Located 40 minutes from Brussels, Mechelen (Malines in French) is part of the province of Antwerp, in the Flemish region. Less well known than its big sister Antwerp, the capital of the province, Mechelen is nevertheless a very beautiful city that is just as charming, with more than 300 listed buildings! So why does Mechelen offer such a rich heritage? Let's lift the veil on a destination with a truly rich history, ideal for a trip lasting two days or more in Belgium. Follow the guide!
The second city on the Dyle after Leuven, Mechelen benefits from the advantages of proximity to this 86 km-long river, without the disadvantages. Slightly elevated and thus sheltered from floods, it developed rapidly in the Middle Ages, both a commercial hub for goods circulating in the region (salt, fish, etc.) and a manufacturer of linens and lace, with recognized know-how in the field of weaving.
Originally organized as a seigniory and managed by large, influential landowners, the small town quickly became the envy of the region while it kept growing wealthier. Most notably, under the impetus of the Dukes of Burgundy, who made it the capital of the Burgundian Netherlands. In the 15th century, the Duchy of Burgundy was as wealthy and influential as the Kingdom of France or the great Italian princes. This is already an initial explanation for the exceptional cultural wealth of the city, as the Dukes of Burgundy, as true sponsors, financed cultural life (painting, sculpture, but also music) in Mechelen as in other “draping” cities in Flanders.
The Habsburg family continued to develop the city, in particular Margaret of Austria, who took over the regency of the Netherlands from 1507 to 1530, until her nephew Charles V came of age. She decided to rule from Mechelen and resided at the Court of Savoye (Hof van Savoye), also called the Palace of Margaret of Austria. An erudite, educated queen, the regent loved court life and surrounded herself with artists and works of art. Today, a statue pays tribute to her a few steps from the Grand Place.
The most prosperous period of Mechelen ended in the 16th century, at the same time as the cloth trade began to decline: from explosions to looting to religious conflicts, Mechelen lost its status as the capital of the Netherlands in favor of Brussels.
Here’s something good to know: the city centre of Mechelen is exclusively pedestrian. It is therefore on foot that you will discover the picturesque charm of these cobbled streets. But regular shuttles offer connections between outlying car parks and the city centre. Don’t hesitate to ask our team for more information when booking!
The streets of the Grand Beguinage and the Petit Béguinage in Mechelen are the most picturesque for walking: listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, these two sites welcomed beguines, widowed or single women who cared for each other within a religious community. Formerly enclosed by a wall and accessible only through two entrance doors, what remains of the Béguinage today are beautiful facades decorated with flowers, a church and the former hospital building.
As you stroll, you will come across the Grand Place (Grote Markt) with much more ostentatious and colorful facades, in the Gothic, Renaissance or Rococo styles, which are typically Flemish. The spacious Grand Place houses a Gothic-style town hall (Stadhuis) and its belfry, which remains unfinished. Here is the heart of the city. Day or night, weather permitting, you can sit on the terrace of a bar or restaurant to try one of the local Belgian specialities: a Gouden Carolus beer, for example, produced right here, at the Het Anker* brewery. The best restaurants also offer a Mechelen Cuckoo on their menu, a chicken with tender flesh that is a cross between local chicken and Asian chicken.
Are you a fan of shopping? The city's busiest shopping street awaits you as soon as you reach the Grand Place. Bruul Street is full of shops of all kinds: from trendy brands to small local shops, you will certainly find what you’re looking for!
Climbing the Tour Saint-Rombaut and its 538 steps will allow you to discover the history of the city and this famous tower: numerous levels have been designed to allow you to conquer its 97 meters (!) and learn more about its construction, its 49 bells and its carillon. Once at the top of the building, enjoy the breathtaking view of Mechelen! For the record, the tower remains unfinished. It was originally supposed to be 167 m high, but unfortunately, its spire was never installed.
Characteristic of the Brabant Gothic style, Saint-Rombaut Cathedral is one of the historic jewels of Mechelen. But who was this Saint-Rombaut who gave his name to this impressive monument in stone? Legend says that this monk, of Anglo-Saxon or Irish origin, evangelized the city of Malines. In the cathedral's walkway, beautiful painted panels tell of his life and the miracles he is said to have carried out. The statue of this monk who became the patron saint of the city sits atop the main altar: it houses the relics of this saint, preciously preserved in a silver casket.
Among the many remarkable elements of the cathedral, we should also mention:
After visiting Saint-Rombaut Cathedral, feel free to take a stroll along the banks of the Dyle. Attention photographers: its banks will allow you to immortalize 3 of the most emblematic facades in the city, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. On Quai aux Céréales (Haverwerf in Flemish), at the corner of the bridge, discover the ‘Maison du Paradis’ - decorated with a red, baroque low relief representing Adam and Eve driven from Paradise, the “Little Devils” and Saint Joseph.
Located in the Busleyden courtyard, in a Renaissance mansion, the Hof van Busleyden Museum contains numerous masterpieces, evidence of the cultural richness of the city at the beginning of the 16th century, when Margaret of Austria chose Mechelen to rule the Netherlands during her regency.
All the arts are represented: sculpture, painting, and even illumination, with carefully preserved manuscripts, such as the Margaret of Austria’s choir book.
Don't miss the 7 “Walled Gardens”: these small altarpieces, objects of devotion, are composed of sacred sculptures - usually wooden or alabaster statuettes - installed in small oak boxes filled with decorative elements as diverse as medals, silk flowers and plants, coral, pearls, parchments, relics, etc. Made in the 16th century, these ‘besloten hofjes’ represent a an ideal spiritual world, a paradise, before which the Augustinian Sisters of the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Hospice of Mechelen prayed and meditated, while they added to them.
It is impossible to outline them all, such are many assets of the city of Mechelen! Do take note, however, that the city has numerous parks and green spaces, and that for children (young and old), the Toy Museum offers one of the most important collections of toys from yesterday and today in all of Europe! Find the most popular games from every country in the world in one place, and it's right here, in Belgium, in Mechelen!
Ideally located in the south of the city, the B&B HOTEL Mechelen will become your point of reference for accommodation in Mechelen!
In addition to its advantageous location, which allows you to reach Mechelen Train Station (10 minutes on foot) and the city centre (less than 20 minutes away) via the bustling Rue Bruul, our team, who are always available at the reception desk, welcomes you with open arms!
Stay peacefully in our 3-star hotel for the duration of your holidays or business stay in Mechelen.
Please note that Brussels Airport is only about twenty kilometers away.
If you arrive by car, you can safely park your vehicle before you visit the pedestrian town centre: our parking area is available for a fee (rate: €20/day).
Our 98 rooms are equipped with all the necessary comforts: desk, wardrobe, air conditioning, flat-screen TV with a wide choice of channels available. You will feel as though you’re in your living room watching your favourite shows!
Not to mention a breakfast buffet with a wide choice of fresh and seasonal products. Sweet or savoury, these will satisfy the hungriest amongst you. Do as you wish: sit quietly in our breakfast room and take the opportunity to power up for a good start to the day.
It’s also an opportunity to learn about the must-see activities in Mechelen. Our team will be happy to share with you the top spots worth discovering.
And when it comes to bedding, you will truly be pampered! B&B HOTELS has teamed up with two French sleep experts to offer you a top-quality mattresses and pillows.
Our hotel also has a luggage storage service and a bar offering refreshments and snacks, for enjoyable breaks.
Please note that pets are accepted in our establishment at an additional charge.
To find out more about our establishment and the services offered during your stay, and discover our special offers and prices, visit the B&B HOTEL Mechelen page.
*Alcohol abuse is harmful to health. Please consume alcohol in moderation.