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Inflight Magazine of Brussels Airlines

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Mechelen May 2011

A monument-filled town between Brussels and Antwerp, Mechelen’s cloth trade gave it wealth and power during the Middle Ages and it was capital of the Low Countries in the first half of the 16th century. It’s a fascinating place to explore, and this month it hosts one of Belgium’s oldest religious events, the Hanswijk Procession (29 May). Martin Banks is our city guide


This area contains some of Mechelen’s four UNESCO-listed sites, including the Clothmakers’ Hall and Large Beguinage.

SLEEP Hotel Den Wolsack (16 Wollemarkt, tel. (0)15 569520,, rooms from €79) offers rooms in a restored neoclassical building in the heart of town. The oldest and once only hotel in Mechelen, De 3 Paardekens (3 Begijnenstraat, tel. (0)15 342713,, rooms from €59) recently reopened its doors to guests.

CULTURE The Palace of the Grand Council (Keizerstraat) is now the city’s legal hub, but it was once the Palace of Margaret of Austria – the first Renaissance building of the Low Countries and where Emperor Charles V was raised.

SHOP Seven generations of pâtissiers are behind Banketbakkerij Vanderbeek (36 Steenweg), so stop off to see if you can pick up any family secrets.


The tower of St Rumbold’s Cathedral watches over this waterside area, which has become the chicest part of town.

SLEEP A converted church, Martin’s Patershof (4 Karmelietenstraat, tel. (0)15 464646,, rooms from €99) has stained-glass windows that bathe rooms in a celestial luminescence; breakfast is served in the choir. Hotel Vé (14 Vismarkt, tel. (0)15 200755,, rooms from €49 per person) is a former fish smokehouse, but its clever modern makeover ensures not a whiff of its former function lingers.

CULTURE The Archbishop of Belgium resides in Mechelen, so it seems a fitting home for St Rumbold’s Cathedral (Onder den Toren), one of the most awesome churches in the country. The skywalk at the top of the tower affords breathtaking views.

EAT Greek restaurant Zorba (10 Nieuwwerk, tel. (0)15 206640) is tucked away in a courtyard and features live music. French-Belgian cuisine is served at De Witten Vos (30 Grote Markt, tel. (0)15 206369), amidst works by artist Peggy Buys. D’Hoogh (19 Grote Markt, tel. (0)15 217553) is a Michelin-starred restaurant from the brothers D’Hoogh, offering fine dining in a historic setting.

LATER Bars don’t get much cosier than tiny De Borrel Babbel (7 Nieuwwerk), in one of the town’s most romantic squares.

TIP Het Anker (49 Guido Gezellelaan, goes beyond a brewery – you can eat, drink and sleep here, which might be just as well after you’ve tried the potent Gouden Carolus beer.


Two world wars altered the face of Mechelen, but evidence of its fascinating history can still be seen.

CULTURE The medieval Brussels Gate (Brusselpoortstraat) is the only surviving part of the walls that once encircled the city. Explore the Kruidtuin, or Botanical Garden (Pitzemburgstraat), with is marble statue of the 16th-century herbalist Rembert Dodoens.

EAT De Carillon (8 Steenweg, tel. (0)15 210245) specialises in game, but you can also sample regional dishes in this inviting restaurant.

TIP Take a boat to nearby Planckendael Zoo along the Mechelen-Leuven canal, near the railway station. There are also boat trips along the River Dijle.


Brussels Airport is 20km south of Mechelen.

Train From Brussels Airport, take the train to Brussel-Noord and change to any train in the direction of Antwerp or Turnhout. Fares are around €6.70 and the journey takes about 40 minutes – see

Bus To get to Mechelen from the airport take the 682 Zaventem – Perk – Zemst – Mechelen. Journey time around 50 minutes.

Tourist office The tourist office is at 2 Hallestraat (tel. (0)70 220008,