The barquentine Mercator was built as a training ship for the Belgian merchant fleet. She was named after Gerardus Mercator, a Belgian cartographer. She was designed by G.L. Watson & Co. and built in Leith, Scotland and launched in 1932.
Besides being a training a ship, she was also used, mainly before World War II, for scientific observations, or as ambassador for Belgium on world fairs and in sailing events.
In 1961, she became a floating museum, first in Antwerp and, from 1964, in the marina of Ostend, just in front of the city hall. As of 2019, she remains open to visitors.