Belgian beauty spot is Mechelen star

I'll never tire of being Mechelen man.

Haverwerf, heart of scenic Mechelen

Not, you understand, the famous tyre firm symbol - although we share same squat, stout stature - but rather new-found lifelong fan of similarly named state of the art Flanders travel destination.

So scenic is this largely undiscovered small city, beautiful Belgian embodiment of the good life, its water-side streets could come straight from Disney-Pixar storyboard.

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Where to go: Top attraction, literally, is scaled by 538 spiral steps, well worth Vertigo-defying climb, just shy of 100 metres, to mount St Rumbold's Tower. UNESCO world heritage site recognised, skywalk's lofty perch allows identification of iconic landmarks as far afield as Brussels Atomium, ascent and descent via six chambers affording opportunity to enjoy a-peel of belfry's clanking carillon. Cathedral below stands testament to fact this Burgundian Netherlands capital was central to the country's Christianity - eight gothic and baroque churches among tremendous 336 listed buildings and monuments - Anthony van Dyck's Christ on the Cross painting and Lucas Faydherbe's high alter among many noteworthy artefacts. In it's shadows, Reuzenopsinjoor Park sites larger than life Opsinjoorke statue, complementing Main Square original, depicting man catapulted into the air as chastisement for choosing demon drink over spouse.

Opsinjoorke park statue overshadowed by towering St Rumbold's

Or, begin with beguinage, communities small and large boasting their own self-sustaining bakeries, breweries and bleaching fields, founded as female-centric convent alternatives after crusades saw loss of many men, leaving spinsters and widows failing to find partners and fend for themselves, under grand mistresses' supervision. They leave a legacy of narrow streeted picture postcard chocolate box buildings, tiny in scale but massive in importance to lace-making which, with right royal De Wit Manufacturers of Tapestry, helped define trademark skills.

Newly opened Museum Hof '‹'‹van Busleyden is latest, arguably greatest, go-to for culture vultures. Renovated renaissance palace houses Hieronymus to Busleyden, Erasmus to Thomas More treasure trove. Discover story behind local legend Margareta, not a pizza, but spicey noblewomen who bore three sons to Prince of Orange. And marvel at majesty of Besloten Hofjes, 16th century pictorial pastoral cabinets that, during a triumph of pain-staking restoration, revealed a rolled up note from 1806 bearing secret message to today's "future reader". And, if you can't wait until 2038 - and you shouldn't - experience enthused enjoyment of Hanswijk Cavalcade, staged only four times each century.

Have a walk down Haverwerf, River Dijle unloading and trading post past for oats that made these waters undisputed exclusive grain capital. It is trio of brightly coloured bridge-side buildings that attract most attention. And photo opportunities. Corner house Het Paradijske features earthly paradise reliefs depicting trees of good and evil, middle sees De Duiveltjes, whose pillars are propped by synonymous devils, while Sint-Jozef celebrates baby Jesus. Within view is statue celebrating Ludwig van Beethoven's family roots while well-trod path leads to botanical gardens.

Leaving best 'til last, tourism being a thirsty business, drop anchor at only remaining brewery among hundreds that once hop-erated here since aptly named Karel de Stoute decreed in 1471 Krankenhuis tipples should be tax-free. Now much more than just a brewhouse, Het Anker combines brasserie, hotel and distillery into bacchanalian one-stop shop - source of special self-deprecatory Maneblussers concoction, celebrating Moon Extinguishers who mistook cloudy light for towering inferno - it would be rude not to frequent. Frequently! Highly recommended Burgundian Sense-Sations guide and vouchers offer flavour of other such local delicacies as ale-infused cheese and artisan sweets, but it is multi award-winning Golden Carolus Classic that stands frothy head and shoulders toast of the town for this globe-trotter. If it was good enough for King Charles V ...

St Rumbold's Tower's top view

To enjoy Mechelen star treatment visit site.

Where to stay: To say fish market's Hotel Mercure Mechelen Vé is the "plaice" to be would be a cringeworthy cliche ... but that won't stop me! The former smokehouse and cigar factory is today historic home to 56 family-friendly bedrooms. Marketed as "mid-scale hotel for business trips or leisure," it boasts wellness suite, complete with swimming pool, Jacuzzi and sauna, as well as on-site restaurant and lounge. And, whatever Flemish is for "location, location, location," this bolthole has got it in spades, based at beating authentic heart of local community.

Where to dine: Cosmopolitan diners need look no further than Cosma Foodhouse, husband and wife's London-influenced labour of love, combined concept incorporating catering, brasserie and shop. Success on a plate comes in shape of home-made Mediterranean herbed dishes with wines, served to 36 places and further 17 on south-facing courtyard. "We wanted something that was not there," emphasise the entrepreneurs. And, in this renovated bakery, they duly deliver such quality cuisine, enjoyable to the palate while easy on pocket and purse.

Sava, steeped in heritage within De Kat walls that resonate back to 15th century before becoming rebuilt pharmacies, still bears silent witness to its physicians' past with medical images while continuing to toast 19th century tavern tradition. Hot and cold tapas is today secret of its success amid atmospheric surrounds across two floors and terrace, all of which adds up to eclectic meeting place melting pot of like-minded diners enjoying locally sourced fair and sustainable fresh produce from family suppliers celebrating watchwords "cozy, tasty, pure, simple".

St Rumbold's Cathedral boasts 49-bell carillon

Way to go: bmi flies from East Midlands to Brussels twice daily (excluding Saturdays) with fares from just £72 one way, inclusive of 23kg hold luggage, allocated seating, complimentary in-flight drinks and snacks - visit site.

Water way to see city aboard River Dijle boat (Photo: Mike Maloney)
Beguinage tour can begin your city adventure
Renovated renaissance palace, Museum Hof van Busleyden (Photo: Sophie Nuytten)
Beethoven's roots celebrated on leafy water-side street
Hotel Mercure Mechelen V centre stage in fish market overview
Chris and press colleagues drop anchor at Het brewery which, with Cosma and Sava, offers Belgian fine food and drink
Cheers ... here's to to Mechelen