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.

Elise Roels

Elise Roels


Can you describe what you do?

I’m an actress, best known for playing the role of Emma in the soap series ‘Thuis’. I’ve been on television for seven years now, but really my heart lies in theatre. I can’t remember a period in my life when I wasn’t acting or performing.

I grew up around Nekkerspoel, a nice neighbourhood in Mechelen. It used to be a bit shady, but now it’s a great place to grow up and hang around. I study journalism at Thomas More University College, and aside from that, I keep myself busy with several weekly rehearsals in and around Mechelen, so studying here is the easiest and best option.

When I’m not in school, at work or rehearsing, I like to grab a drink at the Vismarkt. Having a beer at the Vismarkt after a heavy rehearsal or a long day is probably the best feeling in the world. It is simply impossible to go out in Mechelen without bumping into old school friends, theatre colleagues or neighbours, and that’s exactly what I love about this city.

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 the love of my life. Another city may be just as lively and breathing, but Mechelen is hyperventilating! I love how there’s always something going on, how the city keeps providing you with ways to discover something new. Mechelen dares to think outside of the box. And still, in comparison to other cities, Mechelen feels a lot like a small village. It seems like everyone here knows and wants to know each other.

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

Mechelen can be a bit bipolar. It is easy to find yourself in one part of the city and experience a certain vibe or make an assumption that the entire city is the same, only to cross a sort of invisible border and end up in a completely different Mechelen. The city has so many personalities, everyone will discover one that they can connect and fall in love with.

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

Mechelen loves to give young talent the chance to grow, learn and create. I would never have made it to where I am now without the rehearsing rooms that are available and the opportunities they offer teenagers, like to join a theatre, that are provided here.

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

I would love to see more green spaces. Mechelen has come a long way, but there’s still some work to be done when it comes to creating a healthy and green city centre.

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Mechelen?

I would take them to the Lamot, a big congress centre near the Vismarkt. On the roof you get the best view of Mechelen. We would definitely have a sit at one of the local pubs for a Maneblusser or a Carolus Tripel beer, and maybe invite an iconic resident like ‘De Bellemadam’ to tell some stories. Visiting Artenova is a great idea as well. The huge building used to be a furniture store, but now it has been repurposed by the city council as a workspace for young artists. As I already mentioned: Mechelen really provides the right spaces for young talent to develop their creativity, and Artenova is a great example of this.