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Mechelen Travel Guide

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Stadhuis on the Grote Markt, Mechelen (©
"Townhall on the Grote Markt, Mechelen.


Mechelen (Malines in French, Mechlin in English; pop. 75,000) lies on the Dijle River, between Brussels and Antwerp and is home of the Primate of Belgium.

Mechelen's local beers are "Het Anker" (The Anchor) and "Gouden Carolus" (Golden Charles) named after Emperor Charles V.


Mechelen was a fief of the Prince-bishopric of Liège until 1356, when it passed to the Dukes of Burgundy. Charles the Bold of Burgundy made it its administrative centre and the town became the archiepiscopal centre of the Southern Netherlands in 1559 (which it still is today for Catholics in Belgium).

Mechelen's golden days came in the early 16th century when Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands, established her government there.

In the 17th century, Mechelen was renowed as a centre for lace, drapery, tapestry and Baroque woodwork.

Renaissance building on the Grote Markt, Mechelen (©

The famous composer Ludwing van Beethoven, though born and raised in Bonn, has his family roots in Mechelen, where his grand-father worked as a baker and his great-grand-father ran a painting business.


Cathedral of St. Rombold

The Cathedral of St. Rombold ("St. Rumbout" in Flemish) is Mechelen most noteworthy sight. It was completed in 1536 in the late Gothic style. The nave and transepts were the first part completed in the early and mid 13th century. The choir dates from the 14th and 15th century. Don't miss Sir Anthony Van Dyck's painting, the Crucifixion.

The cathedral's 97m high bell tower was originally intended to be 167m, which would have made it the tallest building in the world, but it was never completed. You could call it a church with an erectile dysfunction. It contains a 49-bell carillion from the 15t century - one of Belgium's finest. The bells dates from 1640 to 1947, and the largest of them (Salvator) weighs 8884 kg.

The cathedral is open daily from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm (until 4:30 pm from November to March) and admission is free.

St. Rombold Cathedral, Mechelen (© St. Rombold Cathedral, Mechelen (©

Other attractions

Note the Stadhuis (townhall) and the grotesque town's mascot known as Op Signoorke ("the fool") on the Grote Markt (main square).

On Veemarkt , the Baroque St Peter and St Paul's Church (Open 1pm-5pm; Nov-March noon-4pm; entry free) was built by the Jesuits in 1669 is worth a look for its oak paneling made by the sculptor Verbruggen in 1701, as well as a collection of 17th c. paintings.

Schoenmarkt, Mechelen (© Tower of a medieval city gate, Mechelen (©

The Museum Hof van Busleyden (Open Tue-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat & Sun 2pm-6pm; entry 2 €) has all kinds of historical artifacts, from Gallo-Roman objects to more recent bells and paintings.

The former Palace of Margaret of Austria (see History above) was constructed in 1507 in late-Gothic with Renaissance style gatehouse.

Hof van Busleyden was built between 1503 and 1508 as the residence of jurist Hiëronymus van Busleyden. The building now houses the City Museum of Mechelen.

Another major attraction is the Planckendael Animal Park, located 4 km southeast of Mechelen.

How to get there

Mechelen is easily accesible by train from Brussels (18 to 35min) or Antwerp (18 to 31min).

By car, take the E19 between Brussels and Antwerp, then exit 9 for Mechelen.

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