The riverside quarter around Vismarkt/Nauwstraat is a compact but highly appealing nightlife zone, with a café-bar for virtually any taste. There's a further good selection around Grote Markt and a couple of options on Wollenmarkt.

Beer & History

All around town cafés serve beers produced by celebrated local brewery Het Anker, many named with Mechelen’s curious history in mind. Maneblusser is a sneakily drinkable, well-built 5.8% blond that literally means ‘moon extinguisher’. That’s been a self-mocking nickname for Mechelen townsfolk since 1687, when cloud-diffused moonlight above the cathedral tower was mistaken for a fire.

The famous Gouden Carolus range commemorates the golden coinage of Holy Roman Emperor Charles Quint. Gouden Carolus Classic is a rich 8.5% dark beer that has been declared the world's best on a few occasions. But there's also a sturdy 9% Tripel (cellar-aged blond) and the unique 8% Ambrio brown ale, loosely based on a 1433 recipe said to have been Charles’ favourite tipple. Then there's the superbly rich Gouden Carolus Cuvée van de Keizer Imperial Dark (11%), as much of a mouthful to drink as to say.

Slightly cloudy, with a mildly spiced acidic edge, Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor is a hoppy pun on Op-Sinjoorke, a lewdly cackling folkloric anti-mascot whose reputation for wife-beating was traditionally punished by tossing him in the air during annual parades. The theft of the original 1647 mannequin was once the cause of conflict between Mechelen and Antwerp. There’s a large ‘flying’ Op-Sinjoorke statue just north of the cathedral and a smaller, more artistic one outside the stadhuis.

Any of these beers, along with varying seasonal specials, can be tasted at Het Anker's excellent brasserie.