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History and architecture enthusiasts will feel at home in Mechelen straightaway, particularly when it comes to viewing the palaces of Margaret of York and Margaret of Austria! The residence of the regent Margaret of Austria, the Court of Savoy, was the first renaissance building in the Low Countries. The picturesque garden is a wonderfully peaceful place. On the other side of the street is what remains of the Palace of Margaret of York.
The people of Mechelen love to stroll through their city and what could be more relaxing than a waterside walk that leads right through the centre! Walk along the floating part of the Dyle path between Haverwerf and the Botanical Garden. Or alongside the Melaan. This brook had been filled in but was recently uncovered again.
For a whole new take on the city centre, opt for a boat ride from Haverwerf through the marina and the sluice dock. Look out for the Vismarkt (Fish Market), the Grootbrug (Large Bridge), the Botanical Garden and the Volmolen or Fuller’s Mill. You’ll see how the people of Mechelen live in historic waterside buildings: imagine how wonderful it must be to have a house overlooking the Dyle.
Mechelen has churches galore and each contains a profusion of religious treasures. There are no fewer than eight historical churches in the city centre, each well worth a visit! The coloured light which filters through the stained-glass windows and the serene atmosphere which pervades the buildings make a visit a very special experience. The churches also contain works of art, including famous paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck. The latter provided St Rumbold’s Cathedral with a veritable masterpiece: the ‘Crucifixion of Christ’.
If you’d like to see something of authentic Mechelen, do as the Mechelaars do and soak up the atmosphere around Lamot brewery. The old brewery was converted into an ultramodern conference and heritage centre and is a wonderful example of how our industrial heritage can be put to new use. For Mechelen’s trendiest spots, head for the convivial Vismarkt - or Fish Market - on the other side of the Dyle. When the sun’s out, it’s a great place to enjoy it.
The world-famous De Wit Royal Manufacturers of Tapestry is an absolute ‘must’. For four generations antique tapestries have been cleaned and conserved here using state-of-the-art technology. On Saturday mornings visitors can take a look inside the workshop and watch a weaving demonstration.
If you want to get out of the city for a while, head for Planckendael, where you can admire exotic animals, follow a trail that leads across suspension bridges and through the treetops. In the 40-hectare park there is more than enough space for animals to frolic, children to play and adults to stroll.
The modern-day town hall is actually two buildings: Cloth Hall with its unfinished belfry (recognized by UNESCO) and the Palace of the Great Council. But in fact Mechelen has three town halls: the old Schepenhuis or Aldermen’s House, Huis Den Beyaert and the modern-day town hall. Then there is the Huis van de Mechelaar, the brand-new administrative centre.
In the heart of Mechelen in the shadow of the Cathedral, but away from the hustle and bustle, is an small, atmospheric inner square with a Mediterranean feel. It is home to a superb restaurant, ’t Nieuw Werk, which serves seasonal dishes using fresh produce beautifully presented with a contemporary twist. Weather permitting, you can eat out on the terrace. ‘t Nieuw Werk offers a four-course gourmet menu and a special lunch menu, both at set prices.
Brasserie De Margriet is located in the heart of Bruul, Mechelen’s main shopping street, which makes it ideal for a break while out shopping. Whether you choose to sit inside in the convivial brasserie or outside on the sun-drenched terrace in the inner courtyard, De Margriet serves everything from a cup of coffee, to a quick lunch or a leisurely dinner. It prides itself on its impeccable service and affordable prices.
The motto of this one-Michelin-star restaurant? George Bernard Shaw’s words: “There is no love sincerer than the love of good food”. And this is reflected on the plate – and in the glass. Folliez boasts a warm, modern interior, a great sense of hospitality, top-quality products prepared in a classic or innovative way - and its trump card: sound advice about the wine from the owner. 16 out of 20 points in the Gault&Millau restaurant guide and the prize for the best wine menu are recommendations indeed.
Several years ago the Lamot brewery was converted into the Grand Café Lamot, part of the LAMOT conference and heritage centre complex. Grand Café Lamot’s large terrace overlooks a convivial square with a view of the Dyle. Quality products provide the basis for the mix of classics and daring combinations, all beautifully presented.
La Boya is a Moroccan café serving food. Among the most eye-catching details in the exotic interior are the colourful ceiling lights imported direct from Fez. The most popular dish is the tagine. These earthenware casseroles are a feast for the eye as well as for the taste buds. La Boya also serves a wide range of tapas. “Ech, sou, fah” is the motto, which means something like “eat, drink, enjoy”.
You’ll find Nostradam in an unremarkable street between Bruul and Ijzerenleen, walking distance from the Grote Markt. The rooms of this old building are furnished with odd pieces of furniture marked by age. No chair or table matches, no glass or plate is the same. The menu features a good selection of salads, pastas, scampi preparations, wok and vegetarian dishes and a page of ‘highly recommended’ dishes too.
Close your eyes and imagine you are in Southern Asia! Spice & Taste welcomes the customers with authentic tasty delicacies from Pakistan and India. Tandoori dishes for carnivores and vegetarians are cooked in a cylindrical clay oven called a ‘tandoor’. Spice & Taste’s most popular dish is ‘Chicken Vindaloo’, chicken fillet cooked in the chef’s own special sauce comprising garlic, ginger, fresh tomatoes and spices.
Camogli provides a taste of real Italian cuisine. From crostini through antipasti caldi and freddi to famous pastas and dolci, a visit to this restaurant will have you hooked on Italian food forever! Camogli is the name of a small Ligurian fishing port, so colourful and picturesque that the owners’ could not resist naming their restaurant after it.
Beans is a convivial espresso bar on the Ijzerenleen. Sarah, a real barista, will prepare the perfect cup of coffee for you using freshly-ground beans. She loves what she does and you can taste that in every cup! You’ll discover some surprising blends too. Be sure to try the Brazilian Bomb, an award-winning latte macchiato with hazelnut syrup and Brazil nuts.
Het Anker comprises not only a brewery and a hotel, but also a large brasserie serving a typical Belgian beer-based cuisine. Each dish is prepared with one of Het Anker’s beers. The brasserie was recently renovated, but still exudes the authentic atmosphere of a ‘brown café’. The speciality of the house is the ‘Mechels stoofpotje’, a stew prepared using Carolus beer. But Mechelen’s most typical dish - ‘Mechelse koekoek’ - is also on the menu and well worth trying.
A delicious breakfast, lunch with freshly-baked bread or just a steaming cup of coffee? Check, check and check again! The couple that runs this tearoom has owned a patisserie for years so they know all about naughty but nice things! And they are only too pleased to share them with you... The menu at Coffee & Cake changes every month.
Housed in an old patrician house, D’Afspraak is a great place to meet for a chat over a drink and a bite to eat. With no fewer than104 different beers to choose from, it surely has the most impressive beer menu in Mechelen. The coffee menu is extensive too. Be sure to try the ‘steppegras’: a mountain of thinly-cut, crispy chips served with a spicy sauce and a generously sized steak. The large terrace is an extra draw in the summer.
De Stripkever is a quirky comic-strip shop located in the shopping centre on the Bruul. Actually, it is shop, gallery and coffee bar rolled into one, so you can purchase your favourite comics, enjoy them a cup of coffee or tea and then view the latest exhibition – all in the same space.
De Zondvloed is a unique concept in Flanders. The shop is stacked floor to ceiling with new and second-hand books and remainders and on the top floor is a coffee salon, serving healthy juices, but also novelties like Iranian tea. So here you can enjoy a quiet drink, while leafing through the newspaper or just chilling out.
Kaffee-ine is sometimes referred to as the Mechelen (but cheaper) alternative to Starbucks. However, it is best known for its organic slow coffee. Above the coffee bar is a pleasant lounge area. Be sure to try the Hollywood: a coffee with cream and Malteser flakes. And non-coffee-drinkers will love Kaffee-ine’s delicious hot chocolate.
The founder of the Le Pain Quotidien chain, Alain Coumont, so longed for the sort of rustic bread made from natural ingredients he had loved as a child that he opened a bakery that bakes bread in an artisanal and labour-intensive manner. Take a seat at the communal table and try the brownies-with-a-difference, made without flour, or an irresistible chocolate bomb.
This large, stylish café cum restaurant housed in the old offices of the Lamot brewery pursues a concept of serving ‘pure cuisine’, starting with wholesome, quality ingredients. It prides itself on being a place where you can go for a deliciously healthy breakfast, a drink and a snack throughout the day or a full-scale meal.
Two sisters, Marijke and Sara, brought the conviviality of Limburg with them to Mechelen and gave their coffee bar a warm, homely feel. The interior is vintage and has a couple of cosy corners where you can sit over a cup of coffee, guzzle cakes and put the world to rights. The coffee cocktails, served in real cocktail glasses, have proved a particular hit.
After Antwerp, Brussels and Leuven, Mechelen now has its own ViaVia Reiscafé. ViaVia Mechelen enjoys a unique location: the Mill House is a remainder of the largest watermill complex in the Low Countries dating from the fifteenth century. It is the meeting place for everyone who appreciates three of the most important things in life: culture, nature and good food.
Sputnik takes you back to the 1950s. This small retro restaurant is located at the beginning of the Bruul shopping street. Their menu is as bright and cheerful as their interior with its chairs in all the colours of the rainbow. You don’t need to ask for a menu because all the dishes are listed on the placemats on the tables. From Asian through Mexican to good solid Flemish fare: Sputnik has it all. Ideal for a quick lunch.
’t Ankertje aan de Dijle is a convivial, brown ‘discussion café’ in an eighteenth-century, late-baroque building. The café serves all the Het Anker brewery’s beers, which it also sells in a beer shop. Curiosities relating to beer and Mechelen’s breweries adorn the walls. There is always a jazz, groove or blues band on the first Monday in the month.
Barramundo is a household name in Mechelen. It could rightly claim to be the hippest lounge, cocktail and champagne bar in Mechelen and beyond. You can also choose from 25 whiskies and five sorts of cognac. On weekdays the atmosphere is ‘loungy’, but things hot up at weekends when you can expect house and dance music. Another draw on summer days is the wonderful inner terrace with separate bar.
In the shadow of St Rumbold’s Cathedral you’ll find the smallest café in Mechelen and the surrounding area. Borrel Babbel is a very agreeable, brown ‘discussion café’, serving a huge range of beers and whiskies. There are also some thirty young, old and fruit jenevers to choose from.
This well-known and atmospheric café usually stays open into the small hours. At weekends a DJ will have you dancing to the bolder beats. Once a month it holds a theme evening, such as ‘black & white’, ‘disco’ or ‘oldies’. During the summer months you can enjoy a pint on the ‘night terrace’.
De Pekton is actually the name of the sixteenth-century building on the Lamot site housing the Brouwerij Palm’s ‘beer café’. The original materials and interior features were used in the reconstruction so the building has lost none of its historic character. The café is open seven days a week and also serves regional snacks.
A popular ‘ambience café’ frequented mainly by Mechelen’s students, De Prof is often open into the early hours of the morning. On special occasions, you can expect the DJ to bring the roof down with loud ambient music! Theme evenings are organized on a regular basis. The large summer terrace is a further draw when the weather is fine.
The large ‘brown café’ Den Akker has been part of Mechelen’s streetscape for more than thirty years. As it is open late in the evenings, those working in the catering industry often congregate here after work. The large terrace on the Dyle is a wonderful place to unwind during the summer months.
In a manner of speaking, this legendary ‘brown café’ has helped write Mechelen’s history. In the cold winter months it’s the perfect place to sink into a leather chair by the open fire in an interior reminiscent of an English club, or in the summer to enjoy a drink and a bite to eat on the terrace ‘under the tower’. The café was refurbished in the original style after a fire caused considerable damage.
In the O’Fiach’s Irish Pub you’ll find everything you would expect of an Irish pub: you can of course enjoy a typical Irish Guinness or whiskey, but there are also live performances of Irish music which will have you tapping your foot. Quote from the owner: “Pulling pints of Guinness doesn’t mean you have an Irish pub. No, it must be in your blood.”
Yam Mie Yam is a unique combination of Asian brasserie and trendy cocktail and Latino bar. Chill out in the Latino and Asian lounge until 10 p.m. and then prepare to salsa and meringue! You can choose from some twenty cocktails, but Yam Mie Yam’s real specialities are mojito and caipirinha.
This shop stocks just about every authentic product Morocco has to offer! From honey and oils, tagines and lamps, to olives and pastries, all the products are made by hand in Morocco, apart from the pastries which the owner makes herself. Apia’s bestseller has to be its argan oil, produced from the kernels of the argan tree, which is endemic to Morocco. It is valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and medicinal properties.
Everyone in Mechelen knows Wies and Els, the cheerful ‘hat ladies’ from Adegemstraat. Mother and daughter have been designing colourful hats, scarves, shoes and handbags for almost ten years. All the accessories are crafted in Belgium and can be made in different sizes and colours to meet a customer’s specific requirements.
The Mechelen-based Michel is the seventh generation of Vanderbeek bakers. Having established a first shop in Kortrijk in 1763, the Vanderbeekes later opened up in Mechelen (among other places). A stone’s throw from Mechelen’s Grote Markt, Vanderbeek is a modern patisserie which, besides selling a wide range of tarts, cakes and special types of bread, also does canapés, pizzas, quiches and other savoury items. The firm’s speciality is its moon-shaped chocolates and cookies known as ‘Maneblussertjes’.
To step into the Blender Vintage Shop is to step back in time several decades. Cheerful seventies wallpaper, wall units and other storage furniture and original hanging lamps from the late fifties. You can browse at your leisure in the various, spacious display areas. And you’ll find even more authentic vintage for every budget in the online shop.
Edouard Gauthier set up his praline business in Mechelen in 1964. These days Gauthier is an established name in the city and surrounding area. Everything that is sold in the shop is handmade, without preservatives of any kind. Moreover, Gauthier is one of the few chocolatiers in Belgium that still makes marzipan from raw almonds.
Huis Windels specializes in smokers’ products and requisites. It also sells alcoholic drinks. The firm was founded in 1875 and has been handed down from generation to generation ever since, making it one of the oldest businesses in Mechelen. People come to the Ijzerenleen from all over Flanders for specialities like the cigars known as ‘Mechelse Zandknakjes’.
In Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat in the heart of Mechelen, you’ll find a shop called Lily. Though you might say it’s the perfect location, the boutique is so small you could easily walk straight past it! And that’s its charm. Unusual items are packed into just one room and it oozes atmosphere! In terms of style, it reminds you of England. Lily would not be out of place in Camden or Shoreditch. You’ll also find more than a hint of Paris here, which is hardly surprising since the collections come from Paris and London. The webshop is also worth a visit.
Mr + Mrs Tweed, a concept store in the alternative Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat, stocks a great variety of modern classics for men and women. You’ll also find a wide range of accessories: everything from scent and jewellery to hats, handbags and shoes. While the clothes are to die for, the interior also speaks volumes! To enter Mr + Mrs Tweed is to enter another world, one full of beautiful, magical touches - even real birds! Be sure to visit their webshop too.
On the banks of the River Dyle in Mechelen you’ll find Paté du chef. Not a butcher’s, but the perfect place for original gifts and accessories. It sells everything you don’t need, but which once you’ve seen it, you just have to have: old postcards and posters, leather notebooks, original hats and frivolous scarves… even jewellery and designer items. They all have one thing in common: they are timeless.
Pin’Art is a good address for wine enthusiasts. You will find an excellent selection of character wines, each with its own identity and soul and produced by winegrowers who know the owners of Pin’Art personally. So it’s the combination of knowledge and quality that makes Pin’Art so special. It doesn’t stick to the well-trodden paths, but that just makes its wines all the more exciting in the glass.
At Simon Lévelt you can choose from 30 different sorts of coffee and more than 150 different sorts of tea and most of them are organic and fair trade. That may sound rather a lot to choose from, but Simon Lévelt will advise you and you can always settle for a few smaller ‘tester packets’. Simon Lévelt also sells a special Mechelen blend of coffee, the ‘Taste of Mechelen’, and a Mechelen tea, the ‘Wonder of Mechelen’ with dreamy hints of bergamot, orange blossom and lavender.
Synonymous with simple, handmade jewellery with a preference for beautiful and sustainable materials, Simple comme Bonjour took over the smallest shop in Mechelen at the beginning of 2011 and turned it into a Valhalla that makes every girl’s heart beat faster! Gold walls, porcelain knobs, fine fabrics… and that’s just to ensure that the jewels are shown to their best advantage!
Simple Design is more than an interior design shop. With over fifteen years’ experience in the world of interior design, the owner Amélie is only too happy to help you with expert colour advice and tasteful furnishing tips. Simple Design favours functional products that don’t date, whether it’s a tea towel, a lamp or a piece of furniture.
Mechelen’s central location makes it very easy to reach from the various airports. Brussels Airport www.brusselsairport.be Phone: +32 2 753 77 53 25 km You can get to Mechelen by train, bus or hire car from Belgium’s main airport, Brussels Airport. The simplest and fastest way is by train. 1. By train: Brussels Airport railway station is on level -1. The Brussels Airport Express leaves for Brussels Central Station four times an hour. From there there are regular departures by train to Mechelen. The journey takes approximately half an hour. But there is more: from June 2012 a new, direct express train link will have you in Mechelen Central Station in just eight minutes! A ticket costs approx. €7. Web: www.nmbs.be 2. By bus: You’ll find the airport bus station on level 0. De Lijn provides a direct bus service to Mechelen station twice an hour, including lines 282, 681, 682, 683 and 686. Bus line 686 only runs on weekdays. The bus journey takes between 45 and 50 minutes. A ticket costs approx. €3. Web: www.delijn.be 3. By (hire) car: At Brussels Airport you will find various car hire companies, including Hertz, Avis and Europcar. On leaving the airport car park, you immediately come to the motorway. Travel towards Antwerp (E19) and take exit 10 (Mechelen-Zuid) or exit 9 (Mechelen-Noord). The journey takes approximately 25 minutes. Charleroi Airport (Brussels South) | www.charleroi-airport.com Phone: +32 78 15 27 22 95 km From the low-cost Charleroi Airport you can take the bus and the train to Mechelen. 1. By bus and train: At Charleroi Airport you can buy a ticket which combines the bus to Charleroi-South with the train to Mechelen Central Station. The two ticket- vending machines are located outside the airport, adjacent to Door 2. Your journey will take approximately one and a half hours. A bus and train combination ticket costs approximately €15. The train to Mechelen leaves twice an hour, as does the bus between Charleroi airport and Charleroi-South station. Web: www.infotec.be, www.nmbs.be 2. By (hire)car: Several car hire companies have desks at Charleroi Airport, including Avis, Europcar and Hertz. On leaving the airport car park, take the E42 direction Brussels and then the N5 direction Waterloo or the A54 direction Brussels. When you get to Brussels, take the ring road and then the E19 direction Antwerp. You then take exit 10 (Mechelen-Zuid) or exit 9 (Mechelen-Noord). The journey takes approximately one hour. Antwerp Airport Web: www.antwerp-airport.be Phone: +32 3 285 65 00 25 km You can save a lot of time both on arrival and departure by using Antwerp’s small airport. Distances between the departure lounge and the planes are short which means you can check in up to twenty minutes before your flight leaves. On arrival at Antwerp Airport you can expect to leave the airport building some ten minutes after landing. From there you can easily get to Mechelen by bus and train. 1. By bus and train: Bus 14 will take you from Antwerp airport to Antwerpen-Berchem railway station in ten minutes. A ticket costs approx. €2. From Antwerpen-Berchem station there is a frequent train service to Mechelen, with approximately four trains an hour destined for Central Station. The journey takes between 15 and 20 minutes. A ticket costs approx. €4. 2. By (hire)car: Both Avis and Hertz have desks at Antwerp Airport. On leaving the airport, drive straight on into Vosstraat. At the first roundabout turn left into Deurnestraat. At the end turn right into Antwerpsestraat. After approximately 500m turn left into Jozef Hermanslei, and then right into Frans Van Dunlaan. Then get onto the Antwerp ring-road. Take the E19 direction Brussels. Once in Mechelen take exit 10 (Mechelen-Zuid) or exit 9 (Mechelen-Noord). The journey time by car is approximately 25 minutes.
Why not explore Mechelen? From one side of Mechelen city centre to the other is approximately 1.50 km, so easily walkable. It takes just 15 minutes from the outskirts to the heart of the city and you can enjoy the city along the way. By bicycle There are several places where you can hire a bicycle in Mechelen. You would be well advised to check in advance that the firm has bicycles available. Bicycles cost approx. €10 a day to hire, but the price varies greatly from one supplier to another. 1. Fietspunt Mechelen Phone: +32 15 21 27 04 Web: www.fietsenwerk.be You can hire a bicycle from Fietspunt on weekdays. Unfortunately it is not open at weekends. You decide how long you want to keep the bicycle this might be anything from half a day to a week. 2. Provinciaal Sport- en Recreatiecentrum De Nekker Phone: +32 15 55 70 05 Web: www.denekker.be De Nekker is open every day, so also at weekends and on public holidays. The sports and recreation centre is located just outside the city ring-road. De Nekker also has tandems and children’s bicycles for hire. You can even reserve your bicycle in advance online. 3. V-Zit Phone: +32 3 213 22 54 Web: www.v-zit.be V-Zit also hires stepper bikes. The firm is headquartered in Antwerp, but you can contact them by phone or email. 4. Fietsen GS (Hombeek) Phone: +32 15 27 29 00 Web: www.fietsengs.be 5. Chamizo (Sint-Katelijne-Waver) Phone: +32 15 21 18 99 Web: www.chamizo.be Chamizo has a good selection of folding bicycles, electric bicycles and tandems. By bus: Mechelen lends itself perfectly to short bus rides. There are even special cheap fares to cover short journeys, a single ticket costing approx. €1.20. A day ticket, which allows you to use the bus as many times as you like, costs approx. €10, a 5-day pass €15. De Lijn operates the regional and city buses. On the regional lines, buses depart approximately once an hour on the urban lines usually every fifteen minutes. There is a reduced service at weekends and during the school holidays. Central Station is walking distance from the Grote Markt, but buses do run between the two locations. Bus numbers 1 to 7 leave from platform one and travel in the direction of the Grote Markt. If you want to go from the Grote Markt to the station, you would do best to take a bus from the Schoenmarkt or Veemarkt. Numbers 1 to 3 and 5 to 7 will take you there. Phone: +32 15 40 87 11 Web: www.delijn.be
Taxis are expensive. For a short distance of 5 km you will easily pay €10. But if you are planning to have a drink while you’re out, a taxi is the perfect solution. A TOV ticket enables you to combine the bus and the taxi. You get €2 discount on the taxi journey on presentation of your bus ticket. But note that not all the taxi companies accept the TOV ticket. Web: www.delijn.be At Mechelen station you will find one or more taxis at the taxi ranks near the station exit on Koning Albertplein. There are also parking places for taxis in other parts of the city, but you will not necessarily find a taxi there. You might do best to book a taxi with one of Mechelen’s taxi companies. Taxi 2000 Phone: + 32 15 41 26 09 A.A.A. Ecotaxi Phone: +32 15 33 03 30 N-Taxi Phone: +32 15 26 16 10 Web: www.ntaxi.be Happy taxi Phone: +32 492 77 77 77 Web: www.happytaxi.be Snel-taxi Phone: +32 487 35 53 55 Web: www.snel-taxi.be A.A.S. Central Taxi Phone: +32 15 55 60 20 B&B Services Phone: +32 15 20 40 60 M(etropool) – Taxi Phone: +32 472 20 20 50 Bens Taxi Phone: +32 492 27 34 74 M3 Taxi Phone: +32 474 25 04 53 KM Taxi Phone: +32 474 62 64 30 San-Taxi Phone: +32 485 34 94 94 Gerrit’s Taxi Phone: +32 15 20 07 22 Taxi United Phone: +32 475 21 09 20 MW Taxi Phone: +32 477 56 14 72 Taxi Maroc Phone: +32 498 03 65 48 Taxi Mobilis Phone: +32 494 36 09 14 Taxi Flexi Phone: +32 15 40 42 45 786 Taxi Phone: +32 496 44 78 60