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Thursday 30 May 2024

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Mechelen – a small but perfectly formed Belgian town with true Flemish charm

Mechelen Stadhuis

Mechelen is not necessarily one of the first destinations you would consider when visiting Belgium; its bar and restaurant culture is an early one and it’s not the hugest town to explore, but it does have many charms and, if you’re going to spend a couple of nights here, make sure you look well below the surface.

In its favour is the fact that it has a Grote Markt – that sprawling square of nothingness, flanked on all sides by exquisite Flemish town houses, a usually impressive stadhuis and, generally speaking, a fine church or cathedral – something which no self-respecting Belgian town or city should be without.

To sit in Mechelen’s lazy squares sipping a latté or a beer, watching the world go by to a score of angelic bells from the world famous carillon school, is a simple delight to enjoy whilst beholding the stadhuis folly of Margaret of Austria (with its wildly different facades from left to right) and the stunning St Rumbold’s Tower.

This picturesque little metropolis, an almost hidden Flemish gem, sits halfway between Brussels and Antwerp and was notably a centre for artistic production during the Northern Renaissance, when painters, printmakers, illuminators and composers of polyphony were attracted by patrons such as the aforementioned Margaret of Austria, Margaret of York and Jeroen Van Busleyden.

Mechelen is a city thriving with quaint shops, pedestrianised areas and charmingly pleasant little squares. It has a grace and majesty which tends to appeal equally to old and young, and should definitely not be missed if you have the luxury of time on your hands whilst visiting this fine country.

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