed around the city to encourage interactivity and exploration for children. One of the most popular is the giant yellow Opsinjoorke statue located next to St. Rumbold's Cathedral. This oversized folklore character holding a doll represents a tradition of tossing a doll-effigy of an abusive drunk husband into the air using a large cloth. Kids can move the doll's arms and legs on the statue for added fun. Other play incentives around town include amusing wooden mannequins that have movable parts. Trying out these tactile, engaging statues turns sightseeing into an engaging game for kids.
- Watch a movie at Cinema Lumière. Cinema Lumière offers movie showings in the heart of Mechelen just steps from the Grote Markt main square. Cinema Lumière is a small cinema with just two screening rooms shows a range of current films. Selection is limited compared to large multi-screen cinemas, but it provides a convenient option for visitors exploring the city without a car. New releases, classic films and children's movies are shown, sometimes in their original language with subtitles. Cinema Lumière is suitable for a few hours of entertainment if kids need a break from Mechelen's outdoor attractions.
- Play at Tivoli Park. Tivoli Park offers amusement for kids of all ages. Surrounding the historic Tivoli Castle, attractions include pony rides, trampolines, mini-golf, bumper cars and a petting zoo. Kids can feed and interact with the small animals while parents relax at the on-site café. The park also contains lots of open green space and a playground. Special events like Halloween parties and Sinterklaas celebrations keep things exciting year-round. Entry is €9 for adults and €7 for kids over 100 cm tall, providing a fun and budget-friendly outdoor adventure.
- Experience interactive science at Technopolis Science Museum. At Technopolis Science Museum, kids can experience hands-on science experiments and activities with cutting-edge technology. Exhibits let kids race remote control cars, play virtual reality games, construct buildings and watch robot demonstrations. Over 400 interactive modules allow kids to learn through play and discovery. Technopolis also hosts themed workshops and events like discovering dinosaurs or learning about the solar system. Located just 2.5 km from Mechelen’s main station, it offers engaging education for science-loving kids. Entry is €19.50 for adults and €16.50 for kids 3 to 17.
Where is Mechelen?
Mechelen is a city located in the province of Antwerp, in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is located approximately halfway between Belgium's two major cities, Brussels and Antwerp. The city is 25 km (15.5 miles) north of Brussels and 25 km (15.5 miles) south of Antwerp. The geographical coordinates for Mechelen are 51.0257° N latitude and 4.4776° E longitude.
What is the history of Mechelen?
The history of Mechelen is both rich and complex, dating back to Roman times when it was known as a settlement called “Malo”. Over the centuries, Mechelen has undergone significant transformations, evolving from a small settlement to a city of considerable importance in various historical contexts. In the Middle Ages, Mechelen became a part of the County of Flanders and later the Duchy of Brabant. Its strategic location between Brussels and Antwerp made it an important trading centre. By the late 14th and early 15th centuries, Mechelen had become the capital of the Low Countries under Burgundian rule. During this period, the city was a hub of political and cultural activities. One of the most significant figures in Mechelen's history is Margaret of Austria, who served as the Regent of the Netherlands in the early 16th century. She established her court in Mechelen, making the city a centre of Renaissance culture and politics. The Palace of Margaret of Austria still stands today as a testament to this period. Mechelen also gained prominence as a religious centre. It was the seat of the Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, making it the ecclesiastical capital of Belgium. The city is home to the Mechelen Cathedral, which houses one of the finest carillons in the world. The Royal Carillon School, founded in 1922, has contributed to Mechelen's reputation as a city of carillonneurs.
However, the city's history also has its darker chapters. During World War II, Mechelen was the site of a transit camp from which thousands of Jews and other minorities were deported to concentration camps. This remains a sombre part of the city's past that is commemorated today. In the modern era, Mechelen has transformed into a vibrant city focusing on education, technology and tourism. It has successfully preserved its historical landmarks while embracing modernity, making it a unique blend of the old and the new.
What language is spoken in Mechelen?
The primary language spoken in Mechelen is Dutch. Mechelen is located in the Flemish Region of Belgium, where Dutch is the official and dominant language. Local government and administrative functions are conducted in Dutch, adhering to the language laws of the Flemish Region. Schools in Mechelen predominantly offer education in Dutch, aligning with the Flemish educational system. Public signage, official documents and local media are also primarily in Dutch, reinforcing the language's official status in the region. However, Mechelen's proximity to Brussels, a bilingual city where both Dutch and French are official languages, as well as its own diverse population, means that other languages like French and English are also occasionally heard. The city's historical significance and its appeal as a tourist destination further contributes to linguistic diversity in certain areas, particularly those frequented by tourists.
What time zone is Mechelen in?
Mechelen is in the Central European Time (CET) zone, which is UTC+1. During daylight saving time, it switches to Central European Summer Time (CEST), which is UTC+2. Its geographical location is in Belgium, which as a country observes CET and CEST. Official timekeeping institutions and various world clock services also list Mechelen under this time zone. Local governmental websites and travel guides commonly specify this time zone information for Mechelen.
How many people live in Mechelen?
Mechelen has a population of 86,304 individuals, where 49.68% are males and 50.32% are females. The demographic data further reveals a median age of 42 years for the city's inhabitants. There are 26,928 people between the ages of 0-29 years, 31,020 from 30-59 years and 21,547 from 60 years and above.
What are the most interesting facts of Mechelen for a traveler?
Listed below are the interesting facts about Belgium for a traveler:
- Mechelen Currency: The currency used in Mechelen is the Euro (€), which is the common currency for 19 of the 27 European Union countries. This makes it convenient for travellers coming from other Eurozone countries, as they do not need to exchange their money. The Euro is subdivided into 100 cents and comes in various denominations, both in coin and banknote forms.
- Timezone: Mechelen operates on Central European Time (CET) during standard time and Central European Summer Time (CEST) during daylight saving time. This is the same time zone as most central European countries, including Germany, France and the Netherlands. The time zone is UTC+1 during standard time and UTC+2 during daylight saving time.
- Language Spoken: One of the facts of Belgium is that the primary language spoken in Mechelen is Dutch, as it is part of the Flemish Region of Belgium. Dutch is the official language for government, education and most other public services in Mechelen. However, due to its diverse population and status as a tourist destination, other languages like French and English are also commonly heard.
- Power Plugs Used: The power plugs and sockets used in Mechelen are of type E. These are the standard plugs used in Belgium and many other European countries. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. One of the Interesting Facts about Belgium is that travellers from countries with different plug types may need an adapter to use their electronic devices in Mechelen.
What is Mechelen famous for?
Mechelen is famous for its historical and cultural significance, its architectural heritage and its role as an important European city. Its notable features include its well-preserved historical and Renaissance architecture, its known Carillon school and its position as a hub of political and religious activities throughout history. Mechelen's fame lies in its architectural landmarks, such as the Mechelen Cathedral (St. Rumbold's Cathedral), which boasts an impressive tower that offers panoramic views of the city. The Palace of Margaret of Austria, a Renaissance building, is another testament to Mechelen's historical importance. Moreover, the city's carillon school, founded in 1922, is one of the oldest and most respected in the world, contributing to its reputation as a centre of carillon culture. Mechelen's strategic location, located between Brussels and Antwerp, made it a significant trading and political centre during various periods. It served as the capital of the Low Countries under Burgundian rule and housed the court of Margaret of Austria, a prominent figure in European politics. The city's role as the seat of the Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels further underscored its ecclesiastical importance. In recent times, Mechelen's blend of historical charm and modern amenities has made it an attractive destination for tourists and residents alike. The city's ability to seamlessly integrate its past with its present showcases its ongoing fame as a place where history, culture and contemporary life coexist harmoniously.
What is the ideal visit duration for a Mechelen visit?
The ideal duration for a visit to Mechelen is between 2 and 3 days. This duration is sufficient to explore and enjoy the best activities of Mechelen. Mechelen can be seen in 1 day if time is limited. A quick walking tour of the beautiful city centre can be done, along with visiting top attractions like Saint Rumbold's Cathedral, the historic Grote Markt Square and some of the museums. This allows a good taste of Mechelen. However, spending 2 full days allows a more relaxed pace with time to see more of the city's sights, shops and restaurants at leisure.
What to eat in Mechelen?
Mechelen is a small city in Belgium that is known for its cuisine. When visiting Mechelen, there are several classic Belgian foods and dishes that one must try to get a true taste of the local fare. To begin, Belgian waffles are a great treat to enjoy in Mechelen. These light, sweet waffles topped with powdered sugar or fruit make for a delightful snack or dessert. Waffles can be found at casual eateries around town. Moving along, moules-frites (mussels and chips) is another Belgian signature dish not to be missed. Moules-frites feature steamed mussels drenched in a rich broth alongside crispy fries. Additionally, carbonade flamande is a traditional Belgian beef stew made with beer that is hearty and comforting. Carbonade flamande can be found in local pubs and brasseries. Mechelen has several specialty local items to sample. Some food in Belgium includes Mechelen koekoek, a type of gingerbread; Mechels veenbessenvelt, a sweetened liquor; and Mecheler Crème, an orange-flavoured cream liqueur from the area. Mechelen is also known for its oliebollen or doughnuts without a hole, that are topped with powdered sugar. Like the rest of Belgium, Mechelen has a strong beer culture. Guests should try some of the city's famous local brews like Gouden Carolus or Moortgat when visiting pubs and cafés. The range of quality Belgian beers is immense. In summary, when visiting Mechelen, indulging in Belgian classics like waffles, moules-frites and carbonade flamande as well as speciality local treats and beers will provide a delightful and authentic taste of the city's celebrated food and drink.
What are the best restaurants in Mechelen?
The best restaurants in Mechelen are Numerus Clausus, Centpourcent and Nuance. Numerus Clausus offers a cosy setting in the city centre, perfect for both lunch and dinner, with a menu that combines traditional Belgian fare with contemporary flair; reservations are recommended. Centpourcent, a Michelin-starred establishment, provides a gastronomic experience that elevates lunch and dinner to an art form; securing a reservation is highly advised. Nuance, another Michelin-starred venue, offers an opulent dining atmosphere where elaborate dishes are the norm, making it ideal for special occasions; reservations are essential. These restaurants are the epitome of fine dining in Mechelen, offering unforgettable experiences for both lunch and dinner, but it's prudent to book in advance.
Listed below are the best restaurants in Mechelen:
- Numerus Clausus: Numerus Clausus is located in the heart of Mechelen and offers a cosy atmosphere that is ideal for both lunch and dinner. The menu often features traditional Belgian cuisine with a modern twist. Reservations are generally recommended due to its popularity.
- Centpourcent: Centpourcent is a Michelin-starred restaurant in Mechelen known for its exquisite gastronomy. The restaurant offers an array of gourmet options for lunch and dinner, showcasing the culinary finesse that has earned it its Michelin star. Reservations are highly advised to secure a table.
- Nuance: Nuance is also a Michelin-starred restaurant that offers a luxurious dining experience in Mechelen. The restaurant excels in crafting elaborate dishes, making it a perfect choice for special occasions. Reservations are essential, especially during weekends and holidays.
Which are the best areas to stay in Mechelen?
Listed below are the best areas to stay in Mechelen.
- City Centre: The City Centre is the ideal location for those who wish to be at the heart of Mechelen's action. It is bustling with shops, restaurants and historical landmarks like the Cathedral of St. Rumbold. This area is excellent for those who want to be within walking distance of key sites and enjoy a vibrant local atmosphere.
- Nekkerspoel: Nekkerspoel is a quieter neighbourhood located to the east of the city centre. It offers the advantage of being near the Mechelen-Nekkerspoel railway station, making it convenient for those planning to explore the region further. This area is ideal for travellers who prefer a calmer environment but still want easy access to the city's highlights.
- Kauwendael: Kauwendael is a primarily residential area located to the south of Mechelen. It offers a peaceful setting, away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. This neighbourhood is suitable for visitors looking for a more relaxed stay and possibly have access to a car for easier mobility.
- Battel: Battel is located along the River Dijle to the north of the city centre. Known for its scenic beauty, it provides a tranquil setting a bit farther from the central attractions. This neighbourhood is perfect for those who enjoy riverside walks and a slower pace of life.
- Mechelen-Zuid (Mechelen South): Mechelen-Zuid is more industrial in nature and is located close to the E19 motorway. It offers straightforward access to both Brussels and Antwerp, making it convenient for business travellers. This area is best suited for those who are in Mechelen for business or need quick access to other cities.
What are the best hotels in Mechelen?
Listed below are the best hotels in Mechelen:
- Hotel Thermen Londerzeel: Hotel Thermen Londerzeel offers a unique blend of luxury accommodation and wellness facilities. located a short distance from Mechelen's city centre, it provides guests with an array of thermal pools, saunas and spa treatments, in addition to its modern, comfortable rooms. Early bookings are recommended, especially for weekend stays or during holiday seasons.
- Het Anker Brewery Hotel: Het Anker Brewery Hotel is not just a hotel but a cultural experience, located within one of Belgium's oldest breweries. Guests can enjoy the rare opportunity to stay in a functioning brewery while also experiencing modern comforts and a unique gastronomic journey that features the brewery's own beers. Due to its distinctive offerings, it's advised to book well in advance as it is among the best hotels in Mechelen.
- Hotel Essenza: Hotel Essenza is a boutique hotel near Mechelen that offers an intimate lodging experience with a focus on personalised service. The rooms are elegantly designed with modern amenities and the dining options focus on locally-sourced, organic produce. Given its limited room availability and high demand, early reservations are strongly advised.
What is the weather like in Mechelen in the winter?
Mechelen's winter begins in November and continues through March. The coldest months in Mechelen are January and February with average high temperatures range from 5°C (41°F) to 7°C (44°F), while lows are around 0°C (32°F) to 1°C (34°F).
Despite chilly weather, visiting Mechelen in winter has its perks. The city embraces the season with Christmas markets and events like Mechelen in Fire and Flame, transforming the Grote Markt (Grand Place). Visitors can browse festive stalls with St. Rumbold's Cathedral towering behind. Mechelen's UNESCO beguinages become fairy tale-esque covered in snow.
Indoors, the Museum Hof van Busleyden hosts the “Hidden Gems” exhibit displaying the city's finest artworks. The Kazerne Dossin memorializes Jews deported from Mechelen in WWII. The Speelgoedmuseum (Toy Museum) delights all ages. Classic pubs like De Hanekeef and cozy cafes like LIEF offer refuge from the cold. The covered food market De Vleeshalle provides diverse cuisine options. Beer lovers can tour the 1471-founded Het Anker brewery. The open-air “Schaatsboot” ice rink on the Dijle River allows skating.
Smaller winter crowds mean fewer tourists. Travelers willing to brave chilly weather get rewarded with festive charm, good hotel and flight deals. With convenient railway links to Brussels and Antwerp, Mechelen makes an excellent winter weekend destination. Its history, activities and authentic charm provide memorable experiences year-round.
Is Mechelen worth visiting?
Yes, Mechelen is certainly worth visiting. Mechelen is a historic city with many interesting sights and attractions that make it an appealing destination. Mechelen has a rich cultural heritage, exemplified in its striking architecture spanning many eras such as the St. Rumbold's Cathedral. Mechelen also has several museums housing fine art collections, including works by Flemish masters. The streets of the inner city feature many shops, cafes and restaurants housed in traditional buildings, ideal for strolling around. Mechelen is quite compact and walkable, located on the Dijle River, so exploring is easy. Frequent festivals and events held in Mechelen, like the Botermarkt street party, showcase local food, music and culture. Nearby, the Planckendael Zoo offers a fun family activity. With its blend of history, culture, architecture, dining and shopping opportunities, Mechelen provides an engaging and rewarding experience for visitors of all interests. In summary, Mechelen has diverse attractions and charm, making it a worthwhile destination to visit in Belgium.
Is Mechelen expensive to visit?
Mechelen is considered an affordable city compared to other destinations in Belgium and Europe. For basic goods and services, prices in Mechelen are quite reasonable. For example, a pint of beer at a pub costs around €2-3, a bottle of water is €1-2, coffee is €2-3 and a basic sandwich breakfast can be found for under €5. Cigarettes are more expensive due to taxes, at around €8-9 per pack. Groceries like milk, bread, eggs and cheese cost similar to prices in the UK. The average cost of a meal at an inexpensive restaurant is estimated at €15-20 per person. Hotels and B&Bs in Mechelen can be found for as little as €60-90 per night for modest accommodation. With regard to transportation, buses, trains and taxis have affordable local rates. Rental cars and petrol are similarly priced to the rest of Belgium. Attractions in the city like museums and tours are modestly priced, usually under €15 per person. In terms of the general cost of living for residents, Mechelen is comparable to nearby cities like Antwerp but lower than Brussels. Mechelen offers good value for money spent, especially relative to other popular European cities, like Brussels or Antwerp. With budgeting, travellers can comfortably experience this charming Belgian city without breaking the bank.
Is Mechelen safe?
Yes, Mechelen is definitely considered a very safe city to visit and reside in. According to recent crime statistics, Mechelen has relatively low crime rates compared to other cities and towns of its size in Belgium and Europe. Violent crime in particular is rare; most criminal occurrences are minor property crimes like bicycle theft. Mechelen has not had any recent issues with terrorism or civil/political unrest that would make it unsafe. The city centre and tourist areas have a noticeable police presence and there are few reports of crimes against visitors and residents in these parts of town. Standard precautions like avoiding unlit areas at night and being aware of pickpockets in crowded areas are advised, but generally risks are minimal. For solo travelers and women travelling alone, Mechelen is regarded as safe given its small size and lack of reports of harassment. There are also no neighbourhoods that are considered off-limits or dangerous to visitors.
Is Mechelen easy to visit with kids and toddlers?
Yes, Mechelen is a very family-friendly city and easy to visit with children and toddlers in tow. Its compact size and abundance of kid-oriented activities make it ideal for families. Top attractions like the Planckendael Zoo and Technopolis Science Museum provide interactive exhibits sure to entertain and engage children of all ages. The city's beautiful parks, such as Kruidtuin Botanical Garden (in Leuven) and Haverwerf, offer space for kids and young adults to play and explore. Mechelen's flat landscape and walking-scale centre is manageable for strollers. Restaurants and cafes have kid’s menus and outdoor seating, accommodating families. Family bicycles can be rented to tour the city or nearby countryside. Events like summer carnivals have rides and street performers for enjoyment. Hotels and B&Bs often provide cribs and amenities for babies and toddlers if requested. Mechelen with kids and toddlers is ideal as there is an abundance of kid-focused attractions and dining. Couples with kids can easily fill their time with fun activities and leave with lasting memories.
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