Grand Place Mechelen - (c)Visit Mechelen

With Belgium's foremost cathedral as a highlight, Mechelen is one of Flanders' most underrated historic cities. On top of that, there's been a new wave of young, entrepreneurial people helping to put this city on the map. Keen to discover somewhere new? Be one of the people in the know and find out exactly what Mechelen has to offer.

1. The best located city in Flanders

Grand Place Mechelen - (c)Toerisme Mechelen

Nestled between Antwerp and Brussels, Mechelen is one of the most convenient cities in terms of location. From both cities it's just a 20-minute train journey. The city has a long history, but there's much more to it than just tradition. The Financial Times named Mechelen as one of the 10 European cities of the future. An honour we have thank to our many young and educated inhabitants for. And did you know there's also free Wi-Fi for everyone across the city?

2. Touch the sky

St Rombouts church - (c)Visit Mechelen

The St. Rumbold's Tower is Mechelen's centrepiece: a towering 15th century cathedral, 318 feet (97 metres) and more than 500 steps high. Climbing to the top takes about 20 minutes, but you'll be rewarded with a magnificent view over Mechelen. And you'll even catch a glimpse of other cities such as Brussels, Antwerp, and Leuven. The cathedral is also home to some incredible art. In the luminous baroque interior you'll find The Crucifixion, a marvellous painting by the famous master Anthony Van Dyck, and dozens of other fine artworks.

3. Artictic madness

Rubens - (c)Visit Mechelen

Peter Paul Rubens is considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time. Go to St. John's Church and admire his 17th century masterpiece 'Adoration of the Magi'. Rubens himself called it one of his best works ever. If you prefer your artworks a bit more daft, go to Zotte Kunstkabinet (The mad art cabinet) for a shot of artistic madness. Here you'll find a colourful group of drunkards, freaks and lunatics painted by famous artists such as Pieter Bruegel and Hieronymus Bosch.

4. Lest we forget

Kazerne Dossin - (c)Stijn Bollaert

The Kazerne Dossin remembers some of our darkest hours. During World War II, Mechelen was the centre of deportation to Auschwitz. Nearly 26,000 people were deported from the city. Against this background, Kazerne Dossin celebrates the brave few who stood up against the oppression. Go to the top floor terrace to get a breath of fresh air and a wonderful view over the city.

5. Mechelen's nectar

Gouden Carolus - (c)Gouden Carolus
If Belgium is beer, Mechelen is Gouden Carolus. The majestic brew has been around for more than half a century and won nearly 20 awards worldwide. Visit the brewery Het Anker and watch the hop alchemists at work or go to D'Hanekeef, Mechelen's oldest bar that dates back to 1880! If you want a taste of avant-garde, check out the quirky 'Als ik mijn ogen toedoe, ben ik in Honoloeloe' (When I close my eyes, I'm in Honolulu) where they serve an excellent selection of the finest craft beers in the city.

6. A city with a heartbeat

A city with a heartbeat - (c)Peloton de Paris
Tradition and innovation go hand in hand in Mechelen. You can tell by the many original bars, cafés and coffee houses that are popping up. Peloton De Paris, for instance, is a cycling café-cum-workshop. You can sip a latte while they fix your bike. Or Eiskreem Milkshakebar, where they turn a classic milkshake into a little work of art. Try the one with white chocolate and basil!

7. A spot for the young of heart

Technopolis

Release your inner child with a visit to the Toy Museum. Lose track of time in the 7,000 square metres full of games, dolls, teddy bears and other toys. Or, take the bus to Planckendael, a beautiful zoo in the grounds of an old castle and full of lions, penguins and plenty more besides. Make sure to say hello to elephant Kai-Mook, whose birth a couple of years ago was all over Belgian news channels for weeks on end! Another favourite for the young of heart: Technopolis, a place that explains science to anyone between the ages of 1 and 100 – perfect for any budding scientists!

Take a look at Lonely Planet and Use-It for more inspiration. Or even better: visit Mechelen and find out yourself.

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