Looming over Mechelen market square is St. Rumbold’s Tower. Nearly 100 meters high (it was originally intended to reach 160 meters) and a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s well worth a visit. And the good news is that you can walk right up to the top – all 538 steps!
The first stone was laid in 1452, and the building work stopped about 68 years later. It was thought that the boggy ground would not be able to hold further weight. Hence it’s lack of a spire. Even Pope John Paul II joked about the tower looking unfinished when he visited Mechelen in 1985.
It’s open daily from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. A ticket costs 8 EUR and can be purchased just inside the tower. 538 steps may seem a lot of steps (you’re right!) but thankfully the ascent is broken up into stages, with 7 chambers that enable you to get your breath back.
Actually the first stage is the longest, at 157 steps, so the first resting place – the Crane Chamber – is a very welcome sight.
A bit more climbing and you come to the Bell Chamber, which houses six bass bells. The smallest weights a mere (!) 1850 kg, with the largest coming in at a massive 8800 kg. Known as Salvator, this huge bell was cast in 1498 and cracked in 1629 and 1828, being recast on both occasions.
From here you get superb all-round views of seemingly the whole of Belgium. You get great views of Mechelen, and on a clear day (I was lucky) you can see Antwerp Cathedral and the Atomium in Brussels.
And I have a free ticket! If you are seriously intending to visit Mechelen and go up the tower, drop me a line and I will put it in the post for you.