Mechelen’s Keeps You Warm event season is with us again and it’s a great time to discover this magnificent Flanders city that also knows how to have fun. Alongside art exhibitions and Christmas markets, festive activities throughout the winter will include lederhosen-spangled German après-ski merriment and buzzing winter bars, as well as spectacular circus arts and storytelling, and a massive New Year party with DJs and fireworks on the historic Grote Markt.
1. Après-ski fun and winter bars
From 17 November 2022 through 4 February 2023 you can experience all the exuberance of an après-ski bar at the Douaneplein. Moose Bar, responsible for the ‘Biggest Après-Ski Party in Belgium’, will serve up an authentic winter sports atmosphere complete with cheesy Tyrolean dancefloor hits, giant beers, and lederhosen. Start practising your conga dancing now.
And if something a little more decorous is what you’re looking for, don’t miss Winterbar Mirage, back celebrating its 10th year of cozy firelit sessions in the town hall courtyard.
2. Hidden Gems exhibition
If you feel you need to earn that glühwein or gigantic pint of après-ski beer, get your culture points in by visiting Hidden Gems, a brand new exhibition opening at the splendid Burgandian palace, Hof van Busleyden, from 11 November 2022. Set in a virtual cityscape and showing off the best of Mechelen’s fine art, sculpture, printing and goldsmithery over seven centuries, the exhibition includes masterpieces on show to the public for the first time.
3. Fire and Flame weekend
On Friday 16 and Saturday 17 December an aerial fire and light show will take place across the city at the Grote Markt, Botermarkt, Ijzerenleen, Bruul and Sinte-Mettetuin. The fire animations will create a magical interlude in your day’s gift shopping at one of the Christmas market chalets en route.
4. Neighbourhood markets
Drop in to ‘t Hof BySONder, an eco-life hub and coworking space, where a Christmas boutique showcasing artisanal and sustainable goods, and a temporary seasonal market in a hangar space, will be drawing crowds every weekend (Fri, Sat, Sun) from 11 November to 31 December. I’m looking forward to sampling their warm apple cider and Christmas cocktails.
Santa will be receiving visitors at t’Heike market, where a children’s carousel and concerts by De Vrolijke Vrienden will keep you entertained from 4pm until midnight on 17 December.
And the event that particularly captures my heart on Mechelen’s calender is the market taking place at Slachthuislaan 3 on the weekend of 17 and 18 December, where Mechelen’s Animal Protection will be opening their doors. All sorts of baked goodies, burgers, seasonal beverages and other treats will be on offer, but the main attraction must surely be the furry friends up for adoption. Remember – a pet is for life, not just for Christmas.
5. Run away to the Circus
This circus production by BITBYBIT and featuring Simon and Vincent Bruynincks from Collectif Malunés uses Jaws of Steel – a classic circus technique using mouth-held ropes. Against a soundtrack by experimental Belgian music producer Dijf Sanders they’ll tell a tale of two brothers, exploring their rivalries and shared bonds. Tickets from €2.50 to €13.00. Catch the show at 7pm on 16, 17, and 18 December at Cultuur Centrum, Mechelen.
6. New Year
Bring in the New Year from 11pm to 3am on the Grote Markt, where DJs will lead the party into the small hours. Overlooked by St Rumbold’s tower, the countdown to midnight will climax in pet-friendly low noise fireworks to light up the historic city skyline.
7. Looking for a place to stay?
Mechelen has just the accommodation to perfect your winter visit. Whether you’re a fan of historic 19th-century townhouses, luxurious B&Bs, or you fancy a stay at the foot of St Rumbold’s Tower itself, there are plenty of memories waiting to be made for everyone.