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.

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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-extinguishers). 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.

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

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

  • 51.0177884.4831521 Mechelen station, Koning Albertplein 2. The main train station of Mechelen with many connections in all directions. (updated Jun 2017)
  • 51.0298594.4899261 Mechelen-Nekkerspoel station. Secondary station of Mechelen. This station is located slightly closer to the historical center, so this station may be convenient if you want to start your visit in this part of Mechelen. However, check if your train stops here because most fast trains don’t. (updated Jun 2017)

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