Mechelen is a charming city located along the Dijle river in the province of Antwerp. The city has many listed buildings and some UNESCO World Heritage Sites, all in walking distance. My highlights were the atmospheric Large Beguinage, a stroll over the Dijle path and a visit to the impressive library.
In this Mechelen city guide I will share all my travel tips about:
See and do in Mechelen
The floating Dijlepad (Dijle path) is a unique way to see the city, as it feels like 'walking over' water. You can see the buildings from a different angle, and walk underneath the 13th century Hoogbrug (High Bridge).
The Grote Markt is the central square of the historic centre. In the background you see the 97-metre St. Rumbold's Tower which you can climb to get a view over the city.
The Gothic style Town Hall was built between 1320 and 1326, and is located on the car-free Grote Markt.
Below you see the statue of Archduchess Margaret of Austria, with in the background the St. Rumbold's Cathedral. Margaret was born in 1480 in Brussels and was the first female regent of The Netherlands.
The Large Beguinage was founded in the 16th century within the city walls, and was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1998 (together with 12 other beguinages in Flanders). Here woman lived together in seclusion where they had their own nursing home, bakery, brewery, church and bleaching fields (for drying laundry). Nowadays families are living in the beautiful old buildings which are decorated with plants, rose bushes and many flowers. It's a pleasant pastime to walk through the maze of these medieval, narrow streets.
Inside the large beguinage you will find 'Het Anker', a brewery dating back to 1369, and therefore one of the oldest breweries in Belgium. Guided (tasting)tours can be booked online.
'De Garage' is a contemporary art space with changing exhibitions. The current exhibitions (from two artists who are both born in Ostend) will run until the 29th of August 2021.
Hans Demeulenaere draws his inspiration form architecture, space and design:
Rein Dufait is known for combining a variety of materials and techniques:
Kazerne Dossin is a memorial, museum and documentation centre on Holocaust and human rights.
Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012) was a Polish poet who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996.
Some lines from her poem 'Hunger Camp at Jaslo' are incorporated in the steps of the park surrounding the museum.
The library at 'Het Predikheren' (a renovated monastery from the 17th century) is one of the most beautiful libraries I have ever seen. From ground floor to attic, this building is crammed with cozy corners and countless books. A true gem!
Street Art in Mechelen
Mechelen has got lots of beautiful street art, so in this blog post I only name a few. The 4 murals I share below are all of them situated within a radius of 200 metres. Check out Mechelen Muurt for more artists and locations.
At Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat you will find this piece by TUCH:
'The Gift' bij Gijs Vanhee is found at one of the corners of Korenmarkt (at the end of Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat):
Sarah Vanden Branden created this work of art at the steps of the passage (Waterstraatje) between the Dijle path and the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat.
Coffee in Mechelen
Sister Bean is a sustainable coffee and breakfast/lunch bar where you can get healthy homemade dishes and sweets. Owner Patty loves to experiment and likes to create original dishes which aren't overproduced, and without loads of fats and/or sugar. On the menu is several types of coffee and tea, (organic) drinks, smoothies, pancakes, an omelet, soup of the day, empanadas and quiche for example.
Kaffee-Ine espressobar is the first real specialty coffee bar of Mechelen.
Owner Yves types his bar as 'no-nonsense'. The coffee beans come from coffee roastery Caffènation in Antwerp. On the menu are several types of espresso based drinks, a slow brew coffee, some specials (with whipped cream, sweets and syrups) and iced coffees.
Kato Gâteaux is a breakfast and lunch spot where you can get lots of homemade sweets as well. We have tried the delicious vegan carrot cake. Coffee is delivered by the Belgian specialty roastery OR Coffee.
Barbib in the above mentioned 'Het Predikheren' is a characterful café situated under the vaulted ceilings of an ancient monastery. Here you can sit down (with or without a book) to enjoy a cup of coffee or lunch.
Vegetarian lunch in Mechelen
At Lief you will get local, healthy, homemade vegan and vegetarian dishes, made from fresh and pure ingredients. Coffee comes from local roastery Kaffefabrik, bread comes from Broodbroeders and the cold pressed juices are from Filoes, to name a few. There are several kinds of bowls, salads, pancakes and a soup of the day on the menu.
Local Shopping in Mechelen
For me Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat was the nicest shopping street of Mechelen. Not a big chainstore in sight, but only small specialty shops from local owners.
Owner (and former fashion designer) Elles of Vertelles sells fair-trade, eco-friendly and handmade products like small gifts, home decoration, flower seeds, soap, socks, bags and knitted scarfs by Belgian brand 'La Femme Garniture'.
Supergoods is an eco and fair fashion concept store with locations in Mechelen, Ghent and Antwerp. The collection contains men & woman fashion, shoes, cosmetics, accessories and lifestyle products.
De Zondvloed is a bookstore and coffee bar in one. Spread over 3 floors you can find almost 40.000 (new and second-hand) titles. The collection is divided in mainly Dutch books, a large selection of English literature and a smaller selection of French books. There is a second location in Roeselare.
Tea lovers will definitely enjoy a visit to MIST teas, because of the superior (direct trade) teas from Taiwan, Japan and China. Founders Dorien and Geert work together with independent tea producers, and have visited the tea plantations in Taiwan themselves. There are two types of home made iced teas ready for take-away.
Hotel in Mechelen
On calm evenings you will see a beautiful reflection in the pond. (The Belgian flags were temporarily there because of the European Football Championship)
In the morning there is an extensive breakfast buffet. During summer you can enjoy breakfast at the terrace of the courtyard.
How to get to Mechelen
A train will take you to Mechelen within:
20 minutes from Antwerp
25 minutes from Brussels
30 minutes from Leuven
50 minutes from Ghent
1 hour and 15 minutes from Hasselt or Liège
Mechelen is easy te discover on foot as the city centre is very compact. But if you like to go around town by bike, you can rent a green bike from Mobit and pay per hour.
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