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Mechelen

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River Country : Mechelen
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Mechelen [1] is a historically important city located on the river Dyle in the center of Flanders, one of the three regions in Belgium. It lies about halfway between Antwerp and Brussels and has approximately 75,000 inhabitants.

Understand

Though now in the shadow of Brussels, Mechelen is a historically important city in its own right. From 1506 to 1530 it was the capital of the Netherlands under Margaret of Austria. In 1559 it became an archbishopric, a sign of great importance. It was famous for its wood carvings, some of which can still be seen in the churches of the city, and for lace and tapestry manufacture.

Today it is a vibrant town, mixing trendy and traditional. Its carillon school is world-renowned, training students from all over the world in the art of playing carillons, sets of 6 or 8 bells hung in church towers. Shops downtown are often housed in buildings with the old-style Flemish architecture, but offer edgy fashions sure to appeal to the younger generation.

Mechelen is developing into the center of non-profit or non-governmental organisations for Flanders. Some famous examples are Natuurpunt, AFS, the Red Cross, ... This is mainly because it's very easily reachable (by train or by highway) but not as expensive as Brussels.

Inhabitants are called "Maneblussers" (moon-firemen). The story goes that one day long time ago the moonlight was shining on the unfinished St.-Romboutstoren and that some people thought it was burning. The whole city was mobilised to extinguish the fire but there was no fire to extinguish.

Get in

Mechelen is easily reached by train. From Brussels and Antwerp it takes about 25 minutes.

You can also reach by taking a bus from Antwerp.

Mechelen lies at the E19-highway.

Just outside the main train station you'll find a bus station with connections to many places in the vicinity.

Get around

The city center is about 15 minutes walk from the train station. Mechelen is a very compact city, so you can reach most places on foot. There are a few bus routes through and radiating from the city center in case you need them.

See

  • St. Rumbold's Cathedral (Sint-Romboutskathedraal)
  • The Museum of Toys (Speelgoedmuseum)
  • The Market Square (Grote Markt) and the surrounding shopping streets Bruul and IJzerenleen.
  • Planckendael Animal Park (Dierenpark Planckendael) http://www.planckendael.be
  • Vrijbroek Park (Vrijbroekpark)
  • Refuge of Tongerlo now there's the manifacture of De Wit in it. Which are royal manifacturers of tapistry. They conserve and create tapestries. There are guided visits. http://www.dewit.be/

Do

  • Maanrock [2], on the Grote Markt and in the IJzerenleen. End of August. A 2-day free festival featuring several stages of music and DJs, starting early in the afternoon and running till early morning.
  • Take a boat cruise along the waterways of Mechelen. The 45 minute trip costs 6 EUR. Departures are every hour on the half hour, from Haverwerf.

Buy

Eat

  • There's a Match supermarket on Haverwerf, if you need supplies for self-catering.
  • Dumon (with the Kaizer Karel signs) on Veemarkt has reasonable pub food.
  • Soep Sjop on the Bruul (not far from the river) has home-made soups and sandwiches.
  • De Maneblusser, Onder Den Toren 7 (just opposite the cathedral tower) offers filled sandwiches at 2-4 EUR each.

Drink

  • Brewery Het Anker. Features locally brewed Mechelse Bruynen and Gouden Carolus. http://www.hetanker.be/ Guido Gezellelaan 49 (on the ringway around the city center).
  • De Stille Genieter Café with 350 different kinds of beer, has the feel of a brown café not far from the Vismarkt.
  • Various cafes on the Vismarkt

Sleep

  • Hotel Vé, Vismarkt 14, +32 (0) 15-200.755 (fax: +32 (0)15-200.760), [3]. A stylish hotel located on one of the most ancient markets of Mechelen: the fish market. The hotel is constructed in a factory where they used to smoke fish, but has a trendy, modern feel. During the weekends there's a discount of 30-40 EUR off the normal room rates.
  • Zandpoort Youth Hostel, Zandpoortvest, 27 85 39 (fax: 27.85.40), [4]. 20 min. from the main train station, 15 min. from the city center. 15-20€.

Contact

The city code for Mechelen is 15.

Stay safe

Mechelen had some problems with some youthgroups. There is no immediate threath if you stay on touristic routes, but certain neighbourhoods are to be avoided at night. The city used to have one of the highest criminality rates of Flanders. Since 2003 the city is reviving again. Nowadays, it is safe to walk through Mechelen. The city has improved much over the last years. Don't worry, just enjoy!

Get out

  • Planckendael Animal Park (Dierenpark Planckendael) [5], +32(0)15/41.49.21, is just outside Mechelen city in Muizen. Located on the road towards Leuven, or in summer take a boat from Mechelen (follow signs from the train station).




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