An underrated historic gem of Flanders! Super close to Antwerp and Brussels, Mechelen is an easy next city to visit on your trip. The people of Mechelen are known as “Maneblussers” aka Moon Extinguishers thanks to a legend of people trying to put out a fire in St Rumbold’s Cathedral only to find it was moonlight. Cool, right? Mechelen is known for the Kazerne Dossin museum, where deportees to Auschwitz were held. Mechelen is also a bit of a student-town, so there’s always something on and trendy things to try.
One highlight you can’t miss is the stunning cathedral that has 500 steps. Climb to the top to see the city views of Antwerp, Leuven and even Brussels. The unfinished cathedral was supposed to be the tallest cathedral tower in the world, but then they stopped constructing it sadly! But it’s still tall enough to be a real highlight of the city.
Mechelen is a bit of a student town. At night, the students are mostly in the bars and cafes around the train station. But Mechelen is a popular nightlife spot for all groups. Head over to the Vismarkt to discover all the quirky cafes. In 18th century buildings, DJs bring the city to life at night. Party up at the weekends or come early for a relaxed drink on the terrace. The most well-known cafe of Mechelen is probably De Gouden Vis (The Golden Fish), thanks to its cute 1920s inspired theme.
Just a short drive from Brussels and Antwerp, Mechelen is a nice day getaway from the busy cities. While strolling around the city, you’ll find tons of restaurants, cafes and the food market. Mechelen’s Grote Markt has the most restaurants with fish, a favourite feature on the menu. Mechelen takes pride in its bountiful fresh veggies too. Just a short drive away from Mechelen’s city centre is the biggest co-operative veggie market on the continent in the little village of Sint-Katelijne-Waver. The local dish (Mechelse koekoek) here is worth trying - it’s made from a special type of chicken that has cuckoo feathers.
Come to Mechelen on a Saturday morning (8:00 to 13:00) to try out lots of local food. It’s one of the biggest farmer’s markets in Flanders and always draws in lots of visitors. Find it in the city centre at the Grote Markt.
Mechelen has a thriving beer scene. The most well-known brewery and bar in the city is Brouwerij Het Anker. The brewery and Mechelen in general really kicked off in the 1960s when they made the Gouden Carolus beer. Recently, they’ve made whiskey out of it too. Come along to Mechelen for a brewery tour of Het Anker! Don’t have time for a brewery tour? Try out Het Anker’s beer at ‘t Ankertje aan de Dijle in the Vismarkt.
Planning a family day out in Mechelen? You’ve got lots to choose from for your trip. Bring the kids along to De Nekker to play in the waterpark or visit Planckendael zoo to see our furry animal friends. Explore the ways of science & tech in an interactive museum at Technopolis. You’ll have no trouble keeping the whole family entertained in Mechelen. Rather keep the family active? Mechelen has lovely classic canals like all the cute cities of Flanders. See the best views of the city from the canal with a leisurely paddle boarding trip across the city with Pacific Sup School.
Like most of Belgium, Mechelen has it's best weather from May to October. Mechelen has a couple of busy times during the year, but it's not nearly as touristy as some other nearby cities.
Mechelen is on the E19 motorway. As the city is in the middle of Antwerp and Brussels, it’s very easy to get to. Depending on traffic, Mechelen is a 45 minute drive from Brussels and 40 minutes from Antwerp. From Paris, you’re looking at a 4 hour drive or about 2 hours from Rotterdam.
Brussels National Airport is the easiest airport to land in for a trip to Mechelen. This airport has plenty of international flights. From the airport, it’s a 20 minute drive to Mechelen on the E19.
Mechelen has two train stations. Mechelen Station is the main station of the city and most intercity trains (including from Brussels and Antwerp) stop here. The other train station is Mechelen-Nekkerspoel station - most fast trains don’t stop here, but it is closer to some of the historical sights and on the other side of the city. We generally recommend Mechelen Station as it’s more convenient to reach. There’s a direct train from Brussels to Mechelen that takes 22 minutes. The direct train journey to Antwerp is 18 minutes.
Buses in Mechelen are operated by De Lijn. Single tickets cost 3€ or you can get a day ticket (about 10€) if you plan to be on the bus a lot. You can save money by booking your tickets online. The bus station (Mechelen Nekkerspoel station) is a 20 minute walk from the Grote Marky (city centre), but you can catch the shuttle bus from the station if you want to speed things up.
Mechelen is pedestrian friendly and easily walkable. You can go from one side of the city to the other in roughly 20 minutes. That being said, there are sights outside the city centre that take longer to get to on foot. We recommend walking, mostly, but using public transport or cycling to get out into the suburbs.
it’s easy enough to reach Mechelen by car, but it’s best to park as quickly as you can. Mechelen has a restricted traffic zone from 11:00 to 18:00. When you arrive in Mechelen from the R12, you’ll see signs to the nearest car parks. From the car park, you’ll be led on to the city centre along themed walks with info panels.
As is the case for most of Belgium, taxis are expensive but are convenient for nights out. There are many taxi companies in the city and you’ll never have trouble finding one by the station at Koning Albertplein. If you’re not by the station, it’s easier to just call your preferred company rather than trying to find one as it really depends on where you are.