Have you heard of it?
I hadn’t, until a friend suggested checking it out. Located in the Flemish region of Belgium, nestled between Brussels and Antwerp, it’s the perfect day trip destination. Cute and compact, you can explore at your leisure without feeling the rush of “I have to see it all.”
The Grote Martk is an ideal place to start. This historic center is a pedestrian zone lined with cafes, perfect for sipping an Aperol Spritz and admiring the impressive facades. Each building is ornately designed, showcasing architectural characteristics of its time. You could easily spend an hour or two people watching and absorbing the ambiance of this vibrant square.
Next stop is Vismartk, the old fish market of Mechelen. Instead of fish, you will now find more modern establishments, such as Sister Bean, a local favorite. Grab a coffee or lunch at this cozy spot; if you happen to be here on the weekend, do enjoy the lovely all-you-can-eat brunch.
Once you are well hydrated and fed, follow the Dijlepad, the pathway beside the river. It will lead you to a relaxing park and botanical garden in the heart of the city. Along the way you will notice many impressive waterfront homes and lush foliage, so take your time and enjoy.
After your brief encounter with nature, the best way to get back into city life is with some boutique browsing. Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat is the best street to find independent, local stores and unique goods.
Lily’s Boutique is a good starting place, continue down the street until you reach Guldenstraat. Make your way along Ijzerenleen for more perusing and then you will find yourself back in the center. Make sure to admire St. Rumbold’s Cathedral and the impressive Town Hall, before heading to the Beguinage.
The Beguinage were communities where spiritual women lived a similar lifestyle to nuns but without the religious oath. Today, the walls that separated this community have been removed and the Beguinage are now comprised of private residences. It is a peaceful place to wander and admire ivy laden homes. The best part about this particular Beguinage is the brewery located right outside.
Het Anker dates back to the 15th century and is famous for its Golden Carolus brews. They offer guided tours through the brewery and whisky aging room, with a tasting offered at the end. Those who opt out of the tour can enjoy their beers in the brassiere, which also has an extensive dinner menu. Conveniently, this brewery also functions as a hotel; it’s the perfect place to end the night.
Now you can say you’ve heard of Mechelen and know exactly where to go!
Until next time
An important museum to visit is the Kazerne Dossin Holocaust Memorial. Located next to the former transit camp where Belgian Jews and Gypsies waited to be sent to concentration camps. It is a somber experience that can take up to 3 hours to thoroughly complete, so plan accordingly.
Cheap parking can be found behind McDonald’s in a large parking lot, and it’s an easy walk to the center.