Last Updated on 20.02.2024 by Iliyan

Mechelen is a small city, located just 30 minutes from both Brussels and Antwerp. It is one of the underrated cities in Belgium and often overlooked as a destination in favour of Bruges, Ghent, Brussels, and Antwerp. But after all Mechelen is an excellent place for a day trip. It is a very walkable city and it has something for everyone. Here you’ll find one of the country’s most impressive cathedrals, lots of churches, museums, picturesque squares, breweries, gorgeous architecture, charming cafes, and a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites. In addition to that, the city is not overrun with tourists. However, keep reading about the best things to do in Mechelen with this ultimate one day in Mechelen itinerary.

How to get to Mechelen?

The best way to get to Mechelen is by train. Mechelen is connected by a large rail network, so it is very easy to reach it by train from Antwerp or Brussels. There are two train stations in Mechelen: Central Station and Nekkerspoel Station. The Central Train Station is walking distance from the city center.

If you’re flying into Belgium, the closest airport is Brussels Airport. It is only about 20 km away, and it makes the town an easy destination for travellers. From Brussels Airport-Zaventem Station there is a direct express train, which will take you straight here in just eleven minutes!

You can also take a bus from the airport station, but it takes much more time.

How to get around Mechelen?

Mechelen is a small city and that means it is very walkable. All of the best places are within short walking distance of each other and can be seen in one day in Mechelen.

Best things to do in one day in Mechelen

Uncover the charms of Mechelen, a city renowned for its picturesque architecture, impressive cathedral, and vibrant atmosphere. Follow this one day in Mechelen itinerary to make the most of your Mechelen adventure!

Climb to the top of St. Rumbold’s Tower

St Rumbold’s Cathedral is a true feast for the eyes. It is a Roman Catholic metropolitan archiepiscopal cathedral, dedicated to Saint Rumbold, Christian missionary and martyr who founded an abbey nearby. In 1999, the tower of the cathedral was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is the symbol of Mechelen, standing at 97.30 metres high and dominates the skyline. The tower is easily recognisable due to its flat-topped silhouette. Construction of the tower began in 1452, but was never finished, although the original plans were to reach 167m.

One day in Mechelen
St. Rumbold’s Tower

Тhanks to visitor’s guide and information panels in the tower you can learn more about the incredible history of St. Rumbold’s Tower. The tower once housed the world’s largest clock, which was fitted with an electric motor in 1860, but unfortunately the clock is no longer there.

However, the best way to experience the tower is to climb the 538 steps. It offers a fantastic 360° panoramic view over Mechelen from the skywalk. On a clear day you can see all the way to the Atomium in Brussels and the port of Antwerp.

View from the Saint Rumbolds Cathedral

On your way up, you will get a chance to see the crane chamber, the new and old carillon chambers, and the clock chambers. The tower is open daily from 1 pm to 6 pm (except 25.12 and 01.01) and from 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday. Last admission is at 5 pm. The admission fee is €8 for adults and €3 for children and young people (4-26 yrs). You can buy your tickets online here.

Visit Grote Markt

The Grote Markt is the main square in the city of Mechelen. This historic square is home to the magnificent St. Rumbold’s Cathedral with the tower, the beautiful Town Hall, as well as numerous buildings from different periods with different architectural styles: Gothic, Renaissance and Rococo.

One day in Mechelen
Grote Markt

Try a local beer at Het Anker Brewery

Het Anker, one of Belgium’s oldest breweries, is located in Mechelen, right on the edge of the Large Beguinage (Groot Begijnhof). It was founded in 1471 and it is famous for its Gouden Carolus beer. The brewery was once the beguinage’s hospital and some of the buildings date from the 15th and 16th century.

Het Anker Brewery
Het Anker Brewery

The brewery offers daily tours with a guide, individually or in a group. You can learn many things about their different beers, history, brewing process, and the different ingredients used. The tour costs €15 per person and the visit lasts around 1h30. It ends with a tasting session of 2 Gouden Carolus beers. You can book a tour online here.

Explore the Small and the Great Beguinage

Beguinages were founded in the time of the Crusades. They were populated by widows who had lost their husbands during the wars. Rather than live in a convent, many women decided to create their own communities. So the beguinages became small towns within a town with their own churches, bakeries, breweries, and hospices.

One day in Mechelen
The Great Beguinage

There are two such beguinages in Mechelen, but we will focus on the larger one. The Great beguinage is located near Het Anker Brewery, while the Small beguinage in the heart of the city.

Because of its typical Flemish character and wonderful architecture, the Great Beguinage has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site. It was founded in 1560 after the beguinage situated outside the city walls was destroyed. The beguines bought existing buildings and built new homes, which explains why this beguinage is different compared to those in other cities.

The Great Beguinage in Mechelen
The Great Beguinage

If you want to explore more beguinages I highly recommend visiting the Great Beguinage (Groot Begijnhof) in Leuven.

De Cellekens

De Cellekens is one of the most beautiful places you can visit in Mechelen. It resembles the Beguinage with a big courtyard with a garden, from which there is a great view of the St Rumbold’s Tower. It served as a charitable institution which took in needy women until 1973, after which it was abandoned. In 1992 De Cellekens was sold out to an art-loving couple who restored the building. For 6 years, from 1994 to 2000, De Cellekens was restored, and they were rewarded for their efforts with the Europa Nostra Prize.

De Cellekens
De Cellekens

Wander around Haverwerf

In the past, Mechelen had the exclusive staple rights to oats. Boats carrying oats used to be transported to Haverwerf where they were unloaded and traded for three whole days. Whatever wasn’t sold was then loaded back onto the boats and taken elsewhere.

Nowadays, Haverwerf is a lovely place to stroll in Mechelen on the south bank of the River Dyle. It is famous for the three picturesque houses near the bridge that originate from the 16th and 17th century. From left to right they are named St. Joseph (Sint-Jozef), The Little Devils (De Duiveltjes) and Little Paradise (Het Paradijske).

One day in Mechelen
Haverwerf and the three picturesque houses

The St. Joseph House is known with a relief of St Joseph with the Child Jesus.

The Little Devils House has one of the most beautiful wooden façades in Belgium. It is called that, because of the little devils, which act as pillars. Originally it used to be called The Prodigal Son (De Verloren Zoon), because the story is depicted above the building’s front door.

The Little Paradise House is famous with its reliefs above the windows, which depict the scenes “Earthly paradise” and “The tree of knowledge of good and evil”.

Take a stroll down IJzerenleen

Walking along Ijzerenleen is one of the best things to do when in Mechelen. Known by locals as Mechelen’s Champs-Élysées, IJzerenleen is very historic street with great architecture.

Once the IJzerenleen was a stream and boats moored here to sell fish. The street got its name from the iron railings that used to protect people from falling into the canal, which was covered in the sixteenth century.

Now you can find some nice shops, eateries and coffee bars here.


Wander along the Dylepath

Wander along the Dylepath is absolutely must do in Mechelen. It is situated in the middle of the city centre, stretching all the way from the Haverwerf to the city’s Botanical Garden.

It’s a wooden walkway, which gives you another view of the backs of the old houses in the city. It’s very lovely, relaxing walk close to the water level.

One day in Mechelen

Take in the street art in Mechelen

Do you like street art? Mechelen doesn’t look like the great place for street art due to its historic buildings. But here you can find some amazing street art murals. In 2015 the local artist Gijs Vanhee started a project called Mechelen Murals (Mechelen Muurt). He invited 10 international and national artists to join him to decorate 10 walls in the city center.

Mechelen Murals
Mechelen Murals

Have a drink at Vismarkt

Once a fish market, today Vismarkt is a bustling area with cozy cafes, bars and eateries. It sits on the Dyle river near to a nice little bridge. Vismarkt is a great spot for locals, where they sit outside and drink a beer.

Visit Kazerne Dossin Holocaust Museum

Kazerne Dossin is a museum and memorial site that documents the deportations of Jews and Romani people during the WWII. The Dossin Barracks were a place where they were gathered to be sent to the concentration camps.

Now building consists three floors filled with information about the holocaust and reflects on themes such as racism, human rights, and exclusion.

The museum is worth visiting especially for those interested in the Holocaust and the German occupation of Belgium.

How many days in Mechelen?

One day in Mechelen is absolutely enough to visit all of the best attractions.

Is Mechelen worth visiting?

Yes! Mechelen is absolutely worth visiting. It is a perfect city break in Europe, located between two of the country’s most popular destinations, Brussels and Antwerp.

Mechelen has a remarkable historical heritage with many medieval buildings with classic step-gabled Belgian roofs. In addition to that, Mechelen is home to two UNESCO-listed sites. And despite its charm and attractions, it is not yet under-the-radar destination. However, I highly recommend to spend at least one day in Mechelen during your time in Belgium.


Write A Comment