De Mijlpaal (The Milestone)
Favorite thing: One of Mechelen's many claims to fame is that the city was the first in mainland Europe to receive passengers by train. On May 5th 1835 the Brussels to Mechelen line officially opened (extended the following year to Antwerp) and the first passengers alighted close to where this memorial now stands in front of the main Mechelen railway station.
When first erected, about 50 metres from its present location, it also marked the zero point from which all Belgian rail-lines distances were measured. As the network expanded the Milestone was moved around the country to try to keep it at a central location - in 1878 it was on the Leuven canal. It spent a bit of time in storage between 1959 and 1980 before being returned to Mechelen.
On the 20th March 1998 it found its final resting place when the new station was built. It is supported by four marble columns which bring its height to exactly that of the new stations cornices and interestingly also acts as the noon marker for both the summer and winter solstices with brass plates on its surrounding square aligning with its shadow.
- Historical Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Tourist centre & guides
Favorite thing: The tourist information service for Mechelen is called In & Uit Mechelen. They have an office in the south east corner of the Grote Markt (near the statue of Op-Signoorke outside the Town Hall). This is the place to come for information about tourist sights, theatre and dance performances (and tickets for these), hotel reservations, city walks and guides. We did one of the guided city walks on offer, the “Three Burgundian generations”. This is the classic Mechelen highlights tour, which focuses on the most important historic buildings, most of them dating from the medieval and Renaissance periods. It offers an opportunity to go inside the Town Hall to see the great reception hall and the wonderful Battle of Tunis tapestry (see my Local Customs tip for more on this). We also visited the palaces of Margaret of Austria and Margaret of York, the Cathedral, the Hof von Busleyden and walked through some of the most interesting of Mechelen’s back streets. Our guide was knowledgeable and helpful, e.g. in adapting the tour to respond to some specific questions we’d asked. This walk costs € 5 and there’s no need to book – you just need to turn up at the desk of In & Uit Mechelen 15 minutes before the start of the tour to get your ticket. Walks are conducted daily during the Easter holidays and throughout July and August at 14.00, and on weekends and public holidays from Easter until mid September at the same time. Other tours available include a climb of the cathedral tower to see the views and the carillon – check the website below for details of this and other possibilities.
The tourist centre itself is open as follows:
1st October – 31st March, Monday – Friday 9.30-16.30 and Saturday – Sunday (and public holidays) 10.30-15.30
1st April – 30th September, Monday 9.30-19.00, Tuesday – Friday 9.30-17.30, Saturday – Sunday (and public holidays) 10.00-16.30
070 22 28 00
Generalities about Mechlin
Favorite thing: Mechlin (Mechelen in the vernacular language and Malines, as the francophones call it) is a small city of less than 80.000 inhabitants within commuting distance from both Brussels and Antwerp, the two largest metropolises in the country. Mechlin has been able to preserve its own identity, though, thanks to its prominent role in the history of the Netherlands, of which it was even the capital during a brief period in the XVI century.
The old town is well preserved and full of pleasant corners for the tourist to discover in a day or two.
Mechlin's historical background
Favorite thing: Mechlin has long been an autonomous manorial territory within the Low Countries. The Dukes of Burgundy established here their Great Council, which controlled the government of the manorial territory and functioned as the highest Court in the Low Countries. The government of the entire Low Countries was established here during the reign of Margaret of Austria, reason for which she is still greatly appreciated in the city, which has erected a statue in her honour in the Market Square. The capital status returned to Brussels with Charles V, however, and the city fell into a decline from which it has only lately recovered.
Water and Mechelen
Favorite thing: Mechelen is located along the river Dijle. In the old days there were lots of small waters inside the city, all branches of the Dijle. But when the river flooded the entire city was under water. First they filled up or vaulted the little waters. But that was not enough, and a branches was dugged around the city to divert the water from the centre around the city.
Favorite thing: The town hall is a beautiful building on the market square consisting of three different buildings. On the left is the Palace of the High Court. Although it looks old it was not finished until 1910. In the middle is the 14th century unfinished belfry, and on the right is the cloth hall dating from the 14th century.
The inside of the town hall is worthwhile too. You can, however, only visit the interior with an official guide.
Town hall - Columned Reception Room
Favorite thing: This was a very beautiful room with a high ceiling and several columns. It had huge stain-glass windows with coats of arms of all the district that belonged to emperor Charles the 5th.
In this room you can admire an exquisite 16th century tapestry, representing "the battle of Tunis".
Favorite thing: The Market Square is a big square and has an underground parking. Here you will find the town hall, the St. Rumbold's cathedral and many typical Flemish houses. There are some tavernes where you can have a drink outside. The monument on the square is called Op-sinjnoorke
City in womens hands
Favorite thing: In the history of Mechelen there are some important women. Around 1500 the mightiest persons in Mechelen happened to be women. The two most important were Margaretha of York and Margaretha of Austria.
Magaretha of York was the widow of Charles the Bold came to live here in 1477. Her presence in Mechelen stimulated the luxury trade like goldleather, tapestry and lace.
She brought up Margaretha of Austria and her brother Filip the Fair, her stepgrandchildren.
Margaretha of Austria was appointed regent of the Low Countries and built her palace in Mechelen, were she lived as a child. After the death of her brother she raised Charles the 5th, the future emperor here.
She was known for her diplomacy and her palace was open for artists and writers.
In 2005 there are several special events around these two ladies.
Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul
Favorite thing: On our walk around town we passed this wonderful baroque church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. It's situated on the corner of the 'Veemarkt' (cattle market). it was a Jesuit church.
The facade has some enormous pillars and the upper part is crowned with an aureole and the sign of the order of the Jesuits (IHS = Jesus Homines Salvator).
- Religious Travel
The former palace of Margaret of Austria
Favorite thing: It was in this palace that Margaret of Austria lived during her regency of the Netherlands (which is now Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and the north eastern part of France).
It was here that the later Emperor Charles V spent his youth at the court of his aunt Margaret.
Since 1796, this palace is the Court of Law.
St. Rumbold's tower
Favorite thing: The St. Rumbold's tower (St. Romboutstoren) is the landmark of Mechelen. You can see this huge tower from far away.
The tower has a height of 97 m and you can reach the top after climbing over 500 steps. The tower was supposed to be 160 m high but was never finished as Mechelen had financial problems in the 16th century.
Favorite thing: There is a link between Mechelen and Beethoven.
The 'Koraalschool' (choral school) was a school for the education of the choral singers of the St. Rumbold's Cathedral. One of the students was Louis van Beethoven, the grandfather of the famous composer.
Favorite thing: The legend has it that in 1687, when the Romboutstower was covered in fog, a dronken man left the pub to go home. He saw the tower was on fire and sounded the alarm. People who were awakened by the noise opened their windows and saw the same. The entire city was in panic and everybody went to the tower to help extinguish the fire. Buckets of water were handed on from one man to the other to reach the fire on top. But before the first bucket was there the moon came through the mist and the people of Mechelen realised the had mistaken the orange shine of the moon for fire. Untill today people from Mechelen are called: Moon Extinguishers.
Favorite thing: Mechelse koekoek
Koekoek literally translated means cuckoo.
You know , that european bird known for laying his egs in other birds nest and letting them do all the work. Well this 'mechelse koekoek' has got nothing to do with this bird except for its color.
It's a chicken with striped white , grey colored feathers. A beautifull animal that can weight up to 5 kilo for a cock.
Fondest memory: http://www.mechelsekoekoek.dyns.cx/
Have a look at the website....
They also became a local delicasy and how weird it might sound...that was also what saved them because they where almost extinct.
- Food and Dining