Mechelen Things to Do

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  • Hof von Busleyden Museum, Mechelen - the garden
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Most Recent Things to Do in Mechelen

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    An Ideal Spot For A Beer While Awaiting Your Train

    by johngayton Written Jul 29, 2015

    OK, I'm lying very slightly with my title. With trains running from Nekkerspoel into Antwerp every 20 minutes, or so, I didn't actually have to wait for a train but I did fancy a final beer before leaving after my fascinating afternoon out to Mechelen.

    This bar, Komisfeu, is on the corner of the little square just before the railway station and a friendly little bar it is. Being that bit out of town the beers are slightly cheaper, certainly compared to the Grote Markt, and it also has an interesting-looking food menu.

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    Het Schepenhuis

    by johngayton Written Jul 29, 2015

    This interesting building was the original town hall, dating from 1288, and is claimed to be the oldest stone-built town hall in Flanders. During the city's 16th century revival of prosperity work began on the new Palace of the Great Council but the old Schepenhuis continued its traditional role for a while afterwards as the council ran out of money.

    After the council were finally relocated, firstly to what is now the Post Office and then to the eventually completed Stadhuis, the building was used as archives and is now the municipal museum.

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    The Oddbod Of A Town Hall

    by johngayton Written Jul 29, 2015

    Another of the many striking buildings on the Grote Markt is Mechelen's Stadhuis - Town Hall. This building looks as if it has been there for hundreds of years but in fact was only completed in 1911.

    Originally it was two separate buildings, the Cloth Hall and the Palace of the Great Council, construction of which began in different centuries. The Cloth Hall dates from the 14th century and its attached belfry was intended to be 250 feet tall. However the project ran out of money due to a decline in trade and so the belfry was capped at a mere 20 feet and the hall itself finished with a temporary roof - a roof that's still there and is now UNESCO listed.

    The Palace of the Great Council was begun in the 16th century, as an ornate replacement for the Schopenhuis but that too ran out of money and the Great Council never did get a chance to sit in it. It wasn't until the early 20th century that the building was finally completed according to its original design.

    It's still an impressive building though and useful to know is the Grote Market gateway has modern public toilets which are free to use.

    I didn't have time during my last visit but by all accounts the interior is well worth investigating and this can be arranged as part of the city tour offered by the local tourist office.

    Where The Loo Is
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    Margaret of Austria's Palace

    by johngayton Written Jul 29, 2015

    The grand-daughter of the Burgundian Duke Charles the Bold was to become the second of the two influential Margarets who chose Mechelen as their seat of power.

    When born, in 1480, Europe was in a constant state of political flux with the various powers jockeying for influence. After her mother, Marie's, fatal riding accident in 1482 the young Margaret's elder brother Philip became Duke of Burgundy - Margaret's step-grand-mother, Margaret of York, having engineered an agreement whereby Marie's husband Maximillian of Austria couldn't accede the throne, and instead became Regent.

    For political expediency this young Margaret, aged only 3, was engaged to be married to the French king, Loius XI's, son Charles and moved to France to be educated as a future queen.

    This arranged marriage however didn't happen and instead Margaret, now aged 16, was betrothed to the Spanish heir John of Asturia. The two were married the following year but John died 6 months later and the child they had conceived was delivered stillborn.

    Her second marriage, to Philibert II, Duke of Savoy in 1501 was to last for three years. Despite accounts having it as a happy union Margaret failed to conceive and after Philibert's early demise in 1504 Margaret decided against any further betrothals.

    As a highly-educated and forthright young woman she devoted herself instead to active politics and remarkably was appointed Governor of the Low Countries in 1507. At the time she was aged just 27.

    Having had a lifelong association with Mechelen she chose to hold court from there and commissioned the building of a new Renaissance palace, across the road from that of her late step-grand-mother, Margaret of York's.

    This was to become a major cultural centre and was visited by many of the most eminent artists and philosophers of the day.

    Her political and commercial achievements too were notable, including negotiating a favourable deal for the import of wool from England which would be woven into cloth in Mechelen and exported around Europe. Most famous of her political deals was the successful "Ladies Peace", formally known as the Treaty of Cambrai, which effectively allowed France to pull out of the costly conflict known as the "War of the League of Cognac".

    The building is now the Court of Law and despite being a working building its courtyard gardens are open to the public and make for a tranquil spot for enjoying a takeaway lunch.

    Frontage Courtyard Gardens Statue on the Grote Markt
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    Margaret of York's Palace

    by johngayton Written Jul 29, 2015

    This building which has become known as Margaret of York's Palace was originally the 15th century Mechelen residence of the Bishop of Kamerijk (Cambrai in French) at a time when Burgundy and Cambrai were the two main powers in the region.

    Margaret of York was an English noblewoman, sister to kings Edward IV and Richard III, who in 1468 married the Burgundian Duke, Charles the Bold, and became Margaret of Burgundy - a marriage intended to form a political alliance between Burgundy and England against the French under Louis XI.

    Charles's court was based in Ghent but Charles himself spent much of his time on the battlefields (hence the "Bold"), leaving Margaret to run the household, supervise the affairs of state, and to look after Charles's daughter Marie.

    After Charles was killed at the Battle of Nancy in 1477, his daughter Marie assumed his throne. Margaret, who was childless, had been an ideal surrogate mother to the young Duchess and so the two moved to Mechelen with Margaret being accorded the status of Dowager Duchess of Burgundy.

    Even after Marie's fatal horse-riding accident in 1482 Margaret continued to wield considerable political influence and her household here in Mechelen was regarded as one of the most lavish and cultured in Europe.

    Following Margaret's death in 1503, with Marie's son Philip as Duke, the palace was occasionally used as a royal residence - the young Charles V lived there for several years and Marie's daughter, also Margaret, would have been a regular visitor.

    Since then the building has had various uses, including as a Jesuit monastery, and is now the city's Municipal Theatre, the Stadsshouwburg, whose main concert hall is the palace's former reception room.

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    Ideal For An Afternoon Beer - Cafe 't Pleintje

    by johngayton Written Jul 24, 2015

    Most of the popular bars are around the Grote Markt and on my afternoon visit in early June the ones in the sun seemed hugely busy - too busy for a casual beer. The next door Veemarkt though offered pretty much the same scenario - sit in the sun and watch the pretty girls walk, and cycle, past.

    Cafe 't Pleintje worked perfectly for me. The sun was shining, the service was good, the beer was cheap (at 1.60 for a standard Maes) and the passing girls suitably delish, both those on foot and those cycling.

    Despite its proximity to the aspiringly-touristy centre Cafe 't Pleintje is a proper local bar. The food menu offers a couple of sandwiches and slices of apple pie - that's all folks. The beer menu is equally simple, with only about 20 to choose from - HA!

    I simply sat in the sun, enjoyed a few Maes's and left 20 cents on top of my 4.80 bill for the excellently attentive service from the rather delicious lady server of a certain age. My 20 cents bought a smile that made me wish I hadn't been staying in Antwerp that evening.

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    Enjoy A (Short) Riverside Walk

    by johngayton Written Jul 24, 2015

    As I was admiring the short row of former merchants houses and warehouses at the old Salt Quay, by the Hoogbrug, I noticed a sort of boardwalk along the riverside which could be accessed by steps from the quay.

    Being inquisitive I just had to follow it to see where I ended up. This I've now discovered is called the Dijlepad, a 600 metre walkway connecting the new pedestrian bridge at the new-ish Vismark to the bridge at the Vijfhoek.

    This was an interesting little wander offering a riverside view of more of the city's variety of buildings. Judging by the steps semi-submerged in the river at one of them it looks as if the river was at a lower level in the past - which would explain why the Hoogbrug (High Bridge) was so-called.

    At Vijfhoek, where the walkway terminates, you have the entrance to the Kriudtuin Gardens and on the bridge an interesting former fulling mill and lockhouse.

    OK, not quite in the same league as walking the banks of the Danube in Budapest but as good a way as any to discover a few hidden nooks and crannies of Mechelen.

    Hoogbrug Bridge at Vijkhoek Semi-submerged Steps
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    Enjoy A Drop Of The Local Brews

    by johngayton Updated Jul 24, 2015

    No town in Belgium is complete without at least one brewery and here in Mechelen they have the family-owned De Anker brewery situated on the inner ring road at Guido Gezellelaan 49.

    The brewery dates back to the 15th century when the Beguines opened a hospital on the site and brewed beer as an alternative to using the local water - the brewing process effectively sterilising the polluted water.

    It was taken over by the Van Breedam family in 1872 and has been family-run ever since. Brewing is still done in the traditional manner, but using modern techniques and equipment, and the various brews have won all sorts of national and international awards.

    Best-known of its beers is the Gouden Carolus (named after Charles V) range which come in a variety of styles: The Classic is full-bodied dark beer, whilst the Tripel is a lightly-spiced blonde. The more modern Hopsinjoor, brewed with 5 different hops is trendily unfiltered, and the Ambrio is a traditional amber brew based on the city's unique Mechelschen Bruynen recipes from the 15th century.

    The brewery offers guided tours for individuals and groups which can be booked using the website and the 1.5 hour tour, including a couple of tasters, costs from 7.50 euro. As well as the tours the brewery has its own brasserie and shop which can be visited during their respective opening hours - details once again on the website.

    My visit to Mechelen, this time round, had been an unplanned one and so I didn't get a chance to join a tour, but most of the bars in the city stock the Het Anker products and so I had no problems doing a bit of sampling, and well worth sampling they are too.

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    A City For Meandering

    by johngayton Written Jul 24, 2015

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    Mechelen perfectly suits my personal style of travel. With more listed buildings per square kilometre than Brugge there's a wealth of things to catch your eye, and your camera lens. To my mind the best way to appreciate its many visual delights is just to wander haphazardly. Everything of interest has concise notices, in several languages, explaining what it is and giving a brief bit of history, often amusingly-written with little snippets of local colour.

    There's no necessity for a map since the compact historical centre is bordered by the inner ring road which means that you can't get lost but if you do want a useful city map the tourist office, on the corner of the Grote Markt, has a freebie "Act Like A Local" guide - which you access online here:

    http://www.use-it.travel/cities/map/2014_mechelen/?zoom=2

    Here's a few random pics of things that caught my eye:

    #1 - "De Kevie" - A baroque 17th century merchant's house, which was formerly the Three Kings Brewery. Located by the High Bridge

    #2 - Church of St Peter and St Paul - Local humour has it that it needed its 14 confessional booths due to its location adjacent to the Veemarkt - the former cattle market which was considered a den of iniquity.

    #3 - Remains, on the Grote Markt, of what are considered the oldest stone building in the city. These date from the 12th century and thought to have been the cellar walls of a former pilgrimage "Guest House" - note the inverted commas!

    #4 - Former tollbooth at the High Bridge. During its Medieval heyday the river carried most of the trade goods including wool, salt and oats and traffic was subject to taxation.

    #5 - A random pic of the amazing detail to be found in the stonework of the buildings around the Grote Markt.

    #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
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    Visit The Historical Centre - The Grote Markt

    by johngayton Written Jul 24, 2015

    As with most Belgian, and Dutch, towns and cities the Grote Markt (Grand Market Square) is the epicentre of all things historical, cultural, social and economic. Mechelen's is particularly impressive. Surrounded on all four sides by some of the city's most ornately-finished the pedestrianised main square rivals those of Brussels, Antwerp and even Brugge, but without the tourist throngs.

    Highlights include the magnificent St Rumbolds Cathedral with its tower dominating that corner of the square and on the opposite side the intricate Gothic stonework of the City Hall. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants to sit and watch the world go by and there is even a proper local market every Saturday.

    It is well worth just randomly wandering and taking in the detail, such as the sculpture of the city's mascot, Opsinjoorke, or the remains of the early Medieval city wall which was uncovered when they built the underground car park. The great thing is that everything of interest has informative signage in several languages, giving just enough detail for you to appreciate what's what and to send you scurrying to Google when you get home and start writing things up.

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    De Wit Royal Manufacturer of Tapestry

    by stevemt Written Jul 10, 2014

    Do go and have a tour here, it is fabulous.

    These guys do tapestry restoration for the world famous museums

    You learn about the craft of tapestry along with the restoration.

    No photos are allowed inside.

    Group tour every sat @ 10:30am except in July, and between xmas and new year, and public holidays

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    Cityhall

    by tompt Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Cityhall has two parts. The striking part, in the picture on the left, was supposed to be the seat of the high court of the United Netherlands in the 1500's. But the palace was not finished because of a lack of money. It took untill the early 20th century to finish the building. Today it houses the wedding room and the assembly room for the cities council. At the right is the Clothhall from the 14th century. It was here the trading of cloth took place. But due to the war between England and France there was no supply of wool to make cloth and trading collapsed. That is why the belfry (in the middle of the picture) was never finished.

    Cityhall can visited inside with a guide, see the website for more info.

    More pictures also from the iside in the Cityhall travelogue

    Cityhall, Mechelen

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    Technopolis - Do-Center for Sience and technique

    by maneblusser Updated Apr 4, 2011

    This is a wonderfull do-center for sience and technique.
    You will be able to participate in several sience projects, discover wonderfull things about everyday things we take for granted.

    A must do acivity with children from 3-99.

    Sory no pictures available, but check out their cool website!

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    Grote Markt

    by toonsarah Written Oct 19, 2007

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    As in other Flemish cities I’ve visited, the Grote Markt is clearly the heart of Mechelen, and you’ll almost certainly find yourself spending much of your down time here as I did. It’s ringed by cafes and bars, and although prices may be a little higher here than on the side streets (though my research wasn’t conclusive on this), in my view it’s worth any extra to be able to enjoy this prime people watching position!

    But there’s more to this great square than eating and drinking. I was fascinated to learn something of its history; apparently recent excavations for the new underground car-park, which has thankfully removed the ranks of parked cars from this splendid scene, revealed large holes beneath its surface. Historians have concluded that a wooden cloth hall, the precursor of the later one now incorporated into the fabric of the Town Hall, once stood here. Mechelen in those days was a significant centre for weaving, using wool imported from England, and the cloth hall here would have been at the heart of the city’s trade. With the better access to the sea afforded by a now filled-in network of canals, ships would have docked nearby to deliver the bales of wool and to transport the finished cloth to its final destination.

    The square is particularly pretty at night, with the cathedral, Town Hall and various other buildings nicely illuminated. I found that the aluminium bollards designed to keep traffic out of its centre also made great improvised rests for my camera to enable me to capture these shots. Another thing I liked here was spotting the various animal statues on top of some of the buildings, including a pig and this cockerel (photo 4), although I never found out their significance. On a Saturday there’s a general market in the square, which spills over too into the streets leading off it and the nearby Vee Markt.

    Grote Markt, Mechelen, at night Grote Markt, Mechlen, at night Grote Markt, Mechelen, at night Grote Markt, Mechleen Grote Markt, Mechelen - Den Amitie
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    Various churches

    by toonsarah Updated Oct 19, 2007

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    Limited time (and some restricted opening hours) meant that I didn’t manage to see inside any of Mechelen’s eight churches other than the cathedral, but I did get to admire the varied architecture and learn a little about them. Two are worth mentioning in particular:

    St John’s church (Sint-Jan) is one of the most famous medieval churches of Mechelen, mainly because of its Rubens painting, a triptych depicting the adoration of the Magi, which was painted in 1619. It is said that the Madonna has the face of Isabella Brant, Rubens’ first wife. The church itself was built in the 15th century.

    The Baroque church of Saints Peter & Paul was built in 1670 as a Jesuit church, part of a monastery of which nothing else remains. The façade is notable for statues of Indian princes, reflecting the Jesuits’ missionary work in that country. The church has an impressive interior which unlike some others in the city (including the cathedral’s) survived the iconoclastic religious wars of the 16th century, when Mechelen was sacked by the Spanish army under the command of the Duke of Alva. Its splendours include a collection of paintings from the 17th century, fine oak panelling with fourteen confessionals and a magnificent pulpit made by the sculptor Verbruggen around 1700 that illustrates the Jesuits’ missionary work in the four continents then known (Australasia had not been discovered).

    Sts Peter & Paul church, Mechelen
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