Mechelen Tourist Attractions
The impressive town of Mechelen (French Malines) is situated between Brussels and Antwerp on the Dijle which here is still tidal. Since the 16th C. it has been the spiritual capital of the region as the seat of the Archbishop Primas (in common with Brussels) as well as the headquarters of an archepiscopal seminar; it has the only carillon school in the world.
Industry includes furniture and canning factories, a railroad workshop as well as many factories founded within the framework of the European Community by the countries of the Community.The products of lace, carpet and woolen concerns enjoy an excellent reputation. In addition Mechelen is a center of market gardening (asparagus, peas etc.).There was a settlement on the right bank of the Dijle as early as the sixth C. B.C. In the eighth C. an Irishman named Rombout brought Christianity to Mechelen, which in the Middle Ages was called Machlina (Latin Mechlinia). In 915 it belonged to the bishopric of Liège and from 1213, thanks to its favorable situation from the point of view of communications, it gained almost complete independence. Bishop Adolf van der Marck sold it in 1332 to the dukes of Flanders.From 1369 it belonged to Burgundy and in 1473 it became the seat of the Great Council, the highest court in the Netherlands. After the death of Charles the Bold his widow Margarete of York chose Mechelen as her residence. From 1507 to 1530 Mechelen was ruled as Stadholder by Margarete of Austria, the aunt of Charles V. The town blossomed as a residence and many scientists and artists, such as Eramus of Rotterdam and Albrecht Dürer, came to stay for a time.After Margarete's successor Maria of Hungary moved her seat in 1546 to Brussels, Mechelen was compensated by the gift of the archbishopric with primacy over the whole of the Netherlands. The first archbishop was Antoine Perrenot de Granville, the confessor of Charles V and Philipp II. At this time lace, carpets and particularly gilded leather tapestry were especially prized. The War of Independence in the Netherlands brought destruction, yet the town flourished again in the Baroque era. In 1835 the first railroad on the European continent ran from Mechelen to Brussels. Damage done in the First and Second World Wars has long been made good.
Grote Markt is nestled in the heart of the Old Town in Mechelen. Here, visitors can find well-preserved houses from earlier centuries, designed in Medieval style.
Provincial Sports and Recreation Center
The sports and recreation center has activities ranging from swimming, diving and fishing to tennis and squash.
Behind the Schepenhuis extends the long IJzerenleen Square. Its name comes from the iron railings (1531-1534) which flanked a canal, now filled in, which flowed into the Dijle between the three-arched Grootbrug (13th and 16th C.) and the middle bridge over the river.
Huis de Zalm
On the left over the Dijle bridge stands the Huis de Zalm (No. 5), the guild house of the fish dealers, with a beautiful Renaissance facade. Today here in the art and craft museum can be seen the handmade products of Mechelen, such as gilded leather tapestry, pillow lace and pewter.
Houses on the Haverwerf
To the right of the bridge by the Haverwerf on the corner of Kraanstraat, stand several houses with very fine facades partly made of wood. Particularly attractive are the so-called Paradies (16th C.) with the representation of Adam and Eve on the arch of the door and nearby on the left the Duivelshuis (a 16th C. timber house) and at No. 20 the Huis Sint-Josef (1669).
From the Dijle bridge we go straight ahead across the Korenmarkt and through Hoogstraat to the twin-towered Brusselpoort (rebuilt in the 18th C.), the only one of the 12 medieval town gates still remaining.
Bell Foundry Museum
Onzwe-Lieve-Vrouw over de Dijle
The foundation stone of the church Onzwe-Lieve-Vrouw over de Dijle, to the east of Hoogstraat, was laid in 1255; in its present form the church dates mainly from the 14th and 15th C. Inside in the left side aisle can be seen Rubens painting "The Miraculous Draught of Fishes" which was a commission from the Fishmongers' Guild (1618-1619).
Onzwe-Lieve-Vrouw van Hanswijk
East of the Onzwe-Lieve-Vrouw over de Dijle stands the Baroque basilica of Onzwe-Lieve-Vrouw van Hanswijk, designed by Luc Fayd'herbe between 1663 and 1678, who was also responsible for the large frescoes on the central dome. Inside the church a miracle-working statue of Mary, dated 986, is much venerated.
The Museumstoomtrein from Brussels stops here.
A number of events occur in Mechelen throughout the year.
The Hanswijk Procession is a historic-religious event. It takes place on the Sunday before Ascension Day. The procession is performed in homage to the virgin Mary.
Flower and Vegetable Parade
The Flower and Vegetable Parade includes bell throwing.
A few attractions outside the city are of interest to visitors.
Domein van Hofstade
Only a short way south of Planckendael a typical Belgian recreation center has arisen around two lakes.This protected area includes a beach, playground and the opportunity to rent kayaks, surfboards and waterbikes.There are daily beach activities, fishing, sports and orientation trips.A swimming pool and sports hall are also to be found in the Hofstade domain.
To the south of the village of Willebroek, 12km/7.5miles from Mechelen, stands Fort Breendonk, the name of which many Belgians associate with the terror of the German occupation in the Second World War. The fort was built between 1906 and 1914 and was the last defensive position of Antwerp to surrender in October 1914. In the Second World War, when the German army moved in, the SS set up a concentration camp here which up to 1944 held about 4000 prisoners of war, of whom 370 died or were executed. An impressive tour of the fort leads first to the cells and torture chambers and is accompanied by recorded evidence from former detainees. Of the working areas it should be remembered that the walls of the fort were first blown up and the debris then shoveled away by the prisoners. In the former printing press ("Studio") a film is shown about the history of the camp, and this is complemented by the museum in the Saal Jacques Ochs where can be seen drawings by this Belgian painter who was incarcerated in Fort Breendonk from 1941-1942.
Map of Mechelen Attractions