Mechelen 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 80,000 inhabitants.


Grote Markt, Mechelen

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 24 or more 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 organizations for Flanders. Some famous examples are Natuurpunt, AFS, and 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-extinghuisers). 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 mobilized 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.


16th century houses, Mechelen









Stay safe

While Mechelen used to have one of the highest crime rates in Flanders, it is safe to walk through Mechelen now. The city has improved much over the last years, especially in the tourist areas. You may want to keep out of the outskirts at night, though, but there is not much to do there anyway.


The city phone code for Mechelen is 015.

Go next

Local encyclopedia

Mechelen has his own local encyclopedia, called Mechelen Mapt, written in Dutch with short translations in English.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, December 23, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.