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.

Geert Milis

Geert Milis

Shop owner and coordinator at Mechelen Meemaken (1965)

Can you describe what you do?

I have a shop in the Hoogstraat, probably the most prominent business street in Mechelen. On the side, I coordinate the project Mechelen Meemaken, a unique initiative where local entrepreneurs can meet and collaborate on projects that advance the city, supported by the council.

I was born and raised at Ganzendries, right in the heart of Mechelen. It is a place I will forever be fond of.

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?

The city is actually one big village, and after living here for a while you’ll know the centre like the back of your hand. There is a big mix of cultures living together in a pleasant atmosphere, a multicultural society that just works. I think this makes Mechelen stand out from other cities.

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

Mechelen is unique in the combination of shops it has to offer. We offer a range you won’t find anywhere else: pop-ups, small one-man businesses, big chains, many craft shops, trendy boutiques, and more than a dozen well-established shops in the centre that have been around for decades.

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

I can honestly say the city has contributed to who I am today. I was given the trust and responsibility to help build the trading business in a leading role. You can truly say this place is built for and by merchants.

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

We could still use a few more fun and trendy shops. They are the motor of our city.

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

The best way to experience Mechelen is a stroll amongst the shops in the heart of our town. And of course, you have to stop by the St. Rumbold’s Tower. The construction remains unfinished, but it is still a monumental building!

Can you talk to us about a local legend, a neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth that, to you, encapsulates the spirit of the city?

We used to have a legendary Belgian singer living in Mechelen: Louis Neefs. He was most approachable, a perfect example of the down-to-earth mentality that prevails here. When I was still a toddler, my dad and I met him while he was watching the roadworks near the place where he lived. My dad stood behind him and started singing one of his hit songs: “Als ik ooit eens vijf minuten tijd heb…” He turned around and recognised my father. They both started laughing and he gently stroked my hair. Easy-going, mellow, homely – that is the feeling you get from being in Mechelen.