Hidden Belgium: Mechelen’s lost river

Hidden Belgium: Mechelen’s lost river

It’s one of Flanders’ forgotten rivers. The Dijle flows secretly between old buildings in Mechelen, but you can sometimes track it down if you know where to look.

A new wooden walkway takes you along the edge of the river, past waterfront houses, overgrown gardens and hidden squares. The walk is particularly romantic at night when the route is lit by thousands of tiny spotlights.

You can begin on the Zoutwerf, a former harbour with an impressive renaissance house once owned by the guild of fishermen. Or you can dive into one of the narrow lanes running down to the water from Onze-Lieve-Vrouwestraat (next to numbers 115 and 143).

The trail follows a wooden walkway along a stretch of water once accessible only by boat. It runs past the Lamot cultural centre, where a bridge takes you across to the old fish market square. Near here is an old brown café called De Gouden Vis, which has a tiny hidden terrace at the back overlooking the water.

This bohemian Art Nouveau café looks a bit shabby, with bicycles parked in the hallway and faded posters peeling off the wall. But this former fishmonger’s shop is a wonderful, romantic place to grab a beer. You might even, if you are lucky, find a place to sit on the outdoor terrace shaded by an old vine.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.  

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