For the second Belgian city I choose Mechelen, Malines in French. I live here, by choice, and I love it dearly.
Since I live here I have no idea what the best hotels or accommodation is, however we do have an hotel dat is built inside a church! Quite expensive, however make sure to have a look inside.
Mechelen is easy accessible by train, you can take a train at Brussels Airport, as well as in any station in Brussels’ city, as well as in Leuven, Gent or Antwerp. Mechelen is literally the center of Belgium, so all main roads will bring you close to Mechelen.
Bus 1 will bring you to the city center, as will the free shopping shuttle.
We have 3 main shopping streets.
Bruul: The largest shopping street including stores such as: Tiffany’s, Hunkemöller, Zara, H&M, C&A, Cool Cat, Hema, Talking French, WE Fashion, Tamaris Store, different jewellers, a Bodyshop and an Yves Rocher.
Ijzerenleen: includes Ulla Poken (big sizes), Di, Casa, more exclusive boutiques and the M-store (Apple Store)
Onze- Lieve-Vrouwestraat includes beside my home a cute children’s shop named Rozemamuze, the ecoshop and Lily, where you can find cute dresses and Noë shoes. OLVstraat is also home to many pop-upstores and a bookstore café: De Zondvloed.
Mechelen is also the home base of the cutest Children’s webshop, www.goldfish.be, make sure to check the side, she often holds pop-upstores. If she has one, and you are in Mechelen, you must go in and say ‘hi’ to Eva, she is an awesome woman.
Another cute children’s store is Betty Wood in Geitestraat (between Bruul and IJzerenleen). Betty Wood sells toys and cute gadgets for kids or adults with an inner child.
Mechelen also holds different Warm Welcome Weekends, the shops will be open on Sunday during these weekends.
Mechelen has a lot of FREE city musea, just walk in the tourist information centre near the Great Market. They will give you the addresses and the best expositions at the time.
Make sure to visit Kazerne Dossin, it’s our own holocaust museum, which will leave you with a strong image of the sufferings during WOII. Make sure to check opening hours, since the museum will be closed on Jewish holidays and remembrance days of WOII.
Rombouts cathedral, make sure to climb the tower with a tour guide, it’s not too expensive and they will give you a nice tour. The cathedral itself is also worthy of a piep, it also holds a Ruben’s paining.
The palace of Margarethe of Austria, our current City Hall is also worth a short visit, as it he great Market.
During a sunny afternoon, (in summer around 3PM) you should visit the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe-over-de-Dijle church, the church itself is rather beautiful however it will serve you a beautiful light spectacle on a sunny day. The glass stained windows and the sun play well to gather and colours the church vibrantly. You will find this church in the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat.
Also have a walk on the Dijle on our Dijle pad, It’s a wooden boardwalk on the Dijle, which is one of the most romantic things you can do here. (It’s also free of cyclists , busses and cars, be aware of ducks though…)
July 11, July 21 and December 31 are the days you can watch some fireworks, in July it will be after sunset, (around 10-11 PM), December will be at midnight.
Once a year we have our Hanswijk procession, and in summer there are a lot of free music festivals all over town, mainly at Korenmarkt, the fish market and the botanic (parc in city center)
Mechelen with kids
Mechelen is a city that focusses on children, we have some playgrounds and loads of events especially for children. Make sure to check our city’s calendar.
In Muizen-Hever we have our zoo, named Planckendael, it’s a very open en beautiful zoo with a lot of side activities for children, including a petting zoo, a chance to feed penguins and zo on…
In Nekkerspoel (5 min walk from the city center) we have the National Toy Museum, which house a time line of toys and different temporary toy expositions.
The touring information center has brochures specially for children with city searches and information about the city’s history.
15 minutes out of the center we have a nice parc, Vrijbroekpark with sports accommodations, a playground and place where you can hold bbq’s. 25 min out of the center you have Tivoli parc, with restaurants, petting zoo and play ground.
Food and drinks
My favourite bar by far is de Gouden Vis at the fish market. Here you can try Belgian beers, when it rains, you will get wet and the terras holds nice vue on the Dijle. The fish market itself is a nice spot to hang out in bars, every bar has it’s own speciality and character.
Second place goes to ‘Si‘, my friend Ana’s bar. Ana and Julio serve great cocktails and tapas. They’re rather cheap and the vibe is always wonderful. Also Ana is a wonderful host and she doesn’t pay me in free drinks to write this. 😉 It’s supposed to be a popup bar, but a little bird has told me she might stay, Yippie!
Baramundo, near the cathedral is a more expensive cocktail bar than Ana’s, but the drinks are worth it. But when it’s packed it’s not a nice place to be, Si on the other hand is always nice to hang around.
I usually eat at any place at the great market they all have good food and are rather cheap, my favourite is De Witte Vos. It’s nice, great service and the food is wonderful.
For my Wok I go Botermarkt to Chopsticks, it’s a take away thai restaurant, with a nice host. Try the cup chopsticks with peanuts!
So, I hope to welcome you in Mechelen soon!