A day in Mechelen
If I had to describe Mechelen in three words they would be small, charming & picturesque. Thanks to its record number of classified buildings, the city has a strong historical character. But in recent years, Mechelen has seen the appearance of many hotspots, attracting a new public. There are numerous lunch places and cute boutiques for you to enjoy and they're all on walking distance from each other. It is safe to say Mechelen has something for everyone!
Walk in the Groot Begijnhof | Hoviusstraat 16, Mechelen
A walk in the quiet, little streets of the beguinage is a unique experience. As a kind of city within the city, the beguinage is formed by countless small houses and alleys where you can pleasantly lose yourself in. The church of the beguinage is also worth a stop (open from 13:00) for its pastel colors and art works, but be aware that it is undergoing serious renovation works.
Breakfast or lunch at Foom | Sint-Katelijnestraat 2, Mechelen
Foom is the kind of the place where you quickly feel at ease. The food is homemade and the interior is small but cozy. If you can't find a free spot, check if there is room upstairs. Breakfast is served until 12:00 sharp (their pancakes are the best) and after that time you can have lunch (a selection of sandwiches or quiche).
Walk alongside the water
A city in which there is a water passing through always has that extra charm. First there is the Melaan, a watercourse that used to be covered but was reopened in 2007. If you walk close to it, you'll notice that the fountains follow your footsteps. A little further is the Kraanbrug, a bridge over the Dijle that offers the best view on the beautiful 16th and 17th century houses along the river (they're called Het Paradijske, De Duiveltjes and Sint-Jozef). And then there is the Dijlepad, a path that enables you to actually walk on Mechelen's signature river. The Dijlepad starts at the Vismarkt and goes all the way to the Vijfhoek.
Shopping in the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat
The popular shopping street in Mechelen is the Bruul. Don't bother going there, but instead explore the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat that offers many alternative boutiques. One of those is Lily (at nr 120), a girly shop with plenty of womenswear, accessories and jewelry where Scandinavian cool meets French elegance. It is the favorite shop of my local friend Bess and I totally understand her!
Stop at the Vismarkt
A noticeable square in Mechelen is the Vismarkt, the ancient fish market that is now home to many bars and restaurants. A great place to hang out is Sister Bean (at nr 26). Their motto is simple: Homemade food, great coffee. On weekends they serve brunch between 09:00 and 14:30 upstairs, but you can also go there for drinks, for example hot chocolate of your choice with multiple toppings! Another great spot is Simple (at nr 2-4), an interior design store for all your Scandinavian furniture cravings and other pretty things.
Discover the Grote Markt
After the Vismarkt, head to the Ijzerenleen and look around you to spot the many ancient buildings. At the end of it you'll reach the Grote Markt, the most famous square of Mechelen and the architectural climax of the day. Standing in the city's historical center, on one side you see the ever-present St Rumbold's Tower and on the other the Town Hall. Plus all around the square are buildings of different eras and styles.
Apero at Unwined | Steenweg 22, Mechelen
To end the day in style, head to Unwined for an excellent glass of wine. They have a wine for everyone's taste in all price ranges. Every week new wines are there for you to discover under the categories "Wednesday wine", "Surprise wine" and "Friendship wine". Should you feel hungry, their tapas are a great option!
How to get there:
The train will take you from Brussels to Mechelen in just 30 min. There are two stations that are on walking distance of the city center: Mechelen (in the South) and Mechelen-Nekkerspoel (in the Northeast). If you come by car, there are a few free parking options. I recommend parking on the Rode Kruisplein (behind the McDonald's).