This article is by Pieter Ghijsels, Accessible Tourism Product Manager @Visit Flanders – thank you Pieter!
Situated between its bigger sisters Brussels and Antwerp, Mechelen is probably the least-known art city of Flanders. But its rich history and vivid present make it more than worthwhile to visit. You can discover it all barrier-free with “Mechelen accessible for everyone”.
A bit of history…
Five hundred years ago, Mechelen was the capital city of the Burgundian Netherlands. Today, a surprising amount of protected buildings from that time still define the look of the place: city palaces, old impressive churches, typical houses and richly decorated guildhalls take you back in time, all the way to these Burgundian years.
Mechelen is also a modern city, with a convivial and family-friendly atmosphere and many delightful corners. It’s the combination of historical heritage and contemporary lifestyle that makes Mechelen so irresistible.
Barrier free Mechelen!
The good news is that you can enjoy this experience barrier-free! A 2,5 km long walk takes you along the city’s highlights, avoiding the worst stretches of cobblestones and showing you the easiest way to reach it all. The route has been thoroughly tested by experience experts, advised by specialised architects and amended by the local technical service. The itinerary tells you exactly what to expect and proposes alternative routes where useful..
The accompanying brochure focuses on the buildings along the way: the interesting places to visit, accessible bars and restaurants, public bathroom facilities, equipment rental, accommodation, mobility, etc. Accessibility features are presented in text and images, with clear (thumbs up or down) icons and colour codes for essential aspects.
Where can I get the brochure and map?
+32 15 29 76 54
There are plenty more great tips for a barrier-free holiday in Flanders to be found on https://www.visitflanders.com/en/accessibility/.
Destination Everywhere tips
A few tips from Destination Everywhere after our visit on a very rainy day in July 2019 (better choose a sunny one to enjoy the city at it’s best!)
Accommodation, parking and food
The Accessible Mechelen city guide mentions only one labeled accessible accommodation in Mechelen: the Youth Hotel De Zandpoort. However, if you prefer a hotel, there are two that are mentioned in the guide: the Mercure Vé, located in the main square (there are photos of the bathrooms at the link, so you can check if it could be good fit for you) and the Novotel Mechelen Centrum, located also in the very centre. There are many paying parking spaces in the centre that are strategically located so you can leave the car and you’ll be already in the heart of the city (a map the parkings can be found here).
If you park in the Lamot parking you just have to cross the flat bridge and you are in Vismarkt, a lovely square ideal for a bite: some restaurants have steps, but all have an accessible terrace outside. One of them, Pintxos, offers Basque-style dishes (that we personally tested and appreciated!). The entrance has no steps but it is a bit narrow, and their bathroom is on the first floor, but the ground floor is accessible and both the food and the decor are worth a stop.
However, it has to be said that the amount of nice restaurants from all over the world is particularly high in Mechelen, with lots of great choice in a small space, making it the perfect place for a day trip or for a dinner.
An unusual place to visit: the Wintertuin
Very close to Mechelen (easier to reach by car than by public transport) is a special heritage place that is also worth a visit: the Winter Garden of the Ursulines and their ancient boarding school. Guided tours are available for groups all week round (at least 20 people) and on Sunday at 14:30. The entire visit lasts around 2 hours and is fascinating, however only the ground floor is accessible (there is a ramped entry at the right side of the main entrance with steps) but the Art Nouveau winter garden and basically the most beautiful parts of the visit are all on the ground floor.
Information for the visit is available here in English, and you can book mentioning if you have access requirements, the staff is very nice and helpful.
Photo and content credits
The photos in the page are by Visit Flanders (where indicated) and Eleonora Censorii.