Mechelen is emerging up as one of the top cities of Belgium and is rated as one of 10 European cities of the future. This futuristic city is also rich in history with Belgium’s foremost cathedral as a highlight, lots of stunning churches and it is also the seat of the country’s archbishop. Mechelen is also one of the most convenient cities in terms of location as it is just a 20-minutes train ride from both Antwerp and Brussels.
Despite so many fabulous attractions, history, and traditions, Mechelen is one of the most underrated cities of Belgium. However, the young generation of the city is dedicated to put the city on the map of fame. The amazing art galleries, riverside walk, good food and stunning Baroque houses mesmerize the visitors. On top of that, there is free Wi-Fi for everyone across the city.
The city is small and compact which means you do not need a transport to visit all the important attractions of the city. You can just walk around using GPS and can find major tourist attractions within short walking distance of each other. The city is less crowded and is more affordable in terms of accommodation and food.
17 Wonderful Attractions in Mechelen Belgium
St-Romboutskathedraal - St. Rumbold’s Tower
St. Rumbold’s Tower is a towering cathedral from 15th century standing tall in the Grote Market, but visible throughout the entire city. The tower is 97 meters high and involves more than 500 steps to climb up to the top. Climbing up will test your fitness but the magnificent panoramic views from the top are worth the effort. On a clear day, you can also get a glimpse of other cities like Antwerp and Brussels. This tower is the symbol of Mechelen and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Tower was constructed in 1452 but it was never completed. Initially it was used as belfry and to hold the important documents of the city. The clock was used to indicate the approaching dangers and the time. The clock is now gone but it is said that it was the world’s biggest clock. The luminous baroque interior of the cathedral is home to some fabulous art including the painting by famous master Anthony Van Dyck.
Begijnhof of Mechelen Belgium
Begijnhof was founded around the time of crusades as small towns within a town. These small towns hosted the women and children of the soldiers who did not return from the war. Many women decided to form their own communities and became self-sufficient with their own shops, bakeries, breweries, churches, and hospices.
There are two beguinages which can be visited in Mechelen. They are not as impressive as they were once but are still considered as very attractive areas of the city. The larger beguinage of the two is declared as a World Heritage Site due to its typical Flemish characteristics and unique architecture. Both are very picturesque with baroque architecture, old breweries and beautiful streets.
Fort Breendonk in Mechelen Belgium
Fort Breendonk was constructed as a military fortress for the defense of the city of Antwerp. It became a Nazi Concentration camp in the second world war. Visitors can walk through the dark corridors of this fort and learn about the history, cruelty, and punishments that took place in this fort. All the information is provided through an audio guide.
The Stadhuis in Mechelen Belgium
The Stadhuis stands in the Grote Markt to the opposite side of the St. Rumbold’s Tower. This impressive structure looks like a castle and is a solid stone masterpiece. The three buildings of the structure have been cleverly merged in a way and they look like one building.
Lady Hanswijk of Mechelen Belgium
Lady Hanswijk is a beautiful church in Mechelen where many people visit as a pilgrim to see the Madonna statuette that is believed to be 1000 years old. The church is a stunning masterpiece on the inside as it is out. The dome is the exterior’s crown and confessionals are the highlights of the interior.
The Technopolis in Mechelen Belgium
This is a scientific museum in the Mechelen which mixes fun and learning with a wide range of permanent and temporary exhibitions. There are wonderful and interactive activities for both adults and children.
Speelgoedmuseum – The Toy Museum of Mechelen
Speelgoedmuseum is another museum in Mechelen that is also attractive for both adults and children. Visitors tend to lose their track of time in the 7,000 square meters of this museum which is full of games, dolls, teddy bears and all sort of toys. The toy museum also arranges regular exhibition with different themes including the Legos. Children love this place and adults find some nostalgic items from their past.
Kazerne Dossin of Mechelen Belgium
Kazerne Dossin is a museum that used to be a barrack during the time when Nazis had control of the area. This place was used as the center of deportation during the World War II. Nearly 26,000 Jews were deported from the city to Auschwitz. Kazerne Dossin commemorates the history, bravery of those who stood up against the oppression and reflects on themes such as human rights, racism, and mass violence. The top of the building also offers some great views of the city of Mechelen.
The Courthouse of Mechelen Belgium
The courthouse was used to be a palace since the beginning of the 16th century. The palace served as a home to Margaret of Austria. The Courthouse has gone through several renovation over the period of many centuries. The gardens of the courthouse are still intact and remained unspoiled.
Het Zotte Kunstkabinet
Het Zotte Kunstkabinet is a small but fascinating museum that only exhibits odd paintings that date back to the 16th century. This is a unique museum where you will find yourself surrounded by odd paintings trying to find a clue for the true meanings behind these efforts. The museum is sometimes also referred as the “Mad Art Cabinet” where you can also find the colorful group of drunkards, freaks and lunatics that are painted by some famous artists such as Hieronymus and Pieter Bruegel. Het Zotte Kunstkabinet is open on Wednesdays and Fridays only.
IJzerenleen of Mechelen Belgium
IJzerenleen is a long and main street of Mechelen that leads you to almost all the major tourist attractions of the city as well as amazing shopping destinations. The street is very near to the Grote Markt and is often referred as the Mechelen’s Champs Elysees. The beautiful street has many restaurants, lovely shops and boasts some of the finest architecture in the city.
Planckendael – Zoo of Mechelen Belgium
Planckendael is a wonderful zoo in Mechelen which is a great place for a day out with animals from the five continents. The zoo has a very clever layout of the routes which will lead you to all the animals and attractions and you cannot miss anything. The five different routes to the five different continents start from the main entrance with signs and posts about each and every animal. The Indian elephants from the zoo have become very famous after the arrival of their baby elephant which was highly celebrated in the city.
Dijlepad (Dyle Path) and The Melaan
Dijlepad is a superb waterside walkway along the River Dyle of the Mechelen city and is considered as a wonderful path for strolling. The walkway is very pleasant and peaceful and offers different views to the same buildings of the city. Recent renovations have made River Dyle more prominent in the city’s landscape. This path runs from Haverwerf to the Botanical Garden allowing the visitor to see the houses and buildings from the back.
There is another small waterside walkway in the city which is called Melaan which is also famous for peaceful strolling in a pleasant environment.
Nun’s Winter Garden
This wonderful Winter Garden of the Ursuline Nuns lets visitors enjoy the pleasant smells and sights of Spring throughout the year. This garden and a school was founded at the end of the nineteenth century by a local pastor who wanted young girls to have free education and that became the moto of the sisters who ran the school which became a boarding school to cope up with the expenses.
The school had pupils not only from the city but also from other cities of Belgium and Europe. The school became so famous that even the girls from Russia and Canada also came here. The School was bombarded in the World War I and was destroyed. It was again rebuilt, but this time with marble and luxury materials.
The garden is located at a 20 minutes’ drive from the Mechelen city and the entrance cost is around 10 Euros. The tour is provided in different languages by the teachers who teach in the school and provide plenty of information about the place, architecture, and the Winter Garden.
In old times, the transport boats had to stop at the Haverwerf for three days before offering their goods for sale in the city. The Haverwerf name also came from these activities where Haver means oatmeal. These days, Haverwerf has turned into a beautiful riverside area that showcases some beautiful houses from the 16th and 17th century. The owners of the houses keep their pleasure boats at the Haverwerf.
Haverwerf is the ideal place for photography if you are in Mechelen. The place, houses, river, and boats appear very picturesque with the stunning architecture.
The Botanical garden of Mechelen is the biggest park in the historical center of the city. The park was designed in 1862 by Louis Fuchs who was a famous landscape artist in Belgium. Throughout the years, this botanical garden has gone through many renovations and restorations which has made an impact on the original design but most of the landscape is still intact. This is one of the favorite places of locals in Mechelen to spend time with their families.
Everybody knows that beer is famous in Belgium but Mechelen offers something unique. There is a brewery, called Het Anker, that is more than 500 years old and has won around 20 awards worldwide. You can take a guided tour of Het Anker and learn about the beer brewing processes and the history of beer. You will get to taste their special brewed beers that have won international awards.