Mechelen has a rich history, and for a short period in the 16th century (under Charles V's guardian and governess Margaret of Austria), the city dominated entire Flanders and Holland as the capital of the Netherlands. Mechelen has the second largest number of protected buildings in Flanders.
Its [[Groot Begijnhof|Large Beguinage]], [[Sint-Romboutskathedraal|St. Rumbold's Tower]] and the oldest wing of its [[Stadhuis|City Hall]] are part of the UNESCO World Heritage, and its giants parade called ''[[Ommegang]]''
is a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.<ref>[http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/855/multiple=1&unique_number=1006 UNESCO World Heritage List: ''Flemish Béguinages''] Unesco ID 855-003 Large Beguinage, since 1998</ref><ref>[http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/943/multiple=1&unique_number=1100 UNESCO World Heritage List: ''Belfries of Belgium and France''] and [http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2005/whc05-29com-08B.Add2.pdf Establishment of the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger (2005)] Unesco ID 943-016 St. Rumbold's Tower en ID 943-015 central front of City Hall (both as belfries), since 1999 [originally as ''Belfries of Flanders and Wallonia'']</ref><ref>[http://www.unesco.org/culture/intangible-heritage/05eur_uk.htm Third Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity: ''Processional Giants and Dragons in Belgium and France''], since 2005, and as [http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/RL/00153 Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity: ''Processional Giants and Dragons in Belgium and France''] inscribed in 2008</ref> The [[Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk|Church of Our Lady across the River Dijle]] and [[Sint-Janskerk|St. John's Church]] each shows a painting from Pieter Paul Rubens.
The inhabitants' sobriquet is ''[[Maneblussers]]'' ("extinguishers of the moon").