All the Best Things to Do in Mechelen + Local Tips for Visiting
Looking for things to do in Mechelen? Here’s a guide to this small, charming city between Antwerp and Brussels!
With its small size (the city center is only 1.5km in diameter), Mechelens is a great city in Belgium for a fun weekend break. Enjoy the many activities to do, especially in the summer, and keep an eye out for all the fun restaurants and trendy bars around the town.
How to Get to Mechelen
Mechelen by Car
Mechelen is located in the center of Flanders, between Antwerp and Brussels. This makes the city, located along the E19, very accessible.
The city center is car-free between 11 am and 6 pm, making it pleasant to walk around. Fortunately, there are six large underground car parks along the edge that are always accessible. Above ground there are parking options everywhere that are usually a lot cheaper than the underground parking garages. More info can be found here (above ground) and here (above and below ground)
Mechelen by Train
Thanks to its central location, you can easily get to Mechele by train. From Breda you can take the Intercity Direct to Brussels South, which stops in Mechelen.
There are two stations in the city: Mechelen and Mechelen-Nekkerspoel. They are both within walking distance (10 to 15 minutes walk) from the center, but keep in mind that Nekkerspoel is a smaller station where not all trains stop.
Mechelen by Bus
Although it is only a fifteen minute walk from Mechelen station to Grote Markt, there is also a center shuttle (bus no. 1) between both locations. The Centrumpendel departs on platform 11. To return to the station, it is best to take the bus back to the Schoenmarkt or Veemarkt.
12 Things to Do in Mechelen
1. Climb the St. Rumbold’s Tower
St. Rumbold’s tower, the symbol of Mechelen, is located right next to the Grote Markt, you really must climb it. You stop en route in six tower room where more information is given about the history of the tower. For children, a fun sort of scavenger hunt is planned on the various floors, so they will certainly enjoy themselves. As a reward you will find a skywalk at the top at 97 meters that offers you a fantastic view of the city.
- Address: Onder-Den-Toren 12, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium
- Opening hours: Every day from 1 pm to 6 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm (last entry at 5 pm – access every 20 minutes).
- Entrance fee: Adults – €8, Up to 27 – €3
2. Cruise Along the Inner Dike
Sail quietly through the beautiful center of the city while you learn more about Mechelen’s history and sights along the bank. If you visit St. Rumbold’s or the Toy Museum first, you can get a discount for the boat. You can also combine the boat trip with a nice walking tour through the city or explore the city center first with a scooter. More information can be found here.
3. SUP through Mechelen
Explore Mechelen from a sup-board! You get a brief explanation and afterwards you can explore the city by paddling with or without guidance. Even your dog is allowed on the board, how nice is that?! More information can be found here .
4. Visit the Great Beguinage
The Great Beguinage of Mechelen is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is unique because it is located in the middle of the city center. Long ago, the old beguinage outside the city walls was destroyed, so everyone moved to the center. They bought vacant buildings and built new houses. The small streets are very nice to walk through.
- Address: Nonnenstraat 13, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium
5. Visit the Palace of Margaret of Austria
The Court of Savoy, the first Renaissance building in the Netherlands, was once the residential palace of Margaret of Austria, then governor of the Habsburg Netherlands. These days the Court of First Instance is located here, but the garden of the building is open to visitors.
- Address: Keizerstraat 20, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium
6. Don’t miss all 8 Historic Churches
In addition to the St. Rumbold’s Cathedral, there are seven other historic churches that you can visit in Mechelen. The Begijnhofkerk, the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van Leliëndaalkerk, the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Over-De-Dijlekerk (14 th and 15 th centuries), the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Van-Hanswijk Basilica, the Sint-Janskerk St Catherine’s Church and St Peter’s and Paul’s Church. Read here more about the beautiful churches of Mechelen.
7. Grab a beer at Het Anker Brewery
Het Anker Brewery dates from 1471 and is therefore one of the oldest breweries in Belgium and known for its Golden Carolus beer. To this day, the special beers, Gouden Carolus Classic (awarded as one of the seven best beers in the world!) and Golden Carolus Tripel are brewed here. Regular guided tours are organized on a weekly basis, but the places are limited, so if you are interested, book in advance.
- Address: Guido Gezellelaan 49, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium
8. Walk along Dyle Path
The Dyle path is a really lovely walk in Mechelen, especially in the summer. Walk along the water right through the city center while enjoying the sun. The path runs along the Dyle, between the Haverwerf and the Kruidtuin.
9. Go for a Historical City Walk
Tip: Until the end of October you can join a guided two-hour historical city walk on weekends and public holidays. In the summer holidays this is even possible daily! The guide leads you past many historic buildings by the 16th century Mechelen. The walk starts at Visit Mechelen . You can also come here with all your (tourist) questions.
- Address: Hallestraat 2-4-6. Right next to the Grote Markt.
10. See More of Mechelen’s History at Hof Van Busleyden
Hof van Busleyden is a Renaissance city palace located in the center of Mechelen. After a long renovation, the museum has been open to visitors since June 2018 and is really worth it. The museum looks back on the history of Mechelen through a constantly changing collection and various exhibitions and looks ahead to the future.
- Address: Frederik de Merodestraat 65, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium
- Opening hours: Monday, Tuesday, Friday to Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm. Closed on Wednesday. Thursday: 10 am-10pm.
- Ticket prices: €11Individual, €9 Malinois, 65 +7 EUR People with disabilities5 EUR Young people 13 – 26 years old
11. Learn more about the Holocaust in Belgium at the Barracks Dossin
Kazerne Dossin was a place from which thousands of Jews and Gypsies were taken to concentration camps. The museum is also a memorial and documentation center and is about the Holocaust and human rights. The Nazi regime and the prosecution are discussed chronologically. The history is very realistically represented through photos, files, and interviews.
The exhibition really opens your eyes by citing three important themes: Mass and migration; fear and discrimination; and death and extermination. It is not cheerful, but it is really worth the effort. In the old barracks you will also find a memorial that shows countless innocent people through photographs. You can also see the stories of witnesses who survived the deportation, were in hiding, or who were part of the resistance.
- Address: Goswin de Stassartstraat 153, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium
- Opening hours: Monday / Tuesday / Thursday / Friday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday & Sunday: 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM. Closed on Wednesdays.
- Entrance fee: € 10 for adults, € 4 for young people between 10 and 21 years old.
12. See one of Europe’s largest toy collection at the Toy Museum
With one of the most extensive toy collections in Europe, the Mechelen Toy Museum is fun for young and old. The collection is unique and shows toys from the past and present and from all over the world. Your visit is made even more fun by the fact that you can play traditional games and relive the Battle of Waterloo.
- Address: Nekkerspoelstraat 21, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium
- Opening hours: Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm . Closed on Mondays.
- Admission fees: Adults (€ 9.80), Children 3-12 years (€ 7.30), 65+ (€ 8.80).
Where to Eat in Mechelen
Although the city is not that big, you will find something for everyone. There are lots of nice coffee shops, concept stores, nice restaurants, and both small boutiques and famous brands. On the main shopping street De Bruul you will find the more famous stores, but also the IJzerenleen , Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat and the various side streets are certainly worth a visit.
Noen is a breakfast and lunch bar with a very instagrammable interior. You can go there for salads, soup, toasts and an extensive breakfast menu. In addition to good coffee, get some homemade iced tea and homemade ice cream and milkshakes. Yum!
- Address: Leermarkt 24
Sister Bean once started small, but has become a household name on the Mechelen Fish Market. The concept stands for “homemade food and great coffee.” They were one of the first “hip” things in the city. Go for a good breakfast, a nice lunch, or just a piece of cake with a cappuccino.
- Address: Vismarkt 26
Order one of the original burgers on the map or compile one yourself. In good weather you can sit on the terrace just below the St. Rumbold’s tower. Their motto? “Thank God for burgers.” I can agree with that! The vegetarians among us can still enjoy a portobello or hazelnut burger here.
- Address: Sint-Romboutskerkhof 1
The coffee bars have been rising like mushrooms from the ground lately, but Kaffee-ine has been around a lot longer. With a long table, chairs and a bench on the street side, this is the ideal place to take a break from all that shopping and enjoy a drink.
- Address: Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat 6
Foom is a small, cozy place that offers breakfast, lunch, and brunch. Their cakes are delicious, so if you have the time, it is definitely worth reserving a high tea.
- Address: Sint-Katelijnestraat 2
Bokes & Co
Another original breakfast and lunch spot. At Bokes & Co, you can go for originally invested “bokes” (or sandwiches). Their bread is super tasty, band they also offer salads, croques, and paninis.
- Address: Korenmarkt 53
The concept of Pintxos is based on the Spanish habit of sharing your food. The restaurant is really recommended for those who like to eat tapas! The interior is nice, the wine is tasty, and the dishes are diverse and original.
Address: Nauwstraat 10
Restaurant Funky Jungle may not look very fancy, but the food is fantastic and the prices are low. You can go there for healthy, vegetarian dishes, smoothies and cocktails, toasts, salads, and desserts. The taco salad and the gyros are to that for.
- Address: Onder-den-Toren 7
Last but not least: Bar Botanica is a vegan breakfast and lunch place (as you can see there are hip breakfast and lunch spots in abundance in Mechelen!) Breakfast with chia pudding and American pancakes or lunch with spring rolls.
- Address: Frederik de Merodestraat 3
Attention wine lovers! Rep you to Unwined. Combine one of more than a hundred wines with fresh tapas, pastries or cheese.
- Address: Steenweg 22.
The Marie Bar
Close to the station, the Marie Bar is ideal for a healthy lunch in an original setting.
- Address: Stationsstraat 55 .
Where to Shop in Mechelen
Lily has become a well-known concept in Mechelen in recent years. The beautifully decorated store with less well-known brands also has a webshop and is very active on social media. For quality and affordable items that not everyone has in their cupboards, you have to be here!
- Address: Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat 120
De Zondvloed is a large bookstore and coffee bar in one. The store is located in a very nice building, and you can go there for new and second-hand books. Have a drink on the top floor while browsing your new acquisitions.
- Address: Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat 70
This store sells eco and green clothing, furniture and decoration.
- Address: Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat 116.
Kabas is the first packaging-free grocery store in the city. The concept stands for organic, local, packaging-free (duh), and quality products.
- Address: Keizerstraat 17.
My Ex Boyfriend
This is a vintage interior design store that cannot be missed by interior and decoration enthusiasts.
- Address: Guldenstraat 21.
Tip: If you are traveling by car, you can park for free on the Douaneplein and take a free shopping shuttle to the center. Or you can go on foot for about twenty minutes, that is of course also possible. Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on shopping Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., you can drive for free to the center and back with minibuses. You can find the exact route of the shopping shuttle here .
Where to Stay in Mechelen
- Hotel VixX is a design hotel located right in the city center, a stone’s throw from the Grote Markt and the shopping streets, and just a ten-minute walk from Nekkerspoel station. The breakfast is great and can be served in the room; the suites are spacious, and the interior is beautiful. Psst. Keep in mind that I have just mentioned numerous nice breakfast spots, so that breakfast is not really necessary. Check the current prices here.
- The Martin’s Patershof is situated in a former church in the city center. The interior is very beautiful, original elements were combined with modern design. You can book a room with or without a (very good) breakfast buffet. Check the current prices here.
- Hotel Brouwerij Het Anker is part of the 15th century brewery where I had it just now. The hotel is about a 10-minute walk from the Grote Markt and close to the E19 motorway. Combine your stay with a visit to the brewery! Check the current prices here.
If you’re still planning your trip to Belgium, don’t miss my other city guides for Leuven, Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges, and Ghent!
There are all your best things to do in Mechelen! What are your best tips?
General Travel Tips
- For accommodation, I always check Airbnb or Booking.com for the best prices.
- If your insurance at home doesn’t cover travel, you may want to look into SafetyWing for an affordable option.
- I always recommend checking Get Your Guide for the best tours in Europe.
Pin for later!
Thanks to my intern Marilyne (a Mechelen local!) For all these great tips!
Belgium is rich in terms of traditions & culture along with medieval structure design of place which has its own identity. I think you are lucky to explore such an adorable destination. Appreciate it.