Places to see and visit in Mechelen, historical city of Burgundy in Flanders

Mechelen is part of the Patrimony of Humanity of UNESCO , within the framework of the declaration of the Flemish Beguinages and the bell towers as places to be protected.

Mechelen history curiosities

Mechelen is a city with a long history that has been marked by its importance during the time of the Burgundian Netherlands during the fifteenth century.

At that time, from 1384 to 1477 several territories of the current Netherlands were incorporated into the French duchy of Burgundy .

Previously, Mechelen was a state-independent city that had no link with the other cities of the Netherlands, and with some dependence on the Holy German Empire .

Statue of Marguerite of Austria in Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium
Statue of Marguerite of Austria in Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium

After the Burgundian period , Mechelen experienced a moment of great boom from 1507 to 1530, at which time Margaret of Austria settled in the city when she was appointed Governor of the Netherlands .

At that time the sciences and the arts prospered, since it supposed the beginning of the Renaissance , at the same time as Margarita of Austria was in charge of the education of who later was the emperor Carlos V of Germany and I of Spain .

What to see in Mechelen

The axis of your visit to Mechelen is going to be its historic center , where during a walk you can see the places of greatest interest, which I will indicate below.

Great Mechelen Square

The Great Plaza is the heart of the city of Mechelen , where you have the most characteristic images of it, always with the presence of the tower of the Cathedral of San Romuldo , which rises above the buildings on the west side of the plaza.

City Hall on the Great Mechelen Square in Flanders in Belgium
City Hall on the Great Mechelen Square in Flanders in Belgium

With very wide esplanade totally pedestrian, in the Great Plaza   you can see buildings with beautiful facades of different styles, from Renaissance to Rococo, before which there are numerous terraces of bars and restaurants.

On the opposite side of the cathedral you can find three buildings in the Brabantine Gothic style that make up a beautiful architectural ensemble. City Council of Mechelen

This is the City Council of Mechelen ( Huis Van de Mechelar ), which is configured with the buildings of the Palace of the Grand Council . the Cloth Hall ( Lakenhal ) and the Belfroi .

The latter is the bell tower built in 1320 and now located between the other buildings, which is part of the Patrimony of Humanity .

The aforementioned  Palace of the Great Council is a building built since 1526 in late Gothic to house the supreme court of the Burgundian Netherlands .

Palace of the Grand Council of Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium
Palace of the Grand Council of Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium

In its time the building was not completed, which was done in 1919 from the plans of the project of the sixteenth century.

Currently there is the headquarters of the tourism office in Mechelen .

For its part, the Cloth Hall is the oldest building in the group, it was built in the fourteenth century with the function of being a covered market to house commercial activities.

Cathedral of San Romuldo in Mechelen

This large building, one of the main monuments of Mechelen , began to be built in the thirteenth century in the aforementioned Brabantine Gothic style , but throughout its history suffered various vicissitudes, such as a fire in its roof, so it has had various remodeling

In fact, the Tower of San Romuldo was completed in 1520.

Cathedral of San Romuldo in Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium
Cathedral of San Romuldo in Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium

When you enter the interior of the cathedral of Mechelen is when you really realize its enormous dimensions, and in fact its central nave was the highest in the fourteenth century.

It was in 1580 when the Calvinists arrived and destroyed all the altars and sculptures, and when the Catholics returned, the cathedral was already decorated in the aforementioned Baroque style .

Inside you will also be struck by a large pulpit of the eighteenth century that comes from a monastery.

Climb to the Tower of San Romuldo

For its part, the tower of the cathedral in its time was built with the purpose of being the highest height that existed, with 167 meters, but in the end it was 96 meters.

Cathedral of San Romuldo in Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium
Cathedral of San Romuldo in Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium

 

Palace of Marguerite of Austria

As we have already mentioned, a key figure in the history of Malinas is Margarita de Austria , and a reflection of that is the sculpture that you can see in front of the cathedral, which was installed in the 19th century when in the Belgian cities it was Fashion pay tribute to their heroes.

Now, during your visit to Mechelen you can also see the facade and the central garden of the Margarita Palace of Austria .

Palace of Marguerite of Austria in Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium
Palace of Marguerite of Austria in Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium

Built in the 16th century, it was the first building outside of Italy to be designed in Renaissance style .

In the 17th and 18th centuries it was the seat of the Major Council , Supreme Court of the Southern Netherlands , and today this building houses the Court of Justice of the city.

Its interior can not be visited, although I will tell you that the original building does not have its decoration, which is all of the nineteenth century.

Beguinage of Mechelen

On your walk through the historic center of Mechelen you can also enter the Beguinaje Mayor , which arose in the middle of the 16th century when the one outside the city walls was destroyed, and where up to 1,500 Beguineslived .

Little Beguinage in Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium
Little Beguinage in Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium

You can also see the Little Beguinage that was created in the thirteenth century in the inner area of ​​the city, where about 100 Beguines lived .

If you do not know them, I will tell you that it was the place where widowed women or those who did not find a husband were concentrated, to live in a pious way, but without the proper vows of the convents of nuns.

The Beguinajes are places of great tranquility that maintain the charm of past centuries, and that are protected as a World Heritage Site .

Hof Van Busleyden Museum in Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium
Hof Van Busleyden Museum in Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium

Van Busleyden Palace Museum

One way to get introduced to the history of the period of the Burgundian periodthat was lived in Mechelen is by visiting the new Hof Van Busleyden museum , which has as its headquarters the great palatial building of the humanist and art collector,  Jerónimo Van Busleyden .

Inaugurated in June of this year 2018, with a modern design and interactive screens you will go through several rooms in which various aspects of that period are addressed.

Thus, for example, you will see rooms dedicated to the art of alabaster or to the polychrome of the sculptures.

But what really should take you to visit this museum is the possibility of seeing the known as Intimate Gardens , wardrobe-altarpieces with scenes from Calvary that are unique pieces made in the sixteenth century with great artistic finesse.

Dyle Canal in Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium
Dyle Canal in Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium

Dyle Canal in Mechelen

Mechelen is also one of the Belgian cities where you can find some channels through which you can walk or sail by boat.

These channels are what form the Dyle River , which crosses the historic center of the city.

You have a path that allows you to walk along its shore, and you also have the option of taking a boat trip on the Dyle .

Excursion to Mechelen from Brussels

If instead of traveling on your own from Brussels you prefer to visit this flamenco city in an organized group, you have the option to sign up for an excursion to Mechelen , which is done with a guide in Spanish .

Art-noveau café in Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium
Art-noveau café in Mechelen in Flanders in Belgium

With a duration of six hours, you will leave from the Grand Place of Brussels to take the train to Mechelen, where you will go on a walking tour of the most outstanding places of this Flemish city.

 

How to get to Mechelen

To Mechelen you can arrive by train directly from the Brussels airport in just 20 minutes.

And from the Belgian capital you will arrive in just over half an hour by car and in 23 minutes by train, making it an ideal city to take a day trip from Brussels.