From palm trees and beaches to brewery gardens and chilling along the banks of the Dyle, Mechelen’s Flemish charms will seduce you this summer. And with a festival season to envy, there’s no better time to let yourself be reeled in.
1. Drinking in the sunshine
Outdoor bars are the order of the season and Visit Mechelen has put together a round-up of the best laid-back summer drinking to be had, in and around the city.
Open already from late afternoon Thursday to Sunday is the Van der Valk Hotel’s summer bar overlooking the River Dyle, and it will open all week from 4pm in July and August. The “new in-thing in Mechelen,” according to TripAdvisor, this pop-up drinkery is right on the marina’s turning dock and overlooks one of the city’s swimming spots.
Another swimmers’ favourite already open is at Bardok – a local-run coffee bar and café neighbouring the Geerdegemvaart pool; great for kids and summer events.
If lounging on the grass while the water burbles lazily by sounds like more your thing, T’île Malines should be on your list for weekends in July. Drinkers at this place spill out from the terrace onto the river side and into the sultry summer evenings, with film showings, parties and Sunday brunches for morning after the night before.
Other top addresses enjoyed by locals include: the palm-tree dotted Mechelen Beach sports beach and bar, and the Friday night beach barbecue at the Zuiderbad on Hofstade beach in Zemst, where the combination of family-friendly activity and relaxing refreshments is surely a win-win.
Also nestling in fields just outside the city is the Karrelees craft brewery, with a garden terrace perfect for sampling a sundowner or two.
2. Fiesta! Forever!
Mechelen is not messing about when it comes to midsummer music, with Belgium’s largest free city festival in the last week of August, free gigs at the Botanical Garden, and the De Koer festival in June.
Maanrock fever takes Mechelen by summer storm between 25-27 August, landing in six locations across Belgium’s city to provide the biggest free festival of its kind in Belgium. A chance to see Admiral Freebee, Black Box Revelation, and others.
Parkpop is a series of free summer gigs at the Botanical Garden. From 7pm every Thursday night between 29 June and 17 August (and with extra shows on 9 July, 6 August and 12 August) this sounds like the perfect after-work wind-down or date night, whether you’re into Nu-Metal, Belpop classics, or Moroccan Gnawa.
Insider tip: Whether you’re into people watching or waterbirds, take a romantic summer evening stroll along the Dyle tow path between Haverwerf and the Botanical Garden for a unique ‘behind the scenes’ view of Mechelen’s quaint houses and wildlife.
De Koer Festival is my pick of the bunch. It’s also the new kid on the block, having broken free of its ‘electronic showcase for Maanrock’ beginnings. This 23 & 24 June, the square at Cultuurplein will once again become an electronic and dance mecca. The line-up includes the driving, synth-laden sound of Dekmantel’s Interstellar Funk as well as legendary London DJ, producer and label owner, Ben Sims.
If you’re out of the city for the summer but back for the start of the school year, Dansstorm will help dissolve those post-holiday blues. After its debut in Courtrai two years ago, this travelling dance festival now comes to several locations across Mechelen, inviting everyone to give the magic of dance a go, through performances, workshops, taster sessions and try-outs.
Don’t forget to book your accomodation. You will find something for every taste, from festival-friendly camper van places to luxurious B&Bs and guesthouses.