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Mechelen Beer Has the Essence of Woman

In Belgium, beer is undoubtedly a quintessential beverage, something the people of Mechelen – just over 20 kilometres from Brussels – are well aware of. Citizens of this Flemish town have had enough with beer being regarded as a male prerogative, prompting them to launch a guide entitled, Beer in women’s hands,which stresses the historical and current role of women in the making of this elixir.

This Mechlinian project features recommendations on both tours of the city to visit historic sites and craft breweries and pointers to tasting the best local beers combined with typical dishes. A good example of this are bapas (snacks paired with a beer) and food pairing (creative combinations of beer with local dishes). All these options have one goal – to banish the myth that beer is not a woman’s drink and to dispel the belief that they prefer wine (and white wine at that) or light, fruity beers.

Another option in the guide is to cycle from Het Anker brewery, the oldest in Flanders, originally run by Beguines, nuns of a lay religious order who lived mainly in Mechelen and Louvain. This is where Golden Carolus is brewed – thus called after Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, who was brought up in this city – as is the brand named Lucifer, which tops the rankings of the best beers in the world.

Another suggestion in the guide is to have an aperitif in St Rumbold’s Tower, one of the major tourist landmarks in Mechelen. After the effort of climbing the more than 500 steps to the top of the tower, a beer is just what you need to quench your thirst as you take in the views of the city. St Rumbold’s Tower, nearly 100 metres tall, houses two famous carillons with 49 bells. It is worth mentioning that Mechelen is renowned for its Royal Carillon School, where many carillonneurs from all over the world have come to learn the secrets of this instrument.

The guide also recommends going on a multicultural, historical walk with tastings included. The itinerary takes you through the city’s central square, the Grote Markt, site of one of Mechelen’s three city halls, and of the unusual statue known as the Opsinjoor, depicting a man pulling a doll around on a sheet, considered the city’s mascot. Other landmarks on the route include the Palace of Margaret of Austria, Charles V’s aunt and governor of the Netherlands in the 16th century, the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, originally a Jesuit church, the Church of Our Lady across the river Dijle, which features works by Rubens, and the Palace of Margaret of York, the residence of the Bishop of Kamerrijk (Cambrai) when he was in Mechelen.

A final recommendation for Mechelen is a visit to the Dossin Casern, an erstwhile transit camp converted into a museum and documentation centre on the Holocaust and human rights. From 1942 to 1944 it was used by the Nazis as a transit camp where over 25,000 Belgian Jews and gypsies were detained before being deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Mechelen is an ideal spot for sightseeing on a day trip from Brussels, as it is easily reached by train. Check out our flights to the Belgium capital here.


Text by María Jesús Tomé
Images by Turismo de Malinas

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