The Mechelen Hundred

Portraits of a city's people, today

Nestled between Brussels and Antwerp, Mechelen has often been overshadowed by its larger neighbours. Yet teaming up with the City of Mechelen, our line-up of 100 of the city’s most prominent people, places and projects proves the extent of its potential. From artists and creatives to critical thinkers and fighters, these are the powerhouses driving Mechelen forward one step at a time.

Diederik Beele

Diederik Beele

Owner of Dusk Till Daw (1965)

Can you describe what you do?

Almost 20 years ago, we bought a 19th century mansion house. Over a period of five years we carefully restored this place with respect for its original details and transformed it into a cosy b&b: Dusk Till Dawn. The house is located in the heart of the city, facing the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-over-de-Dijle’ church.

In 2001, some of my good friends and I started organising culinary tours in the city together. A guide will take you on a journey of discovery from dish to dish, visiting quaint restaurants and some of the town’s most unique spots (including Dusk Till Dawn, of course!). The second weekend of September is very special because of the ‘Jazz At Home’ festival, which we play a part in. This event brings live music into 24 unique living rooms around town. A big part of the listed monuments are open to the public hosting the concerts. I’m very happy to contribute to this festival, year after year!

How do you perceive Mechelen? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?

Mechelen is a small and charming city with a very rich history. Visitors will be surprised by both the stunning renovations and the contemporary architecture. The town centre is packed to the brim with nice shops, restaurants and bars. People from different origins live and work here side by side, and therefore we enjoy a rich cultural life.

What would you say is Mechelen’s main appeal as a city? What gives it its edge?

The historical churches and countless listed monuments, all situated in a pocket-size city surrounded by a green natural environment really play a part in making it a special city.

How has Mechelen contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

I was born in the Western part of Flanders and grew up in a rural area. I graduated as a Pharmacist at the Ghent University. In 1991, I moved to Mechelen together with my wife. We bought a pharmacy in the commercial centre of Mechelen and for many years this was my main job. In the very beginning, I thought that living in a city centre was not for me, but little by little I became a lover of this city. Mechelen opened up my eyes in many ways. I started my second career in the tourism industry, and I still love it very much.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?

Like many other cities in Europe, Mechelen has changed a lot during the past 20 years. When we moved here in 1991, Mechelen wasn’t really an attractive place, a colourless city with lots of traffic and no tourism at all. What we see today is actually the opposite: a safe, green, vibrant and harmonious city.

But there’s still some work to be done. The population is growing as well as the economic importance, and the challenge remains to deal with these factors in the right way. The local government has to make careful choices regarding mobility, environment and liveability to ensure the same quality of life for future generations.

If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what/where would it be?

I would always suggest to visit St. Rumbold’s Tower and the Busleyden Museum. And don’t forget to go for a walk through the narrow streets of the Beguinage, ending up at the Anker Brewery.