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.

Eva Daeleman

Eva Daeleman

Yoga instructor and owner of Studio Stil, life coach, writer and dreamer (1990)

Can you describe what you do?

I ride my bike into the centre every day to get to Studio Stil, the yoga studio I opened here in August 2017. It is located in the Heihoek, a maze of small streets, cute houses and hidden secrets. When I first saw the beautiful serene loft where I opened the studio, hidden in the tiny streets of my hometown, my heart started pounding. I knew right then and there that it was meant to be: creating an island of silence in the midst of all the turbulence.

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?

At this point in my life, Mechelen is my playground. I live close to Het Vrijbroekpark, where I walk my dog almost every day. I also love to escape to the Eglegemvijver – a piece of Sweden right here at home. I need those nature retreats to calm down and connect with myself.

I have seen the city grow and expand ever since I came to live here more than five years ago. It’s most inspiring to connect with such a diversity of people and backgrounds in such a small city, and it is especially heartwarming to be surrounded by such a tight community. There’s quite a lot of creative entrepreneurship going on here as well. The vibe is not too clean, with a little rock’n’roll feel to it and the inhabitants are so brave. The opportunities in this city are endless, and you can tell the people are hungry to create and discover new stuff, but they’re also quite easygoing – a very interesting mix. It is a constant balancing act: there’s an exciting and outgoing atmosphere, but there is also a need for calm and rest.

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

Mechelen is an underdog. It’s not the most obvious location for a city trip, but it has a lot to offer and so much to explore. Recently, some friends from West-Vlaanderen stayed over for the weekend and they were most pleasantly surprised. They didn’t expect to find so many good food spots, bars, coffee places, exciting little shops, … Mechelen is a small but surprisingly sprawling city. You can easily escape the popular places and get lost strolling through the smaller side streets.

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

When I first I arrived here, I immediately saw the possibilities. I also experienced the wait-and-see attitude of the local people, but I quickly became used to that. In only eight months, we were able to build a community around Studio Stil, something I thought wouldn’t be possible in Belgium. Luckily, I was wrong, and the result is really awesome!

Right now, reflecting on the journey I have embarked upon, I realise that the experience would be so different or impossible in another city. The balance between a small place and an open mind inspires me, and helps me pursue my dreams of creating stillness in this buzzing, exciting world, without any compromise.

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

I’ve been eating vegan for almost a year now. Mechelen has a lot of lunch bars, but I miss a place that serves pure and organic food. Nothing too fancy, just real food for real people. I’d also like to see some more room for bicycles. I’m a huge fan of Copenhagen, where they have grown very aware of bikers. If we could inject a little piece of that into our city, it would make a big difference.

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

We would start the day with a latte in my favourite spot: Kaffeeine. The owner Yves is a lover of coffee and life. He doesn’t really do small talk, but he’s real and pure. Afterwards, we stroll by the shops in the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwenstraat, followed by a walk on the Dijlepad to find the beautiful cozy Vismarkt. We would climb to the top of the St. Rumbold’s Tower to enjoy the sunshine. After that work-out, we would enjoy some lunch at Thangthai, a small Thai restaurant with simple but good food. We would then have a vegan dessert at Dora’s, and finally we would embark on a bike tour to Vrijbroekpark.

In the evening, I would take my visitors to La Boya for dinner, they have amazing tajines, or maybe go to at the brand new restaurant and co-working space Wagenoord. Their chef Jente De Wilde is a true magician! We would finally end our day with a good pub crawl around some cafés.