Mechelen with kids: top 11 attractions!
Mechelen is known as the children’s city in Belgium. Therefore, there are plenty of activities to do in Mechelen with kids. What’s nice is that the city is so profiled as a children’s city, so you have play activities for kids throughout the city, for example. In addition, there are many catering establishments equipped for kids. So an ideal city for a weekend getaway with kids! We visited this fun children’s city and list the best activities in Mechelen with kids.
Table of contents
Climbing St. Rombouts tower
The St. Romboutstoren is certainly the city’s most famous landmark, and this 167-meter-high watchtower is visible from the entire center of Mechelen. You can climb this tall tower and we visited it on a day when the weather was very clear. There is no elevator here like, say, the Dom Tower in Utrecht, so we will have to climb all 500-plus steps ourselves.
Before we begin this ascent, we first view the magnificent cathedral. This cathedral is free to view and it is a must to take a tour of the cathedral. Sophie is impressed by the beautiful stained glass of the windows and also quite impressed by the various paintings, which contain nothing disguising drawings of past massacres.
After we had a thorough look at the cathedral, it was time to climb the tower. Sophie is looking forward to it, since she has been asking all morning when we are going to climb the tower. In total, the tower has 538 steps and is quite a climb. One advantage is that you don’t have to go all the way up at once, but there are plenty of areas along the way where you can take a break with your kids. It is also nice that several steps state how far along the climb you are by now.
In each room on each floor, there are signs giving information about the construction of the tower and the function of that room. These signs take kids into account so that it is all understandable to them as well. Thus we see the crane room, the old Carillon Room with the large bells, the clock room, the new Carillon Room and the Ash Cellar.
After viewing the various areas of the tower, we arrived at the literal highlight of our ascent: the Skywalk. This is a panoramic platform where you really have a fantastic 360-degree view of the entire city of Mechelen with kids and where you can even see other cities like Leuven, Antwerp and Brussels. We are lucky to visit the tower on a crisp clear day, so we can actually see that far.
We enjoyed the activity of climbing the tower and loved the view. In that respect, a great start to our city break in Mechelen with our daughter. For all information about climbing the tower such as opening hours and prices check here.
Tip: Next to the tower is a large yellow playground equipment called “Opsinjoorke. Fun for kids to climb it and use up the last bit of energy after climbing the tower. We walked past this yellow giant several times during the weekend, and each time our daughter wanted to climb here.
2. Plankendael zoo
You can also visit the zoo in Mechelen with kids. This zoo is located slightly outside the center of Mechelen in the southeastern part of the city, so it is not walkable with kids. By car, you can drive from downtown to the zoo in just over 10 minutes. You can park your car just fine in the (paid) parking lot in front of the zoo.
The zoo is divided into five different continents: Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas and Oceania. The nice thing about the zoo is that there are also plenty of climbing equipment throughout the zoo for kids to climb and clamber around. It reminds us a bit of Amersfoort Zoo, which also has a lot of climbing and clambering.
We thought it was a really nice zoo to visit. The zoo has lots of different types of animals and huge amounts of playground equipment. Our daughter played in the zoo all day and admired the different animals. There is also a fun water playground at the zoo, where kids can cool off during the hot summer months.
We were there at the beginning of the day and did not return home until close of business. On that note, we really recommend the zoo if you are taking a city trip to Mechelen with kids. We wrote the blog zoo Planckendael with kids about it, in which we give all the information about the zoo.
This science museum (or as they call it themselves on the website Flemish doing-center for science and technology) is somewhat similar to NEMO in Amsterdam. This is another museum where kids can do a lot on their own. We visit the museum on a Sunday morning right when the museum opens.
After we park the car in the free parking lot in front of the museum, the car trial stands out right in front of the museum door. With a kind of lever here, you can use a rope to pull the car up. Of course we do and Sophie is quite impressed, that mom and dad can just lift a car.
Once inside, we are all given a band to wear, which we use to activate various experiments in the museum. In doing so, our daughter is immediately addressed in the correct language and her name also keeps coming into view during the various trials. That immediately makes it a lot more personal. Because we visit the museum at opening time, it is still nice and quiet and we can do the various experiments at our leisure.
Some of the experiments we already know from other science museums, but there are also many other (spectacular) experiments that we did not know yet. For example, kids can ride a bike over a ledge more than five meters above the ground, there are two trials with VR glasses on, and there is also a very interactive section where it looks like you are walking around in the ocean.
The museum has more than 300 exhibits and experiments, so you can take at least half a day to see everything properly. There are also several fun demonstrations and shows. So we see a demonstration where they show a chain reaction (very fun to watch) and we go to the show where a boy and his teddy bear want to go to the moon while doing all kinds of experiments. Especially the final test with loud bang make quite an impression on our daughter.
For kids ages four through eight, you have the Children’s Do-Center, where they can learn about all kinds of occupations. This was really the most enjoyable part of the museum for our daughter. You can do all kinds of activities related to all kinds of professions here. Here kids up to about eight years old can play with an ambulance and car, build with blocks, play store and bake pizza.
Especially the store with real working cash register our daughter loved it. She played here for at least an hour and actually wanted to play here for the rest of the afternoon if it were up to her. Also, the money the kids can withdraw from the ATM (with their own faces on it) is made super cute. How our daughter loved the fact that she could withdraw her own money from the ATM.
Technopolis also has a restaurant inside the museum, where you can have a nice meal and drink with your kids. We only had a drink and some good food here, but it is also possible to order a whole meal. This allows you to really make a day of it during your city break to Mechelen with kids.
Next to Technopolis, you also have Insectopia outside, where you can walk through nature and encounter 32 out-of-this-world insects. Here kids can playfully learn all about insects. You do need to buy a separate ticket for this part. Unfortunately, since that Sunday when we visited Technopolis it was storming all day, we were not able to visit this part. A good reason to come back again!
We really enjoyed our visit to Technopolis and if it were up to our daughter we would have stayed the rest of the afternoon. In that regard, a visit to Technopolis cannot be missed when taking a city trip to Mechelen with kids. For more information about the museum’s opening hours and admission prices, check out the museum’s website.
4. children’s walk through downtown
To explore downtown Mechelen with kids, Mechelen’s tourism office has created two different walking routes for kids. These two hiking trails can be downloaded for free here, so you can already print them out at home and take them with you. By the way, you can also buy a guidebook with both routes for 3 euros on site. We had printed out the two walking tours before we visited the city, so we didn’t have to stop by the Mechelen Info Point.
One walk is called “From Eagle to Swallow,” and this walk takes you on a journey of discovery (which focuses on animals) through the center of the city. On the walk called “With Wet Feet,” the walk goes a bit more along the water and this one is a bit more for older kids.
We walked part of the route From Eagle to Swallow and enjoyed spotting the different animals found throughout the city. In that regard, we find this kind of thing a fun way to see the city, because that way we also make it attractive to our daughter.
The two guides to both walks have 25 and 35 pages and are full of fun facts about the city of Mechelen and, of course, include assignments for the kids. This way you can playfully explore the city of Mechelen with kids. Of course, the routes also pass by the various play equipment in town, allowing the kids to have fun along the way.
Tip: When we are in a city, we often use the app maps.me for our navigation. With this app, you can download the map of the city in advance from home and already mark with red dots such as your hotel and important sights. Are you at your destination you do not need internet and you can easily navigate through a city because when you move a blue dot on the map will move in the direction you are going. Because of this, we actually almost never walk wrong when traveling.
By the way, you can explore the city not only on foot but also from the water with a tour boat. For information on the various canal boats that pass through the city, take a look here. We visited the city in February and the tour boats were not running then.
5. Children’s City Art Trail
Since we are looking for fun activities to do in Mechelen with kids for our blog, we also visited the Mechelen Info Point located right in the center of the city practically on the Grand Place. Our tip here was to walk the Mechelen Children’s City Art Route and here we were given a small map of the city with different points we could visit.
These points are all located around the Grand Place and are all kids’ artworks painted on electricity boxes. These works of art are painted in a very fun way for kids and each depicts a different world-famous work of art. For example, you have creative artwork based on paintings such as The Night Watch, The Milkmaid and The Mona Lisa.
We really enjoyed this walk along ten different points. The booths are coolly painted and if you are not looking for them, you will walk right past them in the city. Sophie also really enjoyed looking for the different painted electricity booths around town. Expect to spend about an hour on this.
6. Toy Museum
Within walking distance of the Grote Markt is Mechelen’s toy museum. At this three-story museum, you’ll find mostly toys from the past. Families with kids can pick up a family suitcase at the entrance, which requires them to complete a variety of tasks throughout the museum. In this museum there is also space for kids to play with toys, despite this is not the thrust of museum.
We visit the museum on Sunday afternoon and can park the car for free in the parking lot diagonally opposite the museum. First, we visit all the toys that have come on the market over the years, and we see a lot of toys that are childhood sentiments that we ourselves used to play with as kids.
The museum also features several train tracks with an entire landscape, entire villages made of Playmobil and life-size figures made of Lego. Once we had a good look at everything, we went into the gaming area to work with an old-fashioned shuffleboard and play another game of snooker. For more information on museum hours and prices, check out the toy museum’s website.
You can also go bowling and go-karting in Mechelen with kids. We did that at Burney’s in Mechelen. Burney’s has not been around long and, as they themselves state on the website, offers an Eatertainment concept. That means you can do several fun children’s activities here with the family and also have a nice bite to eat.
We visit Burney’s on Sunday mornings and went bowling with our daughter first for an hour. This brand new bowling alley makes a big impression with the large screens found above the bowling alley. We always find bowling a very fun activity to do with the family and our daughter is up to us when the set-up gutters are up in the lane.
After this hour of bowling, our daughter also went for a round of go-karting here. They can set the speed of the karts themselves, so kids don’t go too fast around the track like adults. Kids from six years old who are taller than 1.30 meters can come here to go-karting. Each heat here lasts ten minutes.
There is also an escaperoom at Burney’s for kids ages eight and up, where they can escape if they can solve the riddle of Captain Redbeard’s treasure. There are also areas where you can go karaoke with the family. Especially when the weather is not so good, you can have a great time here with the family for half a day. For more information on the various children’s activities, check out Burney’s website.
Other children’s activities in Mechelen
Of course, there are many more children’s activities in Mechelen. We list the best activities you can do in Mechelen with kids.
#8 City Park De Kruidtuin: You can play with kids in several places in Mechelen. For example, the city has several small play incentives downtown where kids can play and also several playgrounds. One of those playgrounds is in the city’s Kruidtuin Park. This park is fun to walk through anyway in the summer and especially because of the playground.
Get a map with all children’s activities at the Mechelen Info Point. This lists several downtown playgrounds. Similarly, following this map, we found a playground north of downtown near Plank Street, where Sophie played for a while. In short, you have plenty of opportunities to play with your kids during a city break to Mechelen with kids.
#9 Mechelen bike tour: you can also see the city of Mechelen with kids from a bike. The Dutch organization BajaBikes organizes three-hour bike tours of Mechelen led by a Dutch-speaking guide. You cycle past the city’s highlights here and it’s a fun introduction to the city. Children’s bicycles are available for children eight and older, and younger children can ride on the back of a child seat with their parents. For more information on these bike tours, take a look here.
#10 Cruise through Mechelen: you can also see the city of Mechelen with kids from the water. You will then take an electric canal boat ride on the Dijle River. This boat ride is 45 minutes, making this tour very suitable for kids as well. You will get explanations about the city from a guide who will sail with you.
#11 Zwembad de Nekkerpool: you can also enjoy a few hours of swimming in Mechelen with kids. The pool has a competition pool, a recreational pool and a pool for young kids. Especially if the weather is not so good, then it is definitely a fun children’s activity in Mechelen to go swimming for a few hours.
Family-friendly restaurant Mechelen
You can eat great food with kids at several places besides the Vleeshalle in Mechelen. We already described the Meat Hall above which is fun to go to with kids, but there are several more fun places to eat and drink. We describe below the tents we visited ourselves.
Merad Mechelen: a hip Turkish restaurant in the city center. You can eat a variety of tasty (vegetarian) dishes here. The restaurant does not work with reservations, so come on time otherwise the restaurant will soon be full. We got inside just in time when a line formed at the door.
Sava: this is a tapas bar right in the center on the Grand Place. You can also sit on the terrace here in the summer while enjoying a variety of tapas. We found the small dishes to be very tasty and, partly because of the casual atmosphere in the café, we also found it highly recommended for families dining in Mechelen with kids.
De Vleeshalle: A great place to eat in Mechelen with kids is the Vleeshalle. This is a kind of market hall with all kinds of tents, where they offer all kinds of different foreign dishes. So you can get food from Japan, Mexico, Ireland, Belgium, Spain and many more countries in this hall. In addition, you have nice seating areas both inside and outside everywhere, where you can have a bite to eat with your kids.
In addition, on the sides you also had several play corners for kids. In that respect, it is an ideal place for families with kids to eat. There is something for every family member in terms of food and drink, and you can eat it in a very family-friendly environment. Even if you are not hungry, it is fun to check out the foodhall and have a drink.
Where to sleep in Mechelen with kids
You can stay in Mechelen with kids just fine. There are plenty of nice hotels in this children’s city. We describe below the two different hotels where we ourselves stayed during our city break to Mechelen.
Mechelen with kids: van der Valk Hotel Mechelen
The van der Valk Hotel in Mechelen is located slightly outside the city center and in about ten minutes you can walk from the hotel to the city center. They have very nice rooms here and the hotel has a restaurant and a bar, where you can go for a snack and a drink. We had breakfast here in the morning and it was really super good. Highly recommended! We wrote about this hotel the blog van der Valk Hotel Mechelen with kids which you can read here.
Mechelen with kids: Novotel Mechelen Center
If you are looking for a hotel located right in the center of Mechelen, the Novotel Mechelen Centrum is a very good option. We slept there in a very spacious room and really loved the location of the hotel. In addition, the room was luxurious and we always love it when we have a bathtub in the bathroom. Also the breakfast was delicious and all in all we can really recommend this hotel. We wrote an extensive blog about the hotel, which you can read here.
Mechelen with kids: Martins Paterhof
Martins Paterhof is a great place to stay during your city break to Mechelen with kids. This is a hotel built in an old church. We had booked the Exceptional Double here and this was perhaps the nicest room we have ever slept in. A room with stained glass windows and beautiful arches, really made us sleep in a fairy tale room. In addition, we had a hot tub in the room and had a delicious breakfast in the church the next day. We wrote an extensive blog about this hotel that you can read here.