We are back (in Belgium) for part 2 of our story about the city of Mechelen!
Mechelen claims to be the most family-friendly city in Belgium and we were asked to check that promise. In part 1 we showed you the SkyWalk of the 98 meters high St. Rumboldstower, the holocaust memorial and museum at Kazerne Dossin and the large Beguinage. So let’s continue showing you not only further highlights but also some hidden gems!
Tour of Mechelen…with your kids!
It is really true: Mechelen is doing their utmost to please parents and their children. It’s clearly visible everywhere. Maybe it’s me, but I even noticed how the people of Mechelen approached children in restaurants and elsewhere in the city. They all seem to fully support the positioning of Mechelen as Children’s City!
So what does Mechelen offer for families to make the most of their stay? First of all, kids visiting the city will receive a small backpack with some fun things and information. You can get this at the Tourism Agency (Toerisme en UIT, Hallestraat, Mechelen) or in selected hotels that offer family-friendly package deals (a list follows at the end of this post).
For just a couple of Euros you can buy three nice informative guides, aimed at families:
1. Zin in Mechelen (“Feel like Mechelen”): guide with useful information for parents and kids about the city and its history. It explains many of the city’s things-to-do and places-to-see, contains travel tips and games for kids.
2. Mechelen stuurt je stappen (“Mechelen sends you walking”): two walking routes covering the city, where kids have to answers questions or solve puzzles along the way. Kind of city hunt. Give the map to your kids and let them guide the way!
3. Pretpakket (Fun package): discount coupons for the highlight attractions but also some vouchers to taste local specialties!
All packages are available in Dutch, French, German, English and Spanish.
Throughout the city the municipality is currently building so-called Kids Installations. These are remarkable places where kids can play, discover or just hang around to have fun. In total there will be six of those installations. One of them is ‘XXL Opsinjoorke’, a giant (XXL) version of what used to be a small statue. To understand I have to again explain a local legend…
Opsinjoorke is a tradition dating back to the 1600s, where during a procession a doll was thrown in the air by means of a large linen cloth. Throwing into the air equalled the symbolic punishment of husbands who maltreated their wives (!). When in 1775 a local guy from the rival city of Antwerp was accused of stealing the doll, they renamed it after the nickname of the people of Antwerp: Opsinjoorke!
On the main square you will find a small statue of Opsinjoorke, being thrown with hands and feet up in the air. But why not enlarge it and allow kids to climb it! So that’s what they did close to the St. Rumboldstower. It’s literally big fun and….very yellow!
Planckendael is a fun zoo! It not only has a great collection of animals, the way it is set up is again aimed at kids. You can do much more than only watching animals!
Established in 1956 as a refuge for sick and injured animals from Antwerp Zoo (the 3rd largest zoo in Europe in terms of number of species), Planckendael later developed as an animal park of its own right, on its way to surpass Antwerp Zoo on popularity.
Planckendael now has hundreds of animal species from all five continents and extends on 42 hectares (104 acres).
To watch the elephants you can climb your way up to the viewing platform. The way up there is already an adventure for kids!
The Zoo aims to be a bit different. Rail tracks and wagons, an old Jeep or even a boat to cross water, it’s all there.
And there is always time for a joke!
For opening times and entrance fee visit their website. With the mentioned Pretpakket coupons you will get € 3,00 discount per person.
Hidden gems of Mechelen
OK, now let’s leave the kids activities for a moment. Mechelen has very nice hidden gems that I really want to show you.
In the Keizerstreet you will find the former Palace of Margret of Austria who was regent of the Habsburg Netherlands between 1507 and 1530. The building currently is court of law, but you can enter the garden. Quite a surprise entering from a busy shopping street into this peaceful place…
Groen Waterke (“Green Water”) at Goswin De Stassartstreet, is one of many idyllic spots in Mechelen. The brook owes its name to the duckweed which covers the surface of the water. It’s a remainder of an old brook and offers the current green view after a Mother Superior of the convent complained about all the boats passing by, reducing the traffic considerably!
The floating Dyle Path is a nice way to see a different side of Mechelen. It’s a walk between the Botanical Garden and the Vismarkt (Fish Market). The Vismarkt is actually a very nice place to have dinner or enjoy a drink on the many terraces.
The Botanical garden is a nice place to relax after a long walk. Like all of the main attractions, it is not far from the main square.
Where to stay in Mechelen
I mentioned earlier that some hotels have special family-friendly packages. Upon check-in your kids will get the small backpack with funny stuff where our Novotel Mechelen) even has a XBox Kinect in the lobby to keep kids entertained while you still enjoy breakfast or a drink.
Here is the list of hotels that offer the family-friendly package: Best Western Hotel Gulden Anker, Martin’s Patershof, Novotel Mechelen Centrum, Holiday Inn Express, NH Mechelen, VixX hotel, hotel Muske Pitter and Jeugdherberg (youth hostel) De Zandpoort.
Thank you Mechelen, we had a great time! Don’t forget to read more about Mechelen in part 1! So where will our next trip bring us??
We were invited by Tourism Mechelen to explore the city for 3 days. All opinions are our own. Text and photography by: Emiel van den Boomen
Follow Act of Traveling on Facebook, Instagram ActofTraveling and Google+