With its convenient location just 30 mins from both Brussels and Antwerp, it's simple to see why most tourists to Belgium overlook Mechelen. Fortunately, when the hordes flock to the tourist hotspots of Bruges and Ghent, the few lucky ones can roam around Mechelen tranquility, feeling like they are the only ones who's discovered Flanders' undervalued jewel.

The city is not just strikingly beautiful, but it also has a remarkable heritage for a town of its size. Mechelen's old town center, which has plenty of gabled construction and magnificent old buildings still intact, is a terrific site to get a glimpse of medieval Belgium, even though its monuments aren't as well-known as those in tourist favorite Bruges. Visitors have all the elements of a European classic when they combine riverbank walks, art galleries, superb food, and gorgeous Baroque residences. Let’s see what to do in one of the most unique places to visit in Belgium.

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Let's Take A Walk

Climb, Climb, Climb

The Saint Rumbold's Tower, Mechelen's icon, stands majestically. Visitors can see it from everywhere in the city if they look up.

The 97-meter-tall tower was started in 1452 but never completed due to a shortage of money. The clock in the tower was once the world's largest, even bigger than Big Ben's. Whereas the clock is no longer present, the Carillion continues to chime every fifteen minutes, with a lesser chime called the Mechelen Halfke, or 'Little Mechelen Half,' playing every 7.5 minutes.

The summit is an over 500-step ascent, but at the pinnacle is the tower's observation deck, which on a clear day provides vistas of both Brussels and Antwerp.

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Let's Get Lost

Beguinages were established around the period of the Crusades, when many men died in battle, leaving their women widowed and their children orphaned. Instead of joining a monastery, many women formed their own societies and were self-sufficient. The beguinages grew into miniature villages within cities, controlled entirely by women and complete with bakeries, breweries, care centers, and churches.

The little and big beguinages of Mechelen are the oldest of these communities, going back to the 13th century. The Large Beguinage in Mechelen has been incorporated into the UNESCO World Heritage List along with beguinages in 12 other Flemish metropolises.

The Markets Of Mechelen

Mechelen's focal point has been the famous Grote Markt, or market square. The square is flanked on all sides by eighteenth-century Renaissance and Rococo monuments, many of which have classic step-gabled Belgian roofs. In the fourteenth century, the town hall was used as a textile hall. The hall was planned to feature a belfry like the cloth hall in Bruges, but it was never finished, and instead, the clock tower of St. Rumbold's was utilized. The beautiful Palace of the Great Council sits to the left of the town hall, but it was never used as a gathering spot for the Great Council. Now, the Grote Markt is a pedestrian zone, and on Saturday mornings, it holds a busy market where visitors can people watch and get their breakfast.

Travel Back To Another Era

Do you want to learn more about Mechelen in the Burgundian age? Visitors have surely arrived at the right location!

Museum Hof van Busleyden will take tourists on an immersive tour through the past centuries, demonstrating how the town is still affected by its glorious past.

The museum is housed in the most magnificent Renaissance palace and features a range of themed areas. It examines this key political and cultural time in Mechelen and the Netherlands, from noisy and buzzing rooms to more secluded and calmer areas. It is like visiting an abandoned castle in Europe which has been revamped into a museum.

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Eat Up In Mechelen

De Fortunye

De Fortunye is a delightful blend of food sharing, delectable cuisine, a chill ambiance, and nice, light-touch but pleasant service. The main course entrees include fish with gin tonic and granny apple crumbles, redfish with asparagus and courgette atop a wheat beer foam prepared by local craft brewers, and duck confit with the regional Gouden Carolus malty beer sauce with cornmeal, papaya, and mustard.

De Vleeshalle

The old Mechelen poultry shop has been turned into De Vleeshalle, a culinary destination in the heart of Mechelen. There are twelve food vendors offering a wide range of foods and beverages.

There's something for everyone, from poke bowls to ice cream to tapas to fish and chips. Tourists can sit anywhere they like to savor their cuisine or a beverage because chairs and tables are spread throughout the space.

Sava

Visitors must visit the Sava in Mechelen's Grand Place if they want to have a decent glass or two of wine or cava while eating some delicious tapas. They provide a large selection of wine by the glass. Folks can order a variety of tapas even a spicy mix. This dish, which comprises chicken, meatballs, asparagus, and pepper, is ideal for a light meal with a bottle of wine. Guests also get some baguette and olive oil with this.

Outside, guests enjoy a spectacular view of the Market and Mechelen's most iconic tower. It is a great place to visit on a Sunday evening or to kick off the weekend.

Mechelen could be described as Belgium's most undervalued city without being overly dramatic. It is well worth a visit if visitors are looking for a relaxing vacation and learn about Europe’s history.