The tiny hamlet of Mechelen is a small city roughly halfway between the larger Belgian cities of Antwerp and Brussels. The city is all but missed by tourists on express trains that fly past without a second thought. However, the history of Belgium is laid bare and there are enough attractions to fill a weekend full of adventure. Mechelen was actually the capital of the then-called Netherlands from 1506 to 1530.
The identifying mark of the city is Saint Rumboldâ€™s Tower, a late-medieval structure that can be seen for miles around. It includes a number of interesting wood carvings and religious artworks from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. Another popular sight are the charming 16th century houses. Although they are privately owned and cannot be toured, just admiring the exquisiteness of the wooden facades is sight in itself.
If the weather suits, a great option is one of the boat tours. At just under an hour, they are a great way to relax and to see the city from another perspective. Top off your trip afterwards with a beverage at Brewery Het Anker, which sells not only beer but jenever (Dutch/Belgian gin) and beer chocolates.
Eight churches are dotted around the main square, the Grote Markt. Besides Saint Rumboldâ€™s, the Sint-Janskerk, the Begijnhofkerk, and the Refuge of the Abbey of Tongerlo are all known for the artwork and displays.
To reach Mechelen take one of the local trains from Brussels or Antwerp which depart on a regular basis. The trip is only 25 minutes.
Photo credit clayirving