DESTINATION: MECHELEN, BELGIUM
TRAVEL TIME: 20-30min TRAIN FROM BRUSSELS
Most people know Antwerp, Brussels and Bruges when they hear about Belgium, but other nice cities such as Mechelen are not that famous. This means that you won’t see crowds full of tourists here, but it’s still busy enough to create a good vibe. Since Mechelen is very close to Brussels (30km) and Antwerp (25km), it makes it the perfect destination for a day-trip either by train or by car.
In this travel guide, I will be sharing some must-sees and must-dos when spending one day in Mechelen based on my own experience 😊
HOW to GET THERE
FLIGHT: when you’re not living in Belgium, you can reach Mechelen by flying into Brussels Airport (Zaventem). From here, you can easily take the train to Mechelen as they have direct connections and it takes you about 20 – 30 min.
TRAIN: there are several train connections from the bigger cities in Belgium as well as some international trains that pass Mechelen so there are plenty of options. Keep in mind though, there are actually two train stations; Mechelen and Mechelen-Nekkerspoel. Both are near the city center, but you have to check which one is closest to the things you want to do or see.
CAR: when living in Belgium, you can easily get to Mechelen by car as you can park your car on several locations in and around the city center. My suggestion would be to park at Zandpoortvest as it’s on the edge of the city center (approx. 800m from Grote Markt) and during the weekend it’s free. During the week you have to pay around 3 EUR for a full day which is still cheap compared to the other car parks in the city center.
Must-SEE & Must-DO
Before you start your discovery and adventures in Mechelen, make sure to visit the Tourist Information Center and ask for the “prikkelpakket” which is a small booklet where you pay around 6 EUR for, and it includes 6 vouchers to discover some local treats for free as well as 10 discount vouchers for different attractions such as Technopolis, climbing up the St-Romboutstower, guided tour in the brewery of the Gouden Carolus, etc. This means that the small fee you must pay is well worth it. What I appreciated with this booklet is that it also serves as a guide throughout the city and will bring you through those smaller streets that you would normally skip.
Here are some of the places I’ve visited that are worth your attention 😊
GRAND PLACE (Grote Markt) with the CITY HALL
This place is just amazing and the views you get when standing in the middle of the market will make you go WOW! The good thing about this place, is that it also has the tourist information center so this should definitely be your starting point. on the square, you also have the City Hall and some other buildings with great architectural designs (from the old days) 🙂
This tower cannot be missed from which ever part of Mechelen you are entering the city, which makes it the perfect symbol of the city. It’s part of a select group of Belfries that are recognized as UNESCO world heritage sites. With the voucher from the booklet, you get a discount to climb the tower which is notrmally 8 EUR for an adult. Be aware that the climb is 538 (!) steps. On your way up there are several break points to take a breath and see one of the chambers. Once you make it up to the skywalk, the view is literally amazing and if you’re lucky with the weather, you can even see the Atomium in Brussels. Once you make it back down, be sure to also check out the Cathedral itself.
BREWERY HET ANKER
This brewery is a family owned business that has been located in the Big Beguinage (Groot Begijnhof) for 5 generations (founded in 1471). Over the years, this brewery has gained international credits for its beers as they are still being made based on the old recipes. Maybe the best known beer is the Golden Carolus which you can try for free if you use your voucher from the booklet. I’m not a beer drinker at all, but still gave it a try and have to say that I definitely recommend giving it a try! Also, if you’re interested in learning more about the brewery, you can take a guided tour.
With Mechelen being located by the river Dyle, the town build a Dyle Path (Dijlepad) which is actually a path over the river that runs from Haverwerf (or Fish Market) to the Botanical Garden. This is a very nice experience to give visitors the chance to have a different look at the architectural houses in the city. Especially since you’re seeing them from the back!
SHOPPING on BRUUL
Every city needs to have a shopping street, and this is also true for Mechelen. Bruul is Mechelen’s main shopping street where you’ll find some famous brands such as H&M, Zara, the Body Shop as well as some independent boutiques. The street takes you from the Botanical Garden all the way to the Grand Place.
WHERE to EAT
This small bar/cafe is located next to the Botanical Garden, at the start of the Bruul. If you’re into milkshakes and are up for something new, then this is your place to be! The choices are quite big and everything is freshly made. You can opt for a small, medium of large shake, but even the small one is big in my view. I’d taken the strawberry with fresh mint and it was really good especially on a hot day!
Located near the St Rumboldstower, this place is perfect for a nice lunch. They have superb carrotcake, lime cake, and other sorts of sweets. For a good lunch, the croques are a recommendation.
As part of the Prikkelpakket, you get to try local treats and most of these are available at bakeries, so make sure to try these out as well.
I’ve discovered the Mechelse Torentjes at Bakkerij Matthys which are sand cookies in the shape of the St Rumboldstower. They serve really well as an afternoon snack 🙂
Another treat from Mechelen are the Maneblussers which is also the nickname of the citizens of Mechelen (quite a funny story as to how they got that name, so be sure to look it up!). Maneblussers are chocolate pralines with different flavors. I’ve got mine at Banketbakkerij Vanderbeek & Godiva. Since I’m quite the chocoholic, these were finished before I walked out of the street :p
COFFEE AND TEA at SIMON LEVELT
I’m never one to skip a nice cup of tea, and I’m always looking for new teas to discover and taste, so with my voucher from the prikkelpakket, I was able to get a free bag of “het wonder van Mechelen” which is a specific tea blend created for Mechelen. Besides that, entering the shop made me so happy with all the different types of tea, that I ended up buying 2 other blends 🙂
WHAT to WEAR
Outfit details are always tricky and dependent on the weather, but my general recommendation is wear flat shoes since you’ll be doing a lot of walking and with a lot, I really mean a LOT!!! Since the weather in Belgium can be tricky and changing, you are always safe with layers… For this trip, the weather forecast was 26 degrees which is hot for mid-October, so I choose a summer dress in autumn colors but covered it with a cardigan that would keep me warm should be temperatures drop a bit or in case the wind would pick up…
For a one-day trip, there is no need for hotel recommendations, so that’s the reason why I haven’t included any.
Would love to hear any great spots that I might have missed! Thanks a lot for reading and following along my adventures!